God's Faithfulness to Guide His People
Topic: Genesis Passage: Genesis 24:1–24:67
Please turn with me to Genesis 24. This morning we are going to be returning to a series in the book of Genesis that we left a little over a year ago. We thought we were leaving it just for a few months, but a few months turned into a year as the Lord seemed to be guiding us in a different direction, but now we want to return to Genesis and actually we’re going to go through the remaining 26 chapters pretty quickly so fasten your seat belts.
By way of a brief recap, Genesis is broken up into two sections. Chapters 1-11 are called the Primeval (or universal) history and it tells the story of the creation, the fall, the tragic effects of sin, and culminates with the flood. Man’s sin is a big part of the story in these chapters but the bigger story is God’s grace to man.
Chapters 12-50 are called the Patriarchal history and cover the patriarchal line beginning with Abraham and continuing through Isaac, Jacob, and his twelve sons, and focusing the last 13 chapters on Jacob’s son Joseph. As we come to chapter 24 we are coming to the end of Abraham’s life. Abraham wasn’t a perfect man, but he was a faith-filled man and he and Sarah faithfully waited for the son God promised they would have. Finally after 25 years, long after their natural ability to bear children was over, God did a miracle and Sarah conceived and Isaac was born.
Now Sarah is dead and Isaac is getting older and Abraham realizes his own departure is approaching and there’s something he needs to see to before he goes.
There are a number of things that we can draw out of this chapter, but what I want to draw out of this chapter is God’s faithfulness to guide us as we seek to be faithful to God’s purposes. The Hebrew word hesed (pronounced kheh-sed) is used throughout this chapter and it means covenant faithfulness or covenant loyalty. It is used primarily of God who is steadfastly faithful to His people – He always has been and He always will be. In this chapter God is faithful to guide Eliezer to the right wife for Isaac.
But hesed is a two way street: we are to be faithful to God and to His purposes in the earth too. And we see that with Abraham. Abraham knew that God had promised that his descendents would be like the sand on the shore or the stars in the sky, and that his descendents would be blessed – that was a sure promise of God. But he also realizes that Isaac ain’t going to have any kids if he doesn’t get a wife and it is Abraham who is responsible to see Isaac well married.
A lot of people wonder, “how do I know God’s will?” or “How can I tell if this is of God or not?” One of the most helpful books I’ve read on the subject is Kevin DeYoung’s book, Just Do Something and I would recommend that if this is an area you want to study out more, but there are some wise principles in this chapter concerning God’s faithfulness to guide us that we can learn from. Here’s the first principle we see:
A lot of people wonder, “how do I know God’s will?” or “How can I tell if this is of God or not?” One of the most helpful books I’ve read on the subject is Kevin DeYoung’s book, Just Do Something. But there are some wise principles in this chapter concerning God’s faithfulness to guide us that we can learn from. These are principles, not formulas, so
I. Having faith in God and taking responsibility to do our part go hand in hand together
Faith should never lead us to check out on our responsibility – just the opposite, a strong faith in God should lead us to a strong ethic of being responsible. At first it might seem contradictory that believing in God’s faithfulness to do His will should lead us to feel responsible to do our part, but it’s really not. God didn’t design faith to turn us into flakes, but rather to help develop us into mature and responsible people.
Years ago a couple came to me with a serious question. Their teenage son was completely irresponsible – he didn’t clean up after himself, didn’t do his chores around the house, and couldn’t hold down a job. As we talked, it was clear that they were frustrated that he wouldn’t do the little they were asking him to do. At one point the mother said, “For years I’ve been tellng him to clean his room and do his chores, but week after week I end up having to clean his room and do his chores for him. I try to teach him to be responsible but he never seems to learn.”
I said to this dear woman, actually, mom, he is learning what you are teaching him very well. You are telling him to be responsible, but you are teaching him to be irresponsible by doing for him whatever he doesn’t do. Over time, he has learned that it pays to be irresponsible.
God is a perfect Father, and He doesn’t want us to think that it pays to be irresponsible. God’s promises don’t negate our responsibility – they guide our responsibility. God gives each one of us areas of responsibilities. For those of us who are dads or moms, I’d be the first one to say that we can’t save our children by “doing everything right”. Of course, none of us are perfect parents, but even if we’re careful to teach and instruct our children well, they may end up rebelling – there is no guarantee that if we do these things, our kids will turn out great. And the best parents in the world cannot lead their kids to Christ unless God graciously draws them by His Spirit. Only God can save our kids! But God’s word tells us in Ephesians 6:4 that we are responsible to bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Faith trusts God and does our part.
We should try hard to be financially responsible. I knew a guy in the Bible school I attended who ran up a $10,000 credit card debt and told everyone that he was believing God to supernaturally provide what he needed on the due date. No plan, no effort to pay it off, no budgeting on his part. Just faith. See, faith became a cop-out from responsibility for him. And the $10,000 didn’t appear on the due date.
Faith doesn’t negate responsibility. And responsibility doesn’t negate faith. As we are being responsible (another word is faithful) to what God has given us to do, we need to trust God to guide us and provide for us every step of the way. Our trust must never become in what we do, but in what God does.
Abraham sent his most trusted servant – probably Eliezer, the servant that would have inherited Abraham’s wealth if he hadn’t had children, and charges him to back go to Abraham’s people and choose a wife for Isaac. Eliezer asks, but what if she isn’t willing to come back with me? Should I take Isaac back to your country? Abraham then reveals his great faith in God’s faithfulness:
See to it that you do not take my son back there. The Lord, the God of heaven…will send His angel before you, and you shall take a wife for my son from there. But if the woman is not willing to follow you, then you will be free from this oath of mine, only you must not take my son back there. (vv. 6-8)
Abraham knew that God had promised the land and it would be disobeying God for Isaac to leave the land and go back to Mesopotamia. Abraham is willing to risk everything on God’s faithfulness to give Eliezer success – and if He doesn’t, Abraham says, you’re free from this oath. Abraham is doing his part, but he is trusting it all to God. Having faith in God and taking responsibility to do our part go hand in hand together.
II. God’s supernatural guidance usually comes through normal, everyday events of life
Eliezer makes the long trip and when he gets to the city of Nahor he stops at a well and he prays a humble prayer.
Rd vv. 12-14
Look at God’s immediate answer: Vs. 15 – this means that while Eliezer was praying Rebekah was on her way.
Read vv. 16-21
Eliezer prayed for a sign: let her not only give me a drink, but my camels as well. This is no small thing: each camel would drink about 20-25 gallons of water and there were ten camels, and the jar she carried probably only held about 3 gallons of water, so Rebekah would have to make about 80 to the well. Talking hours of hot, sweaty work and all the while the servant watched her to determine if she was the right one for Isaac.
Eliezer’s request that she offer to water the donkey’s has a specific purpose: it is to get a gauge of her character. By offering to do all this for a stranger, Rebekah shows herself to be compassionate and generous and a very hard worker. On top of that, she’s also very attractive and Eliezer knows that doesn’t hurt.
Notice two things about this: first, it is an amazing and providential answer to Eliezer’s prayer. It’s everything he asked for and it comes before he’s even got the “amen” out of his mouth. But also notice there’s nothing miraculous about this guidance. Kent Hughes writes:
There will be no miracle in this story, as we usually think of miracles. No rearrangement of molecules – no sun standing still – no healing – no river stopped up. Rather, God will bring about the acquiring of Isaac’s bride through the “normal” events of life – the delays, the customs, the stresses, [and] the chance meetings.
And that is how God will guide us mostly too. He will use the normal events of life – the chance meetings, the normal delays, the seemingly unimportant events of a seemingly ordinary day to guide our lives on the trajectory He has for us. Humble prayer is an excellent way to invite God’s supernatural intervention in our lives and then trust God to meet us and guide us, sometimes in extraordinary and miraculous ways, but often in the ordinary and normal events of the day.
Some of you who are single might be wondering, how will I ever meet the right one? How will I know that he is the right one? How will I know that she is the right one? How will I ever convince her that I’m the right one? God I need a miracle!!
Since this is a story of getting a wife, let me tell a condensed story of how I got my beautiful bride. I met Janice at Bible school and thought her to be absolutely beautiful right away. And of course that meant that God wanted her to be my wife. If that’s not clear guidance, I don’t know what is. But how to convince her? I prayed about it and felt led to invite her to an event with me and while we were driving back I mentioned that I wanted to get to know her as more than a friend. She mentioned that she didn’t share that desire. I was pretty crushed but I told her I wouldn’t bring it up again and with an aching heart I entrusted it to God and moved on.
Now remember, we’re in the same Bible school and a few months later I was sitting in this large auditorium one night – working on a song I was writing – when it suddenly occurred to me that someone might be in the prayer room above the auditorium listening to me experiment with wrong notes and weird sentences – you know, the writing process. So I ran up there and sure enough Janice was up there praying. We said a few friendly things and I left. A few days later I was in the same auditorium doing the same thing when the same thought came back to me: someone might be up there. I ran up and was surprised when I saw Janice up there again. I apologized for interrupting her again but as I went to leave she asked if she could talk to me a minute. I said yes (a little nervous) and she said, “when I said I wasn’t interested in knowing you as more than a friend, I didn’t mean that I would never be interested in knowing you as more than a friend.” I couldn’t believe it! And nearly 25 years of marriage later, I still can’t believe it.
Janice and I look at that time and clearly see God’s guidance, but it’s all normal stuff – nothing supernatural, just God guiding through everyday processes and through moving and changing hearts, and through all that convincing us that He was doing something. Maybe you’re praying for a husband, or a promotion, or about moving to a different state. Whatever it is, be faithful to be where God has called you to be and trust Him to guide and provide, often through normal, everyday events of life.
III. Even when God seems to be guiding clearly, we are to use wisdom to discern His will
It must have seemed so clear to Eliezer that God was answering his prayer – he hadn’t even gotten the prayer out when Rebekah showed up and did all Eliezer had asked she do. And Eliezer no doubt believed God was answering his prayer – but he didn’t jump to a conclusion based on that. Don’t be afraid not to jump to conclusions just because God seems to be leading clearly. Eliezer watched quietly as she worked and weighed and sought to discern carefully, is this the answer to my prayer? Is she the right one?
Then he asked her lineage – and found to his delight that she was a relative of Abraham’s. A distant cousin of Isaac’s. Perfect. Eliezer is so moved that he bows his head and begins to worship. But that doesn’t settle it for him: her family needs to go along with it. He tells them of the obvious evidence that this thing is from God and listen to how he winds up the story:
Read verse 49
He’s still willing to cut bait if they don’t go along. They do, and then finally Rebekah is cheerfully willing and ready to go – and it is finally clear that this thing is of the Lord.
Sometimes we can be so convinced that something is of the Lord because of unusual signs or things lining up, or amazing evidences that God is at work, and we take that as a sure sign and jump to conclusions. Let’s follow Eliezer’s example and seek to use wisdom - that includes seeking counsel. It includes asking questions. It includes trusting God with delays. It includes trusting God to convince others who need to be convinced. If it is of God, these things won’t jeopardize it from happening.
Read vs. 67
God completes the good work that He had promised and began. God used human faithfulness, but it was God’s faithfulness that orchestrated it all. Eliezer’s prayer of thanksgiving in verse 27 sums it up: Blessed be the Lord, the God of my master Abraham who has not forsaken His steadfast love and His faithfulness toward my master.
God is faithful to His children – hesed faithful, covenant faithful. Faithful to show us His steadfast love, faithful to guide our lives in His will. As we seek to faithful to His purposes in our lives we can be confident He will be faithful to guide us. And when we depart what we know to be God’s will, He is ready and eager to forgive us and put us on the right path as we repent and confess our sins.
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
God’s covenant faithfulness is seen in this chapter. It is most wonderfully seen in the New Covenant, the faithful covenant in Christ’s blood, poured out for us – what we celebrate in communion. All that the new covenant in Christ’s blood speaks, God will be faithful to bring to pass. Faithful to love us, faithful to forgive, faithful to show mercy and kindness, faithful to bless our lives, faithful to protect us from harm, faithful to strengthen us in the storm, faithful to guide our lives into all He has for us, faithful to bring us safely home.