Vela Tomba, pastor's wife, mother and Bible teacher at Northwest Bible Church substitute teaches for Dianne Miller in Lesson Nine. Her lecture manuscript and audio are included in the study.
Staying in my hula hoop.
Doing what God has called me to do in my hula hoop.
Not meddling in other people’s hula hoops.
As I have been studying the life of Abraham this semester I have seen a lot of the same things: people staying or not staying in their hula hoops.
I am going to define a hula hoop as something that indicates a border or limits. Now an astute observer would say that this is a boundary but hey- hula hoops are so much more colorful and fun!
Staying in my hula hoop means accepting God’s limits for who I am, where I end and another person starts. Doing what He has called me to do inside my sphere of influence—inside my hula hoop and not meddling in someone else’s hula hoop.
I can most easily stay in my hula hoop when I have the right understanding of who God is, when I trust Him, when I know Him, when I trust His lovingkindness for me.
So we have been studying the life of Abraham and sometimes he did a great job staying in his hula-hoop. He obeyed God; he followed God to the land of Canaan. Then he wandered out a bit of his hula-hoop and headed to Egypt. He even interrupted in Pharaoh's hula-hoop and got Sarai mixed up in the whole harem’s hula-hoop. He got into that disastrous Hagar hula hoop and suffered for it. But a lot of times he stayed true to what God called him to do. He trusted God and believed God’s promise for him. He trusted in God’s loyal love, God’s lovingkindness, hesed.
This chapter shows us how the Lord demonstrates his lovingkindness to Abraham, to his servant, to Isaac, to Rebekah and even to us by being intimately involved and orchestrating even the small circumstances of our lives.
There is a word used several times in this chapter and it is the word “Hesed.” The NAS translates it as “lovingkindness.” It also means loyal love, a love that is not lost due to the current feeling or circumstance. It is God’s kind of commitment to Abraham, to Isaac, and to us.
Trusting in God’s faithful love, His lovingkindness enables me to stay in my hula-hoop.
God is faithful to keep His promises to Abraham. God is faithful to keep His promises to us.
Some questions I think God is asking me are:
Will you trust Me?
Will you stay in your hula-hoop and trust Me?
Will you stay with a right perspective of who I am and who you are?
Will you trust Me to take care of stuff that is outside of your hula-hoop?
How am I going to respond when I am really believing that God is loving, kind, faithful?
I believe that when you trust in God’s lovingkindness, you can stay in your God-given hula-hoop.
So here is our outline:
I. A Bride for Isaac Gen 24
A. The Charge Gen 24:1-9
B. The Search Gen 24:10-61
C. The Success Gen 24:62-67
II. Another Bride for Abraham Gen 25:1-11
We begin this story by reading that Abraham is an old man and the Lord had blessed him in every way.
As our chapter opens we read
v. 1 Abraham was now very old, and the LORD had blessed him in every way.
He is about 138 years old. He must be feeling like he is near the end of his life but will read later he still has some kick in him. He has another 37 years to go. But the Lord had blessed him in every way. He has one thing on his mind. The promise. He has the son of the promise but for the promise to continue the son has to have a son so he needs a bride. He is absolutely determined that Isaac will have the bride of God’s choosing so he calls his most trustworthy servant. Many commentators say this is Eliezer who was mentioned earlier in Gen 15. It would help me out to have a name for this guy since he is a main character but since it isn’t in the text I just am going to go with “the servant.”
2 He said to the senior servant in his household, the one in charge of all that he had, “Put your hand under my thigh. 3 I want you to swear by the LORD, the God of heaven and the God of earth, that you will not get a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I am living, 4 but will go to my country and my own relatives and get a wife for my son Isaac.”
I love that the servant is not willing to enter into this agreement lightly. He is a faithful servant and is committed to doing what Abraham asks so he needs some clarification. Besides that this kind of oath sounds pretty serious. Basically he is agreeing that Abraham’s children would hunt down and take care of his servant of he didn’t act faithfully in this matter. He knew the God Abraham served. He has seen His mighty acts. He knows he can do it. So the servant is careful to make sure he gets all the rules straight before he promises.
5 The servant asked him, “What if the woman is unwilling to come back with me to this land? Shall I then take your son back to the country you came from?”
Abraham in no uncertain terms says “NO WAY!”
6 “Make sure that you do not take my son back there,” Abraham said. 7 “The LORD, the God of heaven, who brought me out of my father’s household and my native land and who spoke to me and promised me on oath, saying, ‘To your offspring I will give this land’—he will send his angel before you so that you can get a wife for my son from there. 8 If the woman is unwilling to come back with you, then you will be released from this oath of mine. Only do not take my son back there.” 9 So the servant put his hand under the thigh of his master Abraham and swore an oath to him concerning this matter.
Abraham is in his hula hoop right now. He knows it isn’t his place to go get a bride for Isaac. He knows the Lord is going to take care of the details and send His angel before the servant. He has seen the Lord provide. Abraham knows He will provide a wide of His choosing.
So off our servant goes to look for a bride. He loads up the camels with lots of gifts and treasures for the bride-to-be. He is riding in style. Camels were very rarely used at that time so it is a further indication of how wealthy Abraham is. He takes ten from his masters’ camels. Abraham has more! The thirsty camels prove important later so it is an interesting element that God tucks in.
He travels 450 miles to Mesopotamia to the town of Nahor. (You’ll recall that we learned last week that Abraham had gotten word that his brother Nahor did indeed have a family—a fine family of 8 sons
(plus a few by a concubine)-- so he is expecting there will also be a daughter for Isaac to marry.)
The servant sets this up as a theatrical production. He has the camels kneel down by the well. They are looking thirsty and he hopes really cute and irresistible. This reminds me of the ploy guys have when they go to a park, chicks dig guys with dogs, preferably cute puppies. And so our servant brings camels. I thought camels were foul tempered and spit a lot but if you can believe the internet, they actually are pretty even tempered and only spit when provoked and that is usually at another camel.
So we have adorable camels looking thirsty hanging around the well.
Enter the village maidens because it is watering time.
He prays and asks the Lord to guide him to the right woman for Isaac.
12 Then he prayed, “LORD, God of my master Abraham, make me successful today, and show kindness to my master Abraham. 13 See, I am standing beside this spring, and the daughters of the townspeople are coming out to draw water. 14 May it be that when I say to a young woman, ‘Please let down your jar that I may have a drink,’ and she says, ‘Drink, and I’ll water your camels too’—let her be the one you have chosen for your servant Isaac. By this I will know that you have shown kindness to my master.”
He went to the city of Nahor so finding a relative is not going to be such a stretch. He is a stranger at a well and all the maidens are coming to draw water so again finding a girl willing to give him a drink would be an expected display of Eastern hospitality. But that is where what could be expected ends. To meet a young lady who offers to draw water for ten thirsty camels is quite another story. That’s where the servant’s faith comes in and God shows up in a clear way.
Ten camels after that long trek would drink somewhere between 140 and 250 gallons of water. I read that it could be estimated that Rebekah would have made 80- 100 trips to the well to water these thirsty dromedaries. That is a lot of work in anyone’s book.
Even before the servant has finished asking God for this unique sign, along comes Rebekah. Rebekah enters into her place in the history of God’s chosen people carrying a water jar and having a heart ready to serve and show kindness.
Thought: Who might God want you to serve today?
To top it off, she is very beautiful.
The servant is amazed and waits to see if the LORD had made his trip successful. We had a question about signs (that generated some lively discussion in our leaders’ group) and about circumstances and whether we though they were enough to determine God’s will. The Lord was gracious and used the servant’s request for help. And we even read how the Lord was gracious and answered when Gideon asked for a sign. In the New Testament Jesus had some very strong words against people looking for signs. I think the bottom line is God knows your heart. I do want to add that we have the Word of God and as believers have the Holy Spirit of God living within us. But believers have struggled with determining the will of God for years (over 7 million google hits) and I am not going to be able to put that issue to rest with a few pat answers. (That would be outside of my hula-hoop!)
We can know that God is willing to guide us as we seek His will to obey it-- not just to know it but to do it.
He knows our hearts.
But we CERTAINLY can be assured that circumstances alone are not enough to determine God’s will. Even the servant did not think so. He is waiting because he asked the Lord that the young woman who did this would be the one He had chosen for Isaac but he is not presuming upon the Lord here. He doesn’t know yet if she is from Abraham’s family or, furthermore, if her family will give their consent to the marriage.
The text tells us that he waits in silence for the completion of his requested sign. Again we see that he is waiting patiently.
(Staying in your hula hoop requires patience.)
However she has pulled off an amazing feat and he is feeling pretty confident as he pulls out some nice jewelry – a nose ring and several bracelets—very expensive stuff
(ten shekels—average annual wage was 10 shekels of silver—10 shekels of gold—much more valuable) and gives them to her as he asks
“Whose daughter are you? Please tell me, is there room in your father’s house for us to spend the night?”
24 She answered him, “I am the daughter of Bethuel, the son that Milkah bore to Nahor.” 25 And she added, “We have plenty of straw and fodder, as well as room for you to spend the night.”
Then we see the response of a faithful, humble, God-fearing man.
26 Then the man bowed down and worshiped the LORD, 27 saying, “Praise be to the LORD, the God of my master Abraham, who has not abandoned his kindness and faithfulness to my master. As for me, the LORD has led me on the journey to the house of my master’s relatives.”
This is always the right response to seeing the Lord’s hand in your life: worship.
The truth here is that
Rebekah is quite amazed by all the servant has said and runs ahead and tells all her family about what has happened.
Fascinating insertion of a brief character comment about Laban. When her brother Laban sees the jewelry and hears the story he is ready to meet this guy.
28 The young woman ran and told her mother’s household about these things. 29 Now Rebekah had a brother named Laban, and he hurried out to the man at the spring. 30 As soon as he had seen the nose ring, and the bracelets on his sister’s arms, and had heard Rebekah tell what the man said to her, he went out to the man and found him standing by the camels near the spring. 31 “Come, you who are blessed by the LORD,” he said. “Why are you standing out here? I have prepared the house and a place for the camels.”
The Jewish listeners knew this guy! It is the same Laban who Jacob is going to have lots of trouble with later. Love that when you know the story and you see the author (in this case, God) add a detail that is a clear foreshadowing of future events.
The head servant and the other men with him go to Rebekah’s home, unload the camels, wash their feet and prepare to sit down to eat when our servant stops and says,
“I will not eat until I have told you what I have to say.”
Again demonstrating his commitment to the completion of his task. He is willing to be patient even when he is hungry.
Laban says “tell us” and so he does. He retells the story of his commission from the blessed and very wealthy Abraham to get a wife for his rich young son from Abraham’s family back east. He is careful in his retelling of the story to not insult Rebekah’s family. He omits the detail of the “don’t you dare take Isaac to that land!!” knowing that might be offensive to them. He says he gave her the jewelry after she told him who her family was. To give essentially betrothal gifts would have been presumptuous.
The servant is clear in his telling of who has led him so far on the journey and who has given him the success. It was the LORD. He refers to the LORD several times in just a few paragraphs.
He ends with a recounting of his sincere praise of the LORD:
“Then I put the ring in her nose and the bracelets on her arms, 48 and I bowed down and worshiped the LORD. I praised the LORD, the God of my master Abraham, who had led me on the right road to get the granddaughter of my master’s brother for his son.
And asks them if they are going to cooperate and give him Rebekah to take back to Isaac. He asks them using the covenantal language of the earlier discourse with Abraham.
49 Now if you will show kindness and faithfulness to my master, tell me; and if not, tell me, so I may know which way to turn.”
50 Laban and Bethuel answered, “This is from the LORD; we can say nothing to you one way or the other. 51 Here is Rebekah; take her and go, and let her become the wife of your master’s son, as the LORD has directed.”
I find it interesting that Laban would agree so readily to marry off his sister Rebekah. He has different ideas when it relates to his daughters as you can read about in succeeding chapters. Here Laban is almost nonchalant about it. The phase “nothing one way or the other” is too close to “whatever” for my taste.
We do read in this passage that Laban makes several references to the Lord but there is no good way to know whether he was actually a believer.
Our servant is not one to quibble about responses. He heard a “yes” and he bows to the ground before the LORD.
Then he and the other men with him get to eat. Whew!
The next morning he is ready to depart and Laban starts being his old self…,
“Let the young woman remain with us ten days or so; then you may go.”
A commentary I read said the ten days might have actually indicated ten months so Laban would have been asking for something more like a year for a betrothal time. In any case, our faithful servant will have no delays at this point. He was not authorized to stay on a holiday—even for a week and a half. He was eager to get back to his master Abraham with the chosen bride.
Laban says , “Let’s ask Rebekah and see if she will go.” Maybe as a typical older brother, he knows his sister is one who cannot get ready that fast and she will want the ten days to pack.
God has been working behind the scenes and Rebekah says, “I will go.” Even Rebekah gets into the right mindset. Already from what she has heard about the Lord and how He has been working, she chooses to throw her lot in with this family immediately. The Lord has moved her heart to trust Him.
Meanwhile back at the ranch, we learn that Isaac has come home from Beer-lahai-roi,
I can imagine that she was by his side most of the trip with questions about this man and family she is about to join. So here comes another question,
62 Now Isaac had come from Beer Lahai Roi, for he was living in the Negev.
(the “well of the living One who sees me” which is the place where Hagar met the LORD when she was fleeing Sarah the first time in Genesis 16.)
63 He went out to the field one evening to meditate, and as he looked up, he saw camels approaching.
We read in the text that Isaac went out into the field to meditate and looked up and saw the camels. He has been waiting. Of course he knew what the servant had been doing. He was coming toward them to see the provision of the Lord. Do you think for one second that Isaac has any doubt that the servant has met with success? This is the same Isaac who last week consented to be bound and have a knife poised over him and then saw the Lord’s provision. He knows the Lord will come through for him. He is the child of the promise and he knows it.
He trusts God’s lovingkindness.
He has been waiting patiently in faith for God’s answer.
Isaac has been staying in his hula hoop like no one’s business.
…and as he looked up, he saw camels approaching.
64 Rebekah also looked up and saw Isaac.
(God put in another stroke of drama for us to enjoy!)
She got down from her camel and asked the servant, “Who is that man in the field coming to meet us?”
“He is my master,” the servant answered. So she took her veil and covered herself.
66 Then the servant told Isaac all he had done. 67 Isaac brought her into the tent of his mother Sarah, and he married Rebekah. So she became his wife, and he loved her; and Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.
There is some discrepancy about when Abraham married again. But the verb “took” and the adjective “another” (–and I am supposing this is from a thorough study of Hebrew by the commentator) by the tense it is suggested that it occurred after Sarah’s death but there are differing opinions. In any case, Abraham definitely had a different body clock than people do these days. So Abraham marries again at some point and has at least 37 years to have six sons with his new bride Keturah. The important thing here is that Abraham knows just what he needs to do BEFORE he dies. He knows that it is his responsibility to insure the promise continues through Isaac so he makes sure to set Isaac up well. Before he dies, he gives gifts to all the other sons and sends them away to live in the land of the east—his old land. I think we can understand this to mean that he also gave gifts to Ishmael because it says he gave gifts to all the sons of his concubines—everyone who was not Sarah. They were not to be around after he died and get into any property battles with Isaac. Abraham left Isaac in a good position to be the sole heir of his stuff and especially his blessing.
7 Abraham lived a hundred and seventy-five years. 8 Then Abraham breathed his last and died at a good old age, an old man and full of years; and he was gathered to his people.
The NAS reads- “a ripe old age, an old man and satisfied with life”
Thankfully there is no showdown at the funeral. We have all read or maybe even been a part of family feuds that come to a head once the patriarch is gone. But in this case, Ishmael and Isaac come together to bury Abraham. I think that is a testimony to the love Abraham had for both of them.
Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave where he had buried Sarah.
And finally we see not the end of the story but just the beginning of the next chapter…
11 After Abraham’s death, God blessed his son Isaac, who then lived near Beer Lahai Roi.
The truth is that we can trust God’s lovingkindness, we can trust His loyal love. We can know that He is faithful to fulfill His promises to us.
He was faithful to Abraham. He was faithful to the servant. He was faithful to Isaac. He will be faithful to you and to me.
Stay the course. Stay in your hula-hoop.
When I was working on this lecture, I ran right into the truth of my lack of hula hoop care! Natalie my middle daughter … harp issues. Failed her pre-recital jury. Postponed her recital. Graduation in jeopardy.
I sat all Friday afternoon and evening ostensibly working on this message. Instead I actually just fretted and worried that Natalie had gotten such a bad response from Mrs. Fedson that she couldn’t even call. She finally called at 9:30 and said, “No, it went fine. She’ll have it… blah blah…” Oh my phone was on silent.
Do as I say not as I do. Stay in your hula hoop! Trust God’s incredible and wonderful lovingkindness. He loves you and me. He has great things for us—and we can experience them if we just stay in our hula hoop!