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15. Finding a Godly Mate (Genesis 24)

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Abraham was now old and well advanced in years, and the LORD had blessed him in every way. He said to the chief servant in his household, the one in charge of all that he had, “Put your hand under my thigh. 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, but will go to my country and my own relatives and get a wife for my son Isaac.” 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?” “Make sure that you do not take my son back there,” Abraham said. “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. 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.” So the servant put his hand under the thigh of his master Abraham and swore an oath to him concerning this matter. Then the servant took ten of his master's camels and left, taking with him all kinds of good things from his master. He set out for Aram Naharaim and made his way to the town of Nahor. He had the camels kneel down near the well outside the town; it was toward evening, the time the women go out to draw water. Then he prayed, “O LORD, God of my master Abraham, give me success today, and show kindness to my master Abraham. See, I am standing beside this spring, and the daughters of the townspeople are coming out to draw water. May it be that when I say to a girl, ‘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.… (Genesis 24)

How can one find a godly mate?

In Genesis 24, we witness Abraham’s search for Isaac’s wife. He doesn’t actually conduct the search himself, but commissions his chief servant to do it. We don’t know for sure who the servant was because he is unnamed, but this was most likely Eliezer, who is mentioned in Genesis 15:2. He had previously been Abraham’s heir, before Abraham had a son. Eliezer’s selflessness is demonstrated as he served Isaac, even though he had lost his inheritance to him.

Genesis 24 is the longest chapter in Genesis, and from it we learn a great deal about finding a godly mate. Yes, in this ancient culture marriages were arranged for young people by their parents for "practical" reasons. Today, young people generally choose their own marriage partners, and do so based largely on “romantic” reasons. However, we can discern from this text that God is not bound by culture. He is involved in the selection of godly mates in any culture. Proverbs 19:14 says, “Houses and wealth are inherited from parents, but a prudent wife is from the LORD.” He is the one who made and chose Eve for Adam, and he wants to guide our selection of mates today, if we will allow him. Sometimes in Scripture God tells us what to do, but other times he gives us principles to guide us. As we consider Genesis 24, we learn many great principles about finding a godly mate.

Big Question: What principles can we learn about finding a godly mate from Genesis 24?

To Find a Godly Mate, One Must Be Committed to God and His Purposes

Abraham was now old and well advanced in years, and the LORD had blessed him in every way. He said to the chief servant in his household, the one in charge of all that he had, “Put your hand under my thigh. 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, but will go to my country and my own relatives and get a wife for my son Isaac.” 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?” “Make sure that you do not take my son back there,” Abraham said. “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. 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.” (Genesis 24:1–8)

In the narrative, we see that Abraham was well advanced in age when he calls for his chief servant to go and find a spouse for Isaac. Maybe the fact that Abraham had just lost his wife, Sarah, and his ever-increasing age reminded Abraham of his need to find Isaac a wife. Isaac was also getting older. He was probably in his forties at this time.1

As we consider the servant’s commission, we cannot but notice that Abraham’s motivation was God and fulfilling his purpose. He quotes God’s promise of giving the land to his seed: “‘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” (v. 7). Typically, ancient marriages were arranged to increase one’s wealth and status. Marriages were often used as contracts between families or between nations. A pretty daughter was often seen as a meal ticket for a poor family. However, Abraham’s concern was not wealth, status, or finding a beautiful bride. God had told Abraham that through Isaac’s seed a nation would be born, and through a seed from this nation all the nations would be blessed. Isaac’s marriage was crucial to the fulfillment of this promise.

Therefore, Abraham had his chief servant swear to not take a bride from Canaan. The Canaanites were a sinful people, and God said that once their sins were full, he would give Israel the land (Gen 15:16). Abraham knew that it was imperative for his descendants to stay separate from the Canaanites and their ungodly influence.

When the chief servant asked questions about the process, Abraham reiterated the need to keep Isaac apart from Canaan:

“Make sure that you do not take my son back there,” Abraham said. “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. 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.” Genesis 24:4–8

Abraham said that even if the woman would not come back with his servant, Isaac should not move to Haran. Abraham knew that God had called for his offspring to inherit Canaan. In the process of seeking a mate, Abraham was primarily concerned about God and his purposes. He also declared confidently that God would guide the process. He would send his angel to guide his servant.

Similarly, when seeking a godly mate, God’s purposes and his will must guide the process. Yes, a mate may seem like a need, but the primary need is doing God’s will and completing the work he called one to do. This work will be greatly affected by the person one marries. Solomon married pagan wives, and they led him away from God’s will and into idolatry.

It has been said that the most important decision that people make after following Christ is whom they will marry. This is because one’s spouse will play an integral role in their completing God’s work. When God gave Adam a wife, his purpose was for them to tend the garden, rule the earth, and subdue it.

God has a similar purpose for marriages today. Scripture implies that marriage is a spiritual gift and therefore meant to build up the body of Christ and spread God’s kingdom. Consider what Paul said about marriage in 1 Corinthians 7:7:

Sometimes I wish everyone were single like me—a simpler life in many ways! But celibacy is not for everyone any more than marriage is. God gives the gift of the single life to some, the gift of the married life to others. (The Message)

Scripture teaches that marriage is a spiritual gift just like singleness. Therefore, God’s purpose in marriage is to build his kingdom, just as it was with Adam and Eve in the garden.

As in Abraham’s day, many factors can guide the selection of a mate: loneliness, friends, family, wealth, social status, shame, lust, and beauty, among others. However, our purpose in finding a mate (and thus marriage) must be to fulfill God’s will and to build his kingdom. That was Abraham’s purpose. When God and his kingdom are one’s purpose in marriage, Scripture says that God will guide the process. Proverbs 3:5–6 says, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”

What is your primary purpose in seeking a mate? Is it removing loneliness, achieving status, having children, or fulfilling your lust?

Abraham’s purpose was to fulfill God’s will and that must be one’s primary purpose as well. When God and his kingdom are first, he guides the steps. Certainly, Matthew 6:33 can be applied to the pursuit of a godly mate: “Seek first the kingdom of heaven and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” Those who put God and his kingdom first will be guided by him.

Again, Proverbs 19:14 says, “Houses and wealth are inherited from parents, but a prudent wife is from the LORD.” God wants to guide your process of finding a mate because he has a kingdom to build. Will you let him guide it?

Application Question: What are some common motivations for seeking a marriage partner? Is building God’s kingdom your main purpose in seeking a mate or being married? Why or why not?

To Find a Godly Mate, One Must Seek the Counsel of Parents and Godly Mentors

Abraham was now old and well advanced in years, and the LORD had blessed him in every way. He said to the chief servant in his household, the one in charge of all that he had, “Put your hand under my thigh. 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, but will go to my country and my own relatives and get a wife for my son Isaac.” 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?” “Make sure that you do not take my son back there,” Abraham said. “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. 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.” (Genesis 24:1–8)

Another principle we can learn from the process of finding a spouse for Isaac is the need to have parents and godly mentors involved. Arranged marriages were the norm in ancient cultures, as it still is in many parts of the world. God may not be calling you to allow your parents or spiritual mentors to pick your spouse; however, a wise person will keep them highly involved in the process.

Abraham and his chief servant were leading this process on behalf of Abraham's son, Isaac. Abraham was a man of great faith and apparently, his servant was as well. In this passage, the servant becomes only the second person with a prayer recorded in Scripture, after Abraham.2 Obviously, in his many years serving Abraham, he had learned a great deal.

Similarly, one should have parents and godly mentors involved in the selection of his or her mate. Proverbs 15:22 says, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” One of the problems with the modern dating culture is that it is commonly done apart from godly counsel. The two date by themselves, often without the benefit of the parents’ or godly mentors’ knowledge, wisdom, and insight. Then the two just show up one day and say, “I’m in love!” or even worse, “I’m engaged!”

The courting model is so much wiser and more prudent than the dating model. In courting, when two people are seriously considering one another as potential marriage partners, they immediately approach their parents or the church, or both, to seek their wisdom, insight, and covering. They want godly people talking with them throughout the process and also getting to know the potential mate.

This is crucial because when two people are face to face enjoying one another, they often miss major cues that could be disastrous in a marriage relationship. Also, they often lack the sexual accountability of having parents and mentors involved. As we will talk about later, sexual intimacy before marriage will greatly blind the couples, as well as remove God’s blessing from the courtship. Only the pure in heart will see God (Matt 5:8).

Now certainly some may not have Christian parents or they may live far away. In that case, they should pray and seek the guidance and oversight of spiritually mature married couples, small group leaders, or mentors. For lack of guidance, plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.

Who are your many advisers? Also, for those who are married, are you willing to mentor a young couple so they can have success and protection in the dating process?

Application Question: Why is it important to have parents and mentors involved in the process of finding a mate? Who would you ask to help guide your process? If asked, how would you help mentor someone while dating or courting?

To Find a Godly Mate, One Must Be Realistic and Submit to God’s Sovereignty throughout the Process

“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. 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.” (Genesis 24:7–8)

While talking with Abraham, the chief servant brought up the possibility of the woman not wanting to return to Canaan. Abraham replied that God would send his angel before the servant to guide the process, but then he said, “If the woman is unwilling to come back with you, then you will be released from this oath of mine” (v. 8).

In seeking a mate, one must be realistic and trust God’s sovereignty over the process. Sometimes, young people seek the Lord’s guidance in dating or courting and they feel God’s peace throughout the process. But when God allows a break-up or some difficulty to happen, they question or get mad at God. Seeking God’s guidance does not necessarily mean you will find your mate the first time you date somebody or go through a courtship. Sometimes, God will allow failure or make it clear late in the process that the person is not the one for you.

This is not a reason to get mad at God. It is a time to praise and trust him. We must praise him because he knows best. Sometimes, by ending the relationship, he protects the couple from something potentially hazardous, and certainly, we can trust that he is preparing them for something better. In addition, we must realize that God’s focus is on our character. Many times, he allows seasonal relationships to reveal character issues and to draw people to seek him more. He allows them to help people grow, even though they might not last for a lifetime.

Abraham declared that God would guide the process, but he also recognized the possibility that God might choose to not bless it. Similarly, we must trust God’s sovereignty as well. Again, many become angry and upset with God in the process of seeking a mate, because it doesn’t happen as fast as they want or because of failed relationships. We must be realistic and trust God’s sovereignty throughout the process.

This also amplifies the reason why couples must be holy and pure throughout the process. Scripture says that we should treat people in the church as brothers and sisters with all purity (1 Tim 5:2). When you handle dating relationships in that fashion, it eliminates a lot of emotional and physical baggage often picked up in ungodly relationships. In the dating or courtship process, couples must protect themselves by staying pure, especially since God may have somebody else for them. In order to find a godly mate, one must be realistic about the process and trust God’s sovereignty.

Application Question: Why is it so important to be realistic about the process and trust God’s sovereignty when seeking a mate? Why would God allow failures in the courtship process? How have you experienced failure and disappointment in the courtship process and what did you learn from it?

To Find a Godly Mate, One Must Understand How Difficult It Might Be

So the servant put his hand under the thigh of his master Abraham and swore an oath to him concerning this matter. Then the servant took ten of his master's camels and left, taking with him all kinds of good things from his master. He set out for Aram Naharaim and made his way to the town of Nahor. (Genesis 24:9–10)

When seeking a mate for Isaac, the chief servant was told to go to the town of Nahor. Many eligible bachelorettes lived in Canaan, and it would have been relatively easy to marry one of them. However, that wouldn’t have been God’s best for Isaac. It would have opened the door for compromise in his life and endangered the promise. The alternative, however, was much more difficult. The servant had to travel one month and over 500 miles through rough and dangerous terrain to find the spouse God had for Isaac.3 And then he needed to convince her to leave home and family to marry a guy whom she had never met.

Similarly, in seeking a godly spouse, the easiest route is usually not God’s path. Many Christians, because they are lonely and can’t find a godly mate, often go to the same places as the world to find one. There are many nice Canaanite men and women and also some nice worldly Christians. Numerous are the temptations to take the easy route instead of waiting for and seeking a godly mate.

To find a godly mate, it will often mean waiting while God prepares one’s character for a godly mate. It will also often mean waiting because godly mates are so hard to find. Proverbs says,

Many a man claims to have unfailing love, but a faithful man who can find? (Proverbs 20:6)

“Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all. Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.” (Proverbs 31:29–30)

A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. (Proverbs 31:10)

There are a lot of men who claim unfailing love, but it’s hard to find a faithful man. There are many women who do noble things, but a woman who fears God is to be praised. These types of people are like precious jewels; they are hard to find, and therefore, many times waiting is necessary. In this waiting, sometimes people get discouraged and anxious, then they commonly take things into their own hands. Like Abraham, who became anxious while waiting on the child of promise, they go and find a Hagar to fulfill their desires. Many believers compromise and miss God’s best for them. Sometimes they marry an unbeliever, or they marry a spiritually lethargic believer.

Are you willing to take the hard journey instead of the easy one? The benefits are priceless and last a lifetime.

Application Question: What makes the road to finding a godly mate so difficult at times? How would you encourage a lonely Christian to not compromise?

To Find a Godly Mate, One Must Put Himself in a Position to Find a Mate

So the servant put his hand under the thigh of his master Abraham and swore an oath to him concerning this matter. Then the servant took ten of his master's camels and left, taking with him all kinds of good things from his master. He set out for Aram Naharaim and made his way to the town of Nahor. He had the camels kneel down near the well outside the town; it was toward evening, the time the women go out to draw water. (Genesis 24:9–11)

The next principle one must apply in seeking a godly mate is putting oneself in a position to find him or her. Abraham’s chief servant left Canaan, which had a reputation for being ungodly, and traveled to Abraham’s hometown to find a mate. Before leaving, he made preparations for finding a marriage partner for Isaac. By taking ten camels—the Bentleys or Lamborghinis of ancient days—he was proving that his master was wealthy and that the woman would be well provided for. He also brought many of the master’s goods, which were necessary to pay the bride’s dowry. He then went to a well outside of town in the evening, when the women drew water (v.11). He put himself in a position to find a mate.

Often in the church an emphasis is put on trusting God for a mate, but sometimes this emphasis leads towards inactivity. In order to find a mate for Isaac, the chief servant took valuables to prove his master’s ability to provide, traveled to Abraham’s hometown, and went to a location with eligible women. He put himself in a position to find Isaac’s spouse.

Similarly, it is not unspiritual to be active. God did not send a godly mate to Isaac’s door. Isaac was not called to just wait and pray; he had to be active. With that said, the most important thing in putting oneself in a position to find a mate is being intimate with God and knowing his will. For one person, God’s will may be to just wait and pray patiently. We have no evidence that Rebekah was seeking a husband. She was just being faithful where God placed her. However, for Isaac, the chief servant went to a place where he was more likely to find a godly woman. Single believers seeking mates must do the same.

Application Question: How can a person put him or herself in a position to find a godly mate?

1. A person must be financially prepared.

In Genesis 2:24, it says that the man must leave his father and mother and cling to his wife. One of the implications of this is that a couple should be financially independent. In this narrative, the chief servant brought wealth so the family could see that Isaac could provide. Isaac was financially prepared to marry.

When considering marriage, one must remember that there is a time for everything. A flower that blooms in the winter dies. In the same way, many relationships don’t work simply because of timing. One must ask, “Is it the right time to seek a mate?” “Am I financially ready to take care of somebody or to be married?” “How can I place myself in a position to contribute or provided for a household?”

These are practical questions. I remember when God started to put in my heart a desire to soon be married. I moved out of the apartment I shared with several roommates, and got an apartment by myself. After moving in, I started to prepare my home by getting basic furniture, kitchenware, etc.

Previously, as a bachelor, working and going to school, my housing was simply functional. I just slept, studied, and ate there. But, when I realized that God was calling me to start looking at marriage, I started preparing. Now, when God brought me a mate, she didn’t like anything I had, but at least I had something for our humble beginnings.

2. A person must wisely go to a place where he or she might find a potential godly mate.

There is a time for waiting. Many of God’s promises come by waiting as he prepares us—as well as those who will also take part in the promise. However, there is a time to be active, and we must discern that. Being active could mean praying, getting godly counsel, and discerning where to look. It also could mean asking someone out to coffee.

You probably won’t find a godly mate at the bars or clubs. But, there is a good chance God might provide one at church, small group, or through some ministry. If the wells have dried up at the church or ministry you attend, then maybe God is calling you to be creative. Being creative could include asking spiritually-minded people you know and respect to pray and consider suggesting a potential mate, or even joining a Christian dating site. Again, it must be heard that it is not disobedient to be active. Many times, it is disobedient or presumptuous to not be active. We should pray and discern what God wants us to do. For Rebekah, she waited and faithfully served God and others. For Isaac, his servant went to an area with eligible ladies.

How is God calling you to prepare for and seek a godly mate or to help others do so?

Application Question: How would you counsel a single person who feels called to actively pursue a mate? Where would you recommend him or her to go? How can a person discern if they should wait like Rebekah or be active like Isaac in the pursuit of a mate? If you already found your mate, where and how did you meet them?

To Find a Godly Mate, One Must Bathe the Process in Prayer

Then he prayed, “O LORD, God of my master Abraham, give me success today, and show kindness to my master Abraham. See, I am standing beside this spring, and the daughters of the townspeople are coming out to draw water. May it be that when I say to a girl, ‘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.” (Genesis 24:12–14)

When the chief servant reached the well, he began to pray. Again, this is one of the earliest recorded prayers in the Bible. The servant prayed for God to show kindness to Abraham and that he would essentially make it very clear whom the woman was.

This is not the only prayer in this chapter. Right after God confirmed that Rebekah was the one, he bowed down and worshiped God (v. 26). Then after the parents confirmed that they would give Rebekah to Isaac as a bride, he bowed down and worshiped again (v. 52). When Rebekah was about to leave her parents’ house, her family prayed a blessing over her that she would increase to thousands upon thousands (v. 60)—resembling God’s blessing on Abraham. This entire process was bathed with prayer.

Similarly, since a godly spouse is a gift of the Lord, one must continually bathe the process in prayer. I spent two years at a Christian school while in fifth and sixth grade. During that I time, I was taught to pray for my future spouse. From that point on till I was twenty-seven years old, when I met my wife, I had always prayed for her. In fact, after I got married and told my wife about my prayers, she shared all the ways she experienced divine protection and grace, which didn’t make sense to her at the time. She didn’t become a Christian until she was a senior in high school, but throughout that time God protected her purity, among other things.

If one is going to find a godly mate, the process must be bathed in prayer.

Application Question: Why is it important to continually pray over your future spouse and also for God to guide the process of finding the person? When should people start praying for their future spouse or their child’s future spouse?

To Find a Godly Mate, One Must Seek a Person of High Character

See, I am standing beside this spring, and the daughters of the townspeople are coming out to draw water. May it be that when I say to a girl, ‘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.” (Genesis 24:13–14)

Interpretation Question: What does Rebekah’s giving a drink of water to the servant and to his ten camels say about her character?

While the chief servant prayed for God to make it clear who Isaac’s wife was, he set some very high standards. He asked God to make it clear by allowing her to respond to his request for water by saying, “‘Drink, and I'll water your camels too” and her fulfilling this commitment. Now, this seems like a random request to try to confirm a spouse, but it was not.

No doubt, this chief servant knew exactly what it took to be a good spouse because these actions would show a very high character in this woman. For a woman to agree to share some water with a foreigner would show that she was nice, but it would not have been an uncommon character trait. There are a lot of nice people in the world. But for this lady to agree to water his ten camels would have been highly unlikely, and would show extraordinary character. Kent Hughes’ comments about this unlikely scenario are helpful:

To grasp what a wonder this was, we must understand that the ancient well was a large, deep hole in the earth with steps leading down to the spring water—so that each drawing of water required substantial effort. And more, a camel typically would drink about twenty-five gallons of water, and an ancient water jar held about three gallons of water. This means that Rebekah made between eighty to one hundred descents into the well. As to the amount of time she gave to this, a camel takes about ten minutes to drink its full complement of water. Rebekah’s labors filled one and one half to two sweaty hours! And all the while the servant watched without saying a word, to see whether or not the Lord had made his journey successful.4

The servant’s qualifying test was almost two hours of very difficult labor which would have shown great things about this lady. First, it revealed that she was a very hard worker. When looking for a potential spouse, find somebody that works hard. When Solomon writes about the virtuous woman in Proverbs 31, that is one of her characteristics—she works hard. She takes care of the children; she oversees the servants in the house; she makes clothes; she is a business woman; she serves her husband. And best of all she is a woman of integrity who loves the Lord. When seeking a godly mate, find somebody who works hard at whatever God calls them to do. Laziness only brings conflict and discord in a home, because a home takes hard work to keep.

Rebekah’s act of kindness also showed selflessness. The root of almost all marital difficulty is selfishness. Two people selfishly fighting for their own rights will cause conflict and discord. But a selfless, sacrificial person, the kind who would joyfully serve a stranger for two hours, without complaint, will make a great marriage partner.

When seeking a mate, one should seek a person of high character. It is not about how much money one makes, how many degrees one earned, or how attractive he or she is. The most attractive qualities must be his or her character. Consider what God said about women who are like Sarah, Abraham’s wife, in 1 Peter 3:3–5:

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands ….

In talking about women, he says what makes them beautiful is the “inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit.” The word gentle can also be translated “meek.” Meek really means “power under control.” Instead of using their power to get their own way, they serve people. Instead of being angry at those who mistreat them, they are gentle in response. They use their power to honor God. God says that type of character makes a person beautiful. In seeking a mate, pursue a person with high character.

Application Question: What are other character traits that one should seek in a potential mate? If you have found your mate, what character traits drew you to him or her?

To Find a Godly Mate, One Must Observe the Potential Mate Carefully

Before he had finished praying, Rebekah came out with her jar on her shoulder. She was the daughter of Bethuel son of Milcah, who was the wife of Abraham's brother Nahor. The girl was very beautiful, a virgin; no man had ever lain with her. She went down to the spring, filled her jar and came up again. The servant hurried to meet her and said, “Please give me a little water from your jar.” “Drink, my lord,” she said, and quickly lowered the jar to her hands and gave him a drink. After she had given him a drink, she said, “I'll draw water for your camels too, until they have finished drinking.” So she quickly emptied her jar into the trough, ran back to the well to draw more water, and drew enough for all his camels. Without saying a word, the man watched her closely to learn whether or not the LORD had made his journey successful. (Genesis 24:15–21)

Before the servant finished praying, Rebekah, who was Abraham’s niece, went down to the spring to fill her jar of water. When she came up from the spring, the servant asked for a drink. Rebekah immediately gave him a drink and then said that she would also water his camels. In Genesis 24:21, it says that the servant “watched her closely to learn whether or not the Lord had made his journey successful.” He doesn’t say a word; he just watches.

Similarly, when seeking a mate, a person must also watch the potential mate very closely. In considering Rebekah, one might say, “Well, does watering camels really say something about her fitness for marriage?” Absolutely, it does. Scripture teaches that if a person is faithful with little, he will be faithful with much. If he is unfaithful with little, he will be unfaithful with much (cf. Lk 16:10).

A wise person must survey and watch the potential mate very closely because little things say a lot. How does he treat people who disappoint him? Is he gentle in his response or does he become very upset? How does she handle her money? How does she respond to trials? How does she treat her parents? How does he take care of his possessions? As mentioned before, what is his or her work-ethic like?

All these little things say something about how the person will be within marriage. If a person is rude to those serving him at a restaurant, who he barely knows, it tells you something about how that person will eventually treat you when he isn’t having a good day. If that person is not very good with his money, then it tells you something about how he will be at providing or using the money that you both make as partners. If the person is unfaithful with little, he will be unfaithful with much—and marriage is “much”!

This reinforces the reason why it is very important to have wise mentors involved in the courtship process. They will often see things that one might miss, which could become large things in marriage.

Application Question: Why is it important to observe a potential mate carefully? Are there some especially important scenarios that one should observe and learn from?

To Find a Godly Mate, One Must First Become Godly

Before he had finished praying, Rebekah came out with her jar on her shoulder. She was the daughter of Bethuel son of Milcah, who was the wife of Abraham's brother Nahor. The girl was very beautiful, a virgin; no man had ever lain with her. She went down to the spring, filled her jar and came up again. The servant hurried to meet her and said, “Please give me a little water from your jar.” “Drink, my lord,” she said, and quickly lowered the jar to her hands and gave him a drink. After she had given him a drink, she said, “I'll draw water for your camels too, until they have finished drinking.” So she quickly emptied her jar into the trough, ran back to the well to draw more water, and drew enough for all his camels. Without saying a word, the man watched her closely to learn whether or not the LORD had made his journey successful. (Genesis 24:15–21)

Another principle that we can learn from Rebekah’s great service, as she served not only Abraham’s servant, but also his camels, is that in order to find a godly mate, one must first become godly. If Rebekah had not been the type of person to perform this great service, she would have missed out on the opportunity to marry Isaac.

Certainly, this happens all the time. A man is praying for a godly wife; however, he has not given himself to the cultivation of his own character. Therefore, this man continues to display character flaws that won’t attract somebody godly. How can one pray for a godly spouse, if he or she is not seeking godliness?

There is a saying, “Birds of a feather flock together.” In the same way that birds of the same kind gather together, we typically draw people that are like us. If there are areas of compromise in our lives, we will attract people who are compromised. If we are zealous for the kingdom of God and to serve God’s church, we will attract people with the same values.

When God was guiding the search for Isaac’s mate, he provided a woman that had been preparing herself for years. She was a woman of great character. Great character does not come without work. A woman of great character was needed for the great calling that was on Isaac’s life. It was through Isaac’s seed that the whole earth would be blessed.

When one considers marriage, he must first begin by asking him or herself, “Am I ready for marriage? Am I the type of mate that I would want for somebody else?”

Application Question: What character trait(s) is God calling you to get rid of so he can bring you a godly mate to compliment and help fulfill his or her calling? How can we help singles with the self-evaluation process so they can be prepared for marriage?

To Find a Godly Mate, One Must Seek a Person Who Is Obedient to God

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.” Laban and Bethuel answered, “This is from the LORD; we can say nothing to you one way or the other. Here is Rebekah; take her and go, and let her become the wife of your master's son, as the LORD has directed.” …. But her brother and her mother replied, “Let the girl remain with us ten days or so; then you may go.” But he said to them, “Do not detain me, now that the LORD has granted success to my journey. Send me on my way so I may go to my master.” Then they said, “Let's call the girl and ask her about it.” So they called Rebekah and asked her, “Will you go with this man?” “I will go,” she said. (Genesis 24:49–51, 55–58)

Previously, we talked about finding a person with high character; however, the greatest character trait one can find in a person is obedience to God. In the next part of the narrative, the servant arrived at the house and was welcomed by Laban, Rebekah’s older brother. The servant told the family about Abraham and Isaac and how God had blessed and guided the servant’s journey—leading him to Rebekah. When he inquired about whether the family would let her go or not, Rebekah’s mother and brother replied, “This is from the Lord; we can say nothing to you one way or other. Here is Rebekah; take her and go” (v. 51). The family could clearly sense God’s hand on this process.

After the servant spent the night, he requested to immediately leave with Rebekah to go to his master. However, the family wanted Rebekah to wait ten days before leaving. Abraham’s servant was not okay with the delay (as they could potentially change their mind in ten days). The parents then responded, “Let’s call the girl and ask her about it” (v. 57). Then we see the most remarkable character trait of Rebekah. She immediately responded, “I will go.”

This was a great act of faith. Rebekah had never met Isaac. She would have to move over 500 miles away from home. The only thing she could discern, like her parents, was that God was in this; so she immediately agreed to leave. When Rebekah did this, she placed herself on the same path that Abraham had taken. Many years earlier, Abraham, similarly, heard God’s call and left home and family to heed it. Later, God told Abraham to circumcise himself and his household, and he immediately obeyed (Gen 17). Abraham was also told to banish his son, Ishmael, and he did (Gen 21). Then God called Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac, and he left for the mountain early the next morning (Gen 22). Obedience marked Abraham’s life. And, therefore, he is called the father of all those who believe (cf. Gal 3:7, Rom 4:16). Rebekah demonstrated similar faith in this narrative.

In 1 Corinthians 11:3, Paul says, “Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.” The head of the man is Christ and the head of the woman (better translated as “wife”) is the man. The wife is supposed to submit to the man, and the man is supposed to submit to and be led by Christ. As a woman discerns her potential mate, she needs to be sure that this man is submitting to Christ. Otherwise, her home will be in disarray.

Similarly, Paul said in Ephesians 5:22, “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.” The wife must submit to her husband as unto the Lord. When a man is discerning whom to marry, he must discern if the woman is obedient in her relationship with the Lord. If she doesn’t submit to the Lord, then she will not submit to him. It is a lesson from the greater to the lesser. If she is disobedient to God (the greater), then she will not submit to her husband (the lesser).

Therefore, for both a man seeking a wife and a woman seeking a husband, the defining characteristic they should consider is obedience to the Lord. Does this person faithfully attend church and feel called to serve the church, as God commands? Does she faithfully study the Word of God and live a life of prayer before the Lord? Is he seeking first the kingdom of heaven or is something else his priority? Obedience to God marked Rebekah, as she was just like her father-in-law, Abraham. She was obedient, even when the cost was great.

In what ways is God calling you to grow in your obedience to him? Is the potential mate you are considering living a life marked by obedience to the Lord? This is the all-important characteristic. Marriage was made by God, and if a couple doesn’t submit to God, the marriage won’t fulfill its purpose.

Application Question: Why is obedience to God so important in a potential spouse? In what ways is God calling you to grow in obedience?

To Find a Godly Mate, One Must Practice Sexual Purity before Marriage

Now Isaac had come from Beer Lahai Roi, for he was living in the Negev. He went out to the field one evening to meditate, and as he looked up, he saw camels approaching. Rebekah also looked up and saw Isaac. 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. Then the servant told Isaac all he had done. 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. (Genesis 24:62–67)

After Rebekah agreed to leave with Abraham’s servant, they immediately traveled to Beer Lahai Roi, in the Negev, where Isaac lived. When the servant and Rebekah arrived, Isaac was walking in the field meditating. (Maybe, in anticipation, he was praying about his future spouse.) When Rebekah learned that this man was Isaac, she immediately put on her wedding veil, signifying that she was his bride.5

After Isaac heard the story of God’s faithfulness, he took Rebekah into his mother’s tent. The language implies that they consummated the marriage. There is another principle here that we should be aware of in seeking a godly mate. Couples must practice purity before marriage. Rebekah was a virgin on her wedding day (cf. 24:16) and presumably so was Isaac.

Application Question: Why is it important for a couple to wait to have sex until marriage?

This is important for many reasons:

1. Waiting to have sex before marriage is important for discerning God’s will.

Sex before marriage will hinder one’s ability to properly discern God’s will. When two people have sex, they become one flesh (cf. 1 Cor 6:16). They are attached mentally, physically, and spiritually. This is a hard tie to break, and many individuals enter a courtship still yoked to previous partners. This affects their mind and emotions and many times makes it a struggle to commit, even to the person they believe God has chosen for them. It often hinders people from being able to break up when God makes it clear that a certain person is not right for them. Again, the yoking that happens in sex creates soul-ties. The person will often then try to convince themselves (and God) that this is the right person by ignoring all their flaws. Impurity affects one’s ability to discern and obey God’s voice. Matthew 5:8 says, “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.” One must see and hear God’s voice in the process of discerning a marriage partner; again, it’s the second most important decision a person will make.

2. Waiting to have sex before marriage protects the relationship from the devil.

Impurity in a relationship opens the door for the enemy to destroy the relationship. It opens the door for the enemy to tempt with jealousy, anger, and even further promiscuity (within or outside of the relationship). First Corinthians 5:6 says, “A little leaven leavens the whole lump” (ESV). Sin has a tendency to spread. Therefore, when Satan gets a doorway, he will try to destroy that relationship. Sadly, when couples open the door of impurity before marriage, it becomes almost impossible to close again. Couples must vigorously guard their relationship.

Paul said in 1 Timothy 5:1–2, “Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.”

How should a person in a dating or courting relationship treat their potential spouse? They should treat them as a brother or sister—with absolute purity. Practically, that means Christians should not do anything with their girlfriend or boyfriend that they would not do with their natural sibling. One should treat him or her with absolute purity.

Sadly, the church has not trained our young people well on how to date or court, so they adopt the world’s methods—opening themselves up to all kinds of temptations that destroy many relationships.

3. Waiting to have sex before marriage will increase the pleasure and joy in marriage.

Statistics say that couples who wait until marriage to have sex have better relationship outcomes.6 No doubt there are many reasons for this. It protects them from Satan’s attacks whether through comparison, expectations, emotional baggage, or other avenues/open doors. It also brings God’s blessings on the relationship, as the couple faithfully obeys him.

Application Question: What are some consequences of opening sexual doors before marriage? How can couples guard themselves from these temptations and consequences?

To Find a Godly Mate, One Must Seek a Mate and a Marriage that Magnifies God

Now Isaac had come from Beer Lahai Roi, for he was living in the Negev. He went out to the field one evening to meditate, and as he looked up, he saw camels approaching. Rebekah also looked up and saw Isaac. 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. Then the servant told Isaac all he had done. 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. (Genesis 24:62–67)

As we consider Isaac’s marriage, one cannot but notice how it resembles Christ and the church. Isaac is a type of Christ. He had a miraculous birth and, figuratively speaking, experienced death and resurrection (cf. Gen 22, Heb 11:19). His father sought a bride for him, even as God chose the church for Christ before creating the earth (cf. John 6:37, Eph 1:3–6). Abraham sent his chief servant to secure the bride, even as God sent the Holy Spirit to woo the church to Christ. If the chief servant was indeed Eliezer, it is notable that his name means “God of help.”7 In this case, it’s hard not to think of the Holy Spirit, who is called the “Helper” (cf. John 14:26, ESV). Rebekah, in obedience, left all to marry Isaac. Similarly, the church left all to marry Christ (cf. Luke 14:26–33). Isaac’s marriage is a tremendous typology.

Furthermore, every marriage really is a typology—meant to share Christ with the world. Again, Paul said this in Ephesians 5:22–32:

Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church—for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.

Marriage was always meant to reflect Christ’s relationship with the church. Even more, it was meant to reflect the triune relationship in the Godhead. First Corinthians 11:3 says, “Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman [or wife] is man, and the head of Christ is God.” The husband is the head of the wife, as God is the head of Christ.

Therefore, when seeking a mate, more than anything, one must ask, “Will this relationship glorify God?” The man must ask, “Am I ready to sacrifice everything for this woman like Christ did for his church? Am I ready and willing to wash her with the Word of God like Jesus does his church? Am I ready and willing to lead a family in ministry like Christ does his church? Is this woman willing to submit to me, like the church does to Christ?” The woman must ask, “Am I willing to submit to this man as I do Christ? Am I willing to submit to his will over my own? Am I willing to follow this man in ministry for the rest of my life? Is this man a spiritual leader like Christ? Will this marriage reflect and magnify God?”

Marriage is meant to reflect Christ and the church. It is meant to magnify the beauty of the Godhead. Anything less defames and dishonors God.

When seeking a mate, one must seek after somebody who wants to glorify God and build his kingdom together.

Application Question: In what ways are Christ and the church and the tri-unity of God a model for marriage? How will this model benefit a marriage and benefit those watching?

Conclusion

  1. To Find a Godly Mate, One Must Be Committed to God and His Purposes
  2. To Find a Godly Mate, One Must Seek the Counsel of Parents and Godly Mentors
  3. To Find a Godly Mate, One Must Be Realistic and Submit to God’s Sovereignty throughout the Process
  4. To Find a Godly Mate, One Must Understand How Difficult It Might Be
  5. To Find a Godly Mate, One Must Put Himself in a Position to Find a Mate
  6. To Find a Godly Mate, One Must Bathe the Process in Prayer
  7. To Find a Godly Mate, One Must Seek a Person of High Character
  8. To Find a Godly Mate, One Must Observe the Potential Mate Carefully
  9. To Find a Godly Mate, One Must First Become Godly
  10. To Find a Godly Mate, One Must Seek a Person Who Is Obedient to God
  11. To Find a Godly Mate, One Must Practice Sexual Purity before Marriage
  12. To Find a Godly Mate, One Must Seek a Mate and a Marriage that Magnifies God

Copyright © 2017 Gregory Brown

The primary Scriptures used are New International Version (1984) unless otherwise noted. Other versions include English Standard Version, New Living Translation, New American Standard Bible, and King James Version.

Holy Bible, New International Version ®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®) Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, Copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NASB) are taken from the New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, and 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Scripture quotations marked (KJV) are from the King James Version of the Bible.

All emphases in Scripture quotations have been added.


1 Hughes, R. K. (2004). Genesis: beginning and blessing (p. 315). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

2 Hughes, R. K. (2004). Genesis: beginning and blessing (p. 318). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

3 Swindoll, Charles R. (2014-07-16). Abraham: One Nomad's Amazing Journey of Faith (Kindle Location 3302). Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

4 Hughes, R. K. (2004). Genesis: beginning and blessing (p. 318). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

5 Hughes, R. K. (2004). Genesis: beginning and blessing (p. 321). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

6 Accessed 12/10/2014, from http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/fam/24/6/766/

7 Guzik, David (2012-12-08). Genesis (Kindle Locations 3890-3891). Enduring Word Media. Kindle Edition.

Related Topics: Christian Life, Marriage