Rebekah: Domestic Life
Instead of looking at the beautiful chapter before us as showing only how a wife was chosen for Isaac, look at it as a story full of family interest, and bright with many points of general human feeling. Of course the choice of a wife for Isaac is the one great fact in the chapter; but, without making its importance secondary, we may gather lessons about common household life which will touch a very large circle of sympathy and action.
The first figure is very touching: an old Prayer of Manasseh, a wintry beard falling upon his breast, but a strange glow of fire in his eyes, which tells of life that winter cannot reach; a servant before him, God above him, and angels waiting! And the subject is the wedding of a son! Inconvenient jesting, or unseasonable laughter, there is none; there is a deep, solemn, hopeful joy; and even if there be a touch of melancholy about the picture, it is the sweet pensiveness without which rapture would be but a flippant and perishable delight.
We cannot but be deeply touched by the action of Abraham, "old, and well stricken in age." His eldest servant was a man who ruled over all that he had, and to this honest man Abraham said, "Thou shalt go unto my country, and to my kindred, and take a wife unto my son Isaac." A beautiful thing for a father to be interested in his son"s wife! Not selfishly and meanly, not taking up an obstinate position and showing how ugly it is possible for an old man to be; but religiously, nobly, hopefully, with tender affection and genuine joy of heart. The good old Hebrews seemed to do all the ordinary work of life with such a broad and massive religiousness! They lived so thoroughly in the consciousness of all that was grand and prophetic in their history, that when they wanted to do any new thing they seemed to stop a great golden chariot by the road-side and to pick up the thing that was waiting there. See if this was not so in Abraham"s case. Does he introduce the matter to his servant"s attention in a light and gossiping way? Is he at all offhanded in his manner or tone? Far from it! Hear him: "The Lord God of heaven, which took me from my father"s house, and from the land of my kindred, and which spake unto me, and that sware unto me, saying, Unto thy seed will I give this land; he shall send his angel before thee." How solemn the tone! The thing so well begun will surely be well done. We are apt to let our history slip away from us so fast, that, in facing the future, we have no inspiration of memory, no rock that took long in building, and never can be shaken down. It was so different with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob! The first line and the last of their religious recollection were vivid in brilliance, and the very next thing they were going to do was taken up as a link belonging to a long golden chain, fashioned by the hand of God. The choice of a wife for Isaac was no casual incident; it was not something standing apart from the main line of his history, and something therefore which might be left to Isaac"s unassisted thought and arrangement; it stood as a part of a promise; it was a clause in a solemn covenant; it was as sacred as prayer, and as joyous as a morning psalm. Why should we diminish our own sense of God"s care in pur life, by always regarding the patriarchal history as something never to be repeated—a miracle once for all, without counterpart in our life? God is our Father; our life is precious in his eyes; our family is part of the King"s garden; and everything about us is dear to him. Get hold of that idea; store it in your hearts as a sacred faith, and you will know that the very hairs of your head are all numbered, and that the angels are with you as they were with Abraham.
The next picture disclosed in the scene is that of the angel and the servant. The angel went before and the servant followed after. And when he came unto Mesopotamia, unto the city of Nahor, the servant spake unto the Lord in prayer. Look at the preparation,—Abraham planning, the servant praying, the angel advancing, the camels kneeling down at the well, the presents all stored ready for distribution. It is like the preparation of a holy altar! This (if we were religious enough to give things their right names) is really what is happening in our own time. The angel of the Lord is still living, and he ministers variously and lovingly in human life. Of course we do not allude to him by name. We now talk of mental impressions, convictions, coincidences, inexplicable feelings, and divers impulses, but the angel we never name. This is a beautiful example of God"s indirect way of working. Why does not the angel speak audibly to Rebekah? Why should there be two servants, the winged one in the air, and the common one in charge of the camels? It is by this double ministry that providences are confirmed; the mental impression and the outward fact correspond; the light of a new hope arises in the heart; and at the same time the star appears to guide the way. All through life we see this principle of mediation, or double ministry, at work: in the conversion of men, in the determination of destiny, in things common, and in things unusual,—you find everywhere the invisible action of the Spirit, the imperfect action of human workers. You feel a strong impulse to do some good thing: it is the angel troubling with Divine energy the stagnation of your heart; you are deeply impressed; it is the finger of God writing his purpose on the soul. Look out, and you will find the opportunity and the service corresponding to your mental convictions or spiritual impulses: you will see, in fact, what you have dreamed in parable.
In this way you will see many curious coincidences in human life, things that are more easily explained upon religious than upon merely secular grounds. How you met certain persons, how they came to be at such a place at such a time, how you happened to drop a certain word or give a certain hint, why you should have gone just then and not at any other time; these things, and a thousand others, will puzzle and bewilder you, on merely secular principles; but if you believe in God, in his presence, care, and providence in human life, a great light will fall upon the whole outline of your history, and you will own with adoring wonder that God has been directing and stablishing you all your days. Life without a religious interpretation is a pitiful tragedy; life with a religious interpretation may be a tortuous road ending in a quiet and blessed heaven.
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Parker, Joseph. "Commentary on Genesis 24". The People's Bible by Joseph Parker. https://pro.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent