Gen.24:10-67 “A Faithful Servant”

Posted on December 5, 2010. Filed under: Genesis: Answers to Life's Crucial Questions |

Gen.24:10-67 “A Faithful Servant”

Bryan E. Walker

Read Genesis 24:10-67

 

Pray

 

Introduction: Today I hope to introduce yet another type of Bible Study method in the process of working through ch.24. A character study is where you pick a character in the Bible and examine their life, looking for character traits to follow or reject. One problem with this type of study is that it can easily be reduced to simple moralistic teachings that some of you may be familiar with from some children’s Sunday school or VBS curriculum. If you do a character study you still want to look for doctrine, and find the elements of the gospel that are present, and always look to magnify and glorify God and not man. And you don’t want to neglect the overall theme or big ideas of the text while you focus only the man or woman at hand. Today we want to look at the life of the faithful servant of Abraham who is unnamed, though some think he is Eliezer of Damascus mentioned in ch.15. The main point of this study is to see the steadfast love of God worked out in the life of this servant which points us to the covenant we have with God through Christ.

 

Outline:

  1. I.                   The Servant-
    1. 1.      Responsible- We are introduced to this unnamed servant in vs. 2 and we notice first of all that he is the oldest of Abraham’s household and that he was responsible for all that Abraham had. In New Testament terms he would be the chief steward. In today’s terms perhaps he would be the COO or the CFO. We do not know how long he had served Abraham but the indication is that he was also old. Here is a man that had earned a tremendous amount of trust and responsibility over the decades. He was a responsible man. Abraham, in vs. 1 had been blessed in all things, and this man must have been a trustworthy, hardworking, capable manager. This is certainly an admirable character trait to have and Jesus points to this kind of ability in the parable of the ten minas in Luke19. In 19:13 Jesus says that the nobleman called ten servants and entrusted them with a mina each, and says, “Engage in business until I come.” Upon his return the first servant returned 10 minas, a tenfold increase. The nobleman said, “Because you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over 10 cities!” The second one presented him with 5 minas in return and likewise received authority over 5 cities. But the third servant had only hid his mina away and presented it to his master without even any interest. He is rebuked as a wicked servant. Apply- In our business life we all know that we are to be responsible and work as unto the Lord, but also, spiritually, we should seek out responsibility and look to be profitable to our Lord over the long haul as this servant was to Abraham.
    2. 2.      Prudent vs.5, In verse 5 we see that the servant was Prudent in that he thought of a possible problem in his mission and brought it to Abraham’s attention immediately. This shows that he was not just a ‘yes man’ who went along with everything the boss said. He looked at the mission critically and realized he had no control over the young woman’s response. He was prudent in that he looked ahead to possible problems. Apply- Jesus would have us be prudent. In Luke 22:36 he tells his disciples to take a moneybag, a knapsack and buy a sword. In the Garden he tells his disciples to watch and pray in Mk.14:38; and in Mk.13:9 we are to be on our guard in light of persecution. In 1Chron 12:32 “Of Issachar, men who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do”. Folks, this history of Abraham’s servant’s search for a wife for Isaac is all about God’s sovereignty as He seeks to be faithful to his covenant with Abraham; however, trusting in God’s Providence and Sovereignty does not mean we are not to be prudent and look ahead to see what possible problems we might face.
    3. 3.      Faithful, vs. he was faithful in vs. 10 in that he undertook the journey that would be about an 1100 mile round trip by camel. He obeyed his master and displayed loyalty to Abraham and as we shall soon see, covenant loyalty to God as well. He obviously had to make preparations for the trip; the text says he took 10 camels. The text tells us that there were some men with him in vss.23, 33, but how many we do not know. It is possible that there was one man for every two camels. The spare camels would be for packing supplies and to provide rides for the woman and any attendants she would bring with her on the return trip. There does not seem to be any delay in his obedience to Abraham which shows us that faithfulness means a quick and wholehearted obedience. Apply- faithfulness includes being faithful in the small things, the routine things. As the servant was faithful in preparing and starting the long journey, we must approach our discipleship as a long journey that requires faithfulness in the small things over the long term.
    4. 4.      Prayerful, vss.12-14 here is one of the key elements of the passage and this is taught in children’s lessons that use this text. The servant of Abraham was a praying man, probably following Abraham’s example as we have seen Abraham calling on the name of the LORD repeatedly. Notice that he asks for something in a very specific way. He prays that the girl would freely offer to water his ten camels, a formidable task. This prayer is essentially asking for a miraculous sign, much as we see Gideon doing in Judges 6 with the fleece. At this encounter at the well, the first thing that the faithful servant does in pray in vs.12 and the last thing he does at the well is pray in vs.26f. He recounts his prayer to the family in vs.42-44. What we see here is that the servant’s faith in God is demonstrated by obedience, by prayer and by testimony. He is not all action, he is not all talk, he is not all prayer and no action. He is a man of prayer and action and not ashamed to talk about his faith. Apply- Jesus tells us in Matt.7:7f “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and will find; knock and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.” And Paul tells us to pray without ceasing in 1Thess.5:17. Are we just praying in general for our missionaries or for out Elders or church? Do we pray with specificity? Now clearly we can pray amiss if we seek a sign every time we pray for something. I’ve heard of a guy who prayed for a sign about the girl he should marry, received the sign and spoke directly with the girl…with disastrous results. 
    5. 5.      Observant, vs.21 The servant watches Rebekah to discern her character and to see if she matched his prayer request. Notice that all he did was ask her for a drink from her jar, she volunteered to water his camels. With ten camels this was a big job, so he was watching to see if she would finish the task she volunteered for.
    6. 6.      Prepared v.22, he was prepared for the meeting because he had gifts for the girl. This shows his faith in that he came prepared for his prayer to be answered and it would be fairly normal to give a gift for this kind of service, but the gift is extravagant. Sometimes it seems that we pray but don’t really have a plan for receiving what we pray for. This servant was prepared.
    7. 7.      Kept first things first, vs.33- The servant refuses to even eat before he gets down to business.
    8. 8.      Modest, vs.34, – here we see that the servant is not operating under his own authority, he very quickly says, “I am Abraham’s servant”. Here is a model for us; we do not operate on our own authority, we are but servants of the Lord. He also points to the LORD’s blessings upon Abraham immediately. We ought to always be pointing others to Jesus. We run into serious sin if we seek to glorify ourselves.
    9. 9.      Persuasive, vss.37-50 we see that this faithful servant was persuasive in relating his commission which he received from none other than Abraham. He does leave out Abraham’s negative statement about the Canaanite women, and he focuses on the positive side of searching for a wife for Isaac amongst his kindred. Wenham writes, “By playing up the kinship aspect between Isaac and Rebekah, the servant minimizes the pain of her separation from her family. He also plays down the possible resistance that the bride might feel about leaving home. Whereas he had asked Abraham what he should do if ‘the woman is not willing to go with me to this land’ (vv 5,8), in the retelling the potential reluctance of the would-be bride is played down; he simply asks, ‘Suppose the woman will not come with me (ESV-Perhaps) (v.39), and later the onus is shifted to her family, ‘if they will not give her to you’ (v41). And the possibility that Isaac might leave home, which is raised by the servant and twice rejected by Abraham (vv5-6,8), is now carefully omitted. Just to mention it might put ideas into the family’s head.” (pp.147f.) In vs. 48 he again attributes this meeting, not to luck, not to some false gods or his own skill, but “I bowed my head and worshipped the LORD and blessed the LORD, the God of my master Abraham, who had led me by the right way to take the daughter of my master’s kinsmen for his son.” The word used for ‘the right way’ is the word for faithfully, reliably, ‘emeth, (571) and is a key word in the chapter expressing God’s covenant faithfulness. This is the big idea of the chapter and the servant uses the concept to persuade the family. Wenham writes that this word, when used of men, means that a man is faithful to his neighbor, true in his speech, and reliable and constant in his action. And when used of God it asserts that God’s word and work you can place complete confidence in. Wenham continues, “This story illustrates God’s ‘kindness’ and ‘reliability’ to such a degree that the servant appeals to Rebekah’s family to show similar qualities in dealing with Abraham.” Verse 49 “Now then, if you are going to show steadfast love and faithfulness to my master, tell me…” The word for “steadfast love” is chesed and is another key word in covenant language meaning “loving kindness, a faithful love that is tender and merciful (2617). (See Psalm 25:6) Abraham had been very blessed by God’s steadfast love and faithfulness to his covenant, the servant was demonstrating steadfast love and faithfulness to Abraham and God, and he is now appealing to Rebekah’s family to demonstrate that same faithfulness to Abraham.

10.  Direct vs.49, here the servant is very direct and to the point. He wants an answer. He is not beating around the bush or being wishy washy, he is not negotiating. He says, “and if not, that I may turn to the right hand or to the left.” If the family is not cooperative, he will take his gift laden camels elsewhere and find another girl. Laban and Bethuel agree that this is from the LORD and the servant then distributes many gifts, expensive gifts, to the girl and her brother and mother.

11.  Discerning vss.54-58, After agreeing to send Rebekah with him, the family tries to slow down the process the next morning. Here we see a hint of Laban’s character that will show up again later with Jacob. They are having second thoughts and the text uses vague language for a time schedule, “Let the young woman remain with us for a while,, at least 10 days”. The translation of numbers is again difficult and it can mean a year or 10 months or ten days. He again invokes the LORD as having given success so that they should not cause him a delay. The family calls Rebekah to see what she wants to do, and she acts decisively and agrees to go.

12.  A Finisher vss.61-67. In the final segment of the story we see that the servant was a Finisher and saw the mission to its very conclusion. Many people begin well, but do not end well. How many times have you seen a believer who was doing well for a long time, but then stumbled and fell, and did not get back up? How many believers do grow weary of well doing and fall into sin never to return? We are called to fight the good fight and finish the race. But here we see a mystery. In verse 65, after pointing out Isaac to Rebekah, he calls him his master. We do not see the servant reporting back to Abraham. This combined with the solemnity of the oath ceremony in vss.1-9 and the fact that Abraham was old, well advanced in years, has led many scholars to think that Abraham was dying when he sent his servant out and that he was dead before he returned with Rebekah. Wenham points out however, “a literal reading of the chronological notices in Genesis would preclude such a conclusion. For if Isaac was forty years old when he married Rebekah (25:20), his father was then 140 and did not die until he was 175 (25:7). So one might conclude that Abraham lived another thirty-five years after the events described in this chapter. The resolution of these problems depends partly on the way the chronological data of Genesis are understood. Are they to be understood as exact timespans or have they a more symbolic function?…Provisionally, we assume that Abraham died while his servant was away on his mission.” This is a difficult decision because the story does seem to portray it as Abraham dying, yet it does not specifically say so. The ages are leaning towards Abraham still being alive, but we have repeatedly seen that the Hebrew use of numbers is not as precise as ours.

 

  1. II.                Rebekah- 1. Industrious, 2. A servant’s heart, 3. Responsible, vs.28, 4. Adventurous, 5. Faith, 6. Modest, v.65
  2. III.             God- 1. Sovereign over the details, 2. Faithful to keep his Word,

 

Notes:

Wenham, p144, vs.15 “Before he had finished speaking.” Cf. “Before they call I will answer, while they are yet speaking I will hear” (Isa. 65:24) and the ancient prayer, which begins, “Almighty and everlasting God, who are always more ready to hear than we to pray, and art wont to give more than either we desire or deserve.”

 Bibliography:

 Wenham, Gordon J. The Word Biblical Commentary, Vol. 2, Genesis 16-50. Word Books: Dallas, TX. 1994 (pp.131-155).

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