Are there any prayer warriors in your life? Maybe a sweet old lady at church or a close friend or relative. Do you ever wonder how they do it? How they are so consistent and so caring? Genesis 24 gives us an example of a prayer warrior whose life can answer those questions for us.
“EXAMPLES OF GODLINESS”
(Genesis 23 - 25:21)
And I thought I it would be an appropriate introduction, we all hooked up for this lapel? Okay. Okay, I’m going to have to stay here, Ron (?).
The headline says, “Biblical scholars doubt Jesus said he would return to earth.” I love that, Biblical scholars, ugh, part. All right. The articles goes on to say, “A group of thirty Biblical scholars, accessing the most likely teachings of the historical Jesus, agreed overwhelmingly Saturday that he did not say he would return to earth and usher in a new age.” One man from this committee said that “the findings on the second coming reflect what is really taught in most major universities and seminaries.” Isn’t that exciting?! Let’s just go home, turn the lights out, no hope. I can’t imagine saying that you are a Biblical scholar and coming to that conclusion. There are many reasons why, but I’m glad that we have the blessed hope and that is basically, ladies and gentlemen, because we believe in the blessed book. Amen? (audience reply - Amen) All right.
Genesis Chapter 24. In this book, we begin again studying through it as we are chapter by chapter, sometimes verse by verse. As we come to large narrative sections, like we’re in this morning, we have to cover a lot of text to get through the major idea of the chapters. I am convinced that what the world needs, especially after reading articles like this, is the genuine item in the lives of believers, that is, believers who are genuinely godly, those who have a reality in their walk. And what I want to introduce this morning by way of this text is the example, first of all, of a godly father, and then the example of a godly servant, and then the example of a godly marriage. And if you have notes, I think it might be helpful for you to follow along.
We’re beginning in Chapter 24 of Genesis. Let’s read the first four verses together as we look at the example of a godly father. And the first thing that I want you to note as we read through this text is that he had an unwavering conviction before God.
Note Verse 1.
Now Abraham was old, advanced in age; and the Lord had blessed him (Abraham) in every way. And Abraham said to his servant, the oldest of his household (probably that reference to age is more in line with priority, that is, he had the first in rank, he had priority, he had been there the longest. He, with his great authority, had charge of all that Abraham owned. And Abraham said to him, “Please place your hand under my thigh.”
Evidently, this was the custom.
If you were going to make a promise of this nature, the patriarch would see himself, and that individual servant would come and slide his hand under the thigh of that man, and then he would say, Abraham would say to him, I will make you, Verse 3, swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and the God of earth, that you shall not take a wife for my son Isaac, from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I live. But you shall go to my country and to my relatives, and take a wife for my son Isaac.”
It’s fascinating that his faith was so strong that he would be intent on keeping his end of the covenant, that is, God had promised that through his seed, through the pure line of his tribe, would, in fact, come the Messiah as given in the proto evangelium (?) earlier that we studied. And so Abraham believing that, begins to risk his most loved servant, and in fact, endanger his life, as he takes this long journey back to his homeland to find a bride for his son Isaac. And this is one of the most beautiful love stories in all of the Old Testament.
I want you to notice as well not only his unwavering conviction before God, but his unfaltering conviction before his son. This is just as important, because his son undoubtedly is involved in this conversation. He’s hearing, he’s watching his oath being taken by the servant , who would do his proper duty in taking the dowry and locating the wife. I want you to notice how Isaac must have felt as he heard his son, or his father and the servant speak in Verse 5.
(Verses 5 - 8)
And the servant said to him, “Suppose the woman will not be willing to follow me back to this land.” Now, I can imagine Isaac saying, Yeah, Dad, what if she won’t come back? Should I take your sons back to the land from where you came?” And Abraham says with great conviction (Verse 6), “Beware, lest you take my son back there!. The Lord, the God of heaven, who took me from my father’s house and from the land of my birth, and who spoke to me, and who swore to me, saying, To your descendants I will give this land, implied have no fear. He will send His angel before you, and you will find a wife for my son from there. But if that woman is not willing to follow you, then you will be free from this my oath; only do not take my son back there.” In other words, obviously, this wasn’t up for grabs. This was a conviction that Isaac would abide by if he was to stay under the roof of his father’s tent. This was conviction. Abraham, as it were, had set a fence post deep in the soil there, and his son knew it was always there, and that was Abraham would not violate the Word of God.
Let me encourage your parents today, you are in the process of building fence posts. You are laying them deep in the soil of your family life. Do you know what your children are doing? Periodically, they’re coming, and they are checking it out to see if it’s moved. They’ll shake it to see if it’s weak. They’ll kick it. They’ll nail a pretext sign to it. They are convinced that somehow they are going to make that thing move, and they are asking you a question.
And what it will do is give them tremendous security if they know that even though they put on the pressure, you will never say what is wrong can be right. You see, for those of us who will under their pressure say, Okay, what I’ve said for years is wrong, now this weekend, for this time only, it’s right. We give them over as prey to the philosophers on the campuses of our universities that say to them that there are no absolutes, there is nothing as absolute truth. There is nothing that is right and wrong. It’s all relative. And the child thinks, Ah that makes sense, because my mom and dad showed me that if I applied the right amount of pressure, I could get that absolute to change.
Even that is not in cement (? - word faded out). I have seen this with pains, as I have worked with young people as a youth pastor, I have seen it there, but I’ve never imagined it would happen with such young children, like mine. (laughter from audience) I’ve got three year olds that every morning, they’ve got one mission. They are going to find out if a fence post moved overnight, and I can just hear them in the other room, “Hey, Stef, you awake? Yeah. Let’s go see if the fence post has moved?” That’s why around our home, the early morning hours between usually eight and ten o’clock, are the most difficult, because it’s as if they run from one to the other. “Hey, Dad, has this changed? Can you handle this?” That’s why I try to leave the house by 7:30 now. (lots of laughter - Stephen laughs too!) But it is the fence post, my friends, that protects, it guides, it gives them security. And your children are fantastic lawyers. They have the appeal process down to a science. They are constantly looking for the loop hole. And yet that fence post, that guideline, provides a foundation of tremendous security. It protects them.
It reminds me of the story I read this past week of the little boy who was riding his tricycle furiously back and forth up and down the sidewalk in front of his house, just with tremendous energy. Finally , a policeman stopped and he said, “Son, what are you doing?” The little boy said, “I’m running away from home.” And he starts pedaling. The policeman says, “Wait a second. Ugh, then why are you pedaling back and forth in front of your home?” And the little boy thought, and he said, “Well, because my mom won’t let me cross the street.” (laughter) He’s (?) back and forth. He knew there was a fence post.
Isaac grew up in that kind of home. He grew up in that kind of setting. And don’t, ladies and gentlemen, think for a moment that Isaac didn’t go over there and test that fence post. I can just see him as an eighteen year old coming home and saying, “Hey dad. I’ve met the cutest little Mideonite. Oh, the brown eyes have pieced my heart. Now wait a second, Dad. I know she’s not part of the tribe, but she’s very interested in the covenant. She said she’d even come this Saturday to our family worship. She listened for hours as I talked to her about our family history. What do you mean no? Oh, Dad, I can’t go out with anybody around here! They all think I’m strange.” Don’t miss it. He grew up in that kind of setting where I’m convinced he constantly tried, but Abraham would never move.
Let me give you a New Testament commandment that’s along this similar line. God specifically stated, “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers.” II Corinthians Chapter 6 Verse 14. The implication includes marriage. I have heard teenagers say, “Well, I’m not marrying them. I’m just dating.” Have you ever known a couple that married without at least one date? You see, the problem, ladies and gentlemen, is whether or not you can find that illustration of that one rare couple. The Bible has placed a period at the end of that verse. Don’t change it to a question mark. And you and I as parents will have to make sure that fence post is firm. And what a steadfast example before God and his son of godliness that Abraham had.
Now, let’s go to the example of his servant. Let’s begin with Verse 9 of Chapter 24.
So the servant placed his hand under the thigh of Abraham his master, and swore to him concerning this matter. Then the servant took ten camels from the camels of his master, and set out with a variety of good things of his master’s own hand. This is actually the dowry. Abraham, being a very wealthy man, needed ten camels to carry the dowry. Some lucky father is going to meet Isaac’s servant in just a moment, Abraham’s servant. And he arose, and went to Mesopotamia, to the city of Nahor.
And he made the camels kneel down outside the city by the well of water, or literally the spring of water, at evening time, the time when women go out to draw water.
Let me give you the first that I’ve noticed from this servant as an example of a godly servant. The first is this. He was completely obedient to the word of his master. He is going to fulfill every jot and till. He’s going to carry it all out. He’s going to make sure he obeys completely. He questions his master to find out if there’s a “what if” situation. “What if she won’t follow me, what if she won’t make the dangerous trip back, leaving her family. What if?” And Abraham said, “No.” So now he’s going to obey.
But I want you to notice the second thing. And we need to dig a little for this one. That is, he was completely dependent on the help of God. And he said, Verse 12, “O Lord, the god of my master Abraham, please grant me success today, and show lovingkindness to my master Abraham.” Would you note the humility of Verse 12. He says, “Grant to my master success.” I would think if we paralleled this servant with the lives of us as servants of God that we would rarely have that attitude. It isn’t, “God, allow me to minister for you so that you get the glory.” There’s a tremendous sense of humility in this master, in this servant’s voice, as he goes to God.
I read once recently that there’s no telling what good a man or woman can do for God if they don’t care who gets the credit. Powerful thought! He had that attitude of humility.
Now I love it. Here he goes, Verse 13.
Behold, look Lord, I am standing by the spring, and the daughters of the men of the city are coming out to draw water. There might have been fifty, a hundred, we don’t know how many young women are approaching this well. And he’s supposed to pick one out. There’s not a chance in the world. So what he’s going to do is give God some specifics.
Now may it be, Verse 14, that the girl to whom I say, Please let down your jar so that I may drink, and who answers, Drink, and I will water your camels also, may she be the one whom Thou has appointed for Thy servant Isaac; and by this I shall know that Thou hast shown lovingkindness to my master.
In other words, what he is saying is, he’s saying, Lord, we’ve got a hundred gals coming here. They are all eligible. And I’ve got to pick one of them out. So what I’m going to do is just kind of put the fleece out here, and I’ll kind of let my gaze rest on one of them, and I’ll go up and ask her for a drink. And if she says, Why I’d be delighted to give you a drink, and not only that, I’ll give water for your camels as well. He says, well then I’ll know. At least I’ll have an inkling. She still has to be part of the family. But at least I’ll know to carry it a little further.
All right, now we’re about to be introduced to Rebekah. Let me give you three things as we study here that I think are striking about her character of godliness. The first is in the next few verses, and that is, she refused temptation. Note Verse 15.
And it came about before he had finished speaking, that is, he’s still praying to God, he just about says, Amen, that Rebekah who was born to Bethuel the son of Milcah, the wife of Abraham’s brother Nahor, came out with her jar on her shoulder. And the girl was very beautiful, a virgin, and no man had had relations with her; and she went down to the spring and filled her jar, and came up. Her purity, ladies and gentlemen, is mentioned twice in scripture. While our society considers this virtue not worth protecting, in fact, today, our young people are given incredible amounts of pressure that this virtue is even an embarrassment, the Word of God states differently. It’s interesting whenever the scriptures repeat something twice, God doesn’t stutter; He is doing it for emphasis. And I like the fact that it adds on here that she was beautiful, implied she had turned down many suitors, and she had refused temptation. God intends young people this bonding of physical nature to be part of that total unity as one person, though it is taken out of context today. Beware. You’ll never be sorry for saying no. You will never be sorry for initiating this policy. And if you have given that treasure away, I want you to know that God forgives that as He does anything. And I would challenge you to initiate immediately a policy of abstinence until you are wedded. And God will bless you for that discipline.
She also, secondly, respected an elder. This is what I gleaned from the next few verses. It says, note Verse 17.
Then the servant ran to meet her, and said, “Please let me drink a little water from your jar.” And she said, “Drink my lord”; and she quickly lowered her jar to her hand, and gave him a drink. Now when she had finished giving him a drink, she said, “I will draw also for your camels until they have finished drinking.”
This is too good to be true, he is probably thinking.
So she quickly emptied her jar into the trough, and ran back to the well to draw, or to the spring of water, and she drew for all his camels. Now understand, we’ve got a man with ten camels. Ten camels drink about twenty gallons of water. Here’s this little girl has just volunteered two hundred trips to the spring. You know what the servant’s response is? Classic. Notice the next verse.
Meanwhile, the man was gazing at her in silence. (Stephen laughs) He couldn’t believe his eyes and ears. This woman has actually done just what I’ve said to God. I thought I made it too tough. Maybe it’s been too easy. And here she comes with great respect for a man that she knew was a servant. She knew he was a slave. She could tell by his appearance, by his garment, that he represented another, and yet she in great respect for an older individual, I think, gave him to drink.
Well, let’s read the next few verses.
Meanwhile, the man was gazing at her in silence, not knowing whether the Lord had made his journey successful or not. In other words, Lord, maybe I made this too easy.
Then it came about, when the camels had finished drinking. It probably took two or three hours. That the man took a gold ring weighing a half-shekel. I hate to tell you this but that was for her nose. (laughter) All of a sudden you’ve got a different image of Rebekah, right? (laughter) Beautiful? Oh man, not a chance! That was for her nose. In fact, if you don’t believe me, Verse 47 says, And I put the ring on her nose, and the bracelets on her wrists. At any rate, weighing a half-shekel. I hope it was light. I don’t know how much a half-shekel weighs. And two bracelets for her wrists weighing ten shekels in gold, and said, “Whose daughter are you? Please tell me, is there room for us to lodge in your father’s house?” And this is all extra stuff. This is over and above what he had asked God to do with this gal. But what he had to find out was whether or not she was a relative of Abraham, because still in this economy, God had promised the seed to Abraham’s family. And he has to make sure she is related.
And she goes on to say, yes Verse 25, “We have plenty of both straw and feed, and room to lodge in.” Then the man bowed low and worshipped the Lord. And he said, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who has not forsaken His lovingkindness and His truth toward my master; as for me, the Lord has guided me in the way to the house of my master’s brothers.” They were related. Mission accomplished. The first one he selected was, in fact, the one that he would give the proposal to.
She refused temptation. She respected an elder. But I want you to notice the third thing, and that is she responded to God’s will. In Verses 30 to 60, we won’t take time to read, because basically, what we have is the servant ushered into the presence of Laban. You remember that character. We’re going to study him a little later. Laban probably saw those ten camels with all of the good things, and he thought, “This is too good to pass up.” He invites the man in, and the servant relays to him all the story. He starts from the beginning. And that’s what occurs between Verses 30 and 60.
Now Laban will respond. Ugh, and I want you to notice what happens. Look at Verse ugh, actually Verse 50, I believe I should have written.
Verse 50 (Actually reads Verses 50 - 54)
Then Laban, Verse 50, and Bethuel answered and said, “The matter comes from the Lord; so we cannot speak to you bad or good. They had enough insight to notice, to believe, that this was in fact the will of God. This was from God. “Behold, they said, Verse 51, Rebekah is before you, take her and go, and let her be the wife of your master’s son, as the Lord has spoken.” And it came about when Abraham’s servant heard their words, that he bowed himself to the ground before the Lord. And said, “Thank you Lord.” That’s in the Hebrew. And the servant brought out articles of silver and articles of gold, and garments, and gave them to Rebekah; he also gave precious things to her brother and to her mother. Then he and the men who were with him ate and drank and spent the night. When they arose in the morning, he said, “Send me away to my master.” He’s ready to go back.
But her brother and her mother said, “Let the girl stay with us a few days, say ten; afterward she may go.”
Now, they’ve decided that this is the will of God. So far, we don’t even know if Rebekah has been asked. Of course, in this culture you were given a spouse chosen by your relatives normally. There was still submission on the part of the children in accepting that spouse, but they still haven’t pulled her in. Now they want her to stay for ten days. We want to have a long good-bye. And so they say, Well, we’ll call Rebekah in.
How will she respond to something that she knows is God’s will? She evidently believes it as well. I want you to notice that she responded immediately to the will of God.
It said in Verse 56, it says,
And he said to them, “Do not delay me, the servant writes, since the Lord has prospered my way. Send me away that I may go (left out rest of sentence - to my master). And they said, “We will call the girl and consult her wishes.” When (text reads, Then) they called Rebekah and said to her, “ Will you go with this man?” And she said, “I will go.”
That’s an amazing verse. This beautiful little lassie, she just said, I believe it’s God’s will. You believe it’s God’s will. I am evidently part of this covenant promise. I’ve never met Isaac. I’ve never been away from home probably, you’re asking me to go to the other side of the world. What’s my response? I’ll go. This is the kind of wife Isaac would need to trust God with in fulfilling the covenant promise, as we’ll see in just a moment.
Before we get to the romantic conclusion, let’s back up and take a look at what kind of man Rebekah is about to meet for the first time. We won’t read the verses again, but let me give you three things about the character, the godly character of Isaac.
First of all, he was the compliant son. Verses 4 to 6. He’s in the conversation, and obviously, as I’ve implicated, he’s grown up testing this fence post probably not understanding. Now as dad has selected a bride, he will not see until she’s introduced to him. Don’t mistake this here. Isaac is not an eighteen year old at this point. He’s not a twenty-five year old. He’s not a thirty year old. Isaac is a forty year old man. He could have said at any time, “Dad, the covenant is for you. You’ve got a wife. I’m going back to see if that Mideonite’s still available. I’m forty years old.” But he patiently waited and complied. What a son!
Secondly, he was a consistent believer. Turn the page to Verse 62 of that same chapter.
Now Isaac had come from going to Beer-lahai-roi. Beer-lahai-roi. Whenever there’s a Hebrew name, you need to find out what it means, because it’s always significant, especially in relation to Isaac. The place where God lives and sees me. You ought to jot that into your notes. That means the place, or in your text, the place where God lives and sees me. All these years, Isaac had lived with the sense of God’s presence. How in the world could a man grow up and wait until he’s forty, an eligible bachelor, continually say “no” to the temptation and the pressure of his pagan culture and wait as a compliant and obedient son. How could he do it? I think the next verse gives us the clue.
And Isaac went out to meditate in the field toward evening. The original Hebrew indicates this is a habit, this is a continual process. And he lifted up his eyes, as he would, and looked. I think this is why Isaac was the kind of man that he was, because it was his practice to meditate daily. I don’t know, maybe you have the time with the Lord in the morning, maybe in the afternoon. His time was in the evening when it was cool, at dusk. He would go out and have a time with his God. Ladies and gentlemen, is it any wonder, let’s go back to basics for just a minute, is it any wonder that God would use a man like Nehemial to rebuild Jerusalem when we learned at the very beginning of his ministry that indicated a pattern. He prayed and he prayed constantly through that entire effort. Is it any wonder that we talk about Nehemiah today? Is it surprising to you and I that God would use a man like Daniel to face the pagan pressures of a court given over to lasciviousness and then in fact face the lions when we learned that he prayed three times every day? Do we think it’s a coincidence with all that Jesus Christ accomplished, that He was constantly in prayer with his father, saying, Father, not my will but Thine be done?
As I meditated on this thought, it occurred to me that one of the few specific things that Jesus Christ ever taught His disciples to do was what? Pray. You know, I thought, He didn’t give them a play by play on how to win Jerusalem. He could have. He didn’t give them all the facts on how to go out as a parent and what they’re going to encounter and what they are going to face. Perhaps He did. We do know the scriptures gives us a specific lesson on how to pray. Ladies and gentlemen, you may wonder this morning why God’s hand is on someone else. Maybe you’ve wondered why your spiritual experience is shallow. Wait twenty years? I can’t wait twenty minutes. May I suggest to you that it is because the hinges on the door of your prayer life are rusty. We’d like to have some quick little formula. And now let’s go back to our existence with God when we are all alone. Do we pray? Evidently, Isaac had the habit of prayer.
One of the characteristics of godliness is it is not delivered upon conversion; it is developed. And Isaac developed it over that twenty year period or forty years of waiting for his wife.
I want you to notice thirdly, the third thing of his character, and that was the fact that he was a committed husband. Would you note Verse 64.
And Rebekah lifted up her eyes, and when she saw Isaac she dismounted from the camel. Would you know the literal Hebrew there actually means she jumped, as it were. Boy, this is a romantic conclusion! She jumps off that camel and she says to the servant,
And she said to the servant (Verse 65), “Who is that man? I think I know. And the servant said, “He is my master.”
Then she took her veil and covered herself. I can’t figure that one out. Why in the world would she cover her beautiful face? He hadn’t even seen her before, but yet, that was the custom. And the servant told Isaac all the things that he had done. Then Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent, and he took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her. (Verses 66 and 67)
That’s one of the few times in the Old Testament that we specifically learn of a man’s love, one of the few times it’s ever even mentioned. We obviously know it is assumed with these couples, but theirs was a special love story. And the Bible emphasizes the fact that he took her to himself and he loved her.
I think there are qualities in this marriage that I want to give you, at least three of them, very quickly. The first is the characteristic of adjustment. Here’s a man that’s been a bachelor for forty years. He’s just like you, just like me. After forty years of living on planet earth, you’ve got the system down. Isaac might have been the kind of man that would leave his shawl all over the tent on the floor. I don’t know. He might have had the practice of eating at a particular time. He already had his taste buds developed. He knew
what he wanted to eat. Why, his life was pretty much set, and isn’t it interesting that he brings her to himself and there’s the development of love. I like what one man said, “Love is developed after marriage, not before.” Powerful thought!
The second thing that strikes me of their marriage is that of empathy. We would learn this elsewhere, but let me tell you for the sake of time that Isaac has been mourning his mother’s death for three years. They were obviously very close. Let me say this about mourning. The Bible nowhere says when you have a death in the family or you go through some tragedy, that you’re supposed to sniffle it up and keep your chin up. There was a three year period of mourning with Isaac, and he was a godly man. And evidently, there was empathy from Rebekah, because it came, she came in, and it says in the last part of Verse 67, Thus Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death. Don’t assume that’s naturally going to happen, but it did here, which shows us a lot about their relationship and especially about Rebekah.
Thirdly, the characteristic of patience is obvious. They would now wait for the promise of God to come to them. And guess what God does? God gives Isaac a barren wife. You would think that Abraham, with all the struggles that he went through to receive what God had literally said He would give, would be enough. But no, He does the same thing now with Isaac, and they will pray together, not for five years or ten years. They will also pray and wait patiently for twenty years for God to fulfill what He said He’s do. Theirs was a relationship marked by patience, which leads me to the second principle of godliness, and that is, it is not strengthened under stress, it is revealed whether or not you and I have it. They had it, and in the process of waiting, they revealed it.
Well, godliness began with an obedient Abraham, and that was contagiously caught by the next generation, and we will learn by the next and the next and the next.
I heard from my father a couple of days ago, and he told me that ugh our my great uncle, his uncle, Herald, passed away, went home to be with the Lord, a godly man eighty-seven years of age. He was the sixth generation preacher, which made my father the seventh and my older brother and myself the eighth. And we began tracking back on the phone, which is unusual for my dad to be anything sentimental, but we just on the phone began tracing back, and he related to me stories that I had heard slivers of, but he expounded. He told me about our family and some things that had occurred, and he said, “You know, it all really began with us, with me as your father, back with a pioneer couple who came to Minnesota in a covered wagon. It was my great grandfather, my father’s grandfather. And they came across and settled as farmers, and the man was an unbeliever. He didn’t believe in God. But he had married a wife who was a stout believer in the principles of the Word. And she prayed for thirty-five years that her husband would come to Christ, my great grandfather. After thirty-five years, he bowed his knee and came to the cross.” As a result of that relationship, they would have a son who would also follow God who would have a son who would raise me. I feel very responsible in carrying that tradition, not that my sons go into the ministry, but the tradition of godliness. Godliness. Ladies and gentlemen, one day we’re going to look down history’s lane, and we’re going to see lives that are affected. Godliness has to be developed as dads and as moms. Godliness must be evidenced as servants as we live for Him, completely obeying His Word, completely dependent upon Him for strength. Godliness must be developed in the home and in the marriage if we ever hope to impact this world for Jesus Christ. The world is not looking for a sermon. It’s looking for reality in the lives of the saints. Let’s take stock.
(End of Teaching - Closing Prayer)