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Genesis Chapter 24 - Providence - Part 1
As we saw last week, Abraham believes himself not to belong to this world. And now he sets out to find a bride for his son Isaac. Understand a couple things here. Not only were marriages arranged in that culture - it was the parents responsibility - but in this case, we’ve got on the line here, the redemptive plan of God, the promises of God, which are to move through this marriage to be. God said: “Through Isaac will come your seed.” So this now is the primary focus of Abraham.
Let’s dig in to the text. Vs. 1-9.
“Abraham was now very old, and the Lord had blessed him in every way. He said to the senior 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.”
Now remember, Abe doesn’t know how much time he has left. He’s looking around Canaan and thinking: “Well, ya know, there’s no one around here that’s good enough for my son. The Canaanites are pagans. So, I need my servant to go back to the old country and get one of those nice girls to become the wife of my son.”
He asks him to put his hand under his thigh. In different cultures there are different body expressions that we use to make promises. Remember as kids when we promised something, we had pinkie promises! Or we might have promised something and, let’s say we didn’t do it, and we tell them: “Well, I had my fingers crossed so that sorta nullified the deal!” How about the times we said: “Cross my heart and hope to die, stick a needle in my eye.” So, in this culture they would put your hand under their thigh. It meant it was a very serious thing that was about to take place, That this was a sign in this culture of a very solemn oath.
Notice on 2 occasions he telly this guy - “DO NOT take my son back there!” Abe’s maybe thinking he’s going to die and he doesn’t want his son leaving the promised land.
By the way, Isaac is the only one, as a picture of Christ remember, that never leaves the promised land. And the promised land is a picture of being in the presence of God. Abe left the promised land, his son Jacob left, but Isaac never does.
But the servant here does make an excellent point. “Well, come on Abe, if I’m gonna travel 1,000 miles to find some gal, and I’m going to say to her - ‘Ah, there’s this guy about a thousand miles away, he’s loaded, joe millionaire here, so why don’t ya just get on this camel with me and travel back and marry him?” What girl is gonna say - “Cool, that sounds legit, let’s go!?”
So this servant is anticipating that there might be a little bit of resistance on her part. “So if she resists, do I have permission to come back, get Isaac and take him there and show him to the girl to prove I’m telling the truth?” And Abraham says - “NO WAY! My son is to stay here in the land God has told us we are to be.”
And if she doesn’t come, what does he tell him? You're going to be released! So follow my orders or your going to be released!
I think we can squeeze a little picture out of this, in that, we need to understand that if God commissions us to do something and we don’t bring forth obedience, He’ll bring someone else in to do it.
Reality check. God doesn’t NEED us. It is our honor and blessing to partake in His commission. We benefit from it. Thank God that the plans of God are NOT based on my faithfulness. So if we don’t get with the game God’s gonna find someone else to do it.
I think what stands out above all else in these words of Abe - and these are his final words in Scripture by the way - is Abraham’s faith.
Abraham’s first recorded words in Scripture were expressive of his doubts to God when he said: you have given me no offspring” in Gen. 15:3. But here his last recorded words declared unwavering faith in God as he said: “he will send His angel before you, and you shall take a wife for my son from there.”
So here, as Calvin says, we have a simple reliance on the providence of God. Abe believed that God’s unseen hand would do all. God’s hand may be hidden, but His effective power is absolute, and Abraham believed this with all his heart.
There will be no huge miracles in this story, at least in how we typically think of miracles. No sun standing still, no fire reigning down from heaven, no healing or raising of the dead, no river stopped up...
Rather, God will bring about the acquiring of Isaac’s bride through the “normal” events of life - the delays, the customs, the stresses, and the chance meetings.
A.J. Packer says, “Believers are never in the grip of blind forces (fortune, chance, luck, fate); all that happens to them is divinely planned, and each even comes as a new summons to trust, obey, and rejoice.”
This story is a great illustration for us to show us that this is the way God works day in and day out in our own lives. This is God’s providence. In a nutshell, providence is the governance of God by which He, with wisdom and love, cares for and directs all things in the universe. The doctrine of providence asserts that God is in complete control of all things.
Such a God, is great beyond our imaginings because He maintains all life, involves Himself in all events, and directs all things to their appointed end while rarely interrupting the natural order of life.
This is an awesome thought. The God of Scripture is not simply a God of miracles who occasionally shows His power in our lives. He is far greater because He arranges all of life to suit and effect His providence.
This makes ALL of life a miracle, God is over all. He is all-powerful, all-knowing, all-present, and all-controlling. THIS is the God of Scripture. Anything less is an idolatrous reduction of our puny imaginations.
Join us next week as we continue with chapter 24. Blessings to you all.