Introduction: The great theologian John Wesley and his noted brother Charles, who wrote countless Christian hymns, made such decisions as their journey to America by opening the Bible in a random manner and deciding what they should do from the verse that first came to view.
When this type of thing didn’t work, they would turn to drawing lots. In other words, the Bible didn’t give me what I want, so I’ll try dice. These types of superstitions were common with him and they deviate from sound biblical practices. In one instance Wesley decided to attack the Calvinist theory of grace.
In 1739 he preached on and published a passionately Arminian sermon entitled Free Grace. He did this only after seeking a sign from heaven and drawing lots twice.
Today we will learn more about how the Holy Spirit works in our lives and what His role and function is. We can get quite a bit out of today’s story and we’d be remiss if we didn’t attempt to learn from the pictures God has given us here.
Text Verse: And a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 Now after he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them. Acts 16:9, 10
In the Old Testament, the Spirit of God directed Abraham’s servant to find a wife for his son. In the New Testament, we see the Holy Spirit directing God’s people in the spreading of the gospel in order to search out those who will be a part of the Bride of Christ.
We need to live in such a way that we are always ready to be filled with and respond to the Holy Spirit as He directs us to others in need of this good news. And so… May God speak to us through His word today and may His glorious name ever be praised.
I. The Spirit Directs God’s People
In our last sermon we saw Abraham call his chief servant and he asked him to swear to a vow to obtain a wife for his son Isaac. He directed him to go to Mesopotamia where his family was and get a wife from there. The servant was instructed to in no way take Isaac there, but the woman had to come, by faith, to meet her husband.
The last verses we saw said – “Then the servant took ten of his master’s camels and departed, for all his master’s goods were in his hand. And he arose and went to Mesopotamia, to the city of Nahor. 11 And he made his camels kneel down outside the city by a well of water at evening time, the time when women go out to draw water.
This is where we start today then, with verse 12…
12 Then he said, “O Lord God of my master Abraham, please give me success this day, and show kindness to my master Abraham.
The servant has arrived and is waiting by the well. What he does here is absolutely vital to the mission and therefore it is the very first thing he does – he prays. He prays in the name of the Lord.
He acknowledges the Lord’s authority over Abraham and that he in turn is subservient to him. He then he asks for success in his mission which is on behalf of his master. In other words, he’s not praying for himself, but for the mission which he has been sent on.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with praying for yourself, and there are times in the Bible when this happens, but I find it extremely hard to do personally. The reason is that if I belong to the Lord, then whatever I do should be meant to honor Him.
And so when I pray about something that involves me, it is always under the premise that it should be to bring Him glory, not me. The Lord already knows everything I want and need and so I see asking for those things in prayer as repetitive and pointless.
However, I don’t want to frighten you off from praying. There are only three ways that we can commune with God. The first is through reading the Bible. The second is through being filled with the Holy Spirit. But that isn’t at all what most Christians think.
Being filled with the Spirit is a passive action, not active. In other words, if you are a believer in Jesus, you are sealed from the moment of belief by the Spirit. You have all of the Spirit that you can ever get at that moment. However, the Spirit can get more of you. Being filled is passive and it can only happen in a few ways.
By knowing your Bible, by living out what the Bible expects, and through the third way of communing with God – through prayer. And so, Abraham’s messenger does what each of us should do in all things – he prays.
To expect any good thing to be accomplished without using the means of getting that thing accomplished is both stupid and arrogant. How can we expect God to respond to our needs without stating them in a manner which honors Him?
So in the future I want all of you to do three things every day – 1) Read your Bible. 2) Live out what your Bible instructs for you, and 3) Pray to God that His will and plan be worked out through you and for you as well as for the others you pray for. By doing these three things, you will – like Eliezer, commit your whole life to the direction and blessing of God.
13 Behold, here I stand by the well of water, and the daughters of the men of the city are coming out to draw water.
Notice that the servant acknowledges the Lord first and asks Him for his petition to be granted. Then in this verse he mentions the well where the women will come to. He doesn’t wish from the well and he doesn’t pray to the well. He prays to the Creator of the water and the land from which the well was dug.
Likewise, we aren’t to petition anything in creation in our prayers. Not horoscopes, not tarot cards, not the sun, moon, or stars. We don’t wish upon a rainbow or upon a figure of Jesus that shows up in a piece of Ravioli. There is no thing in creation that we pray to or bow to, not Mary or the saints. We only offer prayer to God.
14 Now let it be that the young woman to whom I say, ‘Please let down your pitcher that I may drink,’ and she says, ‘Drink, and I will also give your camels a drink’—let her be the one You have appointed for Your servant Isaac. And by this I will know that You have shown kindness to my master.”
The verses in this story are what we call “descriptive.” In other words, they describe what happened. They are not “prescriptive,” meaning they don’t prescribe what we should do. He is at the well and He is praying to God on behalf of His mission, which is on behalf of Abraham who is living his life under the Lord.
And so he asks for a sign. When I said this verse isn’t prescriptive, it means that this simply records what happened, not what we should necessarily do. There are many times in the Bible when people ask for a sign. Can anyone here tell me what the difference between them and us is?
The difference is twofold. First, we have the Bible – they didn’t. And the second is that if you have accepted Jesus Christ as Lord, then you also have been sealed with the Holy Spirit. Except under different circumstances and for different reasons, they weren’t.
Because we have the Bible and because the filling of the Holy Spirit is available to us, then asking for a sign is presumptuous and it is therefore sinful. This doesn’t mean that God doesn’t give signs, but that we are to understand them for what they are when He gives them, not when we ask for them.
The Bible says we not live by faith and not by sight. If we go around asking for signs, then we are not living by faith, but are trusting in the sight of a sign. A sign that is given when not requested still requires faith to understand that God gave it.
The case here at the well requires special direction from God which he otherwise didn’t have. Unlike him, we have God’s special direction in the Bible and in the presence of the Spirit.
In 1 Corinthians 1 Paul explains the difference between those who look for signs, those who live by the intellect alone, and those who follow what the Bible proclaims –
Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. 22 For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
15 And it happened, before he had finished speaking, that behold, Rebekah, who was born to Bethuel, son of Milcah, the wife of Nahor, Abraham’s brother, came out with her pitcher on her shoulder.
Enter Rebekah… According to Abraim the meaning of her name denotes the tying up of cattle for their own protection, the establishment of their home, and to keep them from wandering off. Within this name lies the notion that individuals are placed together by some higher authority or someone smarter than they.
This account is the perfect fulfillment of her name. God in His wisdom sent her to Eliezer even before he finished his prayer in order to fulfill His plans for the world’s people. It’s something we need to think on with every single thing that happens in our lives.
Have you ever prayed for something and within no time at all it came about? Or have you ever prayed for something for an immensely long time and when it did occur you realized that it was at the perfect time instead of when you started praying – which would have actually been a terrible time for it to happen?
God is infinitely smarter than us and every single thing that happens is because He has planned for it. This is even true with a pretty young girl walking up to get water from a well at evening time. So intelligent is God that speaking through Isaiah He says –
It shall come to pass That before they call, I will answer; And while they are still speaking, I will hear. Isaiah 65:24
At the time that God determines to fulfill His word, it will happen as surely as the sun will rise. As the Geneva Bible says about this verse, “God gives success to all things that are done for the glory of his name and according to his word.”
Although we haven’t come to the end of the story, we can already guess that Rebekah is the girl God has chosen for Isaac. And because she is the grand-daughter of Nahor, Abraham’s brother, we will learn something here that most people never consider.
Abraham was called out of Ur of the Chaldees and he traveled with His father Terah, His brother Nahor, and His nephew Lot who was the son of Haran, Abraham’s older brother who died in Ur. If you think this verse through along with what we also learned from previous sermons, all of these people are ancestors of Jesus.
Terah is the father of Haran, Abraham, and Nahor and he also had a daughter named Sarai. Haran is the father of Lot who is Jesus’ ancestor through both of his own daughters. Haran is also the father of Milcah, Rebekah’s grandmother.
Nahor is the father of Bethuel, the father of Rebekah, and Abraham and Sarah are the parents of Isaac. So, all of these people are in Jesus’ genealogy and they all come from Terah, Abraham’s father.
Terah, all three of his sons and his daughter, and the others mentioned – all of them – lead to Jesus. This then is one of the most pivotal families in all of redemptive history.
16 Now the young woman was very beautiful to behold, a virgin; no man had known her.
Rebekah is noted as very beautiful and so I bring up the point now that there is absolutely nothing wrong with being beautiful, and there is nothing wrong with noticing that in others. In some denominations, it’s almost scandalous to even note it and women do their very best to look as plain and as dull as possible.
However, the Bible never recommends this. What it does ask for is whether a lady is beautiful, or not-so-much, that she carry herself with the dignity of a lady and not trust in outward adornments, but in the beauty of what God has given her.
The next thing this verse notes is that she is a virgin and it explains it by saying that no man had known her. To “know” in this sense specifically means sex. This verse is prefiguring Rebekah as a picture of the church. Paul speaks of us in this way –
For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. 2 Corinthians 11:2
What the Bible is speaking of in Rebekah in a physical sense is what Paul desires of us in a spiritual sense. We are to be unknown in dealing with other gods. We are never to mix our devotion to Christ with anything else. Unfortunately, this message is all but lost in the Christian world today.
16(con’t) And she went down to the well, filled her pitcher, and came up.
Rebekah is a picture of us. She knows where the water is and she goes down to it. This well is lower than ground level and she has to descend to it before drawing out the water. The symbolism here is seen in our descending to the Water of Life, Jesus, as we go to our knees in the prayer which will change our eternal destiny.
After we obtain the Water through our prayer, something wonderful happens…
17 And the servant ran to meet her and said, “Please let me drink a little water from your pitcher.”
If you were here during last week’s sermon, you’ll remember that the servant is a picture of the Holy Spirit. When Rebekah receives the water from the well, the servant runs to her. And in the same way, the moment we receive the Water of Life into our jar of clay, the Spirit rushes into us, sealing us for the day of redemption –
In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.
After we are sealed and belong to Him, Paul explains the mystery of Christ in us in 2 Corinthians 4:7 – “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.”
The NIV uses the term “jars of clay.” Just as Rebekah filled her jar of clay, we also are filled – both at the well of the water of life, one physical; one spiritual. Everything we are reading about is pointing to Jesus and our relationship with Him. It is the Spirit which leads us to Him and it is the Spirit who calls to the people of God…
II. The Spirit Calls God’s People
18 So she said, “Drink, my lord.” Then she quickly let her pitcher down to her hand, and gave him a drink. 19 And when she had finished giving him a drink, she said, “I will draw water for your camels also, until they have finished drinking.”
The bride of Christ, the Church, isn’t just a beautiful virgin lazing around until the Lord returns. Just as Rebekah is the carrier of the water from the well, the church is the carrier of the Water of Life – the message of Jesus. The church is the one who carries the message to others either directly or by supporting those who do.
If you remember from last week, the camels and all that they carry are a picture of the gifts which God has given to His people. Her drawing water for these camels is a picture of our willingness to serve those who bear the gifts of God. She is the church and the church has people that can do anything the world does.
There are people who preach and there are missionaries. There are people who can build buildings and there are those who clean the buildings. There are camels and there are those who water camels. God has appointed all of us to do something.
It is unthinkable that people go to church on Sunday morning and do nothing more for the Christ during the week. At church on the beach, we may seem to have fewer opportunities to serve than at other churches, but this isn’t so. We have people to invite to come, and we have an offering bucket for those who can afford it.
We have people we can tell about Jesus during the week, and we have people who can carry stuff to the truck when we’re finished. We have people we can share the weekly video with on the internet with others too. We have people who occasionally bring something for others to eat. Whatever your gift is, use it like Rebekah used hers – with diligence and to the point of completion.
And one more thing about this verse – remember that the servant is a picture of the Holy Spirit. Rebekah said to him, as we should say to the Spirit, “Drink my lord.” As believers, we have all the Spirit that we can get. However, the Spirit can get more of us.
Despite what charismatic churches teach, the Bible doesn’t ask us to say “Come Holy Spirit” because He is already there. Instead it is the Spirit who says “Come.” The more we offer to Him, the more we will be filled. And so Rebekah offers to him.
20 Then she quickly emptied her pitcher into the trough, ran back to the well to draw water, and drew for all his camels.
Camels drink a lot. This wasn’t one trip to the well, but many. One camel that’s been on a journey like this will drink about 25 gallons. This then would be 250 gallons. If her jar held 3 gallons, which would be about 25 pounds (8.34), then it would take her about 83 trips between the well and the trough.
In total that’s about 2080 pounds of water, plus the weight of the jar for each carry. This girl is no slacker. Even if they only drank half that much, it’s probably much more work than any of you will do after dinnertime tonight… well, except for maybe Kelly.
Rebekah serves until the job is complete and this is what we are asked to do as well. There is a world full of people who need the Water of Life and there are a million jobs within the church that need to be accomplished. Rebekah didn’t stop until the job was done and we are to continue on until our job is finished as well.
And as a piece of trivia for you, camels don’t store water in their humps. Rather it is stored in their bloodstream. The humps are storage for fat for when there’s no food. When needed, that is their food source and that is when the hump shrinks.
21 And the man, wondering at her, remained silent so as to know whether the Lord had made his journey prosperous or not.
The word translated here as “wondering at her” is only used this one time in the entire Bible and so it is translated differently by different people. Some say gazed, watched closely, looked steadfastly, was astonished at her, etc. It is the same as another root word which means to twirl to giddiness like a child might do.
Adam Clarke’s comment on this verse is so funny that I have to quote it for you, “And he was so lost in wonder and astonishment at her simplicity, innocence, and benevolence, that he permitted this delicate female to draw water for ten camels, without ever attempting to afford her any kind of assistance! I know not which to admire most, the benevolence and condescension of Rebekah, or the cold and apparently stupid indifference of the servant of Abraham. Surely they are both of an uncommon cast.”
In the New Testament, Paul tells us to be filled with the Spirit. In the Greek the verb is a present imperative. This means to keep being filled, just as Rebekah is continuously filling her pitcher. The stream of water into and out of it is continuous, just as the stream of the Spirit should be in each of us.
Through understanding the Bible, allowing Him to fill us, and through prayer, He will be there with every task. We may be doing the physical part, but He is there and He is supervising. The job will get done and it will be, in the end, a great work of God.
III. The Spirit Gives Gifts to God’s People
The Spirit Directs God’s People; The Spirit Calls God’s People
22 So it was, when the camels had finished drinking, that the man took a golden nose ring weighing half a shekel, and two bracelets for her wrists weighing ten shekels of gold,
Once the task was done, the man pulls out a gold ring. Some translators call it a nose ring, some an earring, but it is singular and so this isn’t likely, and some say an ornament for her head. Any of these could be right and we can only speculate which it is. He also brought out two bracelets of ten weight.
You can still see Middle Eastern women wearing these things. The ones the servant gave to her would have been very valuable and it was a great amount of money for her work. Likewise, we will receive a great reward for the work we do for Christ.
The Spirit is the one to give us our spiritual gifts and they come as we grow in our walk with the Lord. If you read your Bible, you’ll eventually receive the gift of discernment. As you witness to others, you’ll eventually have developed the gift of teaching, etc.
Other than what we have naturally from birth, these things need to be developed and the Spirit will give them graciously as we grow in our Christian life. Likewise, the rewards for the work we do for the Lord will be great. Nothing that we sacrifice now will be forgotten or left unrewarded by Him.
23 and said, “Whose daughter are you? Tell me, please, is there room in your father’s house for us to lodge?”
What seems obvious is that the Lord provided exactly what the servant wanted, a beautiful bride for his master’s son. But he needs to make sure that this isn’t a false sign and so he asks who she is and he immediately follows up with a second question, “Do you have room for us?”
There were no inns at this time and so, like you’ll find in the country of Japan, there are people who will take travelers into their own home as a type of substitute inn. In Japan, they’re called ryokan and staying at them is a fun way of traveling the country and meeting nice people… plus they have really great food.
The servant is hoping for a place to stay and for good news about her family line. If she is the right girl, staying in her home will only make his journey and his task easier.
24 So she said to him, “I am the daughter of Bethuel, Milcah’s son, whom she bore to Nahor.” 25 Moreover she said to him, “We have both straw and feed enough, and room to lodge.”
In response to his question of “Whose daughter are you?” she responds with her father’s name. Bethuel means “Daughter of God” and so she says, I am the daughter of the daughter of God.” It’s an interesting play on words, but it points again to the church.
Bethuel is an unusual name for a man, but because he is Rebekah’s father, and they are key to bringing in the nation of Israel, we have a picture of the church as the daughter of the daughter of God.
This family, which is so heavily entrenched in the genealogy of Jesus, openly welcomes the servant in for the evening – they have plenty of straw and feed and room to lodge.
26 Then the man bowed down his head and worshiped the Lord.
Her sudden appearance as he finished his prayer was certainly directed by God. Her willingness to do exactly what he had prayed for was also directed by God. And her words to him now assure him that even this is directed by God.
Exactly the spot, exactly the fulfillment of the request, and exactly the right family line… all of it has the sure sign of God’s divine hand upon his journey and so the man, overwhelmed by God’s gracious hand, bows his head and worships.
27 And he said, “Blessed be the Lord God of my master Abraham, who has not forsaken His mercy and His truth toward my master. As for me, being on the way, the Lord led me to the house of my master’s brethren.”
Today’s first verse said, “O Lord God of my master Abraham, please give me success this day, and show kindness to my master Abraham.” Now at the end of this journey, the servant uses the same words in praise of the Lord for fulfilling his prayer.
What we can learn from this, even if the verse is simply describing what happened, is that for each blessing we receive, and especially those we asked for in advance, we should stop and praise the Lord.
Unfortunately, we too often forget to show gratitude at the end of the same journey that we asked help for when we started. Whether it’s a journey of an illness, a college education, or a family vacation, we usually remember to ask God to bless it.
But when the trip is over, the thanks and praise is often forgotten. The servant was faithful to stop and praise the Lord here and it would be right for each of us to do the same after any successful journey.
28 So the young woman ran and told her mother’s household these things.
If Rebekah is a picture of the church and she has run home to tell her mother’s household, then shouldn’t this picture us telling those around us about the wonderful dealings of God as well? Not only should we tell those in our family, but what about the people we work with and the people we socialize with.
And ultimately, as Christians, don’t we have a debt to the Jewish people, to take this message back to the well from which we sprang? In all, the story of Rebekah is the story of the church. We have a story to tell and it’s about the greatest wedding which will ever occur. And it is a marriage to the King of kings.
Let me tell you how you can be a participant in this glorious ceremony which God has prepared for His own beloved Son…
Closing Verse: “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. 38 He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” John 7:37, 38
Next week – Genesis 24:29-52 (A Work of the Spirit)
The Virgin at the Well
The servant said, “O Lord God of my master Abraham
Please give me success this day
And show kindness to the master of who I am
Please grant me my petition I pray
Behold, here I stand by the well of water
And the daughters of the men of the city
Are coming out to draw, please send a family daughter
I beg for You in this matter to extend pity
Now let it be that the young woman to whom I say,
“Please let down your pitcher that I may drink,”
That she in turn will respond as how I pray
“Drink and I will also give your camels some I think”
Let her be the one You have appointed for Your servant Isaac
And by this I will know You have kindness to my master shown
And it happened, before he had finished speaking, he turned back
A girl coming with a pitcher on her shoulder, walking alone
Now the young woman was very beautiful to see
A virgin; no man had known her
And she filled her pitcher, this young beauty
As the servant watched in order to be sure
After coming up from the well, the servant ran to meet her
And said, “Please let me have a little drink of water”
“Drink, my lord,” Letting her pitcher down to her hand
She gave him a drink which was refreshingly grand
And when she had finished giving him a drink
She said, “I will draw water for your camels also
When they have had enough, only then I think
That back to my home is where I will go
So she quickly emptied her pitcher into the trough
And ran back to the well to draw more water
She drew for all his camels before she took off
The servant sat watching this exceptional daughter
And the man wondering at her remained silent as water she drew
Had the Lord brought him to where his journey was now through?
So it was, as the camels had finished drinking that then
The man took a golden nose ring, half a shekel its weight
And two bracelets for her wrists weighing of gold ten
And he spoke to her making his words straight
“I would like to know whose daughter are you?
Tell me, is there lodging in your father’s house for us too?
“I am the daughter of Bethuel, Milcah’s son,
It was he whom she bore to Nahor”
Moreover she said to him, Aren’t you the blessed one
We have both straw and feed enough, and room to lodge for sure
Then the man bowed down his head and worshiped the Lord
And he said, “Blessed be the Lord God of my master Abraham
He has not forsaken His mercy and His truth toward
My master… In this, humbly gracious to Him I am
As for me, being on the way, the Lord led me
To the house of my master’s kith and kin
So the young woman scurried home, ever so quickly
And told about the things at the well where she had been
God directs our steps as He did in this story
He does it for our good and also for His glory
Just as Rebekah had this most timely meeting
We too have a most important date
It’s coming when Jesus will call out His greeting
And when that day comes, won’t it be great?
To meet our beloved Lord
As we’re promised in His precious word
Hallelujah and Amen…