A Work of the Spirit
Introduction: Today’s sermon will have a recounting of much of what occurred in the previous sermon and so we’ll read through those verses without much commentary, but we won’t skip them as they will keep continuity in our biblical traveling adventure .
The Bible often repeats passages for a variety of reasons. Today’s repetition is for Rebekah’s family to understand that what has come about was divinely orchestrated. In the repetition, maybe we can see our own testimony about when we were called to Christ.
What happens to us is of benefit to others and so we repeat it in order for them to have the same assurance that we have. It’s important to understand then that your calling doesn’t have to be dramatic or filled with suspense in order to convince others.
Instead it simply has to be truthful and given as a demonstration of how it was molded by God into the call which forever changed your destiny.
Text Verse: Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his master made ruler over his household, to give them food in due season? Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing. Matthew 24:45, 46
The Lord commissions those whom He chooses. However, there are some who stand in the Lord’s house as servants but they are faithless in their tasks. Maybe they serve because the Master is kind and easy in what He directs.
Maybe they serve because they can steal from God’s people. The Lord isn’t blind to them, nor is He blind to His faithful servants. Abraham’s servant went about his task with faithfulness and he is remembered for this many eons later.
How will we be remembered when we stand before our Master? The question stands and so… May God speak to us through His word today and may His glorious name ever be praised.
I. Receiving the Spirit
Before we actually start looking at today’s verses, we need to remind ourselves of what these verses picture. They form a story which tells us of how God continued to select people who would become a part of the family of God, but they are also pictures of the greater story of His work in all of the people of God.
The servant pictures the Holy Spirit who doesn’t speak of Himself, but rather is given to procure a bride for the Son. Rebekah is that bride and she pictures the church of God’s people. And Isaac is the son of Abraham who pictures the Son of God who awaits the bride in the land of promise while the Holy Spirit accomplishes His task.
I want to remind you about the meaning of Rebekah’s name today so that we can see how this account is being worked together by a wise Creator who chooses each word and each action and each name to tell us of His wisdom in the unfolding story.
The name “Rebekah” denotes tying up of cattle for their own protection, the establishment of their home, and to keep them from wandering off. Within the name lies the notion that individuals are placed together by some authority higher or smarter than they.
Try to keep that in mind as you see how God has orchestrated her selection for his son of promise Isaac and how each thing that happens comes about by more than mere chance.
29 Now Rebekah had a brother whose name was Laban, and Laban ran out to the man by the well.
Notice that the servant didn’t follow Rebekah. Instead he stayed at the well. This tells us that we don’t receive the Water of Life through our family. No one can say, “I’m a Christian” because their parents are Christians. Jesus doesn’t transfer automatically by birth, but rather everyone needs to come to Him individually.
Laban has a counterpart in the New Testament. Whether he is a saved person or not is hard to tell. One thing is sure. If he is, he is what we would equate with a “carnal Christian” in today’s lingo. Someone who made a commitment to the Lord, but who never really lives the life.
His name means “white” but it also means “brick” maybe because of what happens when you fire a brick – it turns whiter. Man was made from the dust, and in the New Testament believers are equated with jars of clay because we are vessels waiting to be filled with God’s Spirit.
Being a brick though doesn’t allow for any filling – they’re hard and they’re solid. At the building of the Tower of Babel, the term for “make brick” uses the same root words as the name Laban. Laban is a brick and unless he softens back to clay he will never know the Lord personally. What about us?
And so he, according to the verse, ran out to the man by the well. It seems as if he’s like one of us, but remember last week – it was the servant that ran to Rebekah, not the other way around. Why then is he running to the servant…
30 So it came to pass, when he saw the nose ring, and the bracelets on his sister’s wrists, and when he heard the words of his sister Rebekah, saying, “Thus the man spoke to me,” that he went to the man. And there he stood by the camels at the well.
The Bible specifically notes Laban as having seen the nose ring and the bracelets that were given to Rebekah. Those precious gifts, along with what she said, caused him to rush out there to the place where the man was. But where does he stand? The Bible says, “by the camels!” Aha!
Here we have a shadow of a man known as Simon the Sorcerer who is found in Acts 8. We can’t understand Laban without noting the account of Simon and so let’s read that account together –
9 But there was a certain man called Simon, who previously practiced sorcery in the city and astonished the people of Samaria, claiming that he was someone great, 10 to whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, “This man is the great power of God.” 11 And they heeded him because he had astonished them with his sorceries for a long time. 12 But when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized. 13 Then Simon himself also believed; and when he was baptized he continued with Philip, and was amazed, seeing the miracles and signs which were done. 14 Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, 15 who, when they had come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. 16 For as yet He had fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit. 18 And when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money, 19 saying, “Give me this power also, that anyone on whom I lay hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” 20 But Peter said to him, “Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money! 21 You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God. 22 Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you. 23 For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity.” 24 Then Simon answered and said, “Pray to the Lord for me, that none of the things which you have spoken may come upon me.”
Do you see the parallels between the two? Laban saw the gifts given to Rebekah by the servant at the well. Simon saw the gifts given by the Spirit to Christ’s bride from the Well of Salvation.
Laban rushed to where the gifts were, on the camels looking for the same thing that Simon did. What it comes down to with Laban is personal benefit rather than a desire for God.
This doesn’t mean that the brick named Laban didn’t soften back into clay and it doesn’t mean that the sorcerer named Simon didn’t repent and accept what the Spirit freely offers, but it shows us the hardness of human hearts that live apart from God.
Now think of those who come to churches and see all the gifts God offers. Do they rush to the gifts or do they, with an open heart, allow the Spirit to rush to them? The difference is more than galactic.
Whatever the final state of Simon the Sorcerer, to this day we have a term we use to describe someone like the Bible describes him – the term is “simony.” Simony is the practice of buying or selling spiritual or church benefits such as pardons, relics, etc.
And the halls of Christianity are filled with simonizers even now. Turn on Christian TV and you’ll see them by the score. Walk into many churches and money, not Christ is king. The lust for gold and wealth will always draw Laban to the camels.
And the desire to be ultra-spiritual is a type of simony in itself. There are those who pretend tongues, pretend prophecy, pretend visions, and pretend understanding of the Bible, but they are unwilling to yield their hearts. Do you know many pastors get their sermons right off the internet or from books?
Simony isn’t just a disease of lay people. Instead it is an affliction of the human heart. What out for simonizers…
31 And he said, “Come in, O blessed of the Lord! Why do you stand outside?
Laban in his excitement about the potential riches calls out to the servant, “Come in, O blessed of the Lord! Come inside and fill my house. It’s not out by the well that you belong, but in here.” Is this what we will call out to the Spirit? Are we calling to Him in truth?
31 (con’t) For I have prepared the house, and a place for the camels.”
Some ancient Jewish commentators look at this verse and comment that his preparation of the house included removing from view the idols that they worshipped. This is a good analysis too because later in Genesis, Laban will still have idols in his house.
The symbolism again reaches to each of us. Have we removed the idols from our own house, meaning our life, or have we merely hidden them from sight in order to appear ready to receive the Spirit. God does know the difference.
How many people go to church and call for the Spirit to fill them, but then spend the rest of the week running as far from the Well as possible. What are we going to do with the One who alone can bring us the true Water of Life? Are we inviting in the Spirit for the fellowship with the Lord or merely for the gifts that he brings?
And those idols in our home, how many and what a variety! We read horoscopes, we knock on wood, we have Feng Shui arrangements, we may even have a statue of Buddha somewhere – I used to have dozens. What about porn videos?
What is it that gets our attention away from Christ? These idols aren’t just detrimental to us, but to others who come to our home and see them, knowing that we are supposedly Christians.
How many of us have made an idol out of sports, money, our car, or even another person. We rush to our idols and we hide from God… except on Sunday morning. God isn’t a cosmic dummy – He does see. Let us strive to attain holiness and godliness in life.
32 Then the man came to the house. And he unloaded the camels, and provided straw and feed for the camels, and water to wash his feet and the feet of the men who were with him.
When they got to the house, the first thing Laban did was to unload the camels and feed them. Only then does it note that he cared for the travelers. Remember, the camels are where the gifts are. Are we welcoming the Lord or trying to get goodies from Him?
As far as the washing of feet, it’s an important concept. The symbolism here reaches throughout the New Testament, but can be nicely summed up from the book of 3 John –
Beloved, you do faithfully whatever you do for the brethren and for strangers, 6 who have borne witness of your love before the church. If you send them forward on their journey in a manner worthy of God, you will do well, 7 because they went forth for His name’s sake, taking nothing from the Gentiles. 8 We therefore ought to receive such, that we may become fellow workers for the truth.
Again though, if we do good things for those in the church, is it for the Lord’s honor or that we will benefit from our actions. What is the motivation behind our deeds? In the end, if they are deeds lacking faith, then they’re ultimately as useless as a football bat.
33 Food was set before him to eat, but he said, “I will not eat until I have told about my errand.” And he said, “Speak on.”
This servant is on a mission and it was by a binding oath to Abraham. Before he eats a bite he wants to know if his mission will be a success. If so, his food will digest so much better and he will have the relief of knowing he had served his master well.
In a beautiful parallel from John 4:31-34, we see this account in Jesus’ life as He sat by a well in Samaria –
In the meantime His disciples urged Him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.”
32 But He said to them, “I have food to eat of which you do not know.” 33 Therefore the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought Him anything to eat?” Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work.
Like Abraham’s servant, Jesus was far more interested in accomplishing His task than He was about eating a meal. I hope this is something that each of us will reflect on also. What is important to you? Is the Bible important to you, or sitting on Facebook. Is attending church more important than the NFL?
Is helping other Christians with gifts of money or your talent as important as going out to dinner a couple times a week? It all comes down to priorities. What are yours? Just so you know, and which I’ve said at least 3 jillions times, if you just read your Bible 30 minutes a day, you will be able to read it twice in a year.
It can be tough, but how else are you going to know God? From me? If you’re relying on me or someone on TV to reveal Him to you, then your knowledge of Him is limited to a person who could be wrong. If nothing else in your life, please read your Bible.
II. The Servant’s Faithfulness
34 So he said, “I am Abraham’s servant.
In this society, a servant would be known as a servant by sight. Laban would have known this, but now he knows whose servant. This is an important verse, because although Rebekah may have told him this, until he hears it personally, he can’t be certain.
The reason this is important for us is because there is a real God and there are false gods. The messengers and servants of the false gods are out there and ready to deceive the world and to steal away those who would otherwise belong to Christ. There are false religions such as Buddhism, Islam, and others around the world.
But there are also false sects of Christianity. They bear Jesus’ name possbily, but they don’t serve Him. Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesseses, Adventist sects, and others need to be exposed in order to reveal those who serve the true Master, Jesus.
When you stand at the judgment, what will your words be? For me, “I am a servant of Jesus Christ, and Him alone.”
35 The Lord has blessed my master greatly, and he has become great; and He has given him flocks and herds, silver and gold, male and female servants, and camels and donkeys.
Let’s remember the role of the Holy Spirit within the Godhead from John 15 so that we can understand this servant’s role now –
26 “But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me. 27
In the same way, the servant of Abraham is being sent on behalf of the son carrying all the gifts needed to accomplish the mission.
We’ve seen many times in past sermons the increase of Abraham’s wealth and status as he journeyed to Egypt and throughout the land of Canaan. God blessed him abundantly in worldly wealth and power. All of this has been seen since He departed from his house and moved to the Promised Land.
None of it was gained wrongfully either. Abraham has been a man of integrity and uprightness and God has blessed him because of this. In a similar way, God will bless you for your integrity as well. I am not one to preach a prosperity gospel. God will not reward you because you hope for something in return.
However, He will reward you if you give out of love for Him. There is a difference. If someone tells you that God will unlock His blessings when you give to them, the very implication of what they are saying is that they are the access point of God’s blessing being realized.
It also implies that when you give to them, that you are expecting something in return. In this, there can be no true reward. Jesus teaches us in a parable in Luke 17 –
And which of you, having a servant plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and sit down to eat’? 8 But will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare something for my supper, and gird yourself and serve me till I have eaten and drunk, and afterward you will eat and drink’? 9 Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I think not. 10 So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.’”
In other words, do your job as a faithful Christian and expect nothing in return. What God gives you is more than you deserve already and every new blessing should be received with thanks.
36 And Sarah my master’s wife bore a son to my master when she was old;
There are a few reasons the servant said this. The first is to prove that Abraham is really his master. The servant personally knows about Sarah and he also knows that she was without a child when she left the family years earlier. They have every reason to now believe without doubt that this guy is being truthful.
The second reason is that Sarah is the cousin of Milcah, Bethuel’s mother and Laban’s grandmother. Rebekah is probably not much more than 14 or 15 years old and if Isaac was Sarah’s son from a normal age, he could be 70 or so. It wouldn’t be a good marriage for Rebekah.
But that leads to the third reason for this verse. It was to show the miraculous nature of Isaac’s birth. While Rebekah is Milcah’s granddaughter, Isaac is only Sarah’s son. She had a child despite her old age.
36 (con’t) and to him he has given all that he has.
This verse is key to understanding the entire passage. The servant now gives them the best news of all from their perspective. What is Abraham’s belongs to his son – all of it. Isaac is the heir and his bride will therefore be joint-heir with him in Abraham’s house. Here we have a picture of Jesus, the church, and the Holy Spirit.
However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. 14 He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. 15 All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you. John 16
The servant is proclaiming the message of Christ. The Son has all things which
belong to the Father, and the bride is a co-heir with Christ. We find this in Romans 8 –
The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ…
What a wonderful treat to be able to see how God has used these people and this beautiful story to show us His own plan for us and our true Husband, Christ Jesus.
The next 12 verses are a repeat of the account from last week’s sermon. As that sermon only took about 45 minutes, I’m going to repeat it completely so that you remember every thing we talked about. Ok, I won’t do that. Instead, I’m going to read the verses and give just a few comments.
37 Now my master made me swear, saying, ‘You shall not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, in whose land I dwell; 38 but you shall go to my father’s house and to my family, and take a wife for my son.’ 39 And I said to my master, ‘Perhaps the woman will not follow me.’ 40 But he said to me, ‘The Lord, before whom I walk, will send His angel with you and prosper your way; and you shall take a wife for my son from my family and from my father’s house. 41 You will be clear from this oath when you arrive among my family; for if they will not give her to you, then you will be released from my oath.’ 42 “And this day I came to the well and said, ‘O Lord God of my master Abraham, if You will now prosper the way in which I go, 43 behold, I stand by the well of water; and it shall come to pass that when the virgin comes out to draw water, and I say to her, “Please give me a little water from your pitcher to drink,” 44 and she says to me, “Drink, and I will draw for your camels also,”—let her be the woman whom the Lord has appointed for my master’s son.’ 45 “But before I had finished speaking in my heart, there was Rebekah, coming out with her pitcher on her shoulder; and she went down to the well and drew water.
The story is similar to what we looked at last week, but this verse adds in something new. The servant said, “Before I had finished speaking in my heart…” The servant’s prayer was silent. This is important to note for a couple reasons.
First, Rebekah couldn’t have heard the prayer and therefore didn’t simply do the things he requested based on what he said. What happened was divinely inspired in her. It’s also important because it is something people email me about from time to time. “Is it ok to pray silently?”
The answer depends on the prayer and the person. A silent prayer was also heard by God in 1 Samuel 1:13 when Hannah, the mother of Samuel, prayed for a child. In both occasions, no vocalization occurred yet God heard and answered the prayer.
Interestingly, the 17th letter of the Hebrew aleph-bet is the letter Pe which also means “mouth.” This letter is drawn in 2 ways, one with a closed mouth at the beginning or within a word, and with an open mouth at the end of a word. Jewish scholars say that the closed mouth refers to speech in this world, and the open mouth to speech in the world to come.
The word for mouth is Peh and is pronounced like the letter. As believers are already “crucified with Christ” and dead to this world, we can infer that believers don’t need to vocalize their prayers to be heard.
However, non-believers must vocalize prayer. And because they are non-believers and thus not adopted children of God, there is only one prayer that God wants to or will hear from them. It is the prayer of accepting Jesus.
This goes along with Romans 10:9 – “…that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” A prayer of confession is to be audible. Let’s finish with the servant’s words –
And I said to her, ‘Please let me drink.’ 46 And she made haste and let her pitcher down from her shoulder, and said, ‘Drink, and I will give your camels a drink also.’ So I drank, and she gave the camels a drink also. 47 Then I asked her, and said, ‘Whose daughter are you?’ And she said, ‘The daughter of Bethuel, Nahor’s son, whom Milcah bore to him.’ So I put the nose ring on her nose and the bracelets on her wrists. 48 And I bowed my head and worshiped the Lord, and blessed the Lord God of my master Abraham, who had led me in the way of truth to take the daughter of my master’s brother for his son.
III. The Bride is Granted
49 Now if you will deal kindly and truly with my master, tell me. And if not, tell me, that I may turn to the right hand or to the left.”
This is a rather obvious plea – “I’ve told you the story and given you all the details, now please let me know your answer.” The servant has nothing further to add and so their response is all that stands between him and accomplishing his mission.
If they say “no,” then he will “turn to the right hand or to the left.” That is an idiom which means that he has other options and will pursue them. Abraham’s brother Nahor had seven other sons besides Bethuel and so he will search those families next if needed.
50 Then Laban and Bethuel answered and said, “The thing comes from the Lord; we cannot speak to you either bad or good.
In the Hebrew, the order of the words is, “then answered Laban and Bethuel.” The word for “answered” is singular. Because of this, we can see that Laban gave the answer for his father. The Jewish scribe Jarchi seems to have it right when he said that Laban was wicked and impudent, jumping in and speaking for his father.
He knew that if they didn’t agree that they wouldn’t receive anything from the servant in payment for her. And so he jumped in very quickly and responded – “Oh yes, we agree. Of course we do. This came from the Lord so how can we speak against it?”
By saying this, he’s putting anyone else who would think otherwise in a bad position. If this was from God and they didn’t agree, then they’d be fighting against God. This is what Laban is implying and he’s doing it to get wealthy off his sister. Does anyone see TV evangelists written all over this?
51 Here is Rebekah before you; take her and go, and let her be your master’s son’s wife, as the Lord has spoken.”
The bride is granted. The offer is accepted. The son will have a bride. God has taken this lovely young woman and divinely orchestrated her life so that she would come into the direct line of Jesus Christ. And in the same way, God divinely orchestrates the lives of His people whom He knows will accept the work of Jesus.
Those who do will be a beautiful bride, adorned for her husband. We will become the Master’s Son’s bride, just as the Lord has spoken. What a beautiful story of what God does for each of us who are willing to follow Him by faith and without ever having seen our precious Lord.
52 And it came to pass, when Abraham’s servant heard their words, that he worshiped the Lord, bowing himself to the earth.
The servant prostrated himself to the earth in humble adoration and in great gratitude for the kind hand of the Lord upon his journey. In the same way, the Spirit of God surely rejoices over each person that He woos to the point where they call on Christ as Lord.
Surely along with Him, the Bible says that the angels in heaven also rejoice over that moment. Let us be ever grateful for the day that Christ called us and made us His own. And let us pray without ceasing for others to receive the wonderful gift of life.
If you’ve never known the joy of being called by God to be united to His Son, let me take just a moment and tell you how you can have that happen in your own life…
Closing Verse: The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. 10 More to be desired are they than gold, Yea, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. 11 Moreover by them Your servant is warned, And in keeping them there is great reward. Psalm 19:9-11
Next Week – Genesis 24:53-67 (The Son Receives His Bride)
The Bride is Granted
Now Rebekah had a brother, whose name was Laban,
And Laban ran out to the man by the well
So it came to pass, when he saw the nose ring,
And the bracelets on her wrists, he knew things were swell
And when he heard the words of Rebekah, his sister
Saying, “Thus the man spoke to me,” that to the man he went
And there by the camels at the well stood the servant mister
He said, “Come in, O blessed of the Lord! Before the day is spent
Why do you stand outside? For I have prepared everything
Even a place for the camels, so let the dinner bell ring
Then the man came to the house and the camels he did unload
And provided straw and feed for them, the camels that he rode
And he brought water to wash his feet
And the feet of the men who were with him too
Food was set before him to eat
But he said, “I will not eat until I have told what I am here to do.”
And he said, “Speak on.” It was time to hear the account
So he said, “I am Abraham’s servant, my words do not discount
The Lord has blessed my master greatly you will be told
And he has become great indeed
He has given him flocks and herds, silver and gold
Also servants, camels, and donkeys, now let my words proceed
And Sarah though she was old bore to my master a son
And Abraham to him everything he has bestowed
And so let me recount to you all that has now been done
To bring me here and to whom the credit is owed
So he repeated the story of the sermon from last week
And certainly the families’ rapt attention it did pique
When he finished his retelling of the account, he then said
If you will deal kindly and truly with my master, tell me
If not, I will turn to the right hand or to the left instead
I’m on a mission for my master as you can plainly see
Then Laban and Bethuel answered and said
This is from the Lord; we cannot speak to you either bad or good
Here is Rebekah before you; take her and go that she may be wed
Let her be his wife; the Lord has spoken and we have understood
And it came to pass, when Abraham’s servant heard their word
That bowing himself to the earth, he worshiped the Lord
This story shows us that God is in control
Of all the details which occur in our life
All of our joys and sorrows are written in His scroll
Every happy moment as well as each moment of strife
God attends to us in each and every way
And so we should return to Him our praise each and every day
Let us offer to Him our lives to direct and use for His glory
And let us remember to tell others of the gospel story
It is through Jesus that He reveals His very heart
And it is through His Spirit that He searches ours as well
And the Spirit does rejoice when the gospel we impart
Yes, He rejoices when to others the good news we do tell
So let us share this wonderful gospel story
And to God let us give praise and honor and glory
Hallelujah and Amen…