I have had a lot of memorable ministry moments…perhaps, none more so than some of the weddings I have been privileged to be a part of along the way. I remember being dressed up as a monk, following Rob and Shelley Collette and leading a procession of dozens of people in medieval dress through a beautiful park. Rob had his sword drawn as he led us all until he came to the spot he deemed to be the right place for him to wed his beautiful maiden. There he stuck his sword in the ground and we married Rob and Shelley – it was a wonderful theme. The second memorable experience had to be doing the dress rehearsal for my best man, Art’s, sister…Liz. She and her fiancé, Gene, had planned for us to set up for the run through in the late afternoon at a beautiful alcove at Rocky Reach Dam in Wenatchee, WA. The 20 or so of us in the wedding party had made our way into the secluded area and were just getting set up to go when all of the sudden, sprinklers started popping up and started shooting water everywhere. Everything became pandemonium as people were yelling, “Run!” Nevertheless, we were able to do a brief walk-through the next morning on the wedding day and it came off wonderfully!
The 24th chapter of Genesis goes beyond history to theology. It gives us a picture of the heavenly Father getting a bride for His Son…which is also reflected in Matthew 22, with Jesus’ parable of the wedding feast. The bride/bridegroom imagery is prevalent in the Word, as is the concept of “wedding”…with the principle being seen as early as Genesis 2. The church is characterized as a bride in 2 Corinthians 11:2-3 as well as Ephesians 5:22-33. The joining of Isaac and Rebecca…and the elements involved…are also involved in the marriage of Christ and His church. With all that is shared concerning the creation story and surrounding sub-stories in Genesis, it seems strange that the longest chapter in Genesis concerns how and man meets a woman and they become husband and wife. Abraham is now about 140 years old and his life is slowing down. His concern in finding a wife for Isaac is significant, as only then could the covenant promises be fulfilled. At this time, the parents made the marriage arrangements. A man and woman would get married …and then learn to love (24:7). Yet, today, most of the world sees it quite differently. Abraham makes his servant swear to three things concerning finding a wife for Isaac. First, she must not be a Canaanite woman, but needed to be from among Abraham’s relatives. Also, he would not take Isaac back to Abraham’s former home in Ur in Mesopotamia. It would appear to be a tough task! Well, maybe not…Abraham offers encouragement, but more importantly, God’s angel would go before the servant and provide guidance. Abraham’s servant, intent on being obedient, heads off to Mesopotamia himself.
God providentially brings a young woman named Rebekah to a well outside Nahor, just as the servant is praying. Little does Rebekah know that doing a humble task for stranger...giving his camels some water...would make her the bride of God’s chosen one. The servant evaluates Rebekah to see if she will be a good wife for Isaac. He can see that she is kind, pleasant, humble, healthy and a hard worker. He asks, “Whose daughter are you?” This is a key question, as he wants to know her family. She shares with him, and Rebekah comes to understand that she is being “measured” for a new opportunity. But, would she be willing to go…and, would they let her go? The servant’s job is not to argue or bribe, but simply to bear witness to the greatness of his master, and provide the opportunity to make a decision.
Rebekah’s mother and brother are willing to allow her to become Isaac’s wife, but they want her to wait at least ten days before leaving home, a natural request for the family, as she would be going far away. Well, Rebekah says “yes.” What motivates her to make the right decision? She hears the word about Isaac and she believes it. She is willing to spend the rest of her life with him, even though she has never seen him. The bride price changes hands, but just as the servant would not delay in presenting his petition…neither would he delay in completing his mission. The trip back to Canaan with the entourage would probably take less than two months, and the servant will certainly keep them on task. Isaac is not living with his father, but is south of Hebron, getting ready to establish his own home. V.63 suggests that he is in quiet meditation pondering the things of the Lord. When the entourage comes near, Rebekah dismounts so she can meet him on foot. She puts on a veil according to their custom, a mark of her modesty and submission. Isaac is able to claim his bride, as the servant also gives account of himself to his master’s son. The story concludes with the anticipated wedding of Isaac and Rebekah, thus allowing the culmination of God’s will and allows His Son’s lineage to continue.
As Abraham wanted a bride for his son, so God the Father elected to provide a bride for His beloved Son. Why? The bride is the Father’s love gift to his Son (John 17:2, 6, 9, 11-12, 24). We are a special, chosen people to and for the Lord…the Lord’s inheritance and His bride. The story of Isaac and Rebekah’s marriage makes it clear that God had chosen Rebekah for Isaac, for His providential leading is seen each step of the way. Still, Rebekah had a choice to make -- she had to choose Isaac! There is no conflict between divine sovereignty and human responsibility, although we may not always understand it. Just as Rebekah had a choice to make...so do we. We can say “yes” to God…to His calling through His Son, Jesus. Rebekah was not forced or coerced to make a decision…and neither are we. Jesus willingly laid down His life for you, me and everyone in order to purchase us, His bride…the church. Therefore, we have the choice to willingly give our lives to Him! And if we belong to Him, we will be united with Him for eternity. The bride is to bring glory to Christ on earth and throughout all eternity. One day, at His 2nd Coming, Jesus, the bridegroom, will come to receive His bride, the church and will present the bride in glory to the Father (Hebrews 12:2). Amen!