Last week, we heard the story of Isaac’s near death experience when Abraham was put to the test and was asked to sacrifice his son. Fortunately, God intervened and Isaac was ok. Today, we turn to a passage that occurs when Isaac was around 40 years old. His father decided it was time to find a wife for Isaac, and sent his servant out to obtain an “appropriate” woman for his son. Hear this reading of a selection of the verses found in Genesis 24:

Proclamation of the Scripture                        Genesis 24: 34-38, 42-49, 58-67

So he (Abraham’s senior servant) said, “I am Abraham’s servant. 

The Lord has blessed my master abundantly, and he has become wealthy. He has given him sheep and cattle, silver and gold, male and female servants, and camels and donkeys. 

My master’s wife Sarah has borne him a son in her old age, and he has given him everything he owns. 

And my master made me swear an oath, and said, ‘You must not get a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, in whose land I live,

but go to my father’s family and to my own clan, and get a wife for my son.’

“When I came to the spring today, I said, ‘Lord, God of my master Abraham, if you will, please grant success to the journey on which I have come. 

See, I am standing beside this spring. If a young woman comes out to draw water and I say to her, “Please let me drink a little water from your jar,”

and if she says to me, “Drink, and I’ll draw water for your camels too,” let her be the one the Lord has chosen for my master’s son.’

“Before I finished praying in my heart, Rebekah came out, with her jar on her shoulder. She went down to the spring and drew water, and I said to her, ‘Please give me a drink.’

“She quickly lowered her jar from her shoulder and said, ‘Drink, and I’ll water your camels too.’ So I drank, and she watered the camels also.

“I asked her, ‘Whose daughter are you?’

“She said, ‘The daughter of Bethuel son of Nahor, whom Milkah bore to him.’

“Then I put the ring in her nose and the bracelets on her arms, 

and I bowed down and worshiped the Lord. I praised the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who had led me on the right road to get the granddaughter of my master’s brother for his son. 

Now if you will show kindness and faithfulness to my master, tell me; and if not, tell me, so I may know which way to turn.”

“I will go,” she said.

So they sent their sister Rebekah on her way, along with her nurse and Abraham’s servant and his men. 

And they blessed Rebekah and said to her,

“Our sister, may you increase
    to thousands upon thousands;
may your offspring possess
    the cities of their enemies.”

Then Rebekah and her attendants got ready and mounted the camels and went back with the man. So the servant took Rebekah and left.

Now Isaac had come from Beer Lahai Roi, for he was living in the Negev. 

He went out to the field one evening to meditate,[f] and as he looked up, he saw camels approaching. 

Rebekah also looked up and saw Isaac. She got down from her camel 

and asked the servant, “Who is that man in the field coming to meet us?”

“He is my master,” the servant answered. So she took her veil and covered herself.

Then the servant told Isaac all he had done. 

Isaac brought her into the tent of his mother Sarah, and he married Rebekah. So she became his wife, and he loved her; and Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.

Here ends this reading of the word of God for the people of God. Thanks be to God. Amen.

Prayer of Invocation

            May the words of my mouth and the mediations of all of our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.

Message                                          Chosen Journeys

The story of Abraham and Sarah, the story of the Jewish Patriarchs, reads in many ways like a soap opera…the marital relationships, the jealousy, the miracle babies, the near death experiences, the intrigue. I am surprised no one has developed it into a telenovela or soap opera.

            When it came time for Abraham to arrange a marriage for his son Isaac, he opted to have his servant return to the land of Ur, to Abraham’s homeland, to find a bride. No Canaanite women for his family – only the best 😊.

            When the servant arrived in Abraham’s homeland, he went to the area where Abraham’s extended family lived…Where the descendants of his brothers lived. And, the first person the servant met was Rebekah. She was very generous with sharing water with the servant and his camels…the servant had prayed to God for a sign that he was choosing the right woman. Rebekah fit the bill to a tee. Rebekah’s father and grandfather had died, so her brother, Laban, made the arrangements to marry her off. Later on, Laban will figure prominently in the life of Rebekah’s son Jacob because he married Laban’s two daughters, Rachel and Leah.

            Obviously, these people didn’t understand inbreeding or incest in the way we do. Abraham and Sarah were ½ siblings with the same dad and different mothers. Rebekah was the granddaughter of Abraham’s brother Nahor. Her son married her nieces through her brother Laban. If I had to build an ancestry chart for this family, there would be a lot of crossing lines and uncomfortable pairings. 

            Again, sort of soap-opera-esque. We have all watched tv shows when people find out they are dating their sisters. But, in our day-and-age, those pairings are accidental. In ancient Israel, they were intentional.

            A lot of things have changed in marriages since 4000 years ago. When Abraham sent his servant to pick a bride for Isaac, Isaac didn’t get a say in the matter. His dad was in charge. Abraham decided to obtain a bride from his family….they were keeping their assets to themselves…and their DNA to themselves. 

            Even during the last 100 years, marriage has changed in the United States. Marriage has changed in our culture. My great-great-grandmother obtained a divorce in the 1890s – afterwards, she moved with her son and her mother to a totally different part of Missouri – it is a 7 hour car ride away now – they had to move away from where they lived to another part of Missouri to escape the scandal and start over again. A little over 100 years ago, people couldn’t obtain no-fault divorces, even if they were abused or their partners committed infidelity. Throughout the 20th century, our culture shifted and people became more tolerant of divorce. 

When my grandparents were newlyweds in the 1940s, they followed a very strict division of household work based on their genders. My grandmother did more chores in the house, my grandfather did more chores in the yard. But, priorities in marriage continued to shift and continue to shift. Now, newlyweds have much more egalitarian expectations–most people work for a salary, and the household tasks and childcare is split up more equally. We all know women who mow the lawn and men who cook all the meals. And, we now have marriages between people of the same gender and those marriages also reflect more egalitarian expectations about housework and childcare. 

            We can all probably look at the marriages of earlier generations and recognize ways those marriages are different than our marriages. Those partnerships are different than our partnerships.

            But, there are still Christian teachings that undergird our marriages. There are still rules of conduct that we cherish and want to carry forward into the future. In the beginning of the Bible, marriage is about companionship – In Genesis 2:18, it says: “The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” So, immediately in Genesis, we are created to be helpers for each other. God lays out the foundation of a marriage as a friendship between two co-equals coming together as one.  We ae designed to need companionship and marriage helps us obtain a partner who meets that need.

In the 10 Commandments, God tells us to not commit adultery.  Exodus 20 verse 14 succinctly states: “You shall not commit adultery.”  Why would this be one of our principle obligations?

            Infidelity causes a lot of problems. When it is discovered, the betrayed partner can devalue themselves and blame themselves for the affair. The unfaithful partner feels guilt and shame; the betrayed partner may feel humiliated and exposed. There is a loss of trust.  The members of the couple may experience anger, resentment, bitterness, anxiety and depression. All of these things lead to unhealthy marriages – therefore, we are told by God through our scripture to not commit adultery, and work to prevent these consequences before they start.

            In Genesis chapter one, it is written: “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” This passage refers to Adam and Eve being created in the image of God. One is not greater than the other – although many human cultures have valued men over women, this is not how God arranged the world. Jesus continually elevated women in a society that put them down. In the story of Adam and Eve, where Adam was weak, Eve was strong; where Eve was weak, Adam was strong.  Based on their example, we are reminded to celebrate the strengths of our spouse.

            Our marriages are very different than the arranged marriage of Isaac and Rebekah. Yet, we can take cues from our scripture about how to have healthy relationships and marriages. We are designed to need cowmanship, loyalty, trust, and to rely on our partners to complement us.  The more things change, the more they stay the same. I pray we will each find strength, companionship and love in all of our relationships and partnerships, as we are created to rely on each other.

            May we do so knowing we are loved by our God. Amen.