During these first days of the new year, and as we have concluded the past year, there are certain thoughts which often come to mind.
We look back at what has happened in the year past and we think about how God has led us.
We also look towards the new year and as we wonder what the year will bring, we may consider how God will lead us in 2005.
There are other times when we think about God’s leading.
We desire to know God’s will when we are making decisions in life.
How will he lead us into this new venture?
We want to know.
When difficulties come upon us, we also consider the matter of God’s leading.
We would like to have a clear vision of the future and a clear understanding of what will be the best decisions.
We know that God can provide that and so we seek His will and His direction.
And yet, at the same time, we struggle with this.
Perhaps sometimes, we are quite content to go it on our own, without God’s direction in our life.
Sometimes we are not sure of God’s direction.
We don’t always know how to discern where God is leading.
Does God desire to rule in our lives?
Does he lead us?
There are many stories in the Bible which show God’s leading.
One that is quite interesting takes place in Genesis 24.
We have been away from Genesis for about a month, but will return to it now.
The story of finding a bride for Isaac in Genesis 24 teaches us some principles about God’s leading, how we can discover it and how we should follow it.
Let us see what we can learn to help us seek God’s leading in the coming year?
I. Reviewing The Story
The story about finding a wife for Isaac is an interesting story.
When we began our study of Abraham, we learned about the blessing of God on his life.
Now for the first time, it actually says that Abraham has been blessed.
But we also notice that he is old and that raises the question of how these promises, these blessings to Abraham will be carried to the next generation.
Isaac was without a wife and unless he had a wife and subsequently children, the blessings made to Abraham would not be passed on.
So Abraham asked his servant to go and find a wife for Isaac.
When we read verse 2, we may think that it is an unusual way for a vow to be made, but it is quite appropriate.
If you put your hand where Abraham asked his servant to put his hand, you had better be serious about what your promising.
One writer notes that “An oath by the seat of procreation is particularly apt in this instance when it concerns the finding of a wife for Isaac.”
The servant had some doubts, but with Abraham’s assurances and the promise of the presence of God’s angel, the servant agreed to the conditions and to the full request of Abraham.
He headed out, loaded with gifts, to look for a bride for Isaac in the land of Abraham’s family.
When he arrived, he came to a well.
There he prayed and asked God to show him the right girl by requesting that the one chosen by God would not only give him a drink of water, but would also offer to water his camels.
God answered this prayer and Rebekah was the one who came.
The story is interesting at this point.
At first, she gave him a drink of water, but there is a delay and we wonder, will she water the camels as well?
Well, she did and the servant began to realize that she could be the one.
He was not yet certain, but watched carefully.
He rewarded her kindness with a bracelet and a nose ring.
Now just in case you are looking for justification to get a nose ring, you won’t find it here, but it is interesting to note that nose rings are not a new thing, they are as old as Abraham’s time.
When the servant found out that the girl was a relative of Abraham, he rejoiced and praised God.
It seems that now he was sure that she was the one and asked to discover if it was possible for him to stay the night with her family.
Rebekah’s brother Laban came out and formalized the invitation and the servant was invited to spend the night and also to enjoy a meal with the family.
However, before he indulged in the meal, he presented his request to the family that Rebekah should be the wife of Isaac.
The way the servant told the story, the family had no choice but to recognize that this thing was from God and they agreed to let Rebekah go.
The next morning, when the servant wanted to leave, they wanted to keep her for a while, but for some reason, the servant knew that this was not a good idea.
Perhaps he saw it as a delaying tactic which could turn into a denying tactic.
He insisted that they leave that very day.
Clearly Rebekah’s mother and brother were not happy about this, but they agreed to put the question to Rebekah and we find that she was most willing to leave.
The family blessed her greatly and allowed her to go, along with her servant girl.
The blessing on Rebekah shows that these people shared the same hope as Abraham, which, of course, was why he wanted a wife from there for Isaac.
When they arrived back in the promised land, Isaac met his new bride and they were married and he was happy with his wife.
An arranged marriage may seem unusual to us, but as one writer says, “In arranged marriages, love follows the union rather than prompts it.”
I found out that “Today in South India, vs. 50 “This thing comes from the Lord,” is used on wedding invitations where the parents have arranged the marriage.”
Seeking God’s Leading
One of the primary purposes of this passage is to tells us how the promises made to Abraham are passed on to Isaac.
This is an important theological point.
It is an interesting story for this reason and for other reasons.
The story tells us about marriage customs, we could use it to think about how to find a bride and it describes an arranged marriage.
However, we will look at this passage as it teaches us about the leading of God.
Bob Mumford, in Take Another Look at Guidance, writes:
“A certain harbour in Italy can be reached only by sailing up a narrow channel between dangerous rocks and shoals.
Over the years, many ships have been wrecked, and navigation is hazardous.
To guide the ships safely into port, three lights have been mounted on three huge poles in the harbor.
When the three lights are perfectly lined up and seen as one, the ship can safely proceed up the narrow channel.
If the pilot sees two or three lights, he knows he's off course and in danger.”
God has also provided a number of things which we can watch in order to discern His guidance.
When they line up, we have a clear sense of God’s leading.
We see them in this story.
What are they and how do they work in our life?
!! A. Need
Is it frivolous to ask God to guide us in regards to something that we want but don’t really need?
Have you ever been reluctant to ask for God’s leading when making a decision about summer vacation or buying a luxury item?
This story doesn’t answer that question, but the question is raised because Abraham was seeking God’s guidance in the area of a need related to the promises of God.
He needed God’s direction to know how to proceed with being the steward of God’s blessing.
Isaac did not have a wife and the promise of many offspring and of blessing for all nations needed to be carried to the next generation because Abraham was getting old.
So on the basis of that need, Abraham, through his servant, sought God’s leading.
When we have a need, we are encouraged by this story to seek God’s leading.
In fact, when we have a need and we realize that God has to be involved in answering it, it is both a privilege and a joy to approach Him to ask for help.
It is a good thing when our desperation prompts us to ask God for guidance.
But what if the need isn’t all that serious?
What if we are asking for something that is more of a want than a need?
There are two Scriptures that come to mind to help us know how to proceed.
We are told in I Corinthians 10:31, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”
If our intention in life is to live like that, then there is probably nothing that we should not ask for God’s guidance about.
We may find that sometimes God’s guidance will prevent us from foolishly doing something that we really don’t need to do.
Another verse that encourages us to seek God’s guidance in our whole life is Proverbs 3:5,6, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”
We learn from the example in this story to bring all of our needs and concerns before God and seek His leading.
!! B. Obedience
As Abraham gave instructions to his servant, we discover a second principle.
His first request was that the servant should not take a wife for Isaac from among the Canaanites.
This was an idea that became stronger and stronger among the people of God.
In Exodus 34:16 we read, “And when you choose some of their daughters as wives for your sons and those daughters prostitute themselves to their gods, they will lead your sons to do the same.”
The people of Canaan were not God fearing people and they worshipped idols.
In fact, as we read more about the people of this land, we learn that they were so wicked that God would destroy them at the hand of the Israelites.