Sunday, October 21, 2007

Humanity in Sin Part 30: A Wife for Isaac (2)

This is my personal summary of the preaching of Rev.Dr.Stephen Tong on 7th October 2007 in Newton Life. It was preached in Chinese with English translation.

Genesis 24:10-67

In the entire Scripture, Genesis 24 is the only chapter dedicated entirely to one event, that is, on how Abraham prepared a wife for his son Isaac. There have been billions of marriages in history, so is it worth writing so much detail on one marriage? This marriage is not a special one. It is not simply about the need to get marriage after a certain age. It is not simply about the need to start and raise a family. It is about the building of an entire nation that would be a blessing to the entire world. God’s plan for the world is to be accomplished through Abraham.

Nowadays we think that matters relating to sex and marriage are things related to this generation only. Often times we treat important things as unimportant and vice versa. Here we see that Abraham is very clear and responsible about the marriage of his child. And he has a very faithful servant. A good master will have good servants. Christian employers should look at their relationship with their employees more than a matter of profit and loss.

Abraham taught his servant not only to be responsible before him, but also before God. This elderly servant has a very clear mind. He prayed to God that when he asked a woman God has chosen for water, she would give water to his camels as well.

He is an old servant. The other person is a beautiful girl. Why would a beautiful girl serve an old man and so many camels? So his prayer to God was to draw out the girl’s character. Was she a good woman? Would she serve others or herself only?

Rebecca immediately gave this old servant drink and prepared for his camels as well. A lot of times we tend to suspect people’s motivation first and as a result we miss out a lot of opportunities to do good.

But what is good? True goodness is done for its own sake, not in order to achieve some personal gain. It is true that we will be blessed when we do good, but it is very important to get the order right. Receiving blessings should not be the motivation for good works. When we do good for the sake of gaining something in the end, we are not doing true goodness.

Christians often get challenged by others that they believe in Jesus because they want to go to heaven. They do good because they want God’s blessings. How do we respond to these? It is not because we want to go to heaven that we believe, but we have faith in the truth because truth itself is believable and dependable. Going to heaven is the result, not the reason, for believing. And we do good because God Himself is Goodness and we are made in His image and likeness, so we can reflect His goodness naturally in our lives. But shouldn’t we get rewarded for doing good? Yes, because this is God’s principle of righteousness. We will indeed be rewarded for doing good. But it should not be the motivation, rather it is the natural by-product. And indeed it is not true goodness when it is done for personal gain. We need to have clean motives. The Scripture says to guard our heart because it is the wellspring of life. Only when our motives are pure, we can be God’s witnesses.

The servant was focused on the purpose of his journey. When he found that the woman was from the family of his master Abraham, he worshiped the God of Abraham and praised him for making his journey successful. Abraham worshipped the one true God. Isaiah said when Abraham was alone, God called him. He is the ancestor of monotheistic belief. After Abraham, the world is segregated into two kinds of religions, revelatory and non-revelatory. Christianity is a revelatory faith. Revelatory religions have deep reverence towards God and their relationships with men is based upon their understanding of God.

Rebecca told all her family background and genealogy to the servant. The servant was not willing to leave but waited for the girl to come back after telling his family. He asked if he could stay over at her house. After entering the house, the servant told them he wanted to take the girl away. The family wanted Rebecca to stay another 10 days. But the servant refused to compromise. He said since it is God’s will, it should not be delayed. He said not to detain him, because this is what God has set for the son of his master Abraham. This is a very important principle. A lot of people know that God sent them but they kept delaying. When we are clear of the guidance of God, we should not delay.

When they saw that he was so genuine, the did not know what to do. They asked the sister if she wanted to go. She said she would go now. It seemed so easy. But the fact is that Isaac had been single for 40 years. The Scripture said that Rebecca was very beautiful. When Isaac saw her, immediately he loved her and took her as his wife. Since the mother’s death, Isaac was finally comforted by Rebecca.

Is it difficult to get married? Is it complicated to fall in love? When God’s time has come, everything fits in well. In this chapter, we see how marriage is predestined. If God gives it to you, nobody can take it away. If God does not give it to you, you cannot keep it. Often times we find things in life very complicated and difficult because you are not willing to pay the price to establish your relationship with God. If we truly struggle before God, every day becomes very restful. We enter into God’s rest.


At 5:34 AM, Blogger abel said...

Rebecca was of good character. Yet, she masterminded Yacob's cheating on Isaac.

What's the lesson to this generation?
It's okay to do wrong for good means???

At 8:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To the person who posted the first comment:

There is never been an "OKAY" term in God's eyes for wrong doing. God is JUST! There is no tolerance for that.

It is the world's lie: "It is ok for a little white lie to achieve greater good." Verily, in God's commandments, God forbids lying. God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Therefore, say No! to the worldly view.

What happened to Rebecca for her wrong doing? I don't know, it is between her and God. What I can know based on God's attributes is, God never accepts wrong doing. God is HOLY!

Aside from Rebecca case, how about David? David is God's chosen king, yet he still stumbled and fell. But again, God is MERCYFUL and LOVING.

One self may do wrong, but again, God is always SOVEREIGN. What God has planned, will always be carried on.

I think the lesson for me is this: we need to know, a human in this imperfect world is always a limited human. A Human tends to lean toward his or her emotion or flesh.

As Paul mentioned: Beware, there is will, but flesh is always stronger.

As Peter also said: Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

One way to really understand God's word is to know what God's attributes are: Justice, Love, Holiness, Omnipotent, Omniscient, Omnipresent, Immutable, Truth, Sovereign.

I hope my sharing may help you.

1 Peter 5:
" 8Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

10And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 11To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.

At 3:05 AM, Blogger abel said...

Dear Anonymous,
Thanks for your sharing. It was never the intention to justify wrong doing for anyone.

Imho. In the story about Rebecca, the author intention might be to show that deep inside every humans heart, there is potential to do very evil things. But not everybody did that merely because they didn't have the opportunities (temptations).
Whether we are willing to acknowledge that or not that is the fact of live.

note: Everyone here would include those of 'good characters' (Christians or not).

At 1:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've attend this lecture at Newton life 2 weeks ago.

Thank very much for translating it into English . It refreshing to recall the sermon again.


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