Tag Archives: God’s blessings

Authentic :: Sarai

In January I picked a word I want to apply to my life throughout the course of the next year. Sort of like a nerdy version of a resolution, but with a whole lot of prayer and supplication that the Holy Spirit will reveal a focus area for my role in God’s plan. This year the word is transform. 

What a great word, right? Transformation sounds really hardcore and meaningful and like you are going to turn the world upside down and rock it. And yes, there is a lot of that…but transformation also requires a lot of change and, let’s be honest, it doesn’t happen overnight, so patience…yeah. A whole lot of patience. 

You know what else? Transform isn’t something you do on your own. It is something that is done to you. If you know me (or have read my blog at all) you’ll know that I am a control addict. I keep giving it up only to take it back again, so the word transform was super exciting…until I realized that I have ZERO control over it. Seriously, zero. 

Photo by Julie North on Unsplash

Just another lesson in being super sure you are ready for what it is you are praying for, because when you ask God to transform your heart, mind, and spirit. Well, fasten your seat belt because it can be quite an awesome ride. 

I’ve never identified with Sarai more than I have this year, though she’s always been kind of my kindred spirit. Not only did God change her name, he transformed her into His princess. The Princess Diaries showed us that this is no easy task, but the cool thing about God is that he can transform anyone into His princess, even if the task seems impossible. 

Taking Control

Sarai was a daddy’s girl. 

She was a girl who had everything. A loving husband. A great place to live. Wealth (13:1). Beauty (12:11). What she didn’t have? Children. And because she didn’t have children she BELIEVED she didn’t have honor. And then, little by little she felt God taking everything she ever knew…away.

In Genesis 12:1-3 and Genesis 15:1-5 God makes a promise to Abram. He speaks with him, comforts him, and shows him the future. As Abram’s wife (and sister…well, half sister Genesis 20:12), Sarai has a share in this blessing as well. After all, it’s unlikely that Abram will become the father of many nations without a woman. Just saying. 

There’s a catch though, chapter 12 verse tells us that  Abram was 75 when he first received this prophecy, making Sari 65, and even for Biblical era, that is still pretty old to be a father/mother many times over. Frustrated, Abram continually asks God about this promise and God continues to reassure him that there is no mistake. My promises endure forever. Regardless in chapter 15 verse 6 Abram continues to believe despite the years that continue to pass him by. 

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And that’s where Sarai steps in. She believes in the promise, but there is an awful lot of stress and pressure that accompany this given that Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children (chapter 16: 1). 

In Genesis 16: 1-4 we see that Sarai is practical. At this point, most scholars agree that she is well over seventy years old, past child-bearing age, and most likely people would have viewed her as cursed by God. I wouldn’t be surprised if people have told her that continually. Have you ever seen those memes about the way people ask mothers inappropriate questions? Well, it’s not just mothers! Women who are married without kids always get asked why or what’s wrong, or even worse, don’t you want kids? People are curious, sure, but these careless words bite deep into a woman’s sensitive soul. I’m sure society hasn’t changed that much over a few melinia. People will always think they have a right to know the intimated details of your relationships and family. 

But, in most ancient cultures Sarai’s inability to conceive would have even been grounds for divorce. So, what does she do? What many women would in her situation—she tries to fix it herself. 

Girl, I feel you. This is exactly why we are kindred spirits. I’m a fixer–if there is a problem I have an overwhelming desire to fix it myself. Unfortunately, that subtracts God from the equation and, well, things never end well.

Yet, I note Abram’s response to Sarai’s plans. In many ways this is a throwback to the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:6). It may have been Eve/Sarai’s idea—but that’s not how God intends for relationships to work in his paradise.

Sarai gets shamed a lot for her actions in Genesis 16:5-6, but I think we need to look at Hagar too. There’s a lot of female rivalry going on here.

If Hagar begins to despise her mistress after she finds out she is pregnant, then there is a clearly a power struggle in this house. Hagar’s pregnancy “proves” that the barrenness is Sarai’s “fault”, right? Well, sure that would be right if we believe we are at “fault” for God’s perfect timing…yikes. 

So, Hagar’s ego is fed, and she might even be walking around with her nose up in the air because she believes she is the one who must be intended for the promises God made to Abram…yikes. 

On the flip side, Sarai does not handle the situation well; she created an unhealthy home by complicating her relationships, but she could have made so many different decisions and the outcome would have shifted in a completely different direction. Let’s not even consider the first mistake, but after Hagar “despises” her, she could accept the responsibility and welcome Hagar into the family…but that’s complicated too. So all around it’s just a hot mess. 

And let’s not forget that Abram is not blameless in this either. As the patriarch, he should be the one making the decisions, especially since he is in such close communion with God. I don’t recall him pausing to ask for God’s guidance as Sarai shoves Hagar into his arms. And I certainly don’t see him stepping up and taking responsibility for the chaos in his home. In fact, he washes his hands of the matter, figuratively turning back to the football game and letting the women figure out who the primary cook in the kitchen is. 

And so, Sarai does what makes sense. She strikes back at Hagar with such harshness that her maidservant runs away…we could follow Hagar’s story, but that’s for another post. Hagar eventually returns and bears a son to Abram when he is 86 years old–over a decade after the promise is first made. 

Letting God be GOD

And then another decade goes by, and when Abram is 99-100 years old, God gives him a new name–but more importantly God outbreathes his spirit into Abram and creates Abraham…in other words, God transforms him. It took 20 years, but God fulfilled the promise in his own timing. True transformations don’t happen overnight, and I think we see that Abram was not ready for God’s promise, but Abraham is.

And so is Sarai. In Genesis 17:15-17Sarai is reborn as Sarah.

This is not done lightly! Reborn, Sarah is now ready for the promises God made. Even more importantly, Abraham is ready to see Sarah as the vessel for God’s promise and not the problem. Though she is still skeptical and cynical, God has prepared her in His timing for the next step. The motif of laughter here is evident. Abraham laughs, exhausted. Sarah laughs, mocking. They both laugh in joy and disbelief. God really does fulfill his promises. Just when you are ready to give up, He shows up.

Just when you are ready to give up, He shows up.

Photo by Ye Fung Tchen on Unsplash

Waiting on God’s Timing

Sarai had a hard time waiting on God’s timing. I can relate to that on a deeply spiritual level. When it seems like I should be able to fix it, I don’t always understand why God wants me to wait on Him, but let’s be honest. I’m not God, so there is definitely always a reason for waiting on his timing. One of my favorite verses in seasons of waiting is:

For still the vision awaits its appointed time;
it hastens to the end—it will not lie.
If it seems slow, wait for it;
it will surely come; it will not delay.

Habakkuk 2:3 

Waiting is hard. But the end result is always worth it, and looking back, like Sarah, we often laugh to see just how much God transformed us before we were ready to walk straight into his promise. 

Authentic :: Abigail

One of my favorite books is An Old Fashioned Girl by Louisa May Alcott. If you haven’t read it, you should probably do so. Other than being fabulous, it offers snippets of wisdom from beginning to end. The first time I read it, in high school, I held on to many of these truths because at heart I am and always will be an old-fashioned girl. So, let me share one of those little truth nuggets here for a moment…

Young men often laugh at the sensible girls whom they secretly respect, and affect to admire the silly ones whom they secretly despise, because earnestness, intelligence, and womanly dignity are not the fashion. 

Louisa May Alcott

Intelligence, dignity, and earnestness in women are underrated and have been since ancient times. An Old-Fashioned Girl was first written in 1869, but this resonated with teenage me–a nerdy young girl who tried not to care that her desire to learn anything and everything ostracized her from the crowd she had been accepted into as a child. You know, before fashion became central to acceptance. If we’re being honest, intelligence, dignity, and earnestness have never been in fashion for women. At least not all at the same time. There was even a time when intelligence in women was even considered undignified.

But here’s the thing: despite being “out of fashion”, God has always gifted women with intelligence, clothed them in dignity, and encouraged an earnestness of spirit that would seek after His heart alone. It’s this broken world that has corrupted that perception of women being little more than ditzy arm-candy for a more intelligent man. That’s simply a lie; women were designed to be helpers to be a support, to be a part of the greater plan, not to be coddled and patted on the head and desired for physical attributes alone. 

So the fact that the first description we have of Abigail is “intelligent” should be significant! 

Intelligence

1 Samuel 25: 3 states Abigail “…was an intelligent and beautiful woman…” However, this doesn’t necessarily mean she had a high IQ (she may have, I don’t know). There are many types of intelligence, and in her story we see her display many of them. The fact that the author of this story points out that she is intelligent is a detail we don’t want to forget. 

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Unfortunately, this intelligent woman ended up with a donkey of a man. In 1 Samuel 25: 3b, Nabal is described as surly, which can mean threatening, irritable, menacing, and arrogant among other things. So likely, at the very least, he was not nice to Abigail and possibly even abusive. We know that he didn’t respect others and that typically is seen in the home first. So how does an intelligent woman end up with such a man? Sadly, we don’t know but given the cultural context, it’s possible she had little choice. Marriages in Ancient times had little if anything to do with the westernized concept of love, but they were designed for unity between powerful families, political gain, or procreation. 

Still, there are plenty of intelligent women who end up in toxic relationships. Why? Often it’s because we step outside of God’s wisdom and start operating in the world’s wisdom. 

Fortunately, even in bad circumstances that we may or may not have created for ourselves, we can still be reassured that God is in control. When we seek His presence and His will, He will never let us down–not that our circumstances will always make human sense, but there is always a purpose to everything God has a hand in.

Earnestness

At the start of this narrative, Samuel has died and Saul is still on the throne of Israel. David’s army isn’t sanctioned by the throne, and having been named the future King, Saul is unhappy with David’s very existence. Conflict arises, and David becomes a great leader—of a guerilla army.  Any time an army rises up against the throne, word will spread. Quickly. This God-anointed man is fighting for his life, but fighting against an established monarchy. And people are talking about it. Before becoming a beloved king, David was an infamous rebel.  Which brings us to our story.

In 1 Samuel 25:4-9, David is aware that as a perceived rebel people may not be quick to help him and his army. He sends a group of 10 men ahead of his army, instructing them to show honor and respect to Nabal as they make a request: a favor for a favor. We may be a bunch of rebels, David wishes to communicate, but we treated your shepherds and sheep with respect and dignity. We’d like for you to return the courtesy. Anything you could spare would be appreciated.

Now, it wouldn’t have been easy for just anyone to fulfill this request–David has brought an army of men with him, after all. We’re talking like 600 men. But he’s polite and requests provisions rather than just taking them from this wealthy man (which, if we’re being honest, David could have done). 

Nabal’s response in I Samuel 25: 10-11 clearly defines his character. Sarcasm drips from his voice as he insults David’s motivation and crusade. Nabal uses a series of questions in his response, but he knows who David his, and he likely knows that God has anointed him. The king, after all, is out for his head, and we’ve all seen Robin Hood enough to know that word spreads fast when you’re in the king’s cross-hairs. 

Taunting a man who is camping outside your door with 600 fighting me is pretty dumb. Oh, Nabal. However, in I Samuel 25:12-17, David is acting pretty rashly too. A classic case of men thinking a little too much with their emotions and not enough with their brains (and people give women a hard time for this flaw–but let’s be honest–men struggle with this just as much!). The phrase ‘put them on the table and measure’ appropriately explains this deadly testosterone explosion about to happen.



Photo by Daniel Fazio on Unsplash

Enter Abigail, the intelligent woman who sees the situation for what it is. Her reputation is known among her servants, who waste no time in giving her the down-low. They know who to trust, and it isn’t the donkey. 1 Samuel 25:18-31 chronicles Abigail stepping up and acting with intelligence, dignity, and earnestness. She acts swiftly and purposefully—and maybe a little recklessly. She acts quickly to save the lives of everyone in her home–including her donkey of a husband. 

But it was a little reckless, and while that word has some powerful negative connotations, in this case, she simply didn’t care about what might happen to her as long as she did her best to save the people under her authority. Because she did have authority in her home; if she didn’t the servants never would have come to her in the first place. When we consider this compared to her husband who also “lost no time” and to David who acts rashly and regrets it later, we can see the contrast between acting swiftly under God’s wisdom vs. the world’s wisdom. 

Abigail knows she’s the smart one in her relationship, but she still acts with honor and humility. She approaches David and 600 soldiers with dignity, immediately showing them respect by bowing before them…alone. My heart constricts with how this could have gone horribly, horribly wrong. But Abigail walked in God’s wisdom, and she acted swiftly without thinking about herself and God is quick to honor that. Sometimes we don’t see how he honors it in this life, but in Abigail’s case we get a glimpse.

Dignity

David did not have to listen to Abigail let alone offer her and her husband protection and peace. However,  Abigail’s speech–words empowered by God–reminding David under whose authority he is meant to operate. Humbled, he lowers his sword, takes a step back, and a deep breath, honoring both God and Abigail’s wisdom in 1 Samuel 25:32-35.

Contrast that to how Nabal responds–by getting drunk and gluttonously eating at a feast while an army starves on his doorstep. No wonder “his heart failed him and he became like stone” (1 Samuel 25: 27)–he had little heart to begin with!

Abigail is free from her terrible marriage in the end when Nabal pays for his heartlessness. And the story ends with a happily ever after…but…the text says Abigail is asked to become David’s wife…then it also says the servant has come to ‘take her.’ (1 Samuel 25:39-40). Semantics are always important, but here especially it makes me wonder: just how much choice did Abigail have in this arrangement? Sure, she bows and accepts the proposal, but why?

The world will scoff at Godly intelligence, dignity, and earnestness, but secretly they envy the confidence it gives us to live life with hope and a future

Let’s back up to Abigail’s speech in verses 26-31; Abigail certainly admires David and sees him as the Lord’s anointed. She is following what she believes to be God’s path for wisdom, but the truth of it is this: Abigail has some choice in her marriage to David, but probably not a lot given the situation and his position. Abigail is a wealthy and free woman now that Nabal has died. David is a man of war with no home, only a God-ordained promise of a future with no timeline for fulfillment. Therefore, Abigail is trading a life of comfort for a life of conflict–but she is also gaining spiritual leadership in her relationship, which to a woman like Abigail, might just be worth all the sacrifices she’ll have to make along the way.

Photo by Chang Duong on Unsplash

As men and women of the 21st century, we have a lot of choices in the type of people we marry and Abigail’s story can clearly help us see the consequences of these choices. We should learn to make all life’s choices wisely, following God’s wisdom–not the world’s. The world will scoff at Godly intelligence, dignity, and earnestness, but secretly they envy the confidence it gives us to live life with hope and a future–holding on to every promise of God. 

Authentic :: Jonathan

When I was little I had a BFF. Or so I thought. As it turned out, she wasn’t so much of a BFF as she was a BF whenever it was convenient. And it was convenient when we were 7 and lived close to one another and had similar interests. But she became a cheerleader as soon as middle school hit—she was popular and beautiful and had no interest in me and my nerdy self, unless it was to toss me up in the air in a cheerleading stunt and hope I didn’t break on the way down. It wasn’t a wise choice, but sometimes when we really want to fit in and be like the “cool kids”, we’ll do anything short of throwing ourselves into lava pits. Sometimes though, I think the lava pit would be more forgiving.

Life may be hard, but building our legacy doesn’t have to be.

As I grew older, I learned what a real BFF looked like. Friendship is a lot like love, it’s patient, kind, giving (see I Corinthians 13, really not just for marriage!)—it’s not selfish and it certainly doesn’t value popularity over people. The most important lesson I have learned about friendship is that friends help you grow. And best friends help you work to improve your flaws rather than simply judging your imperfections. Life is short and hard, and God didn’t intend for us to live it on our own. He means for us to live in relationship with others, which is why Jesus had circles of friends. I mean, look at the trinity itself—we are made in God’s image and God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit work in tandem and in communion. We are meant to do the same. To build something that will far outlast the length of our days here on earth. Life may be hard, but building our legacy doesn’t have to be.

Losing a Legacy

We remember Jonathan not as a great ruler but as the best friend of David, future King of Israel. Jonathan is friendship, and if we pay attention we can learn to be (and have) great friends too.

In 1 Samuel 14: 49 & 13:1-3 we see Jonathan establishing his legacy as a military leader under his father’s command. The text tells us Saul is a young man (between 30-40 years old) at the time of this raid, so Jonathan must be in his teens, probably no more than 15-18, yet he is already in charge of a military unit.

While it was customary for young men to be a part of the military during their teenage years, in order to be established as a respected leader, they would have to have been born with significant charismatic qualities. Even a prince had to prove himself worthy of such a role among a militant culture. 

Right after this raid, Saul makes a big boo-boo. He gets impatient when waiting for Samuel, a prophet of the Lord, and offers up the burnt sacrifice to the Lord, which sounds great. He’s super religious, right? Well, not exactly. According to God’s law, Saul, a Benjaminite, should have waited for a Levite, Samuel, to offer these burnt sacrifices up. Take a look at Leviticus 1 for more of the law regarding this. Beyond this break of protocol, Saul’s heart was not really in the right place. He offered the sacrifices, not because he believed the Lord was on their side and would provide. Not as a way to thank the Lord for his graciousness and favor. And not even as a way to appease the Lord. No, Saul saw his army scatter and realized they would see him as a weak leader. So he offered these sacrifices as a way to make himself look better and convince the men to continue to follow him

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1 Samuel 13:22-14:23 returns to Jonathan, who must have heard the proclamation of Samuel who has just informed Saul his kingdom will not last. As such, his father’s mistakes have cost Jonathan the throne. One day he knew the exact direction his life was headed, and the next moment everything is completely up in the air. 

But that doesn’t stop him. Jonathan has a job to do. They are in the midst of a war and they are severely outnumbered. The army is weaponless. and yet, he confidently asserts that the Lord has given them into the hand of Israel (vs. 12b). With only his brave armor bearer as back up (and this armor bearer actually follows him. Definitely seeing some of the charisma) he goes into the Philistine camp and kills some twenty men in an area of about half an acre (v. 14)–totally William Wallacing the whole lot of them. 

Saul sees the apparent chaos caused by God and led by his son, and first tries to hide behind the ark, then rallies the troops and goes into battle. Confidence shaken, we can already see how leadership is transferring out of his hand and into those who have more faith–his son and then later, David. 

Questioning Leadership

1 Samuel 14:24-43  reveals a lot of family dynamics and motivation. Saul pronounces a curse on whoever should break his, rather stupid, oath. Curses have real power and are directly connected to the actions of people. Well, okay, but what is a curse? According to GraceLife Church’s Grow Spirit Life, “A curse is a binding agreement [contract] in the spiritual realm which results from some form of disobedience to God’s word. The EFFECT or FRUIT of that agreement in our lives is called a CURSE. The curse will function like a barrier or limitation” (49). The results of Saul’s impulsive declarations are clear throughout the text, all the way to Jonathan and Saul’s deaths in 1 Samuel 31. Curses are real, but thanks to Jesus and God’s grace, they can be broken. Consider this:

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit. 

Galatians 3:13-14

There are 5 main sources of curse: Generational sin/curses, occult involvement, disobedience, unholy/symbolic things, spoken curses (if you are interested in learning more, I recommend participating in the Grow Spirit Life group led by Pastor Jimmy at GraceLife). So Saul’s pronunciation is no joke and shouldn’t be taken lightly, by anyone in his army. 

While Saul does not make a particularly wise decision in bounding his men to an oath not to eat all day before an important battle, Jonathan also makes a mistake. First, he does not communicate well with his father, who is also his commander. This lack of communication leads to his tasting the honey and bring the curse down upon himself and the men. Second, he questions his commander/father’s decisions in verse 29. Although I agree with Jonathan’s assertion and judgment of his father’s decisions, making the comment to his men–who are also under Saul’s authority–shows a lack of wisdom on Jonathan’s part. Where he should be helping to build unity among the men, his comments breed disunity and the discord can be poisonous should it start to spread.

Like most teenagers, Jonathan doesn’t always agree with the decisions his father makes. Interestingly, we don’t see him openly rebel against his father, but we do see him question his father’s choices. There is a time and a place for us to question people who have been placed in authority over our lives. It’s not always wrong to question a leader’s decisions, but we have to be careful in how we go about this process. Talking to others, gossiping and grumbling only brings discord whereas open and honest communication with our leaders can sometimes bring about change. God wants us to stand up for what is right and good, but he wants us to do it the right way, not our own way. 

Building a new Legacy

In 1 Samuel 15 Saul makes his biggest boo-boo of all. God gives him a command: Now go up, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them […] (vs.3). But Saul doesn’t listen; he kept the King alive, he kept some sheep and cattle, and he set up a monument to himself. And, he doesn’t even realize what a major jerkface he is being! 1 Samuel 15: 22-23 spells out the real problem: Saul thought he knew better (and was better) than God. His punishment: God rejects him as king, His spirit left him, and he would live a troubled life from here on out. Furthermore, his legacy would end and be given over to a new dynasty. Unfortunately, that is bad news for Jonathan too, because home slice just officially and irrevocably lost his claim to the throne.

As we continue to read, in 1 Samuel 18: 1-4 Saul’s been rejected by the Lord, which unfortunately means Jonathan has too.  There is some debate about exact ages of these men at this point, but after doing a lot of research, I pitch my tent in the theological camp that suggests David was about 18 when he met Jonathan, who was about 29.

Why? Because of the way Jonathan reacts to this young man who is taking the place he always thought would be his. He saw David slay Goliath, and perhaps it reminds him of a time when he believed he could do the same. Perhaps he remembers the time he pulled a Braveheart on the Philistines and trusted in the Lord. He sees himself in this young David, but even more, he does not see his father with whom he has been at odds since his own youth. He looks at this man anointed by God and became one in spirit with David and loved him as himself (vs. 1). It takes maturity and an awful lot of life experience and faith to allow someone to take your place and to do it with a gracious heart and a thankful spirit. 

Instead of being bitter and resentful, Jonathan chooses to embrace this shift and pour his heart into helping young David be the man God wants him to be. He chooses to listen to God and believe God knows what is best, even if it is a disappointment to himself. 

Unfortunately at this point, it becomes painfully obvious that Jonathan has to pick a side: his father or his friend. And we see that it wasn’t much of a choice. 1 Samuel 19-20 develops the relationship and shows that Jonathan chooses David–he chooses faith and God and life over the death and destruction that now seems to follow and plague his father. 

Jonathan is proof that even the strongest human needs good friends. In David’s case, Jonathan literally saved his life at least twice, but our friends can be lifesavers too if they are operating within the God-given purpose of community. Friends bring accountability and encouragement–both of which help us to function in the purpose God has set for us. In Genesis 2:18 God declared that it was not good for man to be alone, clearly, we are made for community. Yes, this pronunciation was made before God created his helper, Eve, but I think it is applicable to friendship too. Spouses offer one kind of encouragement and accountability, but friends offer another level. Even Jesus had friends. Same-gendered, multi-generational friends offer different kinds of support that help us seek and pursue God’s purpose for our lives. But it works both ways; to have good friends, you must be a good friend and once you find your people, you know. Friendship is active. So, get going. 

Authentic :: Rebekah

When I was a child, my best friend and I used to play ‘house’ and inevitably we would always want good husbands to be a part of the pretend game. For my imaginary future, I would always say a boy in my class at school who I had a crush on at the time was my “husband”. It would change pretty much weekly because, well even as I child I had commitment issues, but also I was young and didn’t really know what I wanted. All I knew was for a perfect, imaginary future I needed a husband.

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In middle school I made a list of what I wanted for my future—an assignment in class. A list of goals, we’ll call them (and yes, outdated as they are I still have this list). My teacher asked us to highlight our top ten then she collected the list, read the top ten aloud, and had the rest of the class guess to whom the list belonged. When it came to mine, a boy I only knew by name (and because he was pretty cute) piped up and said, “that’s gotta be Ashley. It’s all about God.” I remember at the time being kind of mortified because the disdain in his tone was palpable and he may or may not have rolled his eyes. The teacher returned the list to me and I sat quietly, my face radiating a bright red thought only possible in on a Crayola crayon.

Now, I think back on that list and that moment when everything was clear. I rarely talked to this boy, but he knew my reputation and in some ways, my heart. In my heart, even when I didn’t fully see I myself, my perfect imaginary future was not about a husband, but about a life filled with God’s glory and grace—and hopefully, one day, a husband who shares my heart desires in the same way. This life is not about me, or a man, or a family, it’s ALL about God.

Sought After

Although Rebekah is not mentioned in Genesis 24:1-9, it’s pretty cool that the text shows she was an answer to a prayer. There is something beautiful about being sought after–pursued–it gives one value on a spiritual level. Abraham had just lost his beloved, Sarah, whom he buried in a cave in Hebron. She was 127, and they had spent over 100 years together on this earth. Abraham was hurting, to say the least, and he looks at his son Isaac, who was single at the age of 37, and knows that his son is hurting too. Knowing what it feels like to hurt and have no one to comfort you for the loss, Abraham comes up with a plan.

First, Abraham asked his servant to put his hand under his thigh and swear an oath. Let’s think about this gesture for a moment—there are very few people in this world who I would allow the intimacy of touching me under the thigh. It’s a vulnerable and private place, which adds to the importance and seriousness of the request: go find my son a wife–not just any wife either, a God-fearing wife.

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Sure. No problem.

And no pressure, right?

Abraham is certain this is the right plan; after all, God promised him the land he was living in would belong to his offspring–the servant is not quite as sure. He asks a couple of questions, makes a contingency plan, clarifies instructions, and then he is willing to swear his oath. I’m not criticizing the servant by any means; no, I’m rather empathetic to the fact that the servant has more faith in his master, Abraham, than he does in the Lord. At least at first. Sadly I do this more than I’d like to admit–I place faith in something or someone when really all I need is to trust the Lord’s plan for my life. It’s embarrassing, but thankfully God is really patient with me in my struggle.

So, the servant makes his way to the “town of Nahor” in Genesis 24:10-14. Nahor just happens to be Abraham’s brother. So far he has done all that his master has asked, and I just love what his first inclination is once he arrives: pray to Abraham’s God (again, a display of faith in Abraham more than the God he is praying to)…but the prayer is….different. He asks for a specific response from the girl he approaches. He wants her to be hospitable, not just to him but to all the camels with him too. Did you know that “a camel that has gone a few days without water can drink up to 25 gallons? That’s up to 100 drawings from the well for ALL the servant’s camels!” (Archeological Study Bible footnote p.40). That’s a tall order, so either the servant has some trust issues, or he is honestly looking for the right woman and doesn’t want to get it wrong. Be specific, Lord, he asks. And I don’t think that is wrong as long as his heart was in the right place.

I may not be quite so demanding for specifics in my prayers, but I ask for validation and confirmation from the Lord pretty frequently, and sometimes my heart is not exactly in the right place. Have I mentioned my control issues? That’s why. My prayer can often go something like this: Dear Lord, please give me everything I want in exactly the way I want it. Just being honest. But the reality is, God’s not really a genie, and often what I want and when I want it is not His plan and if I’m really going to get real I’ll admit that it’s better when I stop trying to tell God what to do and simply let Him move in my life.

The fact that God answered the servant’s request almost immediately proves that this servant had a good heart–he didn’t ask because he wanted God to prove himself, he asked because he wanted to get it right.

Rebekah’s Story

I have read Rebekah’s story a number of times and I’ll be honest sometimes I sincerely sit in awe of this woman who left everything she knew because a man revealed it was her God-given destiny. I am amazed by her strength, her courage, and even her wit; though sometimes a little misguided, her destiny brought about the ultimate perfect not-so-imaginary future—a Savior who would change the world. 

No wonder the servant wanted to get it right. 

Genesis 24:15-21 finally introduces us to Rebekah—who is quite remarkable. First, she is related to Abraham. It says she is “the daughter of Bethuel son of Milcah who was the wife of Abraham’s brother.” That would make Bethuel and Isaac first cousins, making Rebekah Isaac’s first cousin once removed, in case you care to track the relationship.

I adore this interaction as it shows us Rebekah’s heart in an astounding way. 

  1. She is hospitable and caring to the servant, immediately taking care of his needs. 
  2. She sees a need and doesn’t hesitate to be the one to fill the need–even if it means spending the rest of the afternoon doing a back-breaking job of drawing water from the well to water the camels of a stranger. 
  3. She is both strong, yet humble, accepting praise from the servant, but returning to her family for advice and guidance. 
  4. She is wise, confiding in her mother immediately after the exchange–no secrets!
Photo by Briana Tozour on Unsplash

Let’s back up a second and picture this scene with the servant and many camels coming to the well in mid-day when all the ladies are out and about. His arrival would have caused quite a stir! Camels would have immediately indicated great wealth, but then he places a nose ring AND bracelets of gold on Rebekah. Now, I’m not saying she’s a gold digger…no really she’s not, but I’m not sure I’d say the same for her family…

Genesis 24:22-31 shows Rebekah running to her mother’s household, and yet it is her brother (not her father) who runs out to meet the stranger. Odd, especially since later we see that her father is still alive. At any rate, Genesis 24:32-49 recaps all that has happened–from the orders of the servant’s master, Abraham, to the prayer, to Rebekah’s action and basically ends with…so, what do you think? It’s a total God thing, right?

In Genesis 24:50-53 Rebekah’s male relatives, brother and now father, respond with a resounding…if it’s from the Lord then who are we to argue? Especially since you come bearing those dolla, dolla bills, ya’ll. I feel pretty justified in this judgment consider Laban will later trick his sister’s son, Jacob, into marrying both his daughters and working for him for free for 14 years. Laban is interested in the bottom line, with a little God-speak thrown in to cover the stench of his greed. But that’s another story.

We don’t actually get Rebekah’s reaction to this proposal until we read Genesis 24: 54-61. This interaction is fascinating. The servant is eager to return to his master, but Laban and momma dearest aren’t so keen to say good-bye to baby girl (or all the wealth of the servant’s entourage). Especially worthy of note is the request that Rebekah stay 10 days or so…

Now I get why Momma wants her to stay–it’s her baby and they’re obviously close (remember, no secrets). But the brother’s motivation I question. Maybe I’m being unfair and he will really miss his sister when she leaves…or maybe he’s still thinking how to profit from this arrangement. I don’t know which it is, but either way it’s the fact that they ask Rebekah for her opinion is unusual.

But here’s the thing, asking Rebekah fulfills the rest of the promise the servant made to Abraham in Gen. 24:8. She’s not only willing, she’s determined. Along with all her other qualities, I can’t help but admire her. And given the cultural context–this points straight back to God again.

Genesis 24:62-66; 25:20 shows a brief encounter with meeting Isaac, who is not sad about this woman being brought to him (he might think she’s pretty hot). But more importantly, it reveals an important character trait of Rebekah.

Modesty. 

In a day where modesty has gone out of fashion, I find Rebekah’s response to meeting her husband to be refreshing. Her modesty didn’t change his reaction. If anything he admired her even more, and I think that’s true about the right kind of men today. God-fearing men don’t really want to see women’s bodies on display for the world. Sure, it can biologically set a few things in motion, but often those things are better saved for private settings anyhow, so being modest is a way to respect yourself, and your partner (or future partner) in more ways than one.

Decidedly Human

Like Sarah before her, Rebekah was barren (Genesis 25:21-24 ) but didn’t have to wait quite as long for the answer to her prayer. I even note that God responded directly to Rebekah, which tells me she didn’t rely on her husband’s faith but continued to grow in her own relationship with the Lord. As tempting as it is to use others’ faith as a crutch for our own faith, we will see more amazing things if we personally pursue a relationship with God and trust in Him more than those around us. After all, humans are only human.

And Rebekah was human too. She made her share of mistakes. In fact, the biggest mistake she made was in trying to make God’s plan happen in her own time and way (just as Sarah did…oh and me too).

God can use our mistakes to create great things, but it doesn’t negate the consequences that inevitably result when we prove time and again that we are only human.

In Genesis 27:5-17 Rebekah plays favorites with her sons just as Jacob would play favorites with his son, Joseph in the future! The consequences of her actions include losing her son…forever. There is no record of Rebekah ever seeing her son again (and I believe she probably died in the 14 years Jacob worked for Laban, her brother). We can choose our sin, but we can’t choose the consequences. I truly believe she had the best of intentions, but she lied and manipulated her husband and children to fulfill a prophecy that she didn’t have enough faith in God to bring about in a less deceitful way. And while God can use our mistakes to still create great things, it doesn’t negate the consequences that inevitably result when we prove time and again that we are only human.

Sought by God

Photo by NICK SELIVERSTOV on Unsplash

Rebekah was sought after and valued as a treasure once she was found. A gift from God. Genesis 24:8 paired with Genesis 24:57 casts an important light on ancient culture marital rituals vs. God’s will. Wives were not, as was cultural ritual, to be treated as possessions, but rather involved and respected. Then, with their consent, accepted as treasures. This is God’s will. Marriage, though the focus of Rebekah’s story, is not to be the center of our world. Significant others will not bring you ultimate joy and happiness. That’s not even really the point of marriage. No, marriage is meant to be a reflection of God’s relationship with his people. He seeks after us, and like Rebekah loves nothing more than our response to be an immediate “I will go.” Not in 10 days, but now.

All we have to do is say “I will go.”

Eliezer the servant did not have the same quality of faith as Abraham, but as he learned to trust his master and God, his faith grew. Rebekah leaned on this faith of Eliezer to help her be resolute, but she was more confident, probably because she had a personal faith to begin with. It might not be easy to trust God; we all have our own stories that affect how we interact with God, but God promises that if we seek him, we will find him. All we have to do is say “I will go.”

Invite God in. Then, see Blessings: My journey through Psalms 67-68

Tone matters.

I say this to my students on a fairly regular basis. Because as any parent knows, it’s often not WHAT you say but HOW you say it.

What.

That one word can convey a variety of different meanings based on tone.

What? [she asks, brows raised into the wrinkles of her forehead]

What. [he rolled his eyes and turned away]

What! [the hard edge to her tone carried all the impatience of a 36 hour shift]

Tone matters.

In Psalm 67-68 I see how tone matters

May God be gracious to us and bless us-and make his face shine upon us

THAT your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among the nations. 

These verses begin in third person as a plea, but end in second person as a breath of thankfulness.

Bless us God, not for our sake, but for the glory of your kingdom.

And there is a difference.

Blessings for the self are often pleas for materialism. But that is not what the psalmist is after. He is offering his blessings back to the Lord even BEFORE he gets them.

To the Western mind, or even human mind, this is baffling. Why would you praise someone for something they haven’t even given to you? Isn’t that a little presumptuous? You are just assuming that your answer will be yes, right?

Well, kind of. And I don’t think that is as presumptuous as it is faithful. You send invites to people because you EXPECT them to show up, right? I mean, it’s possible that they won’t, but if the expectation is for them to attend your party, then you invite them in. God is the same way. It’s hard to see God move if you continually treat him like your imaginary friend, praying to him JUST IN CASE he is real. Instead, when we pray as though we EXPECT him to move, He feels more INVITED to do so and suddenly we can really feel him move in our lives.

Expectation is invitation, as my pastor is fond of saying.

Tone matters.

May he peoples praise you, O God; may all the peoples praise you. THEN the land will yield it’s harvest (67:7-8)

Praise equals harvest; not harvest equals praise.

But often we wait for the blessings before we invite God to the party. How rude! That’s like sending a wedding invitation to someone you don’t like just so you can get more presents. No. Just no. We invite God to the party and then He showers us with his love and blessing in his own way. Seeing is not believing, believing is SEEING.

God is a father to the fatherless, a defender of widows [and perpetually single women] … he sets the lonely in families. (68:5a; 6a).

He gives hope, love and blessings to the lonely, but only if we invite him in.