Description / Transcription
Father in Heaven, we need your help so that these next moments are not wasted time with distracted thoughts and wandering hearts. I pray that you would give me grace to speak your word clearly, helpfully, truthfully, and you would give to your people ears to hear and to apply. May we not listen for what someone else may need to hear but how you want to speak to us. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
We come to Genesis, chapter 24. If you are a regular here, you may remember that I did Genesis 23 for Easter, Looking Forward to the Hope of the Resurrection, as Abraham buys a burial plot for his wife, Sarah. So we are skipping that, and now we come to Chapter 24. It’s the longest chapter in Genesis. It takes quite a bit just to read the whole thing, so here’s what I want to do. We are going to read most of it. Actually, I’m going to read most of it and stopping along the way to explain what is going on, and that will take some time; and then after we’ve made our way through the text trying to understand what’s happening here, then we’re going to step back and say, “Okay, what does God want us to learn?” And perhaps, it’s taking a little different angle than we’ve taken on some of the other passages. So, stick with me as we work our way through this chapter.
The longest in the book of Genesis, this story really forms to use a modern term, a novella, a short story with a limited number of characters starting from beginning to end, and it forms by itself a wonderful story; but it’s more than just a great story here in the middle of the book, it also has lessons for us and drives forward the larger narrative.
Genesis 24, verse 1.
“Now, Abraham was old, well advanced in years, and the Lord had blessed Abraham in all things.”
So pause there. We know that Abraham has received, throughout the book, from Chapter 12 onward, the blessing and promises of blessing. God has been true to his promise; but we know the promise is not supposed to stop with Abraham. It’s a promise to bless him and his descendants and make them as numerous as the stars in the sky, the sand on the seashore. So, we are left wondering, as we just had Sarah die, and Abraham now is an old man and his time is coming to an end, what will happen to the promise. And in order for the promise to continue, Abraham’s son, Isaac, he must have a son. And in order for him to have a son, he needs to find a wife for his son Isaac. That’s what this story is about.
“And Abraham said to his servant, the oldest of his household, who had charge of all that he had, “Put your hand under my thigh that I may make you swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and God of the earth, that you will not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell, but will go to my country and to my kindred and take a wife for my son, Isaac.” The servant said to him, “Perhaps the woman may not be willing to follow me to this land. Must I then take your son back to the land from which you came?” Abraham said to him, “See to it that you do not take my son back there. The Lord, the God of heaven, who took me from my father’s house and from the land of my kindred and who spoke to me and swore to me, to your offspring, I will give this land. He will send his angel before you and you shall take a wife for my son from there. But if the woman is not willing to follow you, then you will be free from this oath of mine. Only, you must not take my son back there. So, the servant put his hand under the thigh of Abraham, his master, and swore to him concerning this matter.
Don’t get a wife from the Canaanites and don’t, under any circumstances, bring my son back to the town and the land of Nahor where he’s going. That’s where I’m from. We’re here now. Abraham is saying, “This is the promised land, and although you need to go back there to get a wife so that there is not compromise but it is a wife from our people, if she’s not willing, she’s going to have a say in this, if she’s not willing to come, then don’t take Isaac back there.” We’re here now in the Promised Land. And in order to make this official, he puts his hand under the thigh of Abraham. It was a sign of potency and power near the reproductive organ. You can be glad we just shake hands.
Interestingly, if you recall the first time we heard Abraham speak, he was lying to Pharaoh about his wife. That’s the first time we heard him speak. And now, the last time we hear him speak, he is reassuring his servant that the Lord, the God of heaven, will take care of everything. He’ll send his angel. He’s going to work it out. Abraham has indeed become the man of faith.
Continuing along, verse 10.
“Then, the servant took ten of his master’s camels and departed, taking all sorts of choice gifts from his master. And he arose and went to Mesopotamia to the city of Nahor. And he made the camels kneel down outside the city by the well of water at the time of evening, the time when women go out to draw water, and he said, “Oh Lord God of my master, Abraham, please grant me success today and show steadfast love to my master, Abraham,” the whole time standing by the spring of water, and the daughters of the men of the city are coming out to draw water. “Let the young women to whom I shall say, “Please let down your jar that I may drink and who shall say drink and I will water your camels.” Let her be the one whom you have appointed for your servant, Isaac. By this I shall know that you have shown steadfast love to my master.”
Notice, Abraham is a wealthy man. We’ve seen that. He loads up 10 camels. Now, camels are something you maybe go to the zoo or you see on some special on TV, but this is a sign of great wealth. This is like a caravan of 10 black SUVs with tinted windows, rolling up into your neighborhood. And you would think, wow, something important is going on here. Who’s here? What sort of visiting dignitary or the President or someone? Who is here? What is going on? It’s a sign of prominence, of wealth, and important task. And one of the themes throughout this story is just how much God is actually the one directing all these steps. And so Abraham has already said the Angel of the Lord is going to do it, and here his servant prays, “God, let it be this one. Let me meet her now.” Now, unfortunately men, you can’t always count on meeting a wife this way. But here, God is working everything out. He is the one in control, and Abrahams’s servant is right to pray, “Let it be her that I would meet here as I draw water and as she would give water to me.”
“Before he had finished speaking, all his prayers are going to be answered. Behold, Rebekah, who was born to Bethuel, the son of Milkah, the wife of Nahor, Abraham’s brother, came out with her water jar on her shoulder. The young woman was very attractive in appearance, a maiden whom no man had known. She went down to the spring and filled her jar and came up. Then the servant ran to meet her and said, “Please, give me a little water to drink from your jar.” She said, “Drink my Lord.” And she quickly let down her jar upon her hand and gave him a drink. When she had finished giving him a drink, she said, “I will draw water for your camels also until they have finished drinking.” So, she quickly emptied her jar into the trough and ran again to the well to draw water. And she drew for all his camels. The men gazed at her in silence to learn whether the Lord had prospered his journal or not.”
Here we are introduced to the woman who is going to be the new matriarch of the family. No coincidence that we just had the death of Sarah, and now we need a new matriarch. We often talk about the patriarchs, but the matriarchs here in this story are important just as much. We note in verse 15, she is the daughter of Bethuel. That makes her the granddaughter of Abraham’s brother, Nahor. So, Abraham is her great uncle. And Rebekah, who we’ll come back to in a little bit, she makes a very striking first impression. Beautiful, hardworking, hospitable, generous; it’s no wonder that the man is there in silence wondering, “Could this be the one that you have lead me to.”
“When the camels had finished drinking, the man took a gold ring, weighing a half-shekel, and two bracelets for her arms weighing 10 gold shekels, and said, “Please, tell me whose daughter you are? Is there room in your father’s house for us to spend the night?” She said to him, “I am the daughter of Bethuel, the son of Milkah, whom she bore to Nahor.”
Now, we’ve already known that from the narrator, Moses. But now, in this story, it’s revealed. She added, “We have plenty of both straw and fodder and room to spend the night.” The man bowed his head and worshipped the Lord and said, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of my master, Abraham, who has not forsaken his steadfast love and his faithfulness toward my master. As for me, the Lord has led me in the way to the house of my master’s kinsmen. Then the young woman ran and told her mother’s household about these things.”
So the master, the servant rather, of Abraham, his master comes with these gifts, gold rings and gold bracelets. Rebekah probably doesn’t realize yet that these are bridal gifts and they are meant for her. She gives her name, she gives her lineage, and the servant knows this is the woman we’ve been looking for. “Is it possible that we could stay in your house?” And so she rushes home to tell her house.
And now we meet her brother. Verse 29.
“Rebekah had a brother whose name was Laban. Laban ran out toward the man to the spring. As soon as he saw the ring and the bracelets on his sister’s arms, and heard the words of Rebekah his sister, thus, the man spoke to me, he went to the man and behold he was standing by the camels at the spring. He said, “Come in, oh blessed of the Lord. Why do you stand outside, for I have prepared the house and a place for the camels.” So the man came to the house and unharnessed the camels and gave straw and fodder to the camels, and there was water to wash his feet and the feet of the men who were with him. Then food was set before him to eat. But he said, “I will not eat until I have said what I have to say.” He said, “Speak on.”
So, we are introduced to Laban who is going to be an important character throughout the book of Genesis. This is Rebekah’s brother. Seems to be something of her caretaker, a big brother. We’ll find later that her father, Bethuel is still alive, but it appears that he must be too old or too infirmed. He gets a say in the matter, but really Laban is the one. And it was not uncommon in the ancient near East for an older brother to play a patriarchal role in the family. We’ll see this with Joseph and his brothers, especially when the father is aged. And maybe, just maybe, we get some hints of what kind of man Laban is. Whereas, Rebekah is quick to be generous to these strangers, Laban is quick to meet them when he finds that they have given gold to his sister, Rebekah. Ahh, these wealthy men, please we must meet them right away.
And then, in verse 34, we have the retelling of the story. Now, if you read through it, you may scratch your head. Why do we have to hear the story almost word for word again? But think about how often we have the doubling of stories in Genesis. You find it more with some of the dreams that are given in two different ways later in the book, that the doubling of the thing is to reinforce. It’s a way to set apart the story. They didn’t have italics. They didn’t have bold. They didn’t have underline, but it’s a way to give highlight to the story once again. And as he retells the story, he adds in a few choice bits. He makes sure that Laban understands that Abraham is wealthy, that Isaac is the sole heir, Ishmael has gone and left the scene, that he was born in Sarah’s old age because they might be thinking, well, how old is this man that you want my younger sister to marry. If his mom has already died, we will know he was born in her old age. He’s not married yet, so that’s good. It’s not a second wife, not a concubine. He’s not married, and he wants a wife from his own people. That’s important to know, lets Laban or Rebekah think, “Well, what’s the deal? He’s got to leave the country. He can’t find anybody in his own country who wants to marry him?” No, he’s going back to find his own people to be reassured that he would have an heir through his own family line. And then the servant reinforces this is the Lord’s doing. It will be a success, and then he waits for a response.
So let’s pick up at verse 50.
”Then Laban and Bethuel answered and said, “The thing has come from the Lord. We cannot speak to you, bad or good. Behold, Rebekah is before you. Take her and go and let her be the wife of your master’s son, as the Lord had spoken.” When Abraham’s servant heard their words, he bowed himself to the earth before the Lord. And the servant brought out jewelry of silver and of gold and garments and gave them to Rebekah. He also gave to her brother and to her mother costly ornaments. And he and the men who were with him ate and drank, and they spent the night there. When they arose in the morning, he said, “Send me away to my master.” Her brother and her mother said, “Let the young woman remain with us a while, at least 10 days. After this, she may go.”
So what’s going on here? On the one hand they agree. Okay, she can go with you. We give our blessing, our consents. But Laban is not so sure on second though. And if the Laban here is anything like the Laban who will later interact with Jacob, it’s possible Laban is scheming for more gifts. This phrase, let the girl remain with us at least 10 days, could be translated literally, let the girl remain with us days or 10. In some Jewish traditions, this meant a year or 10 days or it could mean a few days like 10, or it could mean an indefinite period of time. It was basically like saying, why don’t you stay with us another day or two or a hundred. It left the door open to be stuck in the land of Nahor for a long time, and perhaps in Laban’s thinking, “Maybe it’s an opportunity to get some more of the goodies before we send you on our way.”
But, verse 56.
“He said to them, the servant, “Do not delay me since the Lord has prospered my way. Send me away that I may go to my master.” So the servant said, “No, no, no we got to be on our way.” They said, “Let us call the young woman and ask her.” And they called Rebekah and said to her, “Will you go with this man?” Now, here’s the dramatic moment. Will you go with this man? She said, “I will go.”
So, we can see here that Rebekah is in some way under the authority of her big brother, Laban, under her father Bethuel. And yet, it’s striking even here in the ancient world, she is given a final decision. Well, what say you, daughter of mine, sister of mine? Do you want to go with these men you’ve never met and go to be married to a young man that you know nothing about? Quite a stir it must have been, that this man has come from Abraham. They haven’t seen Abraham for almost half a century. And here he is. It’s Abraham’s servant. Oh, Abraham, him? And he and Sarah have a child and they are looking for a wife. And the final decision is hers. And she says in dramatic fashion, “I’ll go.”
Well, we’re almost done with the story. Verse 59.
“So they sent away Rebekah, their sister, and her nurse and Abraham’s servant and his men. And they blessed Rebekah and said to her, “Our sister may become thousands of ten thousands and may your offspring possess the gates of those who hate him.” Then Rebekah and her young women arose and rode on the camels and followed the man. Thus, the servant took Rebekah and went his way.”
So, they send her off with his blessing. They send her off with her nurse. This was her wet nurse. Obviously, she is of age. She does not need a wet nurse, but later we learn this woman’s name is Deborah. And this would have been the woman who probably effectively raised her, sort of mother to her. So, it is an act of kindness that she does not need to go on this strange journey across the world to a new place and a new man all by herself, Deborah gets to go with her. Several other woman accompany her on her journey, and she is given again more gifts.
So now we are transitioning the scene away from Mesostomia back to the Promised Land.
“Now Isaac had returned from the Beer Lahai Roi and was dwelling in the Negev. And Isaac went out to meditate in the field toward evening and he lifted up his eyes and saw, and behold there were camels coming. And Rebekah lifted up her eyes, and when she saw Isaac, she dismounted from the camel and said to the servant, “Who is that man walking in the field to meet us.” The servant said, “It is my master.” So she took her veil and covered herself.”
Lest you think there are no romantic stories in the Bible, verses 23 and 24 are worded in such a way to suggest that their eyes meet at the same time. He’s meditating out in the field and looks up and then he sees the camels and she looks up and from some distance their eyes meet. Surely, Isaac knew that Abraham had sent his servant and maybe someone was coming soon, and she is on the outskirts of where the servant says Isaac will be. And so, as they each look up their gaze, they meet eyes for the first time, soon to be husband and wife.
“Then the servant told Isaac all the things that he had done. Then Isaac brought her into the tent of Sara, his mother, and took Rebekah and she became his wife. And he loved her. So, Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.”
By entering the tent of Isaac’s deceased mother, Sarah, Moses is telling us that Rebekah is now the new matriarch for God’s chosen people. She has literally entered into the place where the old matriarch was. The baton has been passed from Abraham and Sarah to Isaac and Rebekah, and so chapter 25 will be Abraham’s death and his decendents.
It’s a wonderful story. And there are a number of ways that we can look at this story; and I told you half of the sermon was going to be reading through the story. There are these three big themes in Genesis, probably more, but at least these three big themes: promise, providence, and blessing. And each of them are evident in this story. We see the promise to make Abraham a great nation is going to continue through Isaac and through his virgin bride. We see God working behind the scenes providentially to arrange a marriage, a marriage literally made in Heaven, and we see that the next generation is going to receive the blessing just as Abraham had received the blessing. So we could focus on any one of these themes – promise, providence, blessing. They’re in almost every single chapter in this book, and because they’re in almost every chapter and you’ve heard me preach on them before, you’ll hear me preach on them again, it does give us occasion from time to time throughout the book to deal with a subtheme.
The big idea is promise, providence, blessing. But there is an important subtheme and that is about Godly women and Godly marriage. Now, let me hasten to add, we must be careful here. This is not meant to be an exact go-to list for marital prospects. Okay, here’s what you want to do. Make sure she is related to you. That’s number one, and she is really good looking. You got those two things, that’s all you need. So, no, this is not an ancient dating app. And yet, the way chapter 24 highlights Rebekah, I believe it is fair to draw this inference, this subtheme, that God is saying to us through his Word, “Women, pay attention. This is what a Godly woman looks like.” And, the text is also saying to men, in particular men looking for a wife, “Pay attention, this is what a Godly woman looks like.” And if you’re already married, then I suggest men that you too pay attention so that you can go home later today and say, “You know what pastor was talking about, thank you that I have all of that in you.”
So there’s something here for all of us, but I want us to reflect in our time that’s left on what we might learn from this chapter about a Godly woman and a Godly wife. I have six qualities.
Number one: Number one, you see that Rebekah was of the family of God. Now, in the Old Testament, this is a spiritual and an ethnic thing. So, go away from the Canaanites, both because that may lead to religious compromise, and also we want to marry within our own clan. Now this gets transposed in the New Testament to a solely spiritual key. So, the language of the New Testament is “Do not be unequally yoked.” It is no longer tied to has to be someone of your ethnicity or someone of your family clan. But it does need to be someone of your spiritual family. That’s the lesson that we see from the New Testament. And it makes sense. Think about Abraham passing onto Isaac, Isaac needing a wife who will share with him a life based on the promises of God. To be married to someone when one person’s life is based on the promises of God and someone else’s life is towards some other great end, is a mistake. Now God is gracious and brings about conversions and sometimes because there may be children involved, it is still the best thing to get married, but we’re talking about here what is God’s plan and ideal. And if you are looking for a spouse, or will someday, and you think, “Well, my life is about these three things: The promises of God, the providence of God, and the blessings of God just like we’ve seen in Genesis.” And if that’s what your life is about, how could you yolk yourself to someone whose life is not about those things. Not building their life upon the promises of God but the promises of the American dream or the promises of a good retirement; not trusting ultimately in the providence of God but trusting in themselves; not depending upon the blessings of God. And so, we see Rebekah is of the family of God. That is the right sort of person and no wonder that Abraham says so emphatically that’s who you’re to look for.
Here’s the second quality. Now stick with me here. Verse 16.
She was beautiful. Now you say, that does not seem very spiritual. The young woman was very attractive in appearance. Well, I hear that, but if you pay attention in Genesis, every one of the matriarchs, Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, are all noted for their beauty. Now you say, “Oh great, what am I supposed to do about that?” But notice, no pictures, no measurements of height or weight, nothing about the color of the eyes or the color of the hair, what the cheekbones look like, nothing about the cut of her dress. So we can be thankful. God tells us these were beautiful woman and here is what it looks like. If you really love God, you’ll look like this. It doesn’t tell us that. Now, every time I have stood in front of a church with a groom and the doors open and his bride comes down and he stands there slack-jawed, every time his eyes say, “She’s beautiful.” And rightly so. And wouldn’t you in just telling your own family story, you might think to say, “And she was a lovely woman, and she was beautiful.” There are many different ways for a woman to be lovely. Every woman I’ve ever known wants to be beautiful. That’s part of the way God has wired us, one of the reasons why Hollywood stories strike us. That’s the way we do. Why? Certain interest in dress or look or makeup or filters, all of that, there is something built in, a desire to be beautiful. And the Bible doesn’t say, “Well, shame on you. The Bible says, “Well, let’s talk about what really is beautiful.” And again, the New Testament is going to use the Old Testament and transpose us. How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news. So, it’s the totality of Rebekah’s character that makes her lovely in addition to being a beautiful woman inside and out.
Here’s the third characteristic. And here, also, we will try to be careful. Verse 16.
“The young woman was very attractive in appearance.” And third quality, she was a virgin. “She was a maiden whom no man had known.” Now, this was important not only to establish her integrity but to ensure that any future offspring from Rebekah would surely be from Isaac, less she hadn’t been a virgin, and she goes on the trip and then she meets Isaac and she is pregnant and there is some controversy, “Well, whose baby really is this?” So, it’s important for her integrity and the integrity of the promised line.
So, let me make sure I say this carefully. Because whenever you talk about these sorts of things in scripture, and it is true for men and women. This is not just something that women and men you get to go and do whatever you want with your sex life. Of course not. This is for both men and women. God’s design is that the gift of sex is designed to be reserved for marriage. So, let me say a word, especially to any single people who say I know that, I see that, and that’s just not true of me anymore. Am I no longer the sort of Rebekah woman? Am I no longer the sort of man that God can be pleased with? Well, remember that the line of the Messiah includes women like Rahab, like Bathsheba. That is to say God does not put us on the shelf. He does not put us in the marital trash can, men and women, if we have sex before marriage. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” So, don’t hear this as a requirement and you blew it and you get second best for the rest of your life.
Now, having said that, we must not be embarrassed by what the Bible holds up and honors, that men and women would be virgins upon marriage. And I dare say that on most college campuses it is going to be a more shameful thing for people to discover that you are a virgin than it would be to discover that you have been sexually active. That is true on most college campuses with most single people. Now, if you are among good Christians, hopefully that’s not the case, but most places in our world, that is going to be a much more embarrassing thing. “You haven’t, really?” So, we need to honor what the Bible honors, that the gift is so great and so precious that God means to reserve it for marriage. And it was a sign of Rebekah’s integrity that she was a maiden who had not known a man.
We see that Rebekah was hospitable and generous. Look at verse 17. The servant says, “Can I have a little water?” In verse 18, she gives him the whole jar and then in verses 19 and 20, it is easy to miss what’s happening here. It’s astounding. She proceeds to get water for 10 camels, and did you notice it says in verse 19, “I will draw water for your camels also until they have finished drinking.” Camels drink a lot of water. She has a big jar she takes down. She gives some to the men. This is a feat of almost super human strength and generosity. She says let me go. How many? You got more camels? I’ll go back again. More camels. More camels. Drawing up water to show this lavish hospitality.
Verse 25. She says, “Yes, we have plenty of room in my household, lodging and food for the camels and for the men.” She is an example of hospitality and generosity. Again women, this does not mean “Well, I’m not a good Christian if I don’t have people over to my house at least once a week or once a month.” It doesn’t say, “And Rebekah lo, she invited strangers to her tent every fortnight.” No, it doesn’t say that. “And her tent never had any dirt inside.” What we know is that she was hardworking, eager to serve, especially to show care and generosity towards her guests, to look for the interest of others. This was an example of her godliness and integrity. She was hospitable and generous.
Number five, and here I’m daring to go where pastors ought not to tread. Look at verses 64 and 65.
“Rebekah lifted up her eyes and when she saw Isaac she dismounted from the camel and said to the servant, “Who is that man walking in the field to meet us?” The servant said, “It is my master.” So she took her veil and covered herself.”
Number 5, she was modest. This is always dangerous when the male pastor is going to say anything about modesty. So, let me make this clear from the outset. Modesty for women is not about men being such ravenous wolves that women are, therefore, responsible for their behavior. Sometimes that message gets communicated or maybe implied or wrongly heard, that modesty is really about “Well, all your brothers are going to stumble, so it’s up to you women to make sure that they don’t stumble, you know, being around you.” Well, there’s a grain of truth there. We do think about one another and we want to consider one another and bare one another’s burdens, so that’s part of being thoughtful. But that’s not the main reason for modesty and certainly, hear me clearly, we never ever want to communicate that somehow a woman is responsible for the man’s sin. The man’s sin is his sin. He is responsible for his sin of lust or whatever else. His sin.
So why does the Bible, not just here, but elsewhere talk about modesty. Sometimes the sin is, and it’s not just for women, but the sin is sensuality or there are passages in the Pastoral Epistles addressed to women about how they are to adorn themselves with certain kinds of apparel. Think about it. Immodesty, meaning presenting yourself wearing very little, very little in all the places that you try to wear very little. Immodesty communicates two things. One, it can communicate, “My body is the most important thing I have to offer.” Is that what we want to communicate? “The most important thing I have to offer to a man is this.” Really? It’s not your head? It’s not your heart? It’s not your character. It’s not your love for other people? So, that’s one thing that immodesty communicates.
A second thing that immodesty can communicate is “I do not have more to show my husband or my wife.” Men can be immodest as well, but we’re thinking here of Rebekah. “I don’t have more to show my future spouse than I have already shown everyone else.” That’s what immodesty communicates.
By contrast, modesty says, “I have something to hide.” Listen, “Not because it is bad or it is shameful; quite the opposite. Because the body God gave me is good and beautiful and pleasing, I am not going to reveal it to everyone.” Everyone says, “Well, you people and modesty, you’re body shamers, you’re women shamers.” No, it’s quite the opposite. Because the gift of the body is so precious and so glorious and meant to be so good, it is not to be shared with everyone. So, isn’t it amazing if this were written in our culture. Here’s Rebekah, “This is the man I’m going to marry.” This is our first impression. “How can I impress him? Well, quick, skirt’s too long. Quick, I’ve got to impress him. Put on less. No, here he is? I better cover myself.” Granted, there are cultural dynamics here. Women do not wear veils. We are not encouraging burkas. But think about it. Why do some brides, again you don’t have to, nothing in the Bible says you have to, but why has there sometimes been a tradition of brides wearing veils? It’s symbolic, but the symbolic gesture is very simple and very profound. You veil so you can unveil. That’s the point. You veil something because “Now, for my husband, he gets to, and I will for him, unveil.” And when the pastor says, “You may kiss the bride,” that’s just not the opportunity, well this is going to be awkward for everyone. It’s because biblically marriage is formed by two things. Marriage is formed by a public declaration of promises and by the covenant act of sex. And in public, you get the public declaration of promises, you don’t get the active sex, so you get “Hey, let’s just take the kiss and we’ll take their word for it.” That’s what that’s about. There’s an unveiling, a revealing, that each now is for each other.
The last thing on this subject for young people in particular, though it could be for men and women of any age now, it has never been easier with your phones to see someone naked, to be naked for someone else. Men, you never, ever ask for that. Never. We are kidding ourselves if we don’t think that that happens in our world. May it not be happening with our own children or grandchildren. Guys say could you show me this. Easiest thing in the world. Just text. Could you show me something? And women, girls, don’t ever give it. Don’t ever give it. No matter what sort of pressure there is, what sort of, “Well, this is what everyone does.” It is not what everyone does or everyone has to do. Men, don’t you dare ask for it. Women, don’t give it. God calls us to be modest, to veil that there may be a great unveiling at the right moment.
And here’s the final point. Rebekah was full of faith. Have you noticed she is deliberately cast as the female counterpart to Abraham. Think about all the connections. God shows up to Abraham in chapter 12. “Go.” You don’t know where you’re going. “Go to the Promised Land. Leave your family. Trust me, go.” Same thing with Rebekah. In fact, leaving the same place to go to the same place you don’t know. You’re going to have to trust, and she says just like Abraham, “I’ll go.” Just like Abraham, she receives great wealth along the way. Just like Abraham, she receives a blessing. May you become thousands of ten thousands. May your offspring possess the gates of those who hate him. Her leaving is an act of great faith. She is the female counterpart to Abraham.
Women, I hope you see there are examples for you to follow in the Bible. Yes, there’s more men in here than women, and we can all learn things, both men and women, from the examples of men and women. And yet there is something powerful to see here. This example of what a Godly woman looks like. And men, if you are married, you see these things in your wife. I’m sure you do unless you have eyes that have gone blind. It would be good for you to commend your wife for it. Men looking for a wife, someday looking for a wife, I know you got a list of things. Sometimes your list is too short. You know, she’s just got to be gorgeous. Sometimes your list is too long. You got 12, 15, 30 things. This is a good starting list. Of all the things that make a woman beautiful, faith is what makes her the most lovely, a faith-filled woman like Rebekah.
Four years ago, on the Gospel Coalition in 2017, there was a piece by Joni Eareckson Tada reflecting on her 50 years since her diving accident which left her paralyzed; and so many of us have been blessed by her ministry and some here work with her personally. I just want to read, the whole article is worth reading, just the end, to speak and highlight a woman of godly beauty and faith.
“Last week, my husband Ken and I were at our Joni and Friends Family Retreat in Alabama. We were lunching in the big noisy dining room when a college-age volunteer approached me holding a kid with Down syndrome on her hip. She gestured at the crowd and asked, “Ms. Joni, do you ever think how none of this would have happened were it not for your diving accident?” I flashed a smile and said, “It’s why I thank God every day for my wheelchair.” After she left, I stared for a moment at the dining hall scene. I suddenly had a 35,000 foot view of the moment. She’s right. How did I get here? It has everything to do with God and his grace, not just grace over the long haul but grace in the tiny moments like breathing in and out, like stepping stones leading you from one experience to the next. The beauty of such grace is that it eclipses the suffering until one July morning you look back and see five decades of God working in a mighty way. Grace softens the edges of past pains, helping to highlight the eternal. What you are left with is peace that is profound, joy that is unshakeable, faith that is ironclad.”
And I know we have similar examples, different life stories, but scores of godly women in this church. The life of faith, women, is lovely to Christ and it is lovely to everyone who has the eyes to see it. May God work such life among our women here and may he give to the men the spiritual eyes to see and to savor the best kind of beauty.
Our Father in heaven, we give thanks for your Word. In surprising places, it gives us lessons that are so relevant. We pray that you would give to us your Spirit that we may embrace these things for ourselves. As you Lord Jesus are the fairest of ten thousand, so may we grow in likeness to you. In your name we pray. Amen