Title: The Faith of Men and the Providence of God
Text: Genesis 24.1-67
Introduction: I think one of the most interesting aspects of my faith in God is His Sovereignty. I’m blown away by my actions and his providence. Note: Never when I’m in it – only after I’ve gone through it (whatever it may be)! I look back over my life and see His hand.
One of the most amazing things is a dream I had. I’ve mentioned this before on Sunday morning, but most here haven’t heard. I believe it was a supernatural experience. Until recently, I only shared this with a few people, because it is so precious to me. There are two things about my dreams that stand out: 1. My dreams are 99% of the time in black and white, and 2. 99% of my dreams are forgotten by the time I get out of bed. I can only remember a few of dreams from my whole life. One in particular occurred when I was in Harlingen. I asked my pastor about it, because it wouldn’t go away – it just seemed so significant. 1st, I remembered it vividly. 2nd, it was in color.
Over the next few years, every event played out in my life and I came to realize that my dream was a very special gift from God. 2ndly, as everything played out, God showed me that he was in control of my life and ministry all along. And, that carries me today. God is in control of my life and ministry.
Today’s lesson from Genesis teaches us just that: God is in absolute control. Yes, we make decisions and choices and interact with each other everyday. And, somehow, someway, God is behind it all.
Listen to Hughes: In Genesis 24, the structure of this twice-told story of Isaac and Rebekah gives us the advantage of knowing what happens before the main characters do and thereby observing the providential workings of God in everyday life. The position of this great story in Genesis at the end of Abraham’s life serves, in effect, to tell us that this is the way God works day in and day out in our lives. Such a God, of course, is great beyond our imaginings because he maintains all of life, involves himself in all events, and directs all things to their appointed end while rarely interrupting the natural order of life.
That’s incredible to comprehend. He maintains all of life, involves himself in all events, and directs all things to their appointed end while rarely interrupting the natural order of life. Let that sink in: God isn’t an absent God. He isn’t ‘watching us from a distance’ either. God is interacting with his creation.
Transition: God had blessed Abraham with a very special relationship. God’s faithfulness to Abraham throughout the years has caused Abraham to trust Him – implicitly. At this stage in his life, he knows his life is coming to an end and God would continue to do what He had promised.
I’ve divided this passage up – all 67 verses – into 4 parts:
- The Faith of Abraham
- The Expression of Faith
- The Blessing of Faith
- The Rewards of Faith
Let’s look first at Abraham’s faith…
I. The Faith of Abraham (1-9)
exp.: rd v 1-4; as expressed in his servant’s charge: Swear to me! Take an oath!
The Oath: Get my son a wife (4)
The Specifics: A wife who is not a Canaanite, but rather from my kindred, from my home country. (3)
The Stipulations: (2x’s); rd v 5: What if she won’t come? Do I then take your son ‘back home’? rd v 6-8; Don’t take my son out of this land – the land promised. V 7 declares Abraham’s faith in God’s promise.
The Promise: rd v 9 – the servant promises…
t.s.: Now v 10 takes place over the course of many months and many miles as Faith is Expressed through the actions of this servant…
II. The Expression of Faith (10-28)
exp.: rd v 10; So much activity in one verse; rd v 11; we know that archeological evidence has proven Scripture to be false because there were no domesticated camels back then! Have ya’ll heard that?
John Noble Wilford; NY Times; These anacronisms verify that the Bible was edited well after the stories were written and is not reliable for verifiable history. They insinuate that the Bible is wrong about the fact that there were camels in the time of Abraham. But what about the bones of camels found in deeper sediment? Those bones probably were probably wild camels hunted for food. Seriously. This is an article in NY Times in mid-February.
How does this apply? I only bring it up because it’s recent. There have always been, and I suppose, there will always be in this life, people who use weak arguments to establish facts that disagree with the Word of God. But let me ask you: What if there were solid archeological evidence that the world was not created but rather ‘just came into being’? or, what if there were solid evidence that Paul never existed, or that … you fill in the blank. Ladies and Gentlemen, we live by faith – just like Abraham. And, even if the entire scientific world had proof that there were no camels in Abraham’s time or no giants in David’s time or no lions in Daniel’s time – we still believe God’s word to be true. Let’s move on… look at this servant’s faith as expressed through prayer;
1. Through Prayer: rd v 11; he’s doing what he would normally do after a long journey;
App.: here is our 1st application. God acts in and through our normal activities of everyday life. Now, we see this servant’s faith as expressed in…
– His Petition
- Request: rd v 12; Grant success
- Real life: This isn’t a ‘stop the sun’; send fire from the sky request; rd v 13; the women are coming out; let the one you desire stick out; rd v 14;
- Recognize her and he does by; rd v 15-16;
– Her Beauty (Easy on the eyes); rd v 17-21; Kindness, Character, work ethic,
– How many camels did he have? 10 Camels – camels drink on average 25 gallons of water, a typical jar in that day would hold about a 3 gallons; 8 trips per camel, 80 trips in all; (20) Now, there is another way he would recognize that this is the woman God has chosen: she’s to be a family member; He seeks confirmation; rd v 22-25;
– Family member – a distant relative; And so how does he respond? This is the 2nd way we see his faith displayed in his prayer – through worship;
– His Worship; rd v 26-27
- His posture
- His gratitude is poured out before God.
Transition: so faith is expressed through prayer in petition and worship, but next we see it is expressed through everyday life
2. Through Everyday circumstances (29-33); The women going out to the well; the hospitality of I can’t eat until I’ve said what I’ve come to say; Speak; so we now hear his …
3. Testimony (34-49); a repeat; why? Listen to Hughes: At this the servant launched into a lengthy retelling of Abraham’s commission to find a wife, his wife-finding mission to Mesopotamia, and his amazing encounter with Rebekah. The rehearsal of the story may be tedious to our western ears, but by ancient conventions it was essential. And as the servant told the story, recorded in verses 34–49, he repeated the central points of the narrative while adding and subtracting minor points to maximize the effect on Laban and his father Bethuel. His purpose was, of course, to convince them of God’s providential guidance so that they would consent to sending Rebekah to Isaac. Matthews, in his New American Commentary says that all of this was done to convince both the readers and Laban and his family that this was a “match made in heaven” as it were. And both father and son agree: rd v 50-51;
t.s.: Which brings us to point # 3…
III. The Blessing of Faith (50-61)
exp.: So, these men agree and the servant bows in worship for the 3rd time; rd v 52-60; What a wonderful feeling it must have been for this servant of Abraham’s as they head out in v 61;
1st we looked at the Faith of Abraham – obviously too old to travel himself; 2nd we looked that the faith of the servant as expressed through his prayers and everyday life; 3rd, we saw how God blessed their faith. Finally, let’s close this section out by seeing this blessing blossom. Rd v 63-67; this is our 4th section
IV. The Reward of Faith (62-67)
exp.: Really, is there a difference between reward & blessing? Eliezer is blessed, Rachel is blessed, Isaac is blessed, I’m sure Abraham is blessed;
Conclusion: Invitation to trust Christ with every part of your life…