Dr Clifford Denton.
Chayei Sarah: Genesis 23:1-25:18.
11th November 2023/Cheshvan27.
…he took Rebekah and she became his wife, and he loved her (Genesis 24:67)
Picture by Helen McNeill
For the greater part of the 175 years of Abraham’s life, God’s covenant focus was chiefly on the journey of faith of Abraham and Sarah, to bring up their son Isaac. In the space of three chapters of the Bible, the focus changes. Sarah died and was buried in dignity; some years later Abraham also died. This is covered in just a few verses.
Isaac now became the central focus of covenant history. The theme of family continues. It is not through individuals alone that covenant history proceeds, it is through husbands and wives who bear and bring up children in the ways of God. The extent of their commitment, focus and success determines how the next stages of God’s covenant purposes proceed.
There is perhaps no more beautiful account of a bride and bridegroom coming together than the bringing of Rebekah to Isaac. Abraham took the initiative to send his most loyal servant to his family, to Nahor in Mesopotamia. We can conjecture that the servant was Eliezer, mentioned in Genesis 15:2, but the servant sent to find a bride for Isaac is not named. It is an arranged marriage. Whilst Abraham gave instructions to his servant, it is also clear that God oversaw the choice of Isaac’s bride.
The human side of the story is beautiful and full of dignity, but the part that God played made the story infinitely more wonderful. There is the faith and inspiration that motivated Abraham in the first place. Abraham and Isaac had been father and son together before God until the time came for Isaac to become a husband to the wife who was chosen for him. The trusted servant went on the long journey to Haran in faith and trusted God to identify the chosen bride. This choice was of great importance to God, as well as to Abraham and Isaac, because Isaac’s wife was to bear the children who would be heirs of the covenant and their successive children would form the nation about whom God had spoken to Abraham so many years before. This was man with God, with all the human vulnerability present, taking covenant history forward in both a human and divine way, culminating in the poignant moment when Isaac lifted his eyes to see his future bride approaching in the distance. Surely the nature of the meeting was brought about under the inspiration of God, in the beauty ordained for all believing families, not just that of Isaac and Rebekah.
We can take this account of a prepared bride meeting her bridegroom as a picture of how a bride is being prepared for Yeshua (Jesus). Abraham’s servant is a picture of the Holy Spirit sent to bring those chosen and prepared as Yeshua’s bride. As Revelation 19:7-9 says, let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Then he said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!’
When we see how the imagery of this arranged marriage between Isaac and Rebekah can prompt reflection on God’s choosing a bride for His only Son Yeshua, building on the way Isaac on Mount Moriah also foretold of Yeshua on the Cross, we are constantly filled with wonder. We are compelled to read and reread this account prayerfully and worshipfully – the yearning within the heart of God is illustrated in it for us.
From these meditations we are also strengthened in our understanding of God’s desire for our own marriages. It is sometimes said, “marriages are made in Heaven”. This is indeed God’s best intention, for a man and a woman to seek God’s leading for whom God has prepared for them and to patiently wait His timing for how He will bring them together. God’s covenant family is made up of our individual families, each family unit modelling the whole, so why should we not expect God’s best and most wonderful plan to be manifest to believing families, as it was for Isaac and Rebekah?
It was at the right time that Abraham was inspired to send his servant to Haran. Psalm 127:3 says that, children are a heritage from the Lord, The fruit of the womb is a reward. Abraham’s one and only promised son was a heritage from the Lord, and it was Abraham’s commission to prepare his son for covenant responsibility and personal responsibility before God and for marriage; the future of the whole nation to come was at stake. Abraham’s responsibility in this regard was completed when Rebekah met Isaac and she was taken into his mother’s tent to begin the next phase of God’s covenant plan. Abraham and Sarah were to go to their eternal rest and the next family took their place for God’s purposes.
Our family, like Abraham’s and Isaac’s, can be a full part of God’s purposes as each generation succeeds another. This is awe-inspiring and wonderful and makes us tremble in our human frailty. Yet God is as able for us as he was for the forefathers of our faith.