The longest single narrative in the book of Genesis, and in the entire Pentateuch, isn’t about Noah or Jacob or Joseph, or even Abraham. It’s about Rebekah (chapter 24). Why would this narrative be about a young woman instead of one of the patriarchs? Let’s investigate.
Facing a choice
In this account, Rebekah is a young woman living an ordinary, uneventful life. Then one day, a stranger shows up as she’s drawing water from a well. He asks her for a little water to drink. She gives him a drink, then offers to draw water for his camels too. He gives her gold jewelry and asks to go to her father’s house. There he tells her family that he is a servant, and his master has sent him on a journey to find a wife for his son. If Rebekah returns with him, she’ll become his bride. If she chooses not to go, he’s cleared of his oath to his master.
Her family asks her, “Are you willing to leave with this man at once?” (v. 58, CEV).
Rebekah is aware that the choice she’s making will change her life forever. The servant is asking her to leave her family and home and travel to a foreign land she’s never seen to marry a man she’s never met. It’s an act of faith, and she’s willing to do it.
The next day, Rebekah embarks on a long journey that will last several months. With many hours to reflect as she travels, one would expect this young woman to begin questioning her own judgment. It’s also likely she asked Abraham’s servant to tell her more about the man she is going to marry and about his family. Let’s listen in on what he might have told her.
“The father of the man you’re marrying is my master, Abraham. Many years ago, he was given the same choice that you were given. God told him to leave his family and go to a land he had never seen. God promised to bless him there so he would become the father of many nations. And like you, Abraham chose to follow God. Along the way, he discovered, as you are, that this journey of faith has many peaks and valleys.
“At first, you were excited to leave your routine, ordinary life for the possibilities of a bright new future. But now you’re missing your family and you fear the unknown world that awaits you. You’re concerned that you’ve made a mistake. That’s understandable. You’ve just made a choice that will change your life forever, without knowing who, what, or where. But that doesn’t mean your choice was impulsive and foolish. On the contrary, you based your choice on my assurance of what I know. I know you’ve made the right choice because I know the one who waits for you. The journey of faith is a relationship. It isn’t about what you know; it’s about who you know. You’ve chosen to trust me, and I am worthy of your trust.
“The man you’re marrying is Isaac. He’s the son that God promised to Abraham long before he was born. At that time, Abraham’s name was Abram, and his wife’s name was Sarai. For the next ten years after God’s promise, Abram and Sarai remained childless. After such a long time, Abram reasoned that they’d never have a child and that his servant Eliezer would inherit God’s promise. It seemed to Abram that God’s promise was intended for Eliezer, not for him.
“Abram’s concerns about his own inabilities drew him down into one of the dark valleys of his faith journey, so God visited him again. He reassured Abram that His promise for descendants as innumerable as the stars was for him, not for another. Abram chose to believe God.
“Then God brought Abram outside and told him to count the stars, if he could. That’s how innumerable his descendants would be. Abram believed what God said, so God credited it to him as righteousness.
“That’s what God wants from you: trust.
“To remove any lingering doubt, God confirmed His promise to Abram in a sacrificial covenant. This act resolved Abram’s doubts, but not Sarai’s. In His promise to Abram, God had said nothing about Sarai, who had been barren for years. Like Abram, Sarai reasoned that God’s promise must have been intended for her handmaid, not for her. So Sarai gave Hagar to Abram as a surrogate mother. Nine months later, Ishmael was born.
“However, this wasn’t God’s good will for her. Abram and Sarai were united in a marriage covenant. In God’s eyes, they were one flesh. Therefore, God’s promise of a son to Abram was for Sarai as well. By leaving it unsaid, God gave Sarai and Abram the opportunity to trust Him. He wanted the best for both of them, and He would provide. But they had failed to trust God in that. This failure will trouble the family you’re joining far into the future, but God will be faithful to the nation they become. God has made a covenant with this family, and He is faithful to His covenant even when we fail Him.”
The servant continues:
“Another fourteen years passed before God spoke with Abram again. By now, Abram was one hundred years old, Sarai was ninety, and Ishmael was thirteen. This time, God told them that they would have a son together. Neither of them could believe it at first. Abram knew that both he and Sarai were dead in their ability to have children at their advanced age. Nevertheless, God was faithful to His promise. Within a year, Sarai, now called Sarah, gave birth to Isaac.
“Rebekah, know this. From within the realm of human ability, the man you are to marry should not exist. His birth is a miracle.
“And there’s more. When Isaac was a young man, God told his father to take his son to the land of Moriah and offer him as a sacrifice. On the third day of their journey, Isaac was redeemed from certain death when God provided a lamb to take his place. God’s covenant blessings are upon the man you are to marry. Therefore, when you enter the marriage covenant with Isaac, you also enter this covenant with God. As his bride, you will become the mother of countless generations as numerous as the stars. This is the glorious future that awaits you.”
Moses wrote this account of Rebekah over three thousand years ago. Yet when we read it, we realize that we’re reading our own story. The Father sent His unnamed servant (the Holy Spirit) to seek a bride (the church) for His Son (Jesus). The Holy Spirit has asked us to leave our old life behind to travel to a new home and “marry” a Man we’ve never met. By accepting Jesus as Savior, we’ve entered into the covenant to become His bride (Ephesians 5:23, 31-33). And our glorious eternal future with Him has already begun (2:4-9)!
The first book, Genesis, tells us of the search for a bride for Christ, the search for you and me. Colossians 1:26, 27 describes the glorious mystery hidden for ages and now revealed: Christ in us, the hope of glory. First John 3:1-3 says that all who have this hope in Christ purify themselves, as Christ is pure. And the final book, Revelation, reveals our glorious eternal future when the new Jerusalem, filled with those redeemed by Christ, becomes His bride:
And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away (Revelation 21:1-4, KJV).
Are we ready to accept, in faith, our role in this glorious plan?