Of Wells and Promises

As our journey with Abraham closes, we embark next on Genesis 26 with Isaac. Genesis 26 is a really interesting chapter that basically consists of Isaac retracing his father’s steps. There is again famine in the Promise Land. Isaac moves and settles in the land of the Philistines – just like Abraham. When the Philistines take notice of the beautiful Rebekah, Isaac resorts to deception to save his own skin – just like Abraham! (Parents, take note! Your children will follow the example that you set for them.)

But we also watch as Isaac follows in his father’s steps of faith. You may have noticed that Genesis 26 has a lot of wells in it. I find these wells particularly fascinating. Verse 18 reads, “Isaac reopened the wells his father had dug, which the Philistines had filled in after Abraham’s death. Isaac also restored the names Abraham had given them” (NLT). As I think about wells from a modern-day, life-application perspective, I think of digging down into the origins of our faith – of tapping into the legacy our early Christian parents and pioneers have left us. Wells also symbolize drilling down and setting our roots deep into our own personal relationship and communion with God. Of course, the enemy tries to stop up these wells, doesn’t he? But we are to keep building new wells and digging deeper and deeper until our soul’s thirst is at last satisfied by “living” water.

As we all know, Isaac made some mistakes in his life. I get annoyed, for instance, that this whole “lying that your wife is your sister” business keeps popping up – not just twice but three times in Genesis! What in the world is their problem? Why doesn’t God handle things a little more sternly? But I really like what Pastor Bob Deffinbaugh has to say when he points out that the deception is really just a “symptomatic sin and not the root sin” (Bible.org). Deception, in these cases, is merely a side-effect of a root problem of fear. “This fear was the product of an inadequate concept of God.” And that’s what I love so much about Genesis 26:24. After Isaac has finally returned to the heart of the Promise Land following a really, really long detour, God appears to Isaac that very same night and confirms a simple but amazing promise: “I am the God of your father Abraham; do not fear, for I am with you.” You see, God doesn’t punish and condemn Isaac for his mistake. Instead, He responds by re-introducing Himself to Isaac! God introduces Himself as a Protector and a Promise-Keeper who desires a personal relationship with Isaac.

“So Isaac built an altar there and called on the name of the Lord, and he pitched his tent there; and there Isaac’s servants dug a well” (vs. 25). Isaac responds with worship, by calling on the name of the Lord. Up to this point, I think Isaac has known God as the God of his father Abraham, but now Jehovah is his God – the God of Isaac! And then, guess what. Isaac digs another well. This well will be named Beersheeba – that is, “Well of Oath” or “Well of Promise,” forever reminding Isaac and us of a God who is an eternal Covenant-Keeper.

 

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Genesis 24: Marriage

Before Abraham died, one purpose lay heavy on his heart: A bride had to be found for Isaac. And so, Abraham called his most trusted servant and committed to him the task of finding a bride from Abraham’s Mesopotamian homeland. Upon reaching his journey’s destination, this faithful servant (who we believe was Eliezer) proposes a sign which would place God in charge of the selection process. He asks that the chosen young woman would be the one who was not only willing to offer him a drink but who would also volunteer to perform the hefty chore of watering all of the caravan’s camels! Eliezer was not looking for outward appearances; he was looking for a woman of character and inner strength. Amazingly enough, before Eliezer even finishes his prayer, the beautiful Rebekah shows up on the scene. She didn’t yet realize it, but God had chosen her to fulfill one of the most important roles in sacred history.

Skipping forward a bit, Eliezer meets Rebekah’s family and tells them of his mission. They agree to let Rebekah go with him and put the final choice to Rebekah to refuse or accept. Rebekah’s words are ones of tremendous faith: “I will go.” She was willing to leave everything known behind to embark on a new life! Clearly Rebekah had faith that the God she worshipped was leading the way. Genesis 24 happily ends like a romantic love story: “Then Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent; and he took Rebekah and she became his wife, and he loved her.”

Actually, Rebekah and Isaac’s story provides a profound reminder of Christ’s marriage covenant to us. You see, in the ancient Hebrew culture, here’s how a marriage took place: When it was time for a young man to marry, the father would commit his most trusted servant with the task of searching out a bride. In our story, it seems that Eliezer was sent. Fascinatingly enough, the name Eliezer means “God of help” or “Helper,” reflecting the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives! (See John 14:16.)

Once a potential bride was identified – and, assuming she was willing to go through with the engagement – the son would go to the bride’s family and a special betrothal ceremony would take place. In this ceremony, the bridegroom would present a special marriage contract called a Ketubah. In the Ketubah, the bridegroom listed all of his promises to care for and love the bride. The marriage covenant was then sealed with a cup of wine and the bridegroom left for his father’s house to build the wedding chamber. In the long months of preparation, the bride and the bridegroom would not see each other. The bridegroom’s best man acted as the liaison between the bride and the groom, often delivering gifts from the bridegroom. The bride would also cherish her Ketubah, reading over the groom’s promises to her. When the marriage chamber was finally complete, the groom would come and surprise the bride (often around midnight) with a loud and joyful wedding procession!

Christ has committed Himself to be our bridegroom. He sealed His marriage promise to us with the cup of the New Covenant. And He promises that He will come back for us: “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (John 14:2-3, ESV). As we wait for His return, we have a link to our Bridegroom through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. We also have our Ketubah to cherish – His Holy Word, filled to the brim with His extravagant promises to us!

You see, the beautiful story of Rebekah and Isaac reminds us of what God’s marriage covenant to us is really all about. It’s not a two-way contract where both parties have equal responsibilities to fulfill. The bride’s role was simply to accept the groom’s covenantal pledge to her and then to faithfully wait for his return! And that’s our part too.

May God bless!