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Thou shalt not take a wife unto my son of the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell: but thou shalt go unto my country, and to my kindred, and take a wife unto my son Isaac
Abraham’s provision for the marriage of his son
1. He accepts the fact that his time for making such a provision is short (Genesis 24:1).
2. He is careful about the family from whence his son’s wife is to spring (Genesis 24:3).
3. He relies upon human faithfulness.
II. RELIGIOUS FAITH.
1. He gratefully recognizes the hand of God in all his past life (Genesis 24:1).
2. He recognizes the supreme control of God over all things.
3. He acts upon the known will of God.
4. While he trusts in human faithfulness, he recognizes the importance of binding men by a sense of religious fear and duty (Genesis 24:3; Genesis 24:9). (T. H. Leale.)
I. THE SELECTION OF THE BRIDE. Abraham gave this command--
1. Because the Canaanites differed from Isaac in their taste. They were steeped in vile sins and disgusting depravity.
2. Because a bad influence might be exerted on Isaac’s mind.
3. Because the Canaanites were to be destroyed.
II. THE MEANS EMPLOYED TO ENSURE SUCCESS.
1. Human instrumentality.
2. Trust in God.
III. THE SPIRIT IN WHICH THIS MARRIAGE WAS CONSUMMATED.
1. In a modest spirit (Genesis 24:65).
2. In a confident spirit (Genesis 24:58).
3. In a loving spirit (Genesis 24:67). (Homilist.)
How Isaac got his wife
I. THE CAREFUL FATHER.
1. Abraham’s godliness (Genesis 24:3).
2. Abraham’s steadfast faith in God’s promises and God’s providence (Genesis 24:7-8).
3. Abraham’s prudent precautions.
II. THE PRAYERFUL SERVANT.
1. His prayer.
2. His patience.
3. His praise,
4. His prudence.
III. THE WISHED-FOR WIFE.
1. Her beauty.
2. Her graciousness.
3. Her energy.
4. Her resoluteness.
IV. THE ISSUE.
1. What Abraham desired.
2. What Eliezer prayed for.
3. What Isaac wanted. (W. S. Smith, B. D.)
Abraham’s conduct in this matter
In this domestic concern of Abraham we see several of the most prominent features of his character.
1. His decided aversion to idolatry (Genesis 24:3). Had Abraham then contracted a prejudice against his neighbours? This does not appear by what occurred between them in the last chapter. He does not complain of their treatment of him, but of his God. He has no objection to an exchange of civilities with them; but to take their daughters in marriage was a sure way to corrupt his own family. The great design of God in giving the land to Abraham’s posterity was the eventual overthrow of idolatry, and the establishment of His true worship on earth. To what purpose, then, was he called from amongst Chaldean idolaters, if his son join affinity with those of Canaan?
2. His godliness. There does not appear in all this concern the least taint of worldly policy, or any of those motives which usually govern men in the settlement of their children. No mention is made of riches, or honours, or natural accomplishments; but merely of what related to God. Let not the woman be a daughter of Canaan, but of the family of Nahor, who had forsaken Chaldean idolatry, and with Milcah his wife had settled in Haran, and who was a worshipper of the true God.
3. His faith and obedience. The servant being about to bind himself by oath, is tenderly concerned he should engage in more than he should be able to accomplish. “Peradventure,” saith he, “the woman will not follow me into this land: must I needs bring thy son again into the land whence thou camest?” No; as Isaac must not marry a daughter of Canaan, neither must he leave Canaan to humour a daughter of Haran; for though Canaan!’ daughters are to be shunned, yet Canaan itself is to be chosen as the Lord’s inheritance bestowed on the promised seed. Nor do these supposed difficulties at all deter Abraham; “The Lord God of heaven,” saith he, “who took me from my father’s house, and from the land of my kindred, and who spake unto me, and sware unto me, saying, Unto thy seed will I give this land, He shall send His angel before thee, and thou shalt take a wife unto my son from thence.” (A. Fuller.)
A worthy servant
Melancthon’s friends were astonished at his liberality, and wondered how, with his small means, he could afford to give so much in charity. It is said to have been principally owing to the care and good management of an excellent and faithful servant named John, a native of Sweden. The whole duty of provisioning the family was entrusted to this domestic, whose care, assiduity, and prudence amply justified the unbounded confidence reposed in him. He made the concerns of the family his own, avoiding all needless expenditure, and watching with a jealous eye his master’s property. He was also the first instructor of the children during their infancy. John grew old in his master’s service, and expired in his house amidst the affectionate regrets of the whole family. Melancthon invited the students of the university to attend the funeral of his faithful servant, delivered an oration over his grave, and composed a Latin epitaph for his tombstone.
A sympathetic servant
They that are in power should be extremely cautious to commit the execution of their plans, not only to those who are able, but to those who are willing. As servants and instruments it is their duty to do their best, but their employers are never so sure of them as when their duty is also their pleasure. To commit the execution of a purpose to one who disapproves of the plan of it is to employ but one-third of the man; his heart and his head are against you, you have commanded only his hands. (Colton.)
A marriage contracted in the Lord
I. Abraham, in this matter, is evidently guided by a higher wisdom than his own; although he is left apparently to consult and act for himself. Both Abraham and his servant regard the transaction in which they are now engaged as essentially connected with the covenant of which Isaac, or rather Isaac’s seed, was to be the heir. They look upon the arrangement of this marriage as an important step in the way of the fulfilment of the covenant. And hence, by an appeal to the covenant and to its seal, they hallow it.
II. Such being the spirit in which this commission is given by the aged patriarch, and undertaken by his confidential servant--the execution of it is in entire harmony with its commencement. The preparation for the journey is simple; the execution of it is safe. He forms his plan of conduct--the most expedient and most likely to be successful that could well bedevised. He spreads it out before God. And he humbly seeks Divine countenance and co-operation.
III. It is a striking and singular thing that now presents itself. The incident at the well, &c.
IV. The preliminaries of this affair having passed off so auspiciously--so manifestly, as all the parties concerned acknowledge, under the immediate and supernatural providence of God--the negotiation proceeds happily to its issue, and the marriage-treaty is simply and satisfactorily concluded.
V. Thus, as to all that is essential to it, the treaty of marriage is fully ratified, according to all the usages of Eastern hospitality, and in a sense, too, with all the munificence of princely state. It is now merely a question of time and circumstance--as to when and how the treaty is to be carried out.
VI. And now the strange embassy is well ended. The journey back to Canaan is without adventure or interruption. The caravan, with its attendant camels and bands of servants, is drawing near to the place where Abraham’s tents are pitched. What tumultuous thoughts are filling the bosom of the young stranger! Her venerable friend is not unmoved himself. The first glimpse of his master’s encampment, in the distance afar off, stirs his soul to its warmest depths. He has right joyous news to impart to the aged pilgrim; he has a gracious daughter to present to him. And that daughter--may she not well be agitated as she approaches the unknown scene of the great crisis of her life, in profoundest darkness as to what the colour of that life is to be? What a meeting on that calm summer’s night! It is faith meeting faith--faith venturous and bold, meeting faith meditative and meek! (R. S. Candlish, D. D.)
A bride for the heir
On the mother’s funeral there followed, after an interval, the wedding of her son. The sequence is according to nature. As one generation goes, the next succeeds; and life is made up of just such contrasts. There was no unseemly haste. With that leisurely disregard for time which characterized the age, three whole years were given to mourning. A connection can be traced, notwithstanding, between the funeral and the marriage. For one thing, the loss of his wife must have warned Abraham of the passing away of his own generation, and recalled him to the duty of providing for the permanence of the chosen line. Already Isaac was verging on the age of forty; yet he does not appear of his own accord to have contemplated marriage or taken any steps towards it. His placid and inactive temper seemed likely to cling to memories of the past rather than provide for the future. One can well believe how tender must have been Sarah’s affection for a son long waited for, divinely bestowed, and worthy of her love. With not less warmth did the son return his mother’s fondness. As the months grew into years, his grief for her loss seems to have grown more settled. There came to be some risk of its sapping the healthy vitality of his manhood. For Isaac’s own sake, it was time to rouse him by a fresh interest, and fill up the blank over which he was disposed to brood. (J. O. Dykes, D. D.)
And the servant . . . departed.
The embassy of Abraham’s servant
I. HE USES ALL POSSIBLE HUMAN MEANS OF SUCCESS.
II. HE EXPECTS DIVINE HELP.
1. His prayer to God for success (Genesis 24:12).
2. Prayer for special Divine guidance (Genesis 24:13-14).
3. Prayer for what was good in itself.
(1) He looks for the best qualities in the bride. She was to be amiable, modest, kind--all qualities of the heart, and without which all other endowments were vain.
(2) He desires the Divine confirmation of his choice. (T. H. Leale.)
The mission of Abraham’s servant
I. THE MISSION.
1. This delicate mission was delegated to a servant, because Isaac was too inexperienced to go himself; but the choice was left to God.
2. Observe the touching confidence between master and servant.
3. The servant was enjoined by oath. Allowable in Judaism; but Christ says, “Swear not at all.” The word of a Christian is to be so true that no oath could add to its security.
II. THE DISCHARGE OF THE MISSION.
1. The servant’s expectation of Divine help.
2. The principle on which the selection was made. The qualities required were amiability, sincerity, modesty.
III. REBEKAH’S ARRIVAL.
1. She found Isaac engaged in prayer and meditation; two things from which we have sadly fallen.
2. As soon as Rebekah knew her husband was coming, she veiled herself. And this, brethren, is what we so much want; I know it to be the bane of domestic life, the want of modesty and delicacy; without Rebekah’s veil affection becomes alienated, and often turns to hatred; love, to be constant, must be kept pure. (F. W. Robertson, M. A.)
Eliezer’s mission, journey, and suit
I. ELIEZER’S MISSION.
II. ELIEZER’S JOURNEY.
1. His company consisted of the men who went with him, and the ten camels laden with presents, &c. The ten camels were intended, doubtless, not only to express the circumstances and wealth of his master, but also to convey the bride and her personal possessions to her husband. The men needful to look after the camels, and also to protect Eliezer and the presents.
2. His destination. Many days’ journey across a wilderness inhabited by warlike tribes, to the city of Nahor. Great skill required in making a safe journey.
3. His arrival, Rests outside the town, where was a well (11). His reliance on God. Here he offered a prayer (12-14). God heard the prayer and conducted to the spot a damsel who in all things fulfilled Abraham’s desire
4. and his own wish (14).
III. ELIEZER’S SUIT.
1. The approach of Rebekah. Her coming providentially ordered in answer to prayer. Though beautiful (16), she seems not to have been vain. And whatever the circumstances of her family, she conformed to the primitive habits of the people. Went to draw water for household purposes.
2. The request of Eliezer. Putting her to the test. Was the sign to be fulfilled by her? She cheerfully complied. Told the story of her kindred.
3. The presents. Such as a bride might expect to receive. Her acceptance of them promised a favourable compliance with the suit.
4. Eliezer’s gratitude to God. He worshipped (26). Learn:
1. Faithful servants a great blessing in households.
2. All undertakings should be conducted in the fear of God.
3. God gives “ journeying mercies” to the faithful.
4. God is to be praised for all our successes. (J. C. Gray.)
1. Faithfulness in making vows will be diligent in the performing them.
2. Prudence will teach men to suit provisions unto undertakings (verse10).
3. Providence makes stops to creatures where it hath more to discover to them.
4. It is better staying in the field by a little water with God, than to go into cities without Him.
5. Rest for man and beast is but reasonable after labour and travel.
6. Honest labours become the greatest ladies even in household affairs; it was an honour among the saints of old (Genesis 24:11). (G. Hughes, B. D.)
Good speed for the day
Matthew Henry wrote: “I forgot, when I began my work to-day, explicitly and expressly to seek help from God, and the chariot-wheels have driven heavily. God forgive my omissions, and keep me in the way of duty.”
I pray Thee send me good speed
The prayer of Abraham’s servant beside the well at Nahor
We have here--
I. PRAYER IN ITS ESSENTIAL NATURE.
II. PRAYER IN ITS RIGHTFUL PLACE.
III. PRAYER WITH ITS NEEDFUL ASSOCIATE. He puts himself “in the way.”
IV. PRAYER, WITH ITS FITTING SEQUEL. Praise (Genesis 24:27). (J. F.Poulter, B. A.)
An admirable prayer
Truly he had not lived with Abraham in vain! Observe--
1. The character under which he addresses the great Supreme: “Oh, Jehovah, God of my master Abraham.” He well knew that Jehovah had entered into covenant with Abraham, and had given him exceeding great and precious promises. By approaching Him as a God in covenant, he would find matter for faith to lay hold upon; every promise to Abraham would thus furnish a plea, and turn to a good account. Surely this may direct us in our approaches to a throne of grace, to make mention of a greater than Abraham, with whom also God is in covenant, and for whose sake the greatest of all blessings may be expected. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is to us what the God of Abraham was to Eliezer; and in the name of our Redeemer we may pray and hope for everything that is great and good.
2. The limitation of the prayer to the present time: “Send me good speed this day.” We may in a general way ask for grace for our whole lives; but our duty is more especially to seek direction at the time we want it. Our Lord teaches us to pray for daily bread as the day occurs.
3. The sign which he presumed to ask for; that the damsel to whom he should say so and so, and who should make such and such answers, should be the person whom the Lord had appointed for his servant Isaac. In this he might be under extraordinary influence, and his conduct therefore afford no example to us. The sign he asked, however, was such as would manifest the qualifications which he desired and expected to find in a companion who should be worthy of his master’s son; namely, industry, courtesy, and kindness to strangers.
4. The faith in which the prayer was offered. He speaks all along under a full persuasion that the providence of God extended to the minutest events, to the free actions of creatures, and even to their behaviour, of which at the time they are scarcely conscious. His words are also full of humble confidence that God would direct him in a matter of so much consequence to his Church in all future ages. (A. Fuller.)
1. In hard undertakings it is best to call in God by prayer upon man’s endeavours. He helps to purpose.
2. God in His being, power, grace, and covenant with his, is to be conceived by petitioners in their address by prayer to Him.
3. Good success in events desired, depend only upon God.
4. The success of faithful servants is mercy to their masters, which they should desire.
5. It is likely to prove best when matters are committed by masters to the care of praying servants.
6. God doth indulge sometimes visible signs to be asked, to assure His favour to His own.
7. It becomes man to wait when he desires God to appear.
8. In desiring any visible sign of God’s respect, God must not be limited.
9. God doth appoint and determine wives eminently, for His own specially.
10. Ingenuity and courtesy to strangers is a good guess for one to make a good wife.
11. Observation of God’s mercies unto faith and prayer is the true use of His signal manifestations. So did Abraham’s servant. (G. Hughes, D. D.)
The sign sought by Abraham’s servant
It is important to observe in what sense and to what extent this capable servant asked a sign. He did not ask for a bare, intrinsically insignificant sign. He might have done so. He might have proposed as a test, let her who stumbles on the first step of the well be the designed wife of Isaac; or, Let her who comes with a certain-coloured flower in her hand--or so forth. But the sign he chose was significant, because dependent on the character of the girl herself; a sign which must reveal her good-heartedness and readiness to oblige and courteous activity in the entertainment of strangers--in fact, the outstanding Eastern virtue. So that he really acted very much as Isaac himself must have done. He would make no approach to any one whose appearance repelled him; and when satisfied in this particular, he would test her disposition. And of course it was these qualities of Rebekah which afterwards caused Isaac to feel that this was the wife God had designed for him. It was not by any arbitrary sign that he or any man could come to know who was the suitable wife for him, but only by the love she aroused within him. God has given this feeling to direct choice in marriage; and where this is wanting, nothing else whatever, no matter how astoundingly providential it seems, ought to persuade a man that such and such a person is designed to be his wife. (M. Dods, D. D.)
A sign of duty
If you are at present engaged in something that is to your own conscience doubtful, and if you are not hiding this from God, but would very willingly, so far as you know your own mind, do in the matter which He pleases--if no further light is coming to you, and you feel a growing inclination to put it to God in this way: “Grant, O Lord, that something may happen by which I may know Thy mind in this matter”--this is asking from God a kind of help which He is very ready to give, often leading men to clearer views of duty by events which happen within their knowledge, and which, having no special significance to persons whose minds are differently occupied, are yet most instructive to those who are waiting for light on some particular point. The danger is not here, but in fixing God down to the special thing which shall happen as a sign between Him and you; which, when it happens, gives no fresh light on the subject, leaves your mind still morally undecided, but only binds you, by an arbitrary bargain of your own, to follow one course rather than another. This matter that you would so summarily dispose of may be the very thread of your life which God means to test you by; this state of indecision which you would evade, God may mean to continue until your moral character grows strong enough to rise above it to the right decision. (M. Dods, D. D.)
And it came to pass, before he had done speaking, that, behold, Rebekah came out
The finger of Providence in the appointment of a bride for Isaac
IN THE PROMPT AND COMPLETE ANSWER GIVEN TO HIS PRAYER. The maiden appeared on the scene which he had pictured to his mind’s eye, and displayed all the qualities which he had looked for in a bride for Isaac. She was civil and courteous, open and sincere, kind, simple, and unaffected.
II. IN THE CONTROL OF APPARENT ACCIDENTS.
III. IN THE IMPRESSION MADE UPON THE STEWARD HIMSELF.
1. He pauses to see whether Divine Providence is still leading on (Genesis 24:21).
2. He acts upon the favours of Providence already received (Genesis 24:22).
3. He engages in an act of praise (Genesis 24:26-27).
IV. IN THE RECOGNITION OF GOD BY ALL CONCERNED (Genesis 24:27-28; Genesis 24:31). (T. H.Leale.)
The advantages of being found in the path of duty
I. THE PROMISES OF GOD LEAD US TO EXPECT HIS BLESSING IN THE PATH OF DUTY.
II. BY ATTENDING THE MEANS OF GRACE, WE ENJOY COMMUNION WITH THE PEOPLE OF GOD. We should attend the means of grace too.
III. BECAUSE BY THIS WE SHOW TO THE WORLD OUR ATTACHMENT TO THE CAUSE OF CHRIST, AND SET THEM AN EXAMPLE FOR IMITATION.
IV. ANOTHER ADVANTAGE ARISING FROM THUS “BEING IN THE WAY” IS, THAT IT LEADS US OFTEN TO INDULGE IN THE DELIGHTFUL ANTICIPATION OF ENGAGING IN THE PERFECT AND NEVER-ENDING WORSHIP OF THE REDEEMED BEFORE THE THRONE ABOVE. (Essex Remembrancer.)
1. God sometimes answers His in the instant of prayer.
2. Providence orders motions for time and place in fitting persons for marriage according to His will.
3. The fittest wives and husbands are such who are the answer of prayer.
4. Goodness of family, honesty of calling, comeliness of person, purity of conversation, industry in labour, concur sweetly to make a good consort (Genesis 24:15-16).
5. After praying to God, there must be acting by man to find God’s answer.
6. Humble addresses become strangers in desiring courtesies as answers from God’s mercy (Genesis 24:17).
7. Ingenuity is quick and active in doing courtesy unto strangers.
8. Much kindness sometimes is shown in giving but a little water (Genesis 24:18).
9. Ingenuous spirits are free to do good to beasts as well as men (Genesis 24:19).
10. It is a sweet disposition to satisfy man and beast until they be full.
11. Providence makes good the signs He gives to His to the uttermost (Genesis 24:20).
12. Wonderful are God’s providences many times in answering prayer, and so to be admired.
13. A silent and serious consideration there should be about the rare events of God’s providence.
14. The knowledge of God’s mind in all providences is to be laboured after for man’s duty and God’s glory (Genesis 24:21). (G. Hughes, B. D.)
1. Ingenuous spirits perform what kindness they do offer.
2. Courtesies being finished, it is time to prepare for thanks.
3. Ornaments best suit with them that are of pure minds and ingenuous conversations.
4. Gifts are not unlawful, being justly bestowed in gratefulness, and in pursuance of lawful desires (Genesis 24:22).
5. Prudence finds out by queries such as are appointed unto marriage by God’s providence.
6. Inquiry for a night’s lodging may conduce under Providence to further great affairs (Genesis 24:23).
7. Providence ordereth the desired answer concerning persons sought for to them whom God sends.
8. Answers of abundant provision God maketh unto strangers sent about His business. All suits well (Genesis 24:24-25).
9. Whatever answers of good men have from creatures, they should produce worship to God (Genesis 24:26).
10. Gracious hearts bless God by praising when He blesseth them by prospering.
11. Good servants bless God for mercy and truth to their masters as for guidance to themselves.
12. Though angels minister to us, God alone must have the glory of all good events (Genesis 24:27).
13. In such returns God speeds instruments to further on His own designs of good to His servants (Genesis 24:28). (G. Hughes, B. D.)
Children to be brought up to all honest employments
The patriarchs of old were principal men and princes in their generations, yet their tender daughters were brought up in doing household business. Rebekah went, with her pitcher on her shoulders, to give drink to her father’s camels; and the seven daughters of the Priest of Midian accustomed themselves to draw water and fill the troughs to water their father’s sheep; and some say--how true is uncertain-that Christ Himself wrought as a carpenter at His father’s trade. Such was the harmless simplicity of those days, and such was the obedience of children, that even she that was appointed to be the mother of patriarchs, prophets, and kings, refused not to set her hand to ordinary employments. But how is the case altered in these days of ours! Our delicate damsels are ready to urge Rebekah’s example for the wearing of bracelets and jewels about their necks, but they will not hear of Rebekah’s carrying the pitcher upon her shoulders; they would be clothed like the lilies of the field, but they cannot endure to spin nor work at all; so that, whereas Solomon’s good housewife laid her hands to the wheel, they, for want of taking pains--especially if once married--set all upon wheels, and, while they do nothing, they undo themselves and bring all to nothing. (J. Spencer.)
Golden trinkets for presents
Golden trinkets were abundantly used among most of the Asiatic nations from early times; and those which Abraham’s servant offered to Rebekah (Genesis 24:22) belong to the most common ornaments. The nose-ring, chiefly, though not exclusively, worn by men, and applied by American tribes also, is inserted in the cartilage of the nose, either in the middle or in one side; it is often of considerable size, reaches generally beneath the mouth, and not always contributes to enhance the beauty of the face. It is here stated as having the weight of a beka, which is half a shekel, or a Greek drachm. The nose-rings worn at present by the Oriental women are often of ivory, or of gold; they are hollow, to render them less inconveniently heavy, and sometimes set with jewels--mostly a ruby between two pearls. Bracelets are such favourite ornaments with Oriental ladies, that they are not only worn by them in an unusual quantity, but are promised by Mohammed among the rewards of piety. Sometimes the whole arm, from the wrist of the hand to the elbow, is covered with them; sometimes two or more are worn, one above the other; and they are not unfrequently so heavy that they almost appear to be a burden to the fair owners. Two of them are here stated to have weighed ten shekels of gold--certainly a liberal present. Men also liked to adorn their wrist or upper arm with bracelets. On the Assyrian sculptures scarcely any person of wealth or station, or even any deity, appears without them. They were generally worn on one arm, and sometimes on both. Those who were unable to purchase gold or silver bracelets, contented themselves with procuring them of copper, ivory, horn, or glass. They were not always made with great skill or taste; they had not in all cases a lock, and often consisted merely of a large broad ring, through which the wearer forced the hand. The Egyptian bracelets, however, are in many instances not without elegance; and those represented on the Assyrian monuments, or found in the excavations of Mesopotamia, are scarcely inferior to them either in taste or in costliness. (M. M. Malisch, Ph. D.)
Blessed be the Lord God
The servant’s thanksgiving
1. The piety of it. He does not ascribe his success to chance or fortune, but to God. Moreover, he adores God by His covenant name as the Redeemer.
2. The confidence of it.
(1) Founded upon God’s dealings in the past. He had never failed in His mercy and His truth to Abraham. Therefore He might be thanked for the past with that confidence which is encouraged to hope much for the future. It is safe to trust Divine mercy and truth.
(2) Founded upon a consciousness of his own integrity.
I being in the way, the Lord led me to the house of my master’s brethren
Where did this man want to go?
To “the house of his master’s brethren.” Then he had a master! We all have. No one is his own master. There are two great masters--Jesus and Satan. Can we serve both? No; for they work against one another. The one pulls up what the other plants, and plants what the other pulls up; and no one can serve two masters whose ways are so contrary. Which is your master? If it is not Jesus, it must be Satan. A master you must have; oh, let it be Jesus I This master has many brothers. “I being in the way, the Lord led me to the house of my master’s brethren.” A rich little boy was boasting one day to a poor little boy about his, great relatives, and said at last, “My uncle is a lord.” “So is my brother,” said the poor boy. “Your brother a lord!” said the other, scornfully; “pray, what is he called?” “He is called the Lord Jesus,” was the answer. Yes; Jesus is the Brother of every one who has the same spirit, the same heart, that He has. You can be His brother, or His sister; and oh! is it not grand to think that our elder Brother is the King of earth and heaven! These brothers of Jesus have a house. “The Lord led me to the house of my master’s brethren.” Where is that house? It is the church. Every church is a house of the Master’s brethren; and if you are in the Lord’s way, you will most surely be led there very often. Yes, but they do not stay there always. There is another, a greater house and a finer one, into which they are led by and by. It is like this: When people are invited to go to the palace and be presented to the queen, they come up from all parts of the country and from beyond the seas; but they do not go straight to the palace. No; they first take up their abode in some house in the city, and there they wait till the day comes when they are to be presented to the queen, and then they leave the house they stayed in for the time, and go into the palace and see the queen. It is the same with the Master’s brethren--with the Lord’s brothers; they wait first in the earthly house of God, andthen, when the time comes, one after another is called to go and see the King--and the King is Jesus! They find, as Joseph’s brothers found, that He is their very own Brother who has all the power! How did this man the text speaks of get to the house of his master’s brethren? It was by putting himself in the way. “I being in the way.” That is the great thing, to get into the way. If I want to find out the road that leads to a distant place, I look up the map, and make inquiries as to whether there is a ferry at this river or a bridge at that, and so try to find out all I can about the road. But does that bring me any nearer to the place I want to go to? No; I am just as far from it as ever. There is but one way I ever can get there, and that is by putting myself on the road and going forward! It is the same with the way to the Master’s house on high. The Bible is the map, and it shows us all we need to learn about the way. But we must do something more than study the map; we must go on the way ourselves. What is the way? It is doing what the Bible tells us; it is loving Jesus, and trusting Jesus, and doing things for His sake. It is trying to look on things as Jesus would look on them, and trying to do things as Jesus would do them. That is getting on the way. The way to Jesus is trying to be like Jesus. But how did this man keep the way? You know, many get on the right road at the first, but afterwards, when they come to cross-roads, and roads that lead out of roads, they often go astray. How did this man keep the right way? Because the Lord led him! “I being in the way, the Lord feel me.” Yes; and when we are on the way to the house of the Master’s brethren, the Lord Himself goes with us, and leads us. We may not see Him, but He sees us. How does He lead us? Oh, in a thousand different fashions! When you do wrong, is not there something inside you that tells you you have done wrong? That is the Lord trying to lead you right. It is the Lord who whispers in your heart sometimes, saying, “Do not do that!” or, “Do not go there, it is wrong!” or, “Do this!” or, “Go there, that is right!” He is then leading you. And so this man got to the house of his master’s brethren; and so will you, by putting yourself in the way--the way of love to Jesus, the way of trusting Him and praying to Him. Do this, and the Lord will lead you, step by step, till He brings you to the house of many mansions. (J. Reid Howatt.)
Come in, thou blessed of the Lord
Confession of Christ; or, persuasives to church fellowship
As Laban said “I have prepared the house,” so Christ has ordained the Church and provided it with all things necessary for the refreshment, repose, and invigoration of His people.
As Abraham’s servant was invited to enter, so the ministers and stewards of God’s word, and all the members of His Church, should bless those whom the Lord has blessed, and affectionately invite them to participate in all the privileges of the Lord’s house.
I. WHO ARE THE BLESSED OF THE LORD? The Lord Jesus answered our question in the very first sentences of His great sermon on the mount. “He opened His mouth and taught them, saying, ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit.’” The Lord also said, “Blessed are they that mourn.” The Lord also said, “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness.” These are “blessed of the Lord.”
II. Let us inquire WHY THOSE WHO ARE “BLESSED OF THE LORD” SHOULD ACCEPT THE INVITATION of the Church to “come in,” by personal confession of Christ.
1. The Lord commands it (Matthew 10:32-33; Mark 8:38).
2. The Church solicits it. A Christian who never confesses Christ and who holds aloof from fellowship with the Church, might as well not exist, so far as the interests of the Church are concerned.
3. The world needs it. The stronger the Church the more potent is the influence at work for the world’s good.
4. Your own spiritual welfare requires it. The value of association is recognized in other things. And thus church fellowship is useful in strengthening the convictions of those who share in a common faith and love towards Christ. An additional safeguard is thus furnished in seasons of temptation.
III. Let us now examine SOME OF THE EXCUSES adduced by those who, though “blessed of the Lord,” yet “stand without.” Some are ashamed of Christ, and shrink from the ridicule or enmity which confession might bring upon them. But these are not “blessed of the Lord,” for He says to them: “He that is ashamed of Me, of him shall the Son of Man be ashamed.” Some keep outside that they may be free from the restraints of membership, and have more liberty for sin, or at least for folly. Others keep outside because they resolve to postpone repentance. But why do any who really trust in Jesus and who desire to love and obey Him “stand without”? They are hindered by unscriptural obstacles, erroneous opinions, or misapplied humility. (Newman Hall, LL. B.)
The blessed of the Lord
I. WHAT IT IS THAT CONSTITUTES REAL HAPPINESS IN THE SIGHT OF GOD. It is being blessed of the Lord.
II. WHO ARE THEY THAT MAY BE SAID TO RE EMPHATICALLY BLESSED?
1. They who are justified in the sight of God.
2. Those who are sanctified by the Holy Spirit.
III. IN WHAT RESPECT AWE THEY BLESSED?
1. In their souls.
2. In their trials and sorrows.
3. In their mercies and prosperity.
4. In their labours.
5. In their relationship.
6. Throughout all eternity.
IV. And those, in the next place, who are thus blessed of the Lord, may TEST THE REALITY of their having that benediction by what they do for, or distribute amongst others, to whom the knowledge of that blessing has long been strange. He who is most blessed of God is always the greatest blessing to those that are about him. The greatest receiver of spiritual things is always the greatest giver; and the more he gives the more he gets, till he learns, by blessed and practical experience, “it is more blessed to give than to receive.” (J. Cumming, D. D.)
Led me in the right way to take my master’s brother’s daughter unto his son
The marriage treaty
ITS RELIGIOUS ELEMENT.
1. The sense of instant duty.
2. A recognition of God’s gracious dealings.
3. A solemn sense of responsibility.
(1) To man.
(2) To God.
II. ITS ECONOMIC ELEMENT. The steward gives an account of Abraham’s wealth and position (Genesis 24:35). He knew that the parents of this well-bred damsel would never consent to give their daughter to a man of mean circumstances and living one hundred miles away, nor to one of ignoble or degraded family. He takes care, therefore, to state that his master is rich, and that the bride would have a suitable home and congenial society. Still, with that pious feeling which marked him hitherto, he takes equal care to note that the riches of his master were righteously gotten. “The Lord hath blessed my master greatly” (Genesis 24:35). He also gave suitable presents (Genesis 24:47). He treats her as one who is to enter such a distinguished family. In all this transaction the religious and the economic elements are mixed in due proportion. The men who most believed in the supernatural, and who had most abundant witness of it, were the men who used the most care in the employment of common prudence and skill. This man does not blindly rely upon miracles alone, but uses human means and proprieties to their proper extent and trusts for the blessing of God. (T H. Leale.)
I. DIVINE GUIDANCE. God’s gracious way of saving sinners is a “right way.”
II. THE IMMUTABLE CHARACTER OF THE GUIDE.
III. THE DEVOTION OF THE GUIDED MAN. (J. Irons.)
1. Fidelity makes servants own and honour their masters in performing their trust, especially in the Church (Genesis 24:34).
2. Pious souls know and acknowledge God to be the only author of the prosperity of His servants.
3. Prosperity of believers is God’s blessing. This maketh rich and adds no sorrow (Proverbs 10:22).
4. God is not strained towards His in outward things, when they are good for them.
5. Greatness of estate and honour sometimes God uniteth unto godliness. So it was here with Abraham (Genesis 24:35).
6. God’s miracles should be related when they make to His praise, and His people’s good. So doth he.
7. The heir of promise may be the heir of all things here below. So Isaac. So eminently Christ was.
8. It is but rational in seeking marriage to declare the state in measure which God hath given (Genesis 24:36). (G. Hughes, B. D.)
Abide with us a few days
Delay is dangerous
We shall not have anything more to do with Laban to-night, than to use his desire to retain his good sister Rebekah as an illustration of the way in which this wicked world endeavours to meet the invitations of the gospel, by trying to retain the awakened sinner a little longer in its grasp.
Satan’s last counsel to his servants seems to have been, “Do not openly oppose the gospel; give way to it, but suggest delay.”
I. I want to draw your attention, first of all, to THE WORLD’S PRETEXT FOR THIS DELAY. I stand knocking to-night at the world’s door, and I say, “There is a young heart here I want for Christ”; the world replies, “All right, you shall have it one of these days, but there is time enough yet.” I say of another, “Here is a man whose strength and vigour I want for the Saviour.” “All right,” says the world, “do not be in such a fever about it; we are all agreed with you; we all think as you do that religion is important, but wait awhile, put it off, take time, tarry a little; there is no cause for all this hurry and this fuss.” Then the world says, “O stop a little longer; we should like these young people to know something about life.” Well, but, base world, what dost thou mean by that? What hast thou to do with life? We, too, want the young people to know something about life: but what is life? Why true life is to be found only in the followers of Christ, in Whom is life. “Ah! then,” says the world, putting on its best smiles, “it is all very well for you to talk, but we do not want our young people to give up all their pleasure.” And what hast thou to do with pleasure, thou painted Jezebel? what hast thou to do with happiness, false deluder of souls?
II. Shall I tell you now WHAT IS THE DRIFT OR ALL THIS WAITING? Ten days did not seem too long; but they might have been ten days too late. To be too late for ever; yea, one minute too late is an eternity too late! Remember that if thou hast missed of Christ by but the ticking of a clock, thou hast missed of Christ for ever; so that minutes and ticks of clocks may be invested with a very solemn power, if we come to look at them in that light. But what the world means is just this, “Ah!” says Madam Bubble, “here is a young person impressed--if we laugh at him it will deepen the impression; but we will say to him, ‘Come, come; let the impression go for a little while; this is not the fit time; when you have a more convenient season, you can bring it on again.’” Moreover, the world says, “Well, if they do go at last, yet we will exact from them as long a time of service as we can.”
III. Thirdly, having exposed the pretexts of the world, and tried to show its cruel designs, our REAL OBJECT IS TO HAVE OUR HEARERS SAVED, AND TO HAVE THEM SAVED NOW. There were three reasons why Abraham’s servant wished Rebekah to go with him at once, and these move me to desire your conversion to-night.
1. First, he desired it for his master’s sake. He knew that Isaac was looking forward to the happy day when he should be married to his chosen bride. And oh! the heart of Jesus is longing after sinners.
2. Abraham’s servant, too, desired it for his own sake, because he was a faithful steward, and wanted to do his business well. And how we desire your conversion for our sake! It will make us so happy I There is no bliss that can come to the soul of the Christian minister like the bliss of knowing that he has been made the means of bringing some to Christ.
3. But the principal reason that the man wished it was for Rebekah’s sake. He knew that Isaac would make a good husband to her. And we know that Jesus Christ will make a blessed husband to your souls. He will enrich you with all the treasure of His grace.
IV. Now, lastly, WE BELIEVE THAT THIS DESIRE OF OURS IS A VERY REASONABLE ONE, and we think we can prove it without the necessity of entering upon a long argument. It is a snowy day, and some boys have put a few bricks together; they have made a sort of square box of them, and have set one up on edge on a piece of stick, and have scattered under it a few crumbs. Here comes a robin, and he picks up a crumb or two, and while he is picking, down comes the brick! “I did not wait long,” says the robin, “but I am caught! I did not wait long, but I cannot get out! I did not wait long, but I have lost my liberty! I did not wait long, but it may be I shall lose my life!” Ah! little robin, thou shalt be a preacher to some here. They have gone a little into sin, and they are inclined to-night to wait a little while. Take care that this is not your song one of these days, “I did not wait long, but the devil caught me in his trap! I did not wait long, but I waited too long! I did not wait long, but I lost my soul for ever!” God grant that this may not be your lot. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Hinder me not, seeing the Lord hath prospered my way
The Christian’s hindrances
The Lord hath prospered our way.
He has provided means for our return to Him. He has awakened us from entire carelessness. He has bestowed upon us thus far all the comfort and peace which we have received, and enabled us to do all that we have done for Him. Our past prosperity is an unceasing encouragement to future effort, and may be employed as an answer to every hindrance. Under this view would I adopt the expression of our text.
I. It is the entreaty of an awakened sinner returning to the Lord. “Hinder me not, seeing the Lord hath prospered my way.” A new and living way of salvation invites him. But there are many adversaries. The worldly and careless around him scoff at his fears, and deride his apprehensions. They know not the terrors of an awakened conscience, and they can mock when fear cometh. “Hinder me not,” the persecuted penitent replies. “I have seen enough of worldly cheerfulness and mirth. I have seen that the end of that laughter is bitterness. The sorrows of a sinner’s death-bed I will not try. The portion of the worldly shall not be mine. He offers me forgiveness, and I will embrace it.”
II. The words of our text may be the prayer of the new convert to Christ--the Christian who has just experienced the new creating grace of God;“hinder me not, seeing the Lord hath prospered my way.” The character of God appears to him full of glory, and shining in love. The great salvation which He has offered, seems worthy of all acceptation. His whole heart is arrested and occupied with the objects and excitements of this first love. But there are many hindrances surrounding this infantile state of grace. At one time he meets a sneer from some former companion in folly, at another, a false and unkind construction of the motives by which he is governed in his new determinations. The merely nominal Christian, the cold and carnally minded professor, hates him, as one who assumes a higher standard of religious character than he is pleased with. These various outward trials are severe.
III. But hindrances do not disappear, even when men become old in grace. Our text may, therefore, be the petition of the Christian who is established in the faith; “hinder me not, seeing the Lord hath prospered my way.” Through the whole period of a mortal life, he not only dwells in a laud of enemies, but drags about with himself a weight which is painfully retarding. There arises often around him a cloud of darkness, which hides all his evidences of grace, and conceals the blessed witness which God has given him within himself. Momentary feelings of unbelief intrude themselves into his breast. Occasional coldness and torpidity spreads itself through the members of his spiritual man, threatening permanent paralysis and death. He obtains larger conceptions of the depravity of his own heart; and his soul often sickens over the views which are presented to him, as the Spirit of God carries him still farther into its recesses, and exposes to his observation greater abominations than he has seen before. Then does he exclaim in the language of our text, “Hinder me not, for the Lord hath prospered my way.” “Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy, though I fall, yet shall I rise again; and though I sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a light unto me. Sin has been pardoned; God has received, and is able to keep me. I have entered into a covenant with Him, from which I will never shrink, to walk before Him, and to be His for ever.”
IV. Lastly, I may consider this as the demand of the faithful minister of the Gospel. “Hinder me not, seeing the Lord hath prospered my way.” This joy would be vastly increased were there none disposed to hinder his way, and to retard the progress of the word of God. (S. H. Tyng, D. D.)
They called Rebekah and said unto her, Wilt thou go with this man?
And she said, I will go
The success of the marriage treaty
I. DUE TO THE MANIFEST INTERPOSITION OF PROVIDENCE (Genesis 24:50).
II. ACKNOWLEDGED BY SUITABLE ACTS OF DEVOTION.
1. By acts of worship (Genesis 24:52).
2. By faith and ready obedience (Genesis 24:55; Genesis 24:58).
3. By human benedictions (Genesis 24:60).
III. FOLLOWED BY A GRATEFUL SENSE OF RELIEF (Genesis 24:54). It is the mark of a pious mind when we esteem the commandments of God more than our necessary food. (T. H. Leale.)
The soul’s answer to the Divine summons
I. A LESSON TO THOSE WHO CARRY THE SUMMONS OF GOD.
1. Let us saturate our work with prayer.
2. We must also wait upon God for direction.
3. Let us say much in praise of our Master.
II. THE SUMMONS ITSELF. Such a call as came to Rebekah is sent to every soul that hears the Gospel. In yonder azure depths lives the great Father God. He has one Son, His only-begotten and well-beloved. He has resolved to choose from amongst men those who as one Church shall constitute His bride for ever. He sends this call to you, not because you are worthy, or wealthy, or beautiful; but because He has so willed in the counsels of His own heart; and He longs that you shall be willing to detach yourself from all that you hold dear.
III. How To DEAL WITH THIS SUMMONS.
1. We must find room for it.
2. We must bear witness.
3. We must not procrastinate, or confer with flesh and blood. (F. B.Meyer, B. A.)
I. HER HOME LIFE.
1. She was fair, chaste, and modest.
2. She was industrious, courteous, and kind.
3. She was deferential and obedient.
II. HER MARRIAGE.
1. Arranged for by proxy, according to Oriental custom.
2. This match was made in heaven. It was pre-ordained--love at first sight: love all through her life.
III. HER MISTAKES.
1. She consents to pass for Isaac’s sister at the court of Gerar.
2. She is partial to Jacob.
3. She teaches Jacob how to deceive.
4. By the use of deception she secures the blessing for her favourite son.
IV. HER SORROW.
1. A divided household--the result of favouritism.
2. Esau’s marriage with two Canaanitish women.
3. The separation from Jacob: for she never saw him again after his flight to Mesopotamia.
1. The choice of a wife is an appropriate subject of prayer, and worthy of grave deliberation.
2. Is it right for parents to be partial to their children? (Lewis O. Thompson.)
1. God’s favour being manifested in His providences, natural and comfortable refreshings may be used.
2. After refreshings needful, return to duty and just employments is beseeming God’s servants.
3. Sedulity and speed concern faithful servants in their trust committed by their masters to them (Genesis 24:54).
4. Natural affection will not easily part with near and dear relations (Genesis 24:55)
5. God’s call, if apparent, is reason sufficient to take of the delays of natural desire.
6. Nothing but haste with good speed will content faithful servants entrusted (Genesis 24:56).
7. Answers from creatures may help to know God’s mind, and so far we are to be consulted (Genesis 24:5, “Call the damsel and know,” &c.).
8. Children’s consent as well as parents’ must be had in marriage.
9. God sometimes giveth in answers of His will by moving the hearts of creatures (verse58).
10. Fear of God in any measure will yield to God’s will when so revealed.
11. Nearest relations must part to give way to the union of marriage.
12. Such dismission of relations should be suitable to the conditions of men (Genesis 24:59).
13. The fear of God will not send away relations from a family without a blessing.
14. Fruitfulness of the womb is a great blessing from God on His people.
15. Tower and prevalency of the Church’s seed over all enemies is a sweet blessing.
16. All this, even to the vanquishing of the gates of hell, is desirable by God’s people (Genesis 24:60).
17. Marriage should not be yielded without a blessing, especially in the Church. “And they blessed her and sent her away.” (G. Hughes, B. D.)
A love story
I. AN EXCELLENT SERVANT. In the early days of the Jews, when a servant loved his master, he sometimes said to him, “I will not leave thee: I will serve thee all my days.” The master then placed the man-servant against his door-post, and bored his ear through with an awl, as a token that he should serve him for ever. We are not told whether or not Abraham’s servant had passed through this ceremony, but it is certain that he was one of the most faithful of servants. Now, beloved brethren, you have not to undergo any outward ceremony in order to become a servant of God. There are some who believe that partaking of the Lord’s Supper, and being baptized, are processes by which we become the Lord’s people. On the contrary, when we become His servants, we then, because we are servants, do the Lord’s will in these two matters. Then, if you would become a servant of God, the first process must be an inward desire. “My child, give Me thine heart,” saith the Lord. The Christian is a servant of the Lord, and, as such, gives up himself, body, spirit, and soul, to do the will of his Heavenly Father. He is a consecrated vessel filled with the Spirit of the Almighty.
1. This servant of Abraham was a trusted one. All that his master had was placed in his keeping. Beloved servants of the Lord, what a blessing I what a privilege! what an enjoyment I to possess the fulness of God! Seek it; pray for it; believe it; and God shall pour His fulness into your being. Then, surely your lives, like the angels of heaven, shall be shrines for the indwelling of love. The providence of God sent across my path some years ago a thief who had been in prison above twenty times, and who had been twice in penal servitude. I could find no work for him here, because he was well known, and therefore I sent him across the ocean to America, but his character followed him, and he was returned to England. At length we obtained work for him out of Manchester; and he turned out to be a faithful servant. One day the manager of the works was removing his goods to a new house, and the mistress--who did not know what the man had been--called him, saying, “John, this basket contains all our silver; will you please be very careful about it, and carry it to the new house.” I said to the man, “And what did you do? “ He replied “When I got outside, I looked into the basket and saw the silver shining. I lifted it up, and it felt very heavy.” “Well, what did you do then? “ He said, “I cried, because I was trusted.” Of course, he carried it safely. Brethren, God knows the past sin of our lives, yet He takes us into His service and trusts us with human souls, bidding us to take them to the mansion in heaven.
2. The servant of Abraham was under a special vow. And are not all who are servants of God under a vow to render faithful service? A mother whose son was about to leave her to fight the battles between the Northern and Southern States of America, was called into her bedroom on the morning of his departure. She, weeping upon his neck and kissing him, bade him farewell; and drawing from her finger a ring which she prized exceedingly, she kissed it and placed it upon his finger, saying, “Promise me, my son, that you will not touch any intoxicating liquors whilst you are away.” And he, looking at the ring, on which was the motto, “Never forget,” kissed his mother and made the vow. When he joined the army, he manfully resisted the temptations of his comrades; but at length enticed beyond his strength, he went with them to the canteen. Lifting the foaming liquor to his mouth, he saw his mother’s ring, and his conscience smote him. He dropped the glass upon the table, and rushing out, he prayed to God to forgive him and to help him to keep his promise. On the evening of that day, when the battle was over, he was found wounded and dying with his mother’s ring pressed to his lips. Brethren, you also have made a vow not only to your parent, but to your God. And if the promise made to our earthly parents has such a power for good over us, how much more the promise we have made to our Heavenly Father! Brethren, will you not keep the vow? Will you not re-resolve it?
3. Abraham’s servant was a believer. “O Lord God of my master Abraham.” How sweet it is when the employer can lead the employed to God!
4. Abraham’s servant believed in the Lord’s presence. Beloved, our Saviour is not dead. He is here. All who are the Lord’s servants have the inward testimony that Jesus Christ is a Saviour nigh at hand.
5. He believed in the Lord’s guidance. If we acknowledge God in all our ways, He has promised to direct our paths. In Abraham’s servants, we have an example of a man who trusted God. Brethren, trust Him also. Wherever you go your Father is with you; your path may be dark; but your Father holds your hand. The chart of every day’s journey is before your God, and when you stand in the sunshine of heaven you shall then see that His hand did really direct your course. Go on!
6. This servant judged his errand to be more important than himself. He would not partake of food until he had told the mission on which he was sent. Brethren, we should not consider ourselves more important than the work which Christ has given us to do. Let us pray for grace to be enabled with Paul to say, “For me to live is”--not myself--but “Christ.” Our purpose is to be conformed to the image of God’s dear Son, and to live in the spirit of His loving life.
7. His heart was in it. In crossing over the Atlantic Ocean once, on the second day of the voyage, an unfortunate fellow was pulled up from the hold--a “stowaway.” Desiring to go to America, and being too poor to pay his passage, he hid himself on board the ship. But the captain said, “You must work out your passage now that you are here.” He was set to wash the decks, and do other rough work on the ship, but I noticed the man had no heart in it; he did it because he was compelled. How different with the true sailors! When they ran up the rigging they sang out with delight, and did their work with all their heart. It did one good to hear the hearty song of the man up near the top of the mast, but the hang-dog look of the stowaway caused gloom in the midst of sunshine. NOW, brethren, do your work for Christ with all your heart; put your soul into it; do it with enthusiasm. It is the earnest men only who succeed in temporal things; and it is only God’s earnest ones who bring in a plentiful harvest to the heavenly barn. Servants of God, awake! awake! When you speak to people about their souls, let them see that you mean it.
II. AN IMPORTANT QUESTION. Rebekah was asked, “Will you go with this man?” And now I ask you, will you come with us to heaven? God gives every one of us at some period of our lives an opportunity of becoming His servants. It is said that “time and tide come to every man once in his life.” I feel persuaded that salvation’s tide has come to your very heart, and that every one of you may enter Christ’s lifeboat and sail with us to paradise. This is your opportunity. Do not reject it.
III. THE LOVING ANSWER. Will you not say, as did Rebekah to Abraham’s servant, “I will go.” Have you ever thought when you have read this chapter of the meeting? Isaac was walking in the field at eventide, and whilst he meditated, he lifted up his eyes and beheld the camels on their return, and noticed that all of them carried burdens. His heart filled with joy, and he said, “She is come.” Will you come? Behold the Lamb of God who taketh away the sins of the world I Trust Him. (W. Birch.)
I. THE DOMESTIC COUNCIL.
1. The family of Bethuel. Evening. Work of the day nearly over. The daughter gone to the well. Her long delay. Growing wonder. Rebekah’s return. Shows the presents, and relates the story to her mother. Laban, hearing the tale and seeing the jewels, goes out to the well (Genesis 24:29) and invites Eliezer to come into the house (Genesis 24:31).
2. Eastern hospitality. Provision for man and beast.
3. The council.
(1) Eliezer states his mission (Genesis 24:33-41).
(2) States how he wished for a sign, and had it fulfilled in Rebekah (Genesis 24:43-47).
(3) Intimates that God is in this matter (Genesis 24:42-48).
(4) Bethuel and Laban reply. They see the hand of God (Genesis 24:50), and give their consent (Genesis 24:51).
(5) Eliezer again acknowledges the good hand of the Lord (verse
52), and produces more presents.
4. This council conducted with frankness and piety on the one hand, and a due respect for the will of God on the other.
II. THE EARLY DEPARTURE.
1. Eliezer having performed his mission, is anxious to return. Thinks of his master, aged and anxious. Life uncertain.
2. Laban and her mother plead for delay. Suggestive of the lovable character of Rebekah, and her value in the household. Perhaps never more prized than now that she must go. Reminds us of the tenacity with which we cling to dear objects in the moment of separation.
3. Rebekah decides for a prompt departure. Having been a faithful daughter, she would now do her duty in her new relation. Her husband should not hear that she had been an unwilling bride.
4. She bids adieu to home scenes, in company with her nurse; and dowried with the blessing of her family.
III. THE HAPPY MEETING.
1. The home of Abraham. The patriarch following his servants with his prayers. Reliant on God.
2. Isaac waits the issue of this negotiation for his marriage.
3. Goes out into the open country to meditate and pray (see marg. Verse 63). Much in the past and present and future for him to pray and think about.
4. Sees the camels and goes to meet them.
5. The well of the “living one that sees me.” Happy would it be for the future life of many if their early meetings were ruled by the thoughts suggested by the name of the well near which Isaac first met Rebekah. Much sin and sorrow might be avoided.
6. Rebekah’s modesty, the veil, and cordiality. Alights at once.
7. Isaac’s welcome. He conducts Rebekah to the tent that had been his mother’s. Learn:
I. The advantage of family union in matters of domestic importance.
II. The duty of consulting parents in affairs of such consequence.
III. To be diligent in business, like Eliezer.
IV. To have times and places for meditation and prayer.
V. To remember “the Living that sees us” in all our intercourse with friends. (J. C. Gray.)
The chief thing to know about a suitor
After Mr. Philip Henry, who came to Worthembury a stranger, had been in the country for some time, his attachment to Miss Matthews, afterwards his wife, became manifest; and it was mutual. Among the other objections urged by her friends against the connection was this, that although Mr. Henry was a gentleman and a scholar, and an excellent preacher, he was quite a stranger, and they did not even know where he came from. “True,” replied Miss Matthews, “but I know where he is going, and I should like to go with him.” (Bayley’s Family Biblical Instructor.)
Isaac went out to meditate in the field at the eventide
Meditating was the same to Isaac that it is to us.
Under all skies, in all times, thought has flowed in the same channel and observed the same laws. It is those who love to meditate that are most open to impressions from nature. It is the open eye before which the vision passes. Notice:
I. THE MAN WHO MEDITATES. Isaac’s meditations would be very different from those of a more stirring, energetic character; above all, very different from those of a mere secular man. A man’s meditations are the pure outcome of what he is. The word itself is suggestive. It means to be in the midst of a matter, to have it in your very centre. Do not be afraid of losing yourself in meditation. The more you lose yourself in great themes the better. The dream is the way to reality, but let it be reality and impression and abiding results that you are seeking. The Hebrew word here rendered “meditate” means also to pray. The meditation of a devout spirit on almost anything will soon run into prayer.
II. MEDITATION AND NATURE. Isaac went out to the field to meditate. The variety of nature draws us out. We all tend to make self a prison, and this leading us out of ourselves is perhaps the main benefit of nature. Nature takes down our prison walls. The twitter of a bird in a bush can emancipate us. Nature whispers of the supernatural, and the fleeting preaches the eternal.
III. MEDITATION AND TIME. Isaac meditated in the evening. The evening is the darling hour of meditation. The quiet gloaming, with its glamour and mystery, its long shadows and dying light, whispers into the heart of man.
Meditation is the twilight of thought. Its region lies between this world and the next, between definite ideas and dimmest yearnings. No one ever loved Christ deeply--no one ever was strong or high or pure or deep in any way without meditation. (J. Leckie, D. D.)
I. THE GREATNESS OF ITS OBJECTS.
1. It unfolds the volume of nature.
2. It discloses the principles and ends of the Divine govermnent.
3. It reveals the dispensations of grace.
4. It draws aside the veil of mortality, and directs our view into a future and eternal state.
II. ITS MORAL ADVANTAGES.
1. By meditation we shall acquire a competent knowledge of our own hearts.
2. It will enable us to form a just estimate of the world.
3. Meditation promotes holiness. As the architect, before he can erect an extensive edifice, must, in private, first prepare his plan; and as the philosopher, before he can enlighten the world with his discoveries by study, must first digest and arrange his system; so, before we can come forth into life as patterns of holiness, and skilful champions of the truth, we must, by meditation, have imbibed the principles of religion, and submitted our hearts to its influence. It is a practice that will produce repentance, by setting “ our sins before us, our secret sins in the light of our countenance.” It will humble the mind, and destroy its love to sin. It will produce fear and love towards God, and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. It places the soul under the Influences of the Divine Spirit, who transforms and renews it in the image of Christ. Thus changed, we shall come from retirement, as Moses from the mount, shining with the lustre of spiritual “ glory and beauty.”
4. Meditation leads to a union with God. “I will dwell in them, and walk in them. I and My Father will come in to him, and abide with him.” But when are these words verified? Particularly in the hour of religious retirement.
5. Meditation prepares us for heaven. (R. Watson.)
I. WHAT MEDITATION IS. Before I can define it I must distinguish it.
1. There is that which we call occasional meditation, which is an act by which the soul spiritualiseth every object about which it is conversant. A gracious heart is like an alembic, it can distil useful meditations out of all things it meeteth with. Look, as it seeth all things in God, so it seeth God in all things. So small a matter as a grain of mustard-seed may yield many spiritual applications.
2. There is set and solemn meditation. Now this is of several sorts, or rather, they are but several parts of the same exercise.
(1) There is a reflexive meditation, by which we wholly fall upon ourselves. This is nothing else but a solemn parley between a man and his own heart Psalms 4:4).
(2) There is a meditation, which is more direct, and that is of two sorts--
(a) Dogmatical, whose object is the Word.
(b) Practical, whose object is our own lives.
These are the kinds of meditation. The definition may be formed thus: Meditation is that duty or exercise of religion whereby the mind is applied to the serious and solemn contemplation of spiritual things, for practical uses and purposes. I shall open the description by the parts of it.
1. It is a duty and exercise of religion.
(1) That it is a duty and exercise of religion appeareth by the evidence of Scripture, where it is commanded (Joshua 1:8), “This Book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth, but thou shalt meditate therein day and night.” It is made a character of a godly man (Psalms 1:2), “His delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law doth he meditate day and night.” It is commended in the practice and example of the saints that were most famous in Scripture; Isaac in the text, Moses and David. And as it is plain by the evidence of Scripture; so by the light of nature and reason. God that is a Spirit deserveth the most pure and spiritual worship, as well as such as is performed by the body. The thoughts are the eldest and noblest offspring of the soul, and the solemn consecration of them is fit for God.
(2) It is not a duty of an arbitrary concernment. It is not only a moral help that may be observed or omitted, but a necessary duty, without which all graces would languish and wither. Faith is lean and ready to starve unless it be fed with continual meditation on the promises; as David saith (Psalms 119:92), “Unless Thy law had been my delight, I should then have perished in my affliction.” Thoughts are the caterers of the soul, that purvey for faith, and fetch in food and refresh it with the comfort of the promises. Hope is low, and doth not arise to such a fulness of expectation till by meditation we take a deliberate view of our hopes and privilegesGenesis 13:17; Genesis 13:17).
II. THE NECESSITY AND PROFIT OF MEDITATION, OR MOTIVES TO PRESS TO THIS DUTY. I shall urge such as will serve also for marks; for when it is well performed, you will find these effects wrought in you. Meditation is the mother and nurse of knowledge and godliness, the great instrument in all the offices of grace; it helpeth on the work of grace upon the understanding, affections, and life, for the understanding of the doctrine of godliness, for the provoking of godly affections, and for the heavenly life.
1. In point of understanding it is of great advantage to us in the entertainment of the doctrines of religion.
(1) To give us a clearer and more distinct sight of them.
(2) That we may the better retain them.
(3) That they may be always more ready and present with us.
2. It is a great advantage to the work of grace upon the affections.
3. It is an advantage to the fruits of grace in the life; it maketh the heavenly life more easy, more sweet, more orderly and prudent.
III. RULES TO GUIDE YOU IN THIS WEIGHTY AFFAIR OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE.
1. Whatever you meditate upon must be drawn down to application.
2. Do not pry further than God hath revealed; your thoughts must he still bounded by the Word.
3. When you meditate of God you must do it with great care and reverence; His perfections are matter rather of admiration than inquiry.
4. In meditating on common things, keep in mind a spiritual purpose. God hath endowed man with a faculty to discourse, and employ his mind on earthly objects to spiritual purposes (Ecclesiastes 3:11).
5. Take heed of creating a snare to your souls. Some sins are catching, like fire in straw, and we cannot think of them without infection and temptation; the very thoughts may beget a sudden delight and tickling, which may pass through us like lightening, and set us all on fire Ezekiel 23:19).
6. Meditate of those things especially which you have most need of. There is the greatest obligation upon the heart. The matter is not arbitrary; there you will find most he]p, and there the benefit will be most sensible.
7. Whatever you meditate upon, take heed of slightness. Transient thoughts leave no impression. See that you meditate but of one thing at once.
8. Come not off from holy thoughts till you find profit by them, either sweet tastes and relishes of the love of God, or high affections kindled towards God, or strong resolutions begotten in yourselves.
9. Be thankful to God when He blesseth you in meditation, or else you will find difficulty in the next.
10. Do not bridle up the free spirit by the rules of method. That which God calleth for is religion, not logic.
11. Your success in the duty is not to be measured by the multitude and subtlety of the thoughts, but the sincerity of them.
12. You must begin and end all with prayer. Duties are subservient one to another. In the beginning you must pray for a blessing on the duty,, and in the end commend your souls and resolutions to God. There is no hope in your own promises, but God’s.
IV. THE LETS OR HINDRANCES OF MEDITATION, TOGETHER WITH THE HELPS AND MEANS THAT MAY QUICKEN YOU TO THE PERFORMANCE OF IT. The lets may be sooner discovered than remedied. The lets and hindrances are of several sorts, some common to this with other duties, and others more peculiar to the duty of meditation.
1. I begin with the first sort, such hindrances as are common to other duties, and they are four--sloth, love of pleasure, a guilty conscience, and an unwieldy mind. How shall we do to shake off this spiritual sloth? I answer--
(1) You must consider that a lazy spirit is most unfit for Christianity. The whole Christian life is carried on with much labour and diligence.
(2) It is better to take pains than to suffer pains, and to be found with the cords of duty than with the chains of darkness.
(3) There is nothing so hard in God’s service but He hath manifested love enough to sweeten it.
(4) There is no difficulty in religion wholly insuperable and too hard for an active and industrious spirit. Those that follow on after God do at length find Him to their comfort.
(5) A lazy, backward heart must be urged forward with the greater importunity.
2. Another let and hindrance is love of pleasures. Men that would pass their time in mirth are unwilling to be so solemn and serious. When children’s minds are set to play, it is irksome to hear of school or of their books; so when the heart is set for pleasure, it is a hard matter to bring the soul to religious performances. How shall we do to wean the soul from pleasures?
(1) Consider to love pleasure is to gratify the beast in us rather than the angel.
(2) Consider the sweetness of religious exercises is far better than that of carnal pleasures, as that heat is more manly that is gotten by exercise than by hovering over the fire.
3. The next general hindrance is a guilty conscience. What shall we do to remedy this?
(1) Get your conscience cleansed by the hearty application of the blood of Christ.
(2) There are matters comfortable that may be of excellent relief to the spirit (Hebrews 6:18; Psalms 94:19).
4. Another let and hindrance is unwieldiness of spirit to spiritual and heavenly duties. This our Saviour bids His disciples have a care e!! Luke 21:34). What shall we do to help this?
(1) Learn a holy moderation and sobriety in outward businesses and pleasures. As the apostle says of prayer (Ephesians 6:18), “Watching thereunto”; the same rule holds good in meditation.
(2) Keep the body in a fit frame, that it may not be a clog to the soul, but a dexterous instrument. There is a sanctification of the body (1 Thessalonians 5:23). There are hindrances that are peculiar to the duty of meditation. I shall name but two--barrenness of thoughts and inconstancy.
1. Leanness and barrenness of thoughts. Now to remedy this--
(1) You must not give way to it, but try and use constant exercise. The more we work, the more vigorous and free is the soul for the work of God.
(2) Get a good stock of sanctified knowledge. Let there be a treasure in your hearts (Matthew 13:52).
(3) When the heart is barren, think of your own sins and corruptions, and the experiences of God to your own souls.
(4) You may season and affect your mind before meditation with some part of God’s Word. Reading is a good preparative, and when we have taken in food, we may exercise our depastion and digestion upon it.
2. A loose garish spirit, that is apt to skip and wander from thought to thought. There is a madness in man; his thoughts are light and feathery, tossed to and fro, and like the loose wards in a lock, only kept up whilst we are turning the key. This doth much discourage Christians, that they cannot keep up their affections and command their thoughts. How shall we help and remedy this?
(1) When you go to meditate, you should exercise a command and restraint upon yourselves. This is expressed in Scripture by trussing up the loins of your minds (Luke 12:30).
(2) Pray and call in the help of God’s Holy Spirit (Psalms 86:11), “Unite my heart to fear Thy name.” Lord, make my heart one. He that could stay the sun can stay the fleeting of your thoughts.
(3) Dry up these swimming toys and fancies with the flame of heavenly love. Love unites the heart, and where we have a pleasure, there we can Psalms 119:97).
(4) Let the course of your lives be grave and serious. The mind is according to the course of the life.
(5) Watch against the first diversion; how plausible soever it be, look upon it as an intruding that breaks the rank.
(6) When you come to meditate in God’s presence, do not bring the world with you; purge yourselves of all carnal affections (Ezekiel 33:31), “Their heart goeth after their covetousness.” Always consider this: the prevailing lust will engross the thoughts. (T. Manton, D. D.)
The duty and advantage of solemn meditation
I shall first explain the duty, and then apply the subject.
I. I AM TO SHOW WHAT MEDITATION IS.
1. A choice of some spiritual subject to meditate upon. Many meditate upon sin with delight, and so ride post to hell with little din. “He deviseth mischief upon his bed, he setteth himself in a way that is not good; he abhorreth not evil. Others employ their thoughts only in the meditation of things of the world. But he that would meditate aright must choose some spiritual subject to think upon. And it is needful we should select some one, and not abide in generals (Psalms 63:6; Song of Solomon 1:4).
2. A calling in of the heart front all other objects. The mind of man is too narrow to be taken up to purpose about many things at once, especially with thoughts of divers kinds; therefore prays David, “Unite my heart to fear Thy name.”
3. Employing the heart on the spiritual subject so chosen, to think upon it, study it, and seriously consider of it; to lay it before our understandings, so as to move our affections and improve our hearts.
II. LET US APPLY THE SUBJECT. I exhort you to make conscience of this duty of meditation, and particularly of fixed meditation, setting yourselves as solemly to it as to prayer and other duties. Motive
1. Consider it is the command of God. “Commune with your own heart upon your bed.” “And meditate upon these things,” says Paul to Timothy. Why do you perform other duties but because God commands you? Well, He that bids you do other duties, bids you do this also.
2. It is made desirable by the testimony which it hath from the practice of the people of God.
3. It is of notable use for a Christian’s improvement. It much increases knowledge: “I have more understanding,” says David, “than all my teachers, for Thy testimonies are my meditation.” It is the way to comfort under affliction. When David’s enemies plotted against him, “thy servant,” says he, “did meditate in thy statutes.” It makes a Christian tender in his way. “I will meditate on Thy precepts, and have respect unto Thy ways.” It gives a Christian a sweet relish of the goodness of God (Psalms 63:5-6). (T. Boston, D. D.)
A lost art
The text brings before us the lost art of meditation. Here are three things that it is very difficult to get, indeed almost impossible--solitude, leisure, and a field. Solitude which shuts out the sight and sound and thought of the busy world, how can we get that in this great Babel? And leisure, who can find that in times of rush and whirl like ours? So it comes that meditation is almost a lost art, and with it goes, and must go, all great attainment in the religious life. There are but two things that can loose a man from the world, and set him free from its tyranny and put him outside and above it--those two are meditation and sleep. Now this is what meditation does for us. It gives us freedom from the littleness of earth; it is the unfolding within us of other and greater faculties; the escape from the prison of ourselves and our circumstances that we may soar into the heavens.
1. Man can only find himself in God; and he can only find God by meditation. A man has heights and depths and lengths and breadths which only God can reveal to him. We know how it is in the smaller round of our life. We are put into possession of ourselves by others. He who has most soul and heart is he who gives me not only most of himself, but most of myself. Charity, gratitude, faith, love, service, inspirations, do not these come from contact with those about us? We are like a musical instrument, we only know what can be got out of us when others play upon us. The clapper puts the bell in possession of itself. But God and God alone can put us in full possession of ourselves. Take, for instance, the faculty of reverence. Only by knowing God is reverence begotten. And only by meditation is it that we can know God and enter into any true relationship with Him. As I commune with Him my soul is bowed in lowliness. I may think of Him as all this without being solemnized and awed, for my thought is indeed a narrow and a shallow vessel to hold the glory of the Most High. But meditation is the way of revelation--it is the lifting of the veil that we may pass into the very Holy of Holies. So is it that God comes near to us and reveals Himself to us as our Gracious Father.
2. And briefly glance at the range of this truth--it covers everything. As a man finds himself in God, so does he find his brother. If God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.
3. So again, this meditation puts a man in possession of the world. The little things of earth sink down in that Presence into their true estimate.
4. Again, meditation puts a man in possession of all the ages. The past comes up and yields him its tribute. All these great saints of old do speak comfortably to us of the faithfulness and love of our God.
Take some other aspects of meditation.
1. It possesses what thought only sees. There is a well-known shop that I often pass, where the windows are filled with all manner of daintiest sweets set forth in most attractive shapes. I have seen a crowd of little children flattening their noses against the window-panes, and ragged, hungry men and women standing looking within. But out of the door with paper parcels have come tripping little children and happy men and women laden with good things, beaming and smiling, possessing what others only look at. Meditation does that. It is as I begin to let the truth sink down within me that my love is kindled and my faith is stirred, and all my soul goes out in triumphant possession of that which I have heard.
2. Again, meditation retains what hearing lightly loses. Photography can secure the picture in a second, but in a second it is lost. There is a process of developing and a process of fixing for which retirement and solitude and darkness are necessary. Then the picture is secured. Truth is mostly lost because it is heard only and not retained. Meditation has not come in to develop and fix it. There is, too, a process by which the photograph is eaten into the plate, bitten into it by means of some acid. That also is what meditation can do for us--we want the truth graven upon us, we want the name and the message and the word of Jesus our Master wrought thus into us.
3. Again, meditation turns into life and strength what otherwise is but a burden. A man can carry a sack of flour and yet be very hungry. He must eat the bread if he would live thereby. Yet it is not what a man eats, but what he digests, that administers to him. And digestion is not all; he must assimilate it, turn it into his very life and being, into his blood and bones and muscles.
4. Meditation is the source of sweet serenity. I have sometimes sat with some old man sagacious, experienced, successful, quick to perceive at a glance the right course. And in the eventide, after the day’s business is done, the son has come to talk over the day’s work--an order from such a firm--a mishap there--this matter to be arranged, and such a thing to be seen to, and such a possibility to be considered. To talk with the Lord of these things of earth, to wait for the light which He gives and the wisdom of His guidance, is indeed to be at peace.
5. Meditation kindles the fire. While I was musing, says the Psalmist, the fire kindled. To meditate upon the goodness of God, to muse upon the love of Jesus, to trace the unfailing bounty, to spell the sweet promises of His Word, is to kindle afresh the flame of our love and to send it leaping and surging heavenward.
6. Of meditation the Word of God is the best basis. Do not read the Bible only, it is not meant only to be read. Even searching the Scriptures may be a dull, dead exercise. Turn from the Word to Him that speaketh, and let the heart commune with Him. But hearing all this and believing it will avail us nothing unless we set ourselves to learn and master this art of meditation. (Mark Guy Pearse.)
Meditation at eventide
The active duties of life, the calls of necessary business, the means required for our daily subsistence, may take up much of our time and employ most of our thoughts; but there is also a season when the mind should unbend from the weariness and troubles of ordinary employments, should seek tranquillity and repose from the agitations of society, and when we should go forth in holy contemplation “ to meditate in the field at the eventide.” At such a season there is much to awaken our serious consideration, and to keep our souls in congenial mood with the quiet and peaceful features of nature around us. When we wander forth “at the eventide,” or sit down absorbed in pensive meditation, we think of all that now convulses society and agitates the human breast; we think of the vanities and follies of the world, its strifes and animosities, its bitterness and woe, its incitements and excesses, its delusions and disappointments; and we look to the time when all these must soon end. When we “go out at the eventide,” we may in sweet meditation look upon the works of creation around us, and read many a lesson of instructive wisdom. Actuated by a fine perception, we may dwell with rapture and delight on every object, may see in every tree and plant and flower the constructive hand of Deity displayed; and, when thus we discern the finger of God in all things, the world itself becomes a temple, and all its various parts harmoniously set forth the praise and glory and power of God. When “the burden and heat of the day” have passed away, and we go forth “at the eventide,” we may well be insensibly carried away by contemplations on the character and nature of human life. We have seen during the day the sun shining over our he, ads in fullest power and brightest effulgence; and we are led to compare it to the noontide of human life, when the spirits of man are wrought up to the highest pitch, and his vigour and strength are put forth in the fullest exercise and liveliest animation. But we know how soon this passes away, and we feel ourselves intimately concerned in the lesson it teaches. (Archdeacon Fothergill.)
The word meditate is most suggestive in its etymology. It means to be in the midst of a matter, to have it in-your very centre. Could anything more fitly express the most thorough kind of meditation? It would be a mistake to identify meditation with study which bus always a distinctly intellectual purpose. It is not analysis, it is not synthesis, it is no kind of intellectual process. It is letting the mind seethe and work and play about a subject, guided by conscience or emotion or desire or strong resolution, till it gets impressed with the subject, till the sap and taste of it flow into the soul. Nothing, however great, is yours till you get the substance of it into you by meditation. It remains entirely outside of you. Neither faith, nor love, nor hope can dispense with meditation. Faith gets no good of its objects, love is unable to love, hope forgets to burn and to soar, ceases to hope--if there is no meditation. By meditation we pasture on the sky, we draw the secret strength from all truth, we serve ourselves heir to all things. You can poison yourself by meditation if you will. You can soothe and chasten and elevate yourself. Make your choice. You must meditate, but you may do it earnestly, or dully and drowsily. You must meditate, but you may meditate on things that will make you strong and good, brave and free in the service of God, or on things that will make you a fit companion for devils. You may so meditate as to make life a triumph and full of blessing to your friends and the world. You will be a slave or a free man, a starveling dwarf or a giant, a blessing or a curse, according as you meditate. You cannot make yourself good or right by any direct effort of will alone, any more than a man can make himself strong by wishing it. But you can feed yourself by meditation. You can decide what you shall meditate on. The whole universe of God and His truth is there for you to feed upon, and meditation is not a hard, ungrateful task. There is nothing more natural, easy, and pleasant. It is only brooding. (J. Leckie, D. D.)
Nature helps meditation
What help, then, does nature give us in meditating? That she does give help you may have noticed from the aspect of companies gay, sprightly, and talkative, whom nature soon began to silence. Gradually the rattle of tongues died away, and each got isolated and absorbed in the world around; and yet it was no intentness of observation. It was no keenness of search. It was simply the hush of the spirit in a great, vast presence. The calm and quiet of nature infect the spirit. There is something that steals away the fret and worry and care. The babbling brook runs away with our fever and ache and burden. It cheats us out of our scheming and planning. It says to us, Come and be for a while like me. Nature whispers of the supernatural, and the fleeting preaches the eternal. Nature suggests thoughts to us, and breathes impressions that are beyond our explaining, A line of meditation is entered on, and we do not know how it rose. We never imagine that it was the wind sighing through the trees or the scent of the new mown hay. The sights and sounds of nature, her silence and repose, her vastness and variety, are always inviting us to meditation. Our old lines are broken and new presented to us--sometimes pressed upon us. We can only resist the solicitation by a sort of forced and obstinate prepossession. It is a short path into the infinite from any point of our aggressive and contagious surroundings. How can a man by any possibility escape being reminded of the perfect, the vast, the beautiful, the solid, the eternal of which nature is always speaking through her sameness and change? Nature cannot quite force a man to let his thoughts go in these directions, though she sometimes comes to the very edge of force with her sudden surprises, her golden effulgence, her far tremulous haze, her flashes and outbursts, her mountain peaks, and awful chasms and abysses. If any one goes through the world in a thoughtless vein, if he sleeps the journey as men sometimes do in everyday travel, he cannot blame nature. She has been perpetually calling him, inviting, coaxing, wooing, hinting, insinuating, admonishing, and threatening him, that he may reflect and meditate. (J. Leckie, D. D.)
Eventide constrains thought
The twilight speaks of the flight of time, of the evanescence of all worldly glory, the vanity of all mere earthly hopes. It whispers that all days will soon be over as this is. Does it not require a most determined perverseness to shut out thoughts like these? And what a hardening process a soul must go through that has often and often, thousands and thousands of times, deliberately refused to listen to these twilight voices, and, it may be, sometimes laughed away the solemn, tender feelings as if they were idle phantoms of the brain. The great event of evening is sunset. The sun droops toward the west. As he approaches the horizon he darts rays of marvellous brilliance. The clouds become transfigured, glorified. No mortal tongue can tell the enchanting beauty of many sunsets. It is a thing in the world that stands alone without rival. Its magnificence arrests the most heedless. Men stand transfixed by the celestial vision. I have seen a man with a heavy burden on his back arrested by it. That is nature constraining men to think, and filling them with vague and vast delight, mixed with regret and longings. The setting sun is an appeal to the love of pleasure and glory. It does say that there is glory somewhere. It tells of joy beyond imagination. (J. Leckie, D. D.)
Rules for contemplation
Conceive of things clearly and distinctly, in their own nature; conceive of things completely, in all their parts; conceive of things comprehensively, in all their properties and relations; conceive of things extensively, in all their kinds; conceive of things orderly, or in a proper method. (Dr. Watts.)
Of all the angels, the “cherub Contemplation” soars nighest heaven. Of all moods of the mind, meditation is, in its serenity, depths, and seriousness, nearest what we could conceive to be the action of the soul of Him who seeth the end from the beginning, and things not as in their jagged edges, or protuberant parts, but as rounded holes. Meditation has not, perhaps, struck out very brilliant sparkles, but it has produced many solid orbs of truth. It is the intellect and imagination severed from the passions, and moving on without being either interrupted or falsely accelerated by their power. Of meditation, you may say that there is rest even in its motion, and motion even in its rest. It does not abruptly break, but silently eddies round, and gently solves great problems. It is the parent of all lofty resolves, genuine change of character, and of all continuous courses of worthy and energetic thoughts. Hence the masters of human nature, in history, in fiction, or in poetry, generally describe their heroes, ere conversion to the high purpose which gives them their ultimate fame, as being much alone and much in meditation. Hercules is meditating when Virtue and Pleasure meet him; and when his “choice” is made, Marius is meditating amidst the ruins of Carthage, when he forms his dread resolution to return and conquer Rome. Meditation, with such giants, is just the Antaean act of touching the ground, to derive strength for renewed endeavours. (G. Gilfilhan.)
Evening, the time for meditation
Morning is too fresh and hopeful; day, too bustling and summy; even night too sombre and uniform for the sweet serenities and gentle fluctuations of contemplation. It is an exercise especially suited to the evening, when day and night meeting form the “conflux of two eternities”; when thought tends (like the bat in the twilight air), not to fly onward or backward, but to trace circles, now narrowing and again enlarging; when an autumnal feeling pervades, in a less degree, the mind during all the seasons of the year; when the sun becomes more spiritual as he departs, and the stars and planets arise in the sky like thoughts and feelings in the mind--some cold and glittering as the former, and others warm and panting in their purple light, like the latter; when the exquisite sensation of “moonlight approaching” is conveyed, reminding you of the first dim dawning of love in the heart, or of some grand and new conception slowly lifting itself up in the horizon of the soul; when the tender shade over the landscape, the mild compromise between light and darkness, and the feeling of general repose, excite anew a luxurious emotion, half of sense and half of imagination, as different from the stern clearness of noonday thought as it is from the unearthly speculations and excursions of the lonely midnight mind--then is the time for meditation on all the themes dearest to man--on nature, poetry, the great characters and actions of the past, on the future life, on heaven, and on God. (G. Gilfilhan.)
Most of us suppose we have some little plot of time railed off for God morning and evening, but how often does it get trodden down by the profane multitude of this world’s cares, and quite occupied by encroaching secular engagements. But evening is the time when many men are, and when all men ought to be, least hurried; when the mind is placid, but not yet prostrate; when the body requires rest from its ordinary labour, but is not yet so oppressed with fatigue as to make devotion a mockery; when the din of this world’s business is silenced, and as a sleeper wakes to a consciousness when some accustomed noise is checked, so the soul now wakes up to the thought of itself and of God. I know not whether those of us who have the opportunity have also the resolution to sequester ourselves evening by evening, as Isaac did; but this I do know, that he who does so will not fail of his reward, but will very speedily find that his Father who seeth in secret is manifestly rewarding him. What we all need above all things is to let the mind dwell on Divine things--to be able to sit down knowing we have so much clear time in which we shall not be disturbed, and during which we shall think directly under God’s eye--to get quite rid of the feeling of getting through with something, so that without distraction the soul may take a deliberate survey of its own matters. And so shall often God’s gifts appear on our horizon when we lift up our eyes, as Isaac “lifted up his eyes and saw the camels coming” with his bride. (M. Dods, D. D.)
Benefit of meditation
The Rev. Matthew Henry died in 1714, at the age of 52. His “Commentary on the Bible” will be a standing monument of his labour, piety, and zeal. He improved his time, and knew what it was by experience to enjoy communion with God. Of retirement and meditation he thus speaks:--“It will do us good to be often left alone, and sitting alone; and if we have the art of improving solitude, we shall find we are never less alone than when alone. Meditation and prayer ought to be both our business and our delight when we are alone; while we have a God, a Christ, and a heaven to acquaint ourselves with and to secure an interest in, we need not want matter either for meditation or prayer, which, if they go together, will materially befriend each other. Our walks in the fields are then truly pleasant, when in them we apply ourselves to meditation and prayer. We there have a free and open prospect of the heavens above us, and the earth around us, and the hosts and riches of both; by the view of which we should be led to the contemplation of the Maker and Owner of all.” As to the time for meditation, the same hour may be seasonable to one and unseasonable to another. “I have always found,” says Mr. Baxter, “that the fittest time for myself is the evening from sunsetting till twilight.” In another case, when an orator was asked what was most eminent in rhetoric and oratory, he gave this answer, “Pronunciation, pronunciation, pronunciation.” “So,” says Dr. Bates, “if I should be asked what I think are the best means and way to advance the faculties, make the ordinances fruitful, increase grace, enlarge our comfort, and produce holiness, I should answer, ‘Meditation, meditation, meditation.’” (Buck.)
Necessity of meditation
It is not enough to hear the Word, we must meditate upon it. If the bee went quickly from flower to flower it would never gather honey: but by resting there it secures great spoil. Meditation, like the harrow, covers the good seed, that it may not be dissipated by contact with the world. (J. G. Pilkington.)
Meditation before prayer
Meditation before prayer matures our conceptions, and quickens our desires. Our heart is like a watch that is soon run down, and needs constant winding up. It is an instrument that is easily put out of tune. And meditation is like the tuning of an instrument, and setting it for the harmony of prayer. What is the reason that in prayer there is such a slight discurrency in our thoughts, that our thoughts are like dust in the wind, carried to and fro; but only for want of meditation? What is the reason that our desires, like an arrow shot by a weak bow, do not reach the mark? But only this--we do not meditate before prayer; he that would but consider, before he comes to pray, the things that he is to pray for, pardon of sin, and the life of glory, how would this cause his prayers to ascend like incense towards God? The great reason why our prayers are ineffectual, is because we do not meditate before them. (H. G. Salter.)
Meditation and prayer
“During his seclusion at Enderley,” writes one of the biographers of Robert Hall, “almost entirely without society, he spent much of his time in private devotion, and not infrequently set apart whole days for prayer and fasting--a practice which he continued to the end of life, deeming it essential to the revival and preservation of personal religion. When able to walk, be wandered in the fields and sought the shady grove, which often echoed with the voice of prayer, and witnessed the agony of his supplications. He was frequently so absorbed in these sacred exercises as to be unaware of the approach of persons passing by, many of whom recollected with deep emotion the fervour and importunity of his addresses at the mercy-seat, and the groanings which could not be uttered. His whole soul appears, indeed, to have been in a state of constant communion with God; his lonely walks amid the woodland scenery were rendered subservient to that end, and all his paths were bedewed with the tears of penitential prayer. Few men have spent more time in private devotion, or resorted to it with more relish, or had a deeper practical conviction of its benefits and its pleasures, as well as of its obligation as a duty binding upon all.”
Influence of meditation
“I lived alone,” writes Channing, in mature life, speaking of his experience when a tutor at Richmond at the age of eighteen, “too poor to buy books, spending my days and nights in an outbuilding, with no one beneath my roof except during the hours of school. There I toiled as I have never done since. With not a human being to whom I could communicate my deepest thoughts and feelings, I passed through intellectual and moral conflicts so absorbing as often to banish sleep and to destroy almost wholly the power of digestion. I was worn well-nigh to a skeleton. Yet I look back on those days and nights of loneliness and frequent gloom with thankfulness. If I ever struggled with my whole soul for purity, truth, and goodness, it was there. There, amidst sore trials, the great question, I trust, was settled within me, whether I would obey the higher or lower principles of my nature--whether I would be the victim of passion or the free child and servant of God. It is an interesting recollection that this great conflict was going on within me, and nay mind receiving an impulse toward the perfect, without a thought or suspicion of one person around me as to what I was experiencing.”
Meditation, what it is
Whoever has pondered long over a plan which he is anxious to accomplish, without distinctly seeing at first the way, knows what meditation is. It was in this way that one of the greatest of English engineers, a man uncouth, and unaccustomed to regular discipline of mind, is said to have accomplished his most marvellous triumphs. He threw bridges over almost impracticable torrents, and pierced the eternal mountains for his viaducts. Sometimes a difficulty brought all the work to a pause; then he would shut himself up in his room, eat nothing, speak to no one, abandon himself intensely to the contemplation of that on which his heart was set, and at the end of two or three days would come forth serene and calm, walk to the spot, and quietly give orders which seemed the result of superhuman intuition.
Placid, pastoral Isaac
Crowded into a brief chapter or two, between the heroic life of Abraham and the adventurous life of Jacob, Isaac seems overshadowed by the father and the son. He is the longest lived of the patriarchs, with the shortest history. It is related of him chiefly that he dug wells--excellent wells, no doubt, and famous some of them, as Sitnah and Rehoboth and Beer-sheba; but, with this exception, he is notable chiefly as being the son of his father, and the father of his son. And yet the thought grows upon me at every resting-place among the labours of life, at every reminder of my personal ineffectiveness and unimportance--at every quiet Sunday evening pause between the work and strife of the week past and those of the week to come, how much comfort there is, here in this long, quiet, almost unrecorded interval between Abraham and Jacob, in pondering the peaceful story of a man who had neither the heroism of the one nor the subtlety of the other, but who, just as much as either of them, has this testimony, that he pleased God. “When I think of my father’s life, crowded with great and noble deeds for the Church and for humanity, and think of my passing years and of their meagre record, it is comforting to remember that God requires to be served also by other men than heroes; it is pleasant to turn from Abraham, sitting in his tent-door in the heat of the fiery noon-day, to placid, pastoral Isaac, meditating in the field at eventide . . . In the margin of the chapter, we find over against the word “meditate” the alternative reading, “Or, pray.” We do not need this marginal note to assure us that this evening meditation of the shepherd-lever was a prayer. In so grave a crisis of life, the meditation of one who believes in God of course becomes a prayer. What anxious questions of a lifetime’s joy or wretchedness were to turn on what might be the result of that far-away embassy of the faithful slave, Eliezer! (L. W. Bacon.)
Advantages of meditation
A garment that is double-dyed, dipped again and again will retain the colour a great while; so a truth which is the subject of meditation. (Philip Henry.)
She became his wife
A primeval marriage
II. ITS PURITY.
III. ITS GODLINESS.
IV. IT ILLUSTRATES THE PRINCIPLE OF UNITY IN DIVERSITY. The characters of Isaac and Rebekah were most diverse. They were truly complements of each other, and when brought together made a complete whole. (T. H.Leale.)
A new home
I. THIS NEW HOME IS FILLED WITH LOVE. “Isaac loved her,” and it is but fair to infer that she loved him. This love is not mere romance or sentiment. It is better than a transient conceit, and is that kind which only deepens and strengthens, as the ideal and the fanciful vanish away. It stands the strain of trial, and falters not before affliction, and what is more wonderful yet, it seems to be only purified by the mutual revelation of every phase of character and every mood of temper, and all the relations and duties of the household. There may be such a thing as “love at first sight,” and if it be genuine it only gets more hallowed and more tender as the years roll; but if it is not genuine, if it be only a fancy, a dazzling flash, a temporary spell of lovely witchery, then you soon find either the divorce court in session or the domestic court disagreeing and contending with sensitive intolerance. In the case of the young couple before us, we find that their love, which seems to have been at “first sight,” was deep and fond and lasting, and that it was ennobled and blessed with that piety which, like a divine chemistry, made even life’s cares and annoyances a means of grace and gracious growth. What a beautiful spectacle this! Two frail natures on their way to the unknown land, maintaining a moral and life-long unity, proving a mutual blessing, constituting an affectionate representation of Christ and the Church, a bulwark for society, and a compound factor in the world’s destiny.
II. THIS HOME, AS TIME WORE ON, MADE UP FOR MUCH PAIN AND LOSS. “Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.” Comforted! The record is not that he forgot her. Ah! he could not possibly do that, and doubtless the bereaved Abraham and he frequently talked about the precious dead! But such was Rebekah’s influence, such her delicate and efficient ministry, such her care and company, that the heart of her husband began to heal, and the shadow of the sepulchre to shorten. Every human home ought to be a place of comfort. It is rough enough outside. The especial shade of that which I desire you to see now is this filling the place of the dead, this making up, in a measure, for their loss. These practical hints I have given, are essential elements; but then there is something beyond and more! The home should not only be one of comfort, but COMFORTING! Death is a strange magician even to the believer. He cannot do any real harm to my loved one, and yet he makes me tremble and cry out, as I imagine, say my mother, cruelly smitten and changed. And the wand is still further powerful in making me forget all her blemishes, all her weaknesses, all her failings. I only think of the virtues, the excellences, the splendid qualities of head and heart, and my loss seems irreparable. In many a home there is need for a bright, fresh, loving, tender Rebekah; Heed for a hen]lug and restoring ministry. Your hand is like God’s when it wipes the tear off the cheek; your heart is Christ-like when it makes the grave ring with prophecies of resurrection; your effort is angelic when you whisper comfort in the moonlight, under the olives, to some prostrate, bleeding form at your feet. No matter what relationship the bereaved one in your home sustains to you, the thought of the text holds good--be a comfort; be neither indifferent nor intrusive; do not drawl a saintly lecture, nor grieve with a reckless folly; be all you can of that which is missed!
III. THIS PARTICULAR HOME HAD ITS TRIALS. It would be passing strange if it had not. It would straightway become one of the world’s wonders. If every heart knoweth its own bitterness, certainly every house has its own anxieties and adversities. Try to meet them with the grace of Him who was the friend and trust of Isaac. (J. R. Kerr.)
Rebekah: the chosen bride, wife, and mother
There are delineated here--
I. SOME TYPICAL VIRTUES OF MAIDENLY CHARACTER ESSENTIAL TO GOOD WIVES AND MOTHERS. Rebekah’s name is significant. It means a cord with a noose at the end of it--that which can both catch and hold fast. An old Hebrew writer says, with a biting scorn and sarcasm--“Not unfit as the name of a girl who ensnares men by her beauty.” It is a most unworthy saying, and it misses the very point and meaning of the designation, as such sayings generally do. Rebekah means winning in character and fast in friendship. It is the opposite of the shallow, frivolous, and changeful butterfly beauty, as destitute of power as of sincerity. What was the attraction of Rebekah? what was the force by which she held those who yielded to her influence?
1. There was a deep religious basis on which her life was built up. You can never be what you ought to be unless you have possession of that pearl of great price, true religion, the friendship and favour of God. Commit thy way unto the Lord, young woman! Delight thyself in the Lord and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart.
2. There was in Rebekah calmness and self-control. Considering the general seclusion of Eastern women, there is a remarkable absence of excitement, flurry, and confusion in presence of the stranger and his attendants when she was accosted at the well. She had all her wits about her; had herself in hand, reined in and guided by true judgment; saying right words, doing right actions. This is a grace which comes of nature often, but may come of culture when nature has withheld the boon.
3. There was in Rebekah courteousness. There was a polish and refinement of manner about her which indicate the genial influence of true education. She was considerate of the rights and of the feelings of others; she endeavoured to put them at their ease; she tried to promote, and was pleased in their happiness.
4. Another grace in Rebekah’s character was modesty. She was calm, ready-witted; but she was without forwardness, self-assertion, loudness. Nothing is lost to a true modesty, either of right or the respect of others. It is better to be retiring than self-demonstrative. Power is with the former and not with the latter.
5. Another point in her character was readiness to oblige. The stranger had not to ask twice; he received more than he asked. She was mindful to entertain strangers; ready to communicate; hospitable. Where need was she hastened to supply it. She had the happy art and faculty of making strangers feel at home. There was a wise sympathy in her heart which taught her what to do, and how to do it well.
6. And, last of all, she had great strength and decision. When she was asked whether she would go with the steward to Abraham’s residence to be Isaac’s wife, there was no hesitation about her, and no desire to tarry. She said, “I will go.” Isaac was a quiet, yielding, contemplative-natured man; she was his very counterpart and help-meet. Decision of character is essential to all noble life. There are innumerable failures and innumerable evils attendant upon its absence. They who lack moral strength are open to all manner of evil inducements and temptations. The fierce conflicts of the flesh can only be maintained through resoluteness. To hesitate is to be lost.
II. THERE ARE CERTAIN PRINCIPLES AND LESSONS ASSOCIATED WITH AND GROWING OUT OF REBEKAH’S LIFE AND HISTORY WHICH NAY BE SUGGESTED FOR QUIET HOME THINKING.
1. The elevated distinction of the wife in the kingdom of God. Any woman would not do to be Isaac’s wife. She had to be sent for from afar. Shehad to be richly endowed and beautiful. She had to be a woman of exalted character and capability. This was so because there was to be a typal life in the believing home, and because the regeneration of society was to go out from it. If women be not noble, homes cannot be pure and strong to withstand the deteriorating influence of the world on character and life. As the homes are, society must be. In Christianity the home virtues have a high, if not the highest, place. To rule the home a woman needs to possess abundance of grace.
2. The importance of strong-minded, strong-hearted, pious mothers in the kingdom of God. The great men of the Bible were all endowed with the greatness of their mothers. They owed to them what was best and brightest in their heart and lives. It was through them they achieved their successes. Never had women greater responsibilities thrust upon them than had the mothers of Moses, Jacob, Samuel, David, and Jesus Christ. Never did women more nobly fulfil their trust. It is of immense importance to a man, the first and most formative and lasting influence which moulds his character and directs the bent and tendency of his nature.
3. All social ties and relationships should be sanctified, consecrated, by prayer. The prayer of Eliezer, the prayer of Isaac--here called his eventide meditation--and the prayer of Rebekah’s relatives, all suggest and convey the lesson that there is a religious aspect and element of those relationships of affection on which homes are to rest and be built up. If anywhere Divine direction should be sought, it is in connection with steps which are irrevocable--which once taken cannot be retraced.
4. The last word must be a word of caution. It is the temptation of the strong to be impatient of Divine delays. It was Rebekah’s. (W. H.Davison.)
In this tender manner is the admirable story closed. Who can forbear wishing them all happiness? The union of filial and conjugal affection is not the least honourable trait in the character of this amiable man. He “brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent”; and was then, and not till then, comforted for his loss of her. Dutiful sons promise fair to be affectionate husbands: he that fills up the first station in life with honour, is thereby prepared for those that follow. God in mercy sets a day of prosperity over against a day of adversity. Now he woundeth our spirits by dissolving one tender union, and now bindeth up our wounds by cementing another. (A. Fuller.)
1. Honourable and due reception is but due to a wife sent from God.
2. Solemn taking of a wife as well as consent, is requisite for perfecting marriage.
3. Conjugal love must follow in all marriages made by God.
4. A wife’s comfort may supply a mother’s loss. So God makes up creature losses with creature revivings sometimes. (G. Hughes, B. D.)
Rebekah a suitable wife for Isaac
Isaac’s continence had its reward. In the suitableness of Rebekah to a man of his nature, we see the suitableness of all such gifts of God as are really waited for at His hand. God may keep us longer waiting than the world does, but He gives us never the wrong thing. Isaac had no idea of Rebekah’s character; he could only yield himself to God’s knowledge of what he needed; and so there came to him, from a country he had never seen, a help-meet singularly adapted to his own character. One cannot read of her lively, bustling, almost forward, but obliging and generous conduct at the well, nor of her prompt, impulsive departure to an unknown land, without seeing, as no doubt Eliezer very quickly saw, that this was exactly the woman for Isaac. In this eager, ardent, active, enterprising spirit, his own retiring and contemplative, if not sombre disposition, found its appropriate relief and stimulus. Hers was a spirit which might indeed, with so mild a lord, take more of the management of affairs than was befitting; and when the wear and tear of life had tamed down the girlish vivacity with which she spoke to Eliezer at the well, and leapt from the camel to meet her lord, her active-mindedness does appear in the disagreeable shape of the clever scheming of the mother of a family. In her sons you see her qualities exaggerated: from her, Esau derived his activity and open-handedness; and in Jacob, you find that her self-reliant and unscrupulous management has become a self-asserting craft which leads him into much trouble, if it also sometimes gets him out of difficulties. But such as Rebekah was, she was quite the woman to attract Isaac and supplement his character. So in other cases where you find you must leave yourself very much in God’s hand, what He sends you will be found more precisely adapted to your character than if you chose it for yourself. You find your whole nature has been considered--your aims, your hopes, your wants, your position, whatever in you waits for something unattained. And as in giving to Isaac the intended mother of the promised seed, God gave him a woman who fitted in to all the peculiarities of his nature, and was a comfort and a joy to him in his own life; so we shall always find that God, in satisfying His own requirements, satisfies at the same time our wants--that God carries forward His work in the world by the satisfaction of the best and happiest feelings of our nature, so that it is not only the result that is blessedness, but blessing is created along its whole course. (M. Dods, D. D.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Genesis 24". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
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