Our subject is the value of divine guidance, and we shall, therefore, read two passages of Scripture illustrating the truth which we hope to enforce.
Genesis 24:1. And Abraham was old, and well stricken in age: and the LORD had blessed Abraham in all things.
Happy man that can say that, who has a blessing everywhere! And yet Abraham had his “but,” for as yet Isaac was unmarried, and perhaps he little dreamed that for twenty years afterwards he who was to build the house of Abraham was to remain childless. Yet so it was. There was always a trial for Abraham’s faith, but even his trials were blessed, for “God blessed Abraham in all things.”
Genesis 24:2. And Abraham said unto his eldest servant of his house, that ruled over all that he had, Put, I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh:
According to the Eastern manner of swearing.
Genesis 24:3. And I will make thee swear by the LORD, the God of heaven, And the God of the earth, that thou shalt not take a wife unto my son of the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell:
This holy man was careful of the purity of his family; he knew what an ill-effect a Canaanitish wife might have upon his son, and also upon his offspring. He was, therefore, particularly careful here. I would that all parents were the same.
Genesis 24:4-5. But thou shalt go unto my country, and to my kindred, and take a wife unto my son Isaac. And the servant said unto him, Peradventure the woman will not be willing to follow me unto this land: must I needs bring thy son again unto the land from whence thou camest?
The servant was very careful. Those that swear too readily they know not what, will ere long swear till they care not what. Better still is it for the Christian to remember the word of Christ, “Swear not at all, neither by heaven, nor by earth, nor by any other oath.” Doubtless the doctrine of the Saviour is that all oaths of every sort are lawful to the Christian, but if they ever be taken, it should be with deep circumspection and with earnest prayerfulness, that there be no mistake about the matter.
Genesis 24:6. And Abraham said unto him, Beware thou that thou bring not my son thither again.
He knew that God had called him and his kindred to inherit the land of Canaan, and, therefore, he was not willing that they should go back to their former dwelling-places.
Genesis 24:7. The LORD God of heaven, which took me from my father’s house, and from the land of my kindred, and which spake unto me, and that 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.
What simple faith! This was the very glory of Abraham’s faith; it was so simple, so childlike. It might be many miles to Padanaram, but it does not matter to faith. “My God will send his angel.” Oh! we are always making difficulties and suggesting hardships; but if our faith were in lively exercise, we should do God’s will far more readily. “Who art thou, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain.” Brethren, let us be of good heart and of good courage in all matters, for doubtless the angel of God will go before us.
Genesis 24:8-11. And if the woman will not be willing to follow thee, then thou shalt be clear from this my oath: only bring not my son thither again. And the servant put his hand under the thigh of Abraham his master, and sware to him concerning that matter. And the servant took ten camels of the camels of his master, and departed; for all the goods of his master were in his hand: and he arose, and went to Mesopotamia, unto the city of Nahor. And he made his camels to kneel down without the city by a well of water at the time of the evening, even the time that women go out to draw water.
Now I think I may freely say that this looks something like what we call “a wild-goose chase.” He was to go and find a wife for a young man left at home; he knew nothing of the people among whom he was to sojourn, but he believed that the angel of God would guide him aright. What ought he to do, now he had come near to the time when the decision must be made? He should seek counsel of God, and observe that he did so.
Genesis 24:12-14. And he said, O LORD God of my master Abraham, I pray thee, send me good speed this day, and shew kindness unto my master Abraham. Behold, I stand here by the well of water; and the daughters of the men of the city come out to draw water: And let it come to pass, that the damsel to whom I shall say, Let down thy pitcher, I pray thee, that I may drink; and she shall say, Drink, and I will give thy camels drink also: let the same be she that thou hast appointed for thy servant Isaac; and thereby shall I know that thou hast shewed kindness unto my master.
I do not know that he is to be imitated in setting a sign to God; perhaps not, but he did his best; he left the matter with God, and a thing is always in good hands when it is left with him. There is a deal of wisdom in this sign, however. Why did he not say, “The damsel that shall first offer me to drink”? No; she might be a little too forward, and a forward woman was not a fit spouse for the good and meditative Isaac. He himself was to address her first, and then she must be ready, with all cheerfulness, to do far more than he asks. She was to offer him to drink, and draw water for his camels; she would thus not be afraid of work, she would be courteous, and she would be kind, and all these meeting in one might show him, and by this test he might very wisely discover, that she was a fitting woman for Isaac, and might become his spouse.
Genesis 24:15. And it came to pass, before he had done speaking,
Ay, he did not know that promise, “While they are yet speaking I will hear”; but God keeps his promises before he makes them, and, therefore, I am sure he will keep them after he has made them.
Genesis 24:15-16. That, behold, Rebekah came out, who was born to Bethuel, son of Milcah, the wife of Nahor, Abraham’s brother, with her pitcher upon her shoulder. And the damsel was very fair to look upon, a virgin, neither had any man known her: and she went down to the well, and filled her pitcher, and came up.
And so on; I need not read the rest of the story, because we now find that, through earnest prayer, the good servant has been rightly led. We will now turn to another passage where we shall have another instance of a difficult case, where another person put his case before the Lord, and sought guidance and found it.