Last week we began journeying with Abraham’s servant as he seeks a wife for Isaac. He’s traveled to the town where Abe’s brother lives and has just stopped at a well where the local young women are coming out to draw water. Here he takes a moment to pray in faith, the first secret for successful missions. He asks God to lead him to Isaac’s wife in this way:
If he asks one of the young women at the well to give him a drink and she says, “Sure, and I’ll water your camels too,”
Then she’s the one God has chosen to be Isaac’s wife, and this is how the servant will know that God has made his mission successful.
Before he’s done praying he sees Rebekah, and here we resume our story beginning at Genesis 24:15. The text goes ahead and tells us that she is a relative of Abraham’s—one of Abe’s requirements!—but the servant doesn’t know that just yet. All he sees is that Rebekah is very beautiful and old enough to be married. We’re not told that physical beauty is on Abraham’s list of must-haves for his son’s bride-to-be, and it doesn’t enter the servant’s prayer regarding the situation, at least not that we’re told. I like to think that just as the servant expects God to answer his prayer, he also expects God to go above and beyond in blessing those involved. He’s observed God’s faithfulness to Abe’s family for years and likely experienced it in his own life as well. It would be just like God to not only provide a relative of Abe’s willing to go and become Isaac’s wife but also a very beautiful one at that!
Whatever the reason Rebekah stands out to him, the servant runs to her and asks her for a drink. Just as he’d hoped, she gives him a drink and then waters his camels as well. She has fulfilled the sign from God he requested! As she’s working, the servant watches her, the text tells us “wondering whether or not the Lord had given him success in his mission” (Gen. 24:21). I see myself here in the servant’s musings; he’s asked God for something specific to happen, that specific thing has happened, and he’s wondering if God really did it or if it’s a coincidence or something that would have happened anyway.
Remember, the servant still needs to confirm two crucial matters to determine that Rebekah is the one God has chosen to be Isaac’s wife: 1. She must be a relative of Abraham’s. 2. She must be willing to go. He wastes no time in gathering the next piece of info—“Whose daughter are you?”—and finding out if her father would be willing to host him and his traveling companions overnight. She names her family and affirms that they would be glad to have them as guests. The servant’s response is to bow down in worship to God because Rebekah’s family is none other than Abe’s relatives!—another confirmation that Rebekah is very likely God’s pick for Isaac.
Rebekah runs home to tell her family about all this, and her brother, Laban, runs back to invite the servant to come stay with them. (Have you noticed that there’s been a lot of running going on?) He does so, Laban gets the camels settled, and the servant and camel drivers wash their feet. Then a meal is served, but Abe’s servant says, “I don’t want to eat until I have told you why I have come” (Gen. 24:33). We’ve arrived at the second secret for successful missions:
You know the feeling the servant must have been having in that moment—it’s been a long, eventful day, you’ve just gotten cleaned up, and a hot meal has been placed in front of you. Ah, finally! Yet he is so laser-focused on his mission, determined to perform his part with excellence, he doesn’t taste a bite until he’s moved the needle forward on this endeavor. Wow! I’m impressed by this guy’s single-mindedness, being unable to imagine very many conversations I wouldn’t postpone for the sake of a hard-earned supper!
Why push the issue? Wouldn’t it have been offensive to his host and fellow diners to make them wait to eat? What would be the harm in relaxing a bit and then returning to the business at hand? The text doesn’t tell us the servant’s motives, but I suspect that one or more of the following truths influenced his decision:
1. There are no perfect circumstances for action. I bet you’ve noticed this while on your own various life missions as I certainly have. Suddenly you’ve got clarity regarding what God wants you to do next or at least a general sense of the direction you should go, and just as your heart begins to beat faster with the thrill of a new mission, it drops as you notice the 27 obstacles in your way—time, money, naysayers, etc. Circumstances will likely never be perfect for you or I to take our next step, but as the servant did, we’ve got to do it anyway.
2. There is wisdom in “picking your moment.” Though there are no perfect circumstances for action, I do believe that there are better and worse circumstances for action. The servant chose to have his needed discussion with Rebekah’s family while they were likely hangry—yikes! This is definitely not a preferred mood to which to introduce a weighty topic! However, after dinner they might have been sleepy due to the big meal or slightly intoxicated by wine—even worse conditions in which to attempt to cement a betrothal, I’d say. A moment of prayer and thoughtfulness can help us to pick our moment wisely.
3. Delayed action often becomes partial action or inaction. Been there too; how about you? I know I need to have a hard conversation with a friend, so I set up a meeting with them. When we’re together I know it would probably work best to get the tough topic out of the way, but I decide that we need to “catch up” for awhile first. I’m enjoying my friend’s company, and I’d hate to disturb the peace, so I convince myself to modify my original spiel so it’s not so abrupt… Soon I’ve talked myself out of it entirely! It would have been better if I’d brought up that difficult thing right away. Perhaps the servant knew this tendency in himself as well, and that’s why he forged ahead.
Whatever his reason, the servant laid out his mission to Laban and Rebekah’s father, Bethuel, while the food sat there getting cold on the table. We’ll look at this part of the story in more detail next week, but for now we’ll simply say that after the servant re-told of his conversation with Abraham, prayer, and exchange with Rebekah at the well, Laban and Bethuel acknowledged God’s hand in all of this and agreed that she should go with him to become Isaac’s wife. The servant gave presents to all of them, and then—finally!—they ate their meal.
We see the servant’s laser-focus again as early the next morning, he’s ready to take Rebekah and go! Her brother and mother wanted her to stay with them for another ten days, but the servant said, “Don’t delay me. The Lord has made my mission successful; now send me back so I can return to my master” (Gen. 24:56). Once again we’re challenged by this fellow’s steadfastness.
We’ll wrap up this tale next week, but for now consider that mission you deeply desire to be successful. Are you laser-focused on it? If not, how could you become more single-minded? Whatever it is that you believe God wants you to do next, I challenge you to pray for wisdom to pick your moment, realize circumstances won’t be perfect, do it anyway, and do it right away!