Biblical Principles for Finding a Spouse
Scripture: Genesis 22:1– 25:18
Biblical Principles for Finding a SpouseGenesis 22:1-25:18
Sunday, 11 August 2013
Pastor Randy Smith
A young girl shared her desires regarding a future spouse:
Oh Lord, I have a big request
which I must ask You now.
Before I find a boy I love,
I pray You show me how.
I know Your Word is very clear
On what a boy should be.
Don't let my feelings mix me up,
But give me eyes to see.
Keep me from boys who turn my heart
From You with looks or charm.
Protect me from temptations and
Those things which bring me harm.
Help me discern all those words
And actions which are fake.
Guide me to see what's right,
My love for You is at stake.
Help me consider only boys,
with lives that would please You,
Whose focus is to serve You well
and do what You would do.
Lord, help me find a boy that's wise,
That seeks and does what's right;
So if I choose to follow him,
We'll both walk in Your light.
Show me a boy that knows You well,
That spends much time with You;
So he can know and do Your will
And love just like You do.
I know that if I follow You,
And put You first in all,
The boy I find will be Your choice;
Our purity won't fall.
Prepare me, Lord, to be a girl
That such a boy will choose;
To grow with him, close to Your heart,
With You, we cannot lose!
We are roughly half way through our study in the book of Genesis. We are also at the point where the lives of two key characters come to an end. In chapter 23 Sarah dies. And in chapter 25 Abraham breathes his last breath. Yet sandwiched in the middle of these two accounts is a long narrative that focuses on their child, the promised child, Isaac.
Isaac is now forty years old and in order for the seed of Israel to continue and thus all the promises of descendants to be fulfilled, Isaac must find a wife, and he and his wife must have a child. With Isaac now at forty, it appears to be heading toward another dead end. We are left to wonder, would God once again provide and be faithful to His promises to continue the seed of the woman leading to the nation Israel and then the promised Messiah that would crush the head of the serpent (Gen. 3:15).
Chapter 24 of Genesis is another one of the great love stories in the Bible. Though some of what we read is definitely cultural, there is much contained in these verses that we need to understand and rediscover in our culture that has completely removed itself from God's principles when it comes to understanding marriage and the steps that lead to uniting a couple in matrimony. As a matter of fact, I would submit that most of the principles involved with dating that are practiced by those in the church are much more in line with the world than the Word of God. I believe this stems not so much from disobedience, but rather from ignorance. We are so absorbed and brainwashed by the culture that we do not even understand how much we have veered off course. Today each of us will find out.
If you are single, this sermon is definitely for you. If you have already been blessed with a spouse, this sermon is for you as well as it is your responsibility to pass these principles on to your children and grandchildren and others that may seek your advice on the matter. I believe it is a subject that deserves at least one full sermon!
We'll have two parts to this sermon. First I'd like to walk you through all sixty-seven verses of chapter 24 and make a few brief comments by way of explanation. Then I'd like to extract some biblical principles that apply to our lives today as it pertains to dating and courtship. The first point is entitled, "Finding a Spouse for Isaac." The second point is entitled, "Finding a Spouse for Ourselves."
A. Finding a Spouse Found for Isaac
Genesis 24:1 Now Abraham was old, advanced in age; and the LORD had blessed Abraham in every way. 2 Abraham said to his servant, the oldest of his household, who had charge of all that he owned [these are his final recorded words in Scripture], 'Please place your hand under my thigh [thankfully we just do handshakes today], 3 and I will make you swear by the LORD, the God of heaven and the God of earth, that you shall not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I live, 4 but you will go to my country [450 miles away] and to my relatives, and take a wife for my son Isaac.' [Although advantages for marrying someone local, Abraham did not want his son to marry someone who would turn his heart away from the Lord]. 5 The servant said to him [the guy spots a problem], 'Suppose the woman is not willing to follow me to this land; should I take your son back to the land from where you came?' [The last thing Abraham wanted was for he or Isaac to leave the Promised Land. Why would they return to the land which God told them to leave?]. 6 Then Abraham said to him, 'Beware that you do not take my son back there! 7 The LORD, the God of heaven, who took me from my father's house and from the land of my birth, and who spoke to me and who swore to me, saying, 'To your descendants I will give this land,' He will send His angel before you, and you will take a wife for my son from there [Abraham just provided some hope based on God's promise]. 8 'But if the woman is not willing to follow you, then you will be free from this my oath; only do not take my son back there.' 9 So the servant placed his hand under the thigh of Abraham his master, and swore to him concerning this matter.
10 Then the servant took ten camels from the camels of his master, and set out with a variety of good things of his master's in his hand; and he arose and went to Mesopotamia, to the city of Nahor [it probably took him a month to get there]. 11 He made the camels kneel down outside the city by the well of water at evening time, the time when women go out to draw water. 12 [The servant will now pray for knowledge of God's will] He said, 'O LORD, the God of my master Abraham, please grant me success today, and show lovingkindness to my master Abraham. 13 Behold, I am standing by the spring, and the daughters of the men of the city are coming out to draw water; 14 now may it be that the girl to whom I say, 'Please let down your jar so that I may drink,' and who answers, 'Drink, and I will water your camels also' - may she be the one whom You have appointed for Your servant Isaac; and by this I will know that You have shown lovingkindness to my master.'' [The man in an effort to discern God's will "throws out a fleece" - most don't believe that principle applies today in the New Covenant to determine the Lord's will]. 15 Before he had finished speaking [immediate answer to prayer], behold, Rebekah who was born to Bethuel the son of Milcah, the wife of Abraham's brother Nahor, came out with her jar on her shoulder [Rebekah was Abraham's grandniece]. 16 The girl was very beautiful [not most important but definitely a bonus], a virgin, and no man had had relations with her [pure - this is definitely looking like the one!]; and she went down to the spring and filled her jar and came up. 17 Then the servant ran to meet her, and said, 'Please let me drink a little water from your jar.' 18 She said, 'Drink, my lord;' and she quickly lowered her jar to her hand, and gave him a drink. 19 Now when she had finished giving him a drink, she said, 'I will draw also for your camels until they have finished drinking.' [The average camel without water would require about twenty-five gallons. Considering ancient jugs had a holding capacity of one to two gallons and there were ten camels to water, Rebekah made roughly one hundred trips to the well! This was a gracious offer indeed!] 20 So she quickly emptied her jar into the trough, and ran back to the well to draw, and she drew for all his camels. 21 Meanwhile, the man was gazing at her in silence, to know whether the LORD had made his journey successful or not [that's the key question. Was the Lord behind it? Would he fulfill his mission?]. 22 When the camels had finished drinking, the man took a gold ring weighing a half-shekel and two bracelets for her wrists weighing ten shekels in gold, 23 and said, 'Whose daughter are you? Please tell me, is there room for us to lodge in your father's house?' 24 She said to him, 'I am the daughter of Bethuel, the son of Milcah, whom she bore to Nahor.' 25 Again she said to him, 'We have plenty of both straw and feed, and room to lodge in.' 26 [Look at the servant's response - worshipping God for answered prayer] Then the man bowed low and worshiped the LORD. 27 He said, 'Blessed be the LORD, the God of my master Abraham, who has not forsaken His lovingkindness and His truth toward my master; as for me, the LORD has guided me in the way to the house of my master's brothers.' [Good so far, but we still have to wonder: will her family let Rebekah go? Will she want to go? Will Isaac want to marry her?] 28 Then the girl ran and told her mother's household about these things.
29 Now Rebekah had a brother whose name was Laban; and Laban ran outside to the man at the spring. [So Rebekah leaves the servant there. She runs home and her brother Laban comes out to meet the man.] 30 When he saw the ring and the bracelets on his sister's wrists, and when he heard the words of Rebekah his sister, saying, 'This is what the man said to me,' he went to the man; and behold, he was standing by the camels at the spring. 31 And he said, 'Come in, blessed of the LORD! Why do you stand outside since I have prepared the house, and a place for the camels?' [We'll learn a lot about Laban in the weeks ahead. He was a weasel and greedy man that took advantage of people. It's seen here as his generosity is motivated by the new jewelry he observed on his sister]. 32 So the man entered the house. Then Laban unloaded the camels, and he gave straw and feed to the camels, and water to wash his feet and the feet of the men who were with him. 33 But when food was set before him to eat, he said, 'I will not eat until I have told my business.' [A good servant - kept his priorities]. And he said, 'Speak on.' 34 [The whole situation is now repeated. Notice the servant's dependence on the Lord] So he said, 'I am Abraham's servant. 35 The LORD has greatly blessed my master, so that he has become rich [Laban delighted to hear that! He was probably already calculating the bride-price in his mind!]; and He has given him flocks and herds, and silver and gold, and servants and maids, and camels and donkeys. 36 Now Sarah my master's wife bore a son to my master in her old age, and he has given him all that he has. 37 My master made me swear, saying, 'You shall not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, in whose land I live; 38 but you shall go to my father's house and to my relatives, and take a wife for my son.' 39 I said to my master, 'Suppose the woman does not follow me.' 40 He said to me, 'The LORD, before whom I have walked, will send His angel with you to make your journey successful, and you will take a wife for my son from my relatives and from my father's house; 41 then you will be free from my oath, when you come to my relatives; and if they do not give her to you, you will be free from my oath.' 42 So I came today to the spring, and said, 'O LORD, the God of my master Abraham, if now You will make my journey on which I go successful; 43 behold, I am standing by the spring, and may it be that the maiden who comes out to draw, and to whom I say, 'Please let me drink a little water from your jar;' 44 and she will say to me, 'You drink, and I will draw for your camels also;' let her be the woman whom the LORD has appointed for my master's son.' 45 Before I had finished speaking in my heart, behold, Rebekah came out with her jar on her shoulder, and went down to the spring and drew, and I said to her, 'Please let me drink.' 46 She quickly lowered her jar from her shoulder, and said, 'Drink, and I will water your camels also;' so I drank, and she watered the camels also. 47 Then I asked her, and said, 'Whose daughter are you?' And she said, 'The daughter of Bethuel, Nahor's son, whom Milcah bore to him;' and I put the ring on her nose, and the bracelets on her wrists. 48 And I bowed low and worshiped the LORD, and blessed the LORD, the God of my master Abraham, who had guided me [key words!] in the right way to take the daughter of my master's kinsman for his son. 49 So now if you are going to deal kindly and truly with my master, tell me; and if not, let me know, that I may turn to the right hand or the left.' [In other words, I'll take my business elsewhere. I'll find other relatives that are more mindful of the Lord and His working] 50 Then Laban and Bethuel replied, 'The matter comes from the LORD; so we cannot speak to you bad or good [In other words, what you say makes sense and since it seems it is the Lord's will, what more can we say?]. 51 Here is Rebekah before you, take her and go, and let her be the wife of your master's son, as the LORD has spoken.' 52 When Abraham's servant heard their words, he bowed himself to the ground before the LORD [again, more worship and praise]. 53 The servant brought out articles of silver and articles of gold, and garments, and gave them to Rebekah; he also gave precious things to her brother and to her mother [Our custom is the father of the bride shelling out the bucks. Back then he was the recipient of the bucks. With three daughters of my own I like the middle-eastern way better!]. 54 Then he and the men who were with him ate and drank and spent the night. When they arose in the morning, he said, 'Send me away to my master.' 55 But her brother and her mother said, 'Let the girl stay with us a few days, say ten; afterward she may go.' 56 He said to them, 'Do not delay me, since the LORD has prospered my way. Send me away that I may go to my master [Brings it back to the Lord].' 57 And they said, 'We will call the girl and consult her wishes.' 58 Then they called Rebekah and said to her, 'Will you go with this man?' And she said, 'I will go.' [Just like Abraham, Rebekah made a decision based upon faith not knowing fully what awaited her - a matriarch in the making!]. 59 Thus they sent away their sister Rebekah and her nurse with Abraham's servant and his men. [Last week it was the tough question of sacrificing your son if called by the Lord. This week it is releasing your daughter to move far away if called by the Lord]. 60 They blessed Rebekah and said to her, 'May you, our sister, become thousands of ten thousands, and may your descendants possess the gate of those who hate them.' 61 Then Rebekah arose with her maids, and they mounted the camels and followed the man [Now we see why they had ten camels. They had to haul all Rebekah's stuff. It was like ten Hebrew U-Hauls]. So the servant took Rebekah and departed.
62 Now Isaac had come from going to Beer-lahai-roi; for he was living in the Negev. 63 Isaac went out to meditate in the field toward evening; and he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, camels were coming. 64 Rebekah lifted up her eyes, and when she saw Isaac she dismounted from the camel. 65 She said to the servant, 'Who is that man walking in the field to meet us?' And the servant said, 'He is my master.' Then she took her veil and covered herself [In that culture, the bride would wear a veil before meeting the prospective groom]. 66 The servant told Isaac all the things that he had done. 67 Then Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah's tent [at the beginning Sarah had died and her tent was empty. Now there is again a mother in Israel], and he took Rebekah, and she became his wife, and he loved her [that's wonderful!]; thus Isaac was comforted after his mother's death.
God demonstrated His covenantal faithfulness and provided a wife for Isaac and thus continued the line of the seed of the woman. Through Isaac would eventually come Israel. And through Israel would eventually come the Messiah, whereby Abraham would have spiritual descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky that would be a blessing to the nations (Gen. 12:2; 15:5). We see this ultimately fulfilled in Christ through the Great Commission (Mt. 28:18-20).
B. Finding a Spouse for Ourselves
So with that as a foundation, what principles can we extract from this passage as we move to the second point that would apply as we seek to find a spouse for ourselves? Based upon the statistics, the confusion and the heartbreak from churched people, there is no doubt that we have been doing something wrong in this area. How can we start a relationship like Isaac and Rebekah that leads toward love and happiness and at the same time honors the Lord?
Two caveats before I begin the thirteen points of application from our passage. One, though I am taking these principles from Genesis 24, I know there are some cases that I am stretching the application. Two, I believe within this assembly there is a spectrum of opinions and convictions when it comes to this subject, but I have chosen these foundational points that I believe we can all agree upon as they find their support in Scripture.
1. Seek to please the Lord in all things.
In verse 50, the matter with Rebekah was settled when everyone understood that it was the Lord's will. Just like the servant made it his number one aim to please his master, Abraham, we too need to make it our desire to know the Lord's will and please our Master, Jesus Christ. Therefore everything as it pertains to courtship must have as its ultimate goal to be in line with God's commandments as they are found in the Bible which is sufficient in all its instruction. As Jesus said in John 14:15, "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments."
Furthermore, to be honoring to God, boundaries must be established from the start based on biblical principles and convictions. Will you ever be alone together in privacy? How far will you go physically? Will you ever spend the night at the other's house (even when not in the same bed)? How will each of you interact with the opposite gender?
2. Maximize your singleness for the Lord.
In verses 18-20, we see Rebekah, while single, living an industrious live. She wasn't sitting around depressed and feeling sorry for herself. In the New Testament we read that singleness is to our advantage in that it provides us more time and concern to be of service to the Lord (1 Cor. 7:32-34). While single, invest that time wisely in God's kingdom.
3. Marry only in the Lord.
In verse 3, Abraham did not want his son to marry a woman who didn't love the Lord, so he sent his servant 450 miles away to find one that did. Christians are free to marry, 1 Corinthians 7:39, "only in the Lord." Second Corinthians 6 clearly teaches that we are "not [to] be bound together with unbelievers." Paul goes on to say, "For what partnership have…light with darkness or…Christ with [Satan], or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?" (2 Cor. 6:14-16). Why date someone who hates your Savior? Why marry someone with whom you cannot prioritize Jesus? These sinful and unequally yoked relationships only lead to temptation and heartache when things are eventually broken off. If such a person does not love God who is perfect, how will you ever expect him or her to love you who's imperfect? This is one of my biggest fears in life, that one of my children would marry an unbeliever.
4.Trust that God will provide a spouse if it be His will (vs. 1-9)
Isaac was 40 before God provided Rebekah (Gen. 25:20). Isaac may have been promised a spouse to continue the line, but God has not given that promise to us. There are no guarantees from God in this area. I have heard people angry with God that they do not have a spouse (I have even had people angry with God for the spouse they have!). I can remember praying when I was thirty that if it not be God's will for me to be married that He would take it off my heart. As we see prayers permeate this whole account in chapter 24, we also must leave the whole matter of a spouse in the hands of the Lord. Obey His revealed will and trust His sovereign will.
5. Allow the Lord to guide you through His Word and prayer.
In verse 48 the servant praised God for guiding him to Rebekah. Likewise, before you marry make sure the Lord has guided you as well. Is it an emotional decision or one out of desperation, or is it one that brings peace to both of your hearts that the relationship is of the Lord. This is all the difference between having a happy marriage (like Isaac and Rebekah) and making the worst mistake of your life. Look for red flags! Is the person truly and genuinely committed to Jesus Christ? Is the man working a job (remember the two "J's"- Jesus and job)? Is the person without addictions? Is there harmony between the two of you? Is there a mutual commitment toward purity? Is there the ability to discuss all subjects without hostility? Is the relationship not based on fear, control or disrespect? Is this a person you would consider spending the rest of your life with? Another good question is to ask is if the individual would be a good husband/father or wife/mother. So pray for your future spouse. Julie and I have been praying on a regular basis for our children's spouses from the day we heard they were conceived.
6. Have a goal.
In verse 3 the goal for the servant was to find a wife for Isaac. Ask people who are dating today what the goal of their relationship is and you will get blank stares. Often their relationship is not based on principles and a mutually concluded direction, but feelings. It's all recreational if you will. Listen, the purpose of dating (or a better word, courtship) is to find a spouse. If you are not prepared to get married, my opinion is that you save yourself the time, heartache, temptation, and money and don't date.
7. Consider character first and foremost.
In verses 18-20 we see a portrait of Rebekah's character. She was kind, generous, hard-working and hospitable. She cares not only for Abraham's servant, but for his camels as well! Yes, Rebekah was also beautiful, but according to Proverbs 31, "Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised" (Pr. 31:30). Find the ultimate beauty in a person's heart that is being conformed to the character and likeness of Christ. Young men, here is a good test: Watch how the girl treats her father, because odds are if you marry, she'll be treating you the same way!
8. Men should take the lead.
In verse 23 we see the servant initiating the relationship. I concede the point is a bit stretched here, but we can't deny that Ephesians 5 teaches us that the man is to take spiritual leadership for the marriage in a way that is done by service, example and love. Therefore, ladies, look for a guy that shows the initiative with gentleness from the start. Is the guy equipped to lead you in the same way Christ does? And guys if you pursue a lady and she says "no," respect her decision.
9. Fathers, take charge (vs. 50)
In verse 50 we see Rebekah's father and even her brother providing oversight for her well-being. Dads, especially for your daughters, be involved in the relationship without controlling the relationship. Be firm and be sure this is the best young man for your daughter, but treat him as you would desire another father to treat your son. And young people, don't pursue a relationship without your parent's blessings. Time does not permit me to provide all the obvious exceptions, but I think you understand the general principle. In other words, dads, none of this - pull up in the driveway, a couple honks on the horn and the daughter runs out stuff, without your meeting and speaking with the young man. And young men, if you really want to start off on the right foot, ask the father's permission to see his daughter and then respect and observe his expectations.
I often think of it like this. Imagine me asking the young man who picks up my daughter for the first time in his fancy car if he would let me take it for a three-hour spin around town if he never knew me. Of course he'd not only decline, but probably also think I'm crazy for even asking in the first place. How then should I feel if he, as a stranger, is taking out my daughter who is much more valuable than his car!
10. Pursue one person at a time.
In verse 14, the servant speaks of "the girl." Courtship is not the bachelor show. It's not the dating game. Again, it has as its goal a long-term relationship with one specific individual. Focus on one person with growing commitment to find out if that is God's future spouse for you.
11. Be sexually pure.
Though not much teaching on that in this passage, we do see Rebekah in verse 65 cover herself with a veil. What we see here is modesty and purity (cf. 1 Tim. 5:2). The Bible is clear that sexual intimacy is to be reserved exclusively between husband and wife. Within marriage it's beautiful. Outside of marriage it's destructive. The wrong question asked by many is, "How close can we go to that line without sinning?" A better question is, "How far can I flee from potential sin in fear of getting burned?" The goal of courtship is to work on the commitment part, not the intimacy part. Then when you marry and intimacy comes, there will be commitment.
12. Respect the other person.
When the ultimate decision needed to be made in verse 57 we read, "We will call the girl and consult her wishes." Out of respect, Rebekah was to make the final decision. Likewise in a courting relationship it is important that there be much respect between both individuals. Let's remember that even if you choose not to marry the person this most likely is someone else's future spouse. Let's remember the Golden Rule. How would you like someone treating your future spouse? How would you like your partner to treat you? Is there a desire to enter your marriage without regret or shame? Is there a desire to see the other grow in Christ because of you? Are you respecting the partner or is your relationship what we see in modern dating which is almost entirely self-focused?
13. Have accountability.
Just as there was a firm commitment the servant made with Abraham of accountability in verse 9, we too need to have other wise believers providing insights and accountability. Single people, get as much information as you can from people who are enjoying successful marriages. Young people, if your parents have been married for twenty years, I think they know something about the matter - through both positive and negative experiences! Parents, though your child thinks he or she knows all there is to know about marriage, they don't! Train them. Teach them these principles. It is your job! And those in a courting relationship, by all means get some accountability. Find a person or two that will ask you the hard questions and objectively help you walk the fine line with Christ.
I know these thirteen points are just a brief and superficial overview, but if we can teach and apply just these points we will greatly honor the Lord and spare ourselves much heartache. Marriage is a serious thing. We would be wise to understand that the path leading to it must be taken seriously as well.
Marriage is also beautiful thing that is ultimately intended to show the Gospel, Christ's love for His bride, the church. Just as God showed His faithfulness to allow the seed of Abraham to continue, He will continue to show His faithfulness to allow His church, His bride, to continue. Despite what we see around us, He will "build [His] church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it" (Mt. 16:18).
Isaac finds a spouse for Rebekah. We have some instruction to find the right spouse for ourselves. But most importantly, are you a spouse of Jesus Christ? Are you part of His church? Have you come to Him as Savior by faith to have all your sins washed away so you can enjoy the best relationship and the eternal marriage with the living God?