She became his wife, and he loved her

I love the story in Genesis 24 of Abraham sending his servant to find a wife for Isaac in the old country. Eliezer had to travel more than 500 miles with ten camels and supplies and “choice” gifts, to find a woman he did not know, convince her that she should leave her family and home and travel with a stranger for 500 miles, where she would meet his master’s son, a stranger, and become his wife!

Eliezer stopped at the well outside the city of Nahor and prayed for guidance, that God would show him the right woman for Isaac. He didn’t ask God to help him see something arbitrary or spectacular. He wanted to see a woman who was set apart by her generosity and her willingness to work. A woman who was both kind and industrious, as one commentator put it. By this I will know, Eliezer said to God, that you have shown “hesed,” steadfast love to my master.

How do we know Rebekah was generous and kind? She did not hesitate to offer Eliezer a drink of water when he asked. And she did not hesitate to offer to draw water for his camels as well! How do we know she was industrious and hard working? Because he had TEN camels, and a thirsty camel after a long journey can drink up to 25 gallons. That means she offered to draw 250 gallons of water from the well for this stranger and his camels, which would have taken 2 hours or more if she had a typical 3-gallon jar. The text says Eliezer “gazed at her in silence to learn whether the Lord had prospered his journey or not.”

God did, and Rebekah took Eliezer and his entourage to her house to meet the family and stay the night. The evening and the next morning in Rebekah’s house is another example of the faithfulness of Eliezer. And of his determination to complete what his master had sent him to do. Allen Ross wrote, “Believers must give priority to completing God’s work.” Eliezer did that by coming into Laban’s house at his bidding, but then insisting that before he ate anything he would need to tell them the story of his coming to their house. What did he tell Laban? He emphasized the blessing of the Lord upon Abraham, and that the inheritance of all he had would go to his son Isaac, and the promise he made to his master not to take a wife for Isaac from Canaan but from his father’s house and from his clan. He told him that his master promised an angel would come with Eliezer and prosper his way. He told him of the conditions by which he prayed the Lord would show him the right one for Isaac and how Rebekah appeared even before he finished praying and did all that he had just asked the Lord to show him. He ended his story with this appeal to Rebekah’s family: “If you are going to show hesed, steadfast love and faithfulness to my master, tell me.” They agreed!

But…what happened the next morning is a good reminder that though God’s provision is certain, it is not always easy. Rebekah’s brother and mother, and I suspect this is mostly Laban, as we know how he will treat Jacob later on, tell Eliezer to let her stay at home for another ten days and then she could go. Eliezer had two choices. He could acquiesce and bide his time for ten days, with no guarantee that 10 would not stretch into 30 and a decision not to let Rebekah go at all. Or he could push back. The saying is, “Don’t doubt in the darkness what you have heard in the light.” He had heard in the light that this was the woman God had led him to. So, he pushed back: “Do not delay me, since the Lord has prospered my way.” They responded with, “OK, let’s see what Rebekah wants to do.”

I love this, and I believe God sovereignly worked it out precisely this way. Because though on the one hand this was an arranged marriage, and the two who will marry in a few days will have never seen each other, neither was forced into it. Especially not Rebekah! She said to her brother and mother, “I will go.” J.I. Packer wrote, “Believers are never in the grip of blind forces (fortune, chance, luck, fate); all that happens to them is divinely planned, and each event comes as a new summons to trust, obey, and rejoice.”

The story ends with the two seeing each other for the first time, and “she became his wife, and he loved her.” We modern folks like to flip that around and say, “I loved her, and then she became my wife.” And that’s good. But isn’t it the desire of every married couple that we will grow in love for our wife or husband in ways we could never even imagine when we first married?