Monday, January 23, 2012

"Wedding Day" Genesis 24

Have any of you ever heard that song before? I know that song as "The Eliezer Call". I have been singing that since before I could read the words and I am obviously no better at it now. My Aunt Billie would play the piano at our family reunions and the grandkids would sing that song. It brings back such good memories for me. Thank you for letting me share that.

It talks about a wedding day from the passage of scripture we are going to be studying this morning. I love to go to weddings. I really do. I have to admit, though, that I always want to get the groom off to the side and tell him that I will distract the bride if he wants to make a break for it. He will thank me later. But I don’t do that.

I can sometimes tend to be like the little girl who had just watched Snow White for the first time. She ran in to tell her mother the story of how Prince Charming had arrived on his beautiful white horse and kissed Snow White back to life. Then she asked her mother if she knew what happened next. The mother said, "Yes, they lived happily ever after."

The little girl said, "Nope. They got married."

We probably all know someone who seemed to have it as their goal in life to get married. We have all heard about the girls who go to college to get their MRS. Some people think they just won’t be happy until they are married. It is their goal in life. And hopefully that works out for them. But what if your goal in life was to get somebody else married? If your 24/7, all- the- time goal was to get the son of your boss married, you would probably take it pretty seriously.

That’s what we see in our passage this morning in Genesis 24. It is a bit long so we won’t read the whole thing and if you just scan the passage, you might wonder why this is in here at all. I mean, it’s an interesting story but hopefully we will all get some real application for our lives by studying it.

Last week we read where God fulfilled His promise to Abraham and blessed Abe and Sarah with a son, whom they named Isaac. In chapter 23 Sarah dies and in chapter 24 we see that Abe is an old man. "Old" gets older all the time. I remember thinking 40 was old but not anymore. I think almost everybody here, though, would agree that 140 years old would qualify as "old".

If Abe is 140 then Isaac is already 40 and has evidently never been married. I guess he is just waiting around for dear old dad to get him a wife as was the custom in those days. How would you like to have your parents pick out your spouse? Let’s read in Genesis chapter 24 about how Abe did this for Isaac.

Read 1-20 and 61-67.

Last Wednesday night I asked a question to the folks gathered for the Bible study. I asked what their goal in life was. Maybe you have never thought about it. Maybe it is too big of a question for you. Maybe you are just trying to survive one day and into the next. Do you have a goal? Do you have a plan? Or do you just react to what life throws you? The difference between having a goal and not having a goal can be life-changing for you and for people around you.

Eliezer had a goal. He had a mission for his life and he was going to accomplish that mission no matter what. We see here that he did accomplish the mission and God blessed his efforts. If we are going to accomplish our goals in life, there are two very simple things to notice in the passage that Eliezer had going for him. We will see those two things in just a second.

First, I want to bring out some context. We have seen for the past couple of months going through Genesis that God has promised Abe that he would be the father of a great nation and ever since God made that promise it seems to be in jeopardy at every turn. Over and over again, it looked like there was no way that promise would ever be fulfilled. Well, finally Isaac is born but Abraham is far from being the father of a great nation. Right now he is just the father of Isaac so he goes about trying to find a wife for Isaac so that Isaac can carry out the total fulfillment of that promise.

The problem is that Abe doesn’t want just any ole gal for his son. He wants a wife from their homeland. It would be like God asking you to be a missionary to some foreign country and you didn’t want your son to marry a girl from there. They might not be horrible people. You just want somebody that shares your family values. That’s why Abe tells Eliezer to go back to their homeland. He says not to take Isaac with him or Isaac may not come back. Go home and get a girl and bring her back here.

How did Abe know what to tell Eliezer? How did Eliezer know that Abe knew what he was talking about? Abe just told Eliezer to take about a 3 week trip (one way) to go find a woman and convince her to leave her family and country to marry a man she has never met. And yet it does not say that Eliezer thought Abe was crazy. He must have known that God told Abe what to do. Eliezer knew what God had told Abe in Genesis 22:17:"I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore."

That was the first thing Eliezer had going for him - the Word of God. We don’t know much about the relationship between Eliezer and God but it is obvious that Eliezer knew about Abe’s relationship with God. In fact, Abe tells El about this in verse 7. "The Lord who spoke to me and promised me…" And so that was enough for El. He vowed he would accomplish the mission after hearing this.

This vow, by the way, is interesting. Abe tells him to put his hand under Abe’s thigh and make the vow. I couldn’t find any other place a vow like this is mentioned and I don’t really know the significance but the only thing I can figure is that if you put your hand under someone’s thigh you would have to be very close and eye to eye and maybe that is part of the significance.

Don’t you wish God spoke to us today? Wouldn’t it be so much easier if God would just speak audibly to us and tell us where to go and what to do? You could say, "God, my son needs a wife." And He would say, "Don't get one from this neighborhood!" Wouldn’t that be so much easier? We will talk in a few minutes about how God speaks to us but let's look now at the other thing Eliezer had going for him to help him accomplish his mission.

Read 12-14.

Here we see El praying. Again, we don't know anything about Eliezer's relationship with God but he obviously knows Him well enough to pray. We also see him later on praying again in thanksgiving for God blessing his efforts. That's all very appropriate for us today but I do want to focus for a minute on how El prays the first time.

In verse 14 El tells God that he will know he has picked the right girl if she waters his camels as well. What El has done here is request an oracle. An oracle is a divine communication or revelation. Now, while I recommend following his decision to pray, I don't recommend telling God that He has to do something so that you will know His will.

It's one thing to pray that if God "opens the doors" you will walk through them. It is another thing to say, "Ok, God, if you put gas in my car, I'll know it is your will to go to church today. If you don't, I won't."

You have heard about the lady who told God she would know He wanted her to have a donut if she found a parking spot at the front door of the donut shop and sure enough, after 6 times around the block, there it was. Some of you may wonder why I don't recommend this since it is biblical. We obviously see it here and in other places, including Gideon, who put out a fleece. You can find his story in Judges.

This ties right into how God speaks to us today. God uses His Word, the Bible, to speak to us. He uses prayer, of course, but he also gives us His Holy Spirit to live within us when we become Christians. Because we have all those things we shouldn't expect God to speak to us the same way He did in the early Old Testament when they didn't have any of that.

Now, I'm sure you are thinking that this is a very elementary sermon. We can accomplish our mission or attain our goals if we apply God's Word and prayer. Wow, Todd. Groundbreaking. Believe it or not, I didn't even go to seminary to learn that. I'll be honest with you. When I realized this was the focus of this passage I really thought about skipping it. We know this, right, so why preach it again?

I'll tell you what God has really laid on my heart about this passage. It is important for us as individuals to have a goal for your life. It is important to know why you are here and for what reason God has put you on this earth. But it is also vital for us as a church to know the same things. Why are we here? What is our purpose? I believe it is important to state that purpose often and continually.

Most of you know that I am a pretty simple guy. I don't do things fancy and I don't usually do things that aren't necessary. The good thing is that I believe our purpose is easily figured out and is succinctly said. You can find the purpose of our church and the purpose of every church in Matthew 28:19-20. The Great Commission.

Jesus said, "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

He doesn't say to go and make big churches. God will build our church if and when He sees fit. Don't worry about that. We are called to make disciples and to teach them what? Obedience! You wonder why I harp on obedience all the time. It's what Jesus told us to do.

Now, I'm going to tell you how I would state our goal and then I want to show you how we can take today's passage and apply it to help us reach that goal. Our goal could be stated as simply as "furthering the Kingdom". We are not furthering or growing FBCRB. We are growing the Kingdom of God. Whatever that means. If it means growing it here in Runaway Bay or across the globe. That's our goal. Lots of things are included in that goal: worship, discipleship, fellowship, outreach, meeting needs. All of that is part of furthering the Kingdom.

Now, I want us to have some tangible ways we can reach that goal and also have some markers along the way to know that we are still going the right way.  To do this, I want you to imagine that we are all in a rowboat and we each have two oars.  As we have learned in today’s passage, those two oars are prayer and Bible study.  So, for all of us to reach our goal of furthering the Kingdom we need to all be rowing the same way at the same time.  For at least the next 8 weeks we are going to be memorizing one scripture each week and we are all going to be praying for the same thing each week.

I know some of you have already shut me off right there.  You think you can’t memorize scripture.  I completely understand but none of these are going to be difficult.  In fact, this week’s verse is John 3:16.  The goal is not to be able to impress people with how much Bible we know.  The goal is furthering the Kingdom and we do that by knowing what the Bible says about how to become a believer.  No verse sums it up better than John 3:16.

The second part is prayer and this week we are going to be praying just that God would open our eyes to the friends, family and neighbors around us that are drowning in their sin and have no hope.  I said a minute ago that we would have some markers along the way to show us that we are going in the right direction.  If we pick up some of those around us that are drowning and get them in the boat and they start rowing with us, we will know we are going in the right direction.  If that never happens then maybe we should re-evaluate our goal and how we are getting there.  It is simple but it is going to mean you can’t just come to church and be entertained and check off the box that says “church” at the start of the week.

In Revelation 19, John talks about the marriage supper of the Lamb.  There is going to be a time when Jesus comes back to earth for His bride which is the church and there is going to be a wedding, a coming-together of those who in this life have asked Jesus to be Lord and Savior.  We will join Him in Heaven.

This past Wednesday night in our Bible study we talked about the reality of Hell.  I hope you understand that I am not trying to scare anyone into making a decision but please also understand that I would not be truthful if I didn’t ever talk about it.  There is going to be a wedding and you can be a part of it or you can continue to drown in your sin and be forever separated from God and friends and loved ones.  You can get in the boat and row or you can drown.  It’s your decision this morning.

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