“Which way should I go?” "How can I be sure?” “Lord, what do you want me to do?” Nothing is more important for the Christian than becoming fully persuaded that God does indeed lead his children on their journey from earth to heaven. If you doubt that fact, you will struggle through life feeling as if every major decision rests solely on your shoulders. What a difference it makes to know with great conviction that behind your life stands the unseen hand of God working in, through and sometimes in spite of your decisions to accomplish his will in your life. I hope this message builds your confidence in God.
This week you can have confidence that God is leading you in exactly the direction he wants you to go. When the world seems mostly out of control, God steps in to let us know that he keeps watch over us. Often it is only as we look back that we see the hand of God working through the affairs of life. Circumstances are the fingerprints of God.
Genesis 24 begins with an anxious father and his unmarried son. The father is concerned about carrying on the family name. He hatches a plan that leads to a prayer, a chance meeting, the watering of some camels, an amazing revelation, a decisive answer, a family blessing, a long journey, a meeting between a beautiful bride and a shy husband, a happy wedding and joy all around. The story unfolds in 4 scenes.
Scene # 1: Abraham’s Commission v. 1
He comes to his last days - reflects upon the promises of God, how God had promised him long before that he would have a son - remembers that through a miraculous conception God had given him Isaac. Now Sarah is dead, and Abraham will soon join her. God had promised to bring forth a great nation through Abraham, and from that great nation he would bless the whole earth. But for the promise to be fulfilled, Abraham must have a son, that son must be married and out of the marriage must come children. So Abraham - approaches the end of his life - calls his servant and says, “I want you to go find a bride for Isaac.”
2 specific instructions - 1. “You must find a bride who does not come from the Canaanites.” 2. “The bride must come from our people.” As Abraham looked to the future, he knows that his son needs a godly wife. He needs a woman who had been raised among the people of God. So he said to his servant, “I want you to go back to the land of our relatives.” That meant travelling 1000kms across the desert to a place called Nahor. Abraham knew that a branch of his family still lived there. With his great faith looking to the future, believing that God would guide him, he said, “I am sending you to find a bride for my son.”
Immediately the servant asks a very practical question: v. 5. Good question. “Shall I then take your son back to the country you came from?” he asks. Abraham answers – v. 8.
Crucial principle for discovering the will of God: Stay flexible in the light of changing circumstances. Abraham believed it was the will of God for his son to be married, by sending his servant to search for a wife; he was actually doing the will of God. But the servant raised a legitimate question. “What if I find the woman and she won’t come back? What do I do then?” Abraham says, “Don’t worry about it. If she won’t come, it’s not your problem. Just come back. We’ll decide what to do next.”
Many times we start a new project believing that what we are doing is the will of God, yet very often things don’t work out as we planned. You took the job, and it didn’t work out. You made the investment, and it didn’t work out. You started studying, and it didn’t work out. You made a big move, and it didn’t work out. What do you do then? Our first reaction usually - “Well, I must have been wrong, it couldn’t have been the will of God.” I don’t think that’s the right answer.
Trouble does not necessarily mean you are out of God’s will. It might mean you are doing exactly what God wants you to do. Sometimes God sends trouble not as a judgment but as a sign that you are doing right. When Jesus was crucified, was He out of God’s will? No one was ever more in God’s will than Jesus, but he was murdered by his enemies.
The fact that your life hasn’t worked out exactly like you planned doesn’t necessarily mean your decisions were wrong. Sometimes there are other factors at work.
Scene # 2: The Servant’s Commitment v. 10
It might have taken him a month to get there. He arrived on the outskirts of Nahor in the evening just about the time the women of the village would come out to the well to get water for the camels.
What’s his first step? How will he know which girl is the right one for Isaac? Should he conduct interviews, ask them to complete an application, or what? His next step is all-important. He stops and asks God to give him specific guidance - v. 12 - 14.
This is a crucial point. He asks for specific, direct, unmistakable guidance from God. He even tells the Lord how he wants it to happen. As the women approached the well, he prayed “Lord, show me which one You have chosen” – v. 15. He didn’t even get the prayer out of his mouth and God was already answering him. Isaiah 65: 24 - “Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear.” Before the servant finished praying, here came the young women, and Rebekah was leading the way! He still didn’t know if she was the one, but she was the first one to the well so he said, “Would you give me a drink?” She gladly gave him a drink and she offered to water his camels. That’s exactly what the servant had asked for! He prayed, and God answered precisely, down to the tiniest detail.
The servant still didn’t know if Rebekah was the one. He thought she was, the early signs were encouraging, the answer had come exactly as he’d asked, but he needed confirmation. He still didn’t know if she was willing to return with him to marry Isaac. This is exactly how we discover God’s will. One answered prayer doesn’t mean we see the big picture. Although Rebekah seemed like the right girl, all the servant knew was that he must take the next step, trusting God to lead him on. Will Rebekah be the one? It was too early to say for certain.
Nevertheless, the servant stopped to give thanks to God for his remarkable leading so far – v. 26, 27. His first thought was for the Lord. His second thought was for his master. His third thought was for himself. He is saying, “Lord, I praise you because when I was 1000kms from here, you led me straight to Rebekah here in Nahor. You knew exactly how to lead me from where I was to where she was so I could meet the person who would be a proper bride for Isaac.”
Did the servant know what was going to happen when he left Abraham’s house? Did he plan in advance to meet Rebekah at the well? Did he know he was going to ask for the sign of the watering of the camels? No, no and no. He knew none of those things. In fact, he didn’t know for sure that he would find the right girl or that she would be willing to return with him even if he did find her. The only thing he knew was that God would guide his steps across the desert sands so that at precisely right moment he would be exactly where God wanted him to be.
Scene # 3: Rebekah’s Choice
Tells how Rebekah introduced him to her brother Laban and her father Bethuel. In Middle Eastern fashion, they all gathered for a great evening meal. Before the meal was served, the servant stood up and made a speech. He told the family how God had led him from the Negev to Nahor. He told them how rich Abraham was and how Isaac was going to be the heir to his father’s fortune. He mentioned Isaac’s miraculous conception and repeated Abraham’s specific instructions that Isaac’s wife must come from among his own people. Finally, he revealed the prayer he’d prayed at the well and God’s immediate answer. Every sentence revealed his great faith in the God who had led him to Rebekah. v. 49 - Like any good salesmen, he presses for a decision. Laban and Bethuel really couldn’t say anything when they heard what the servant said so they gave their consent – v. 50, 51.
Then there was the touchy question of how soon she was to leave with the servant for the trip back to meet Isaac. Her family didn’t want her to leave immediately. There was a bit of a disagreement so they decided to let Rebekah decide for herself – v. 57, 58. Consider the implications of this question. Rebekah had never met Isaac. She was not being asked, “Will you go with Isaac?” – But - “Will you go with the servant?" Meant leaving her family - she probably would never make the journey back to Nahor again. She had met the servant only hours earlier. On the basis of an evening and the next morning, she was being asked to make a decision that would cut her off from her family for the rest of her life, to go across the desert to a place she’d never seen and to marry a man she’d never met. “Will you go with this man?” Most of us would say no. But of course, since God was leading, she said yes.
Scene # 4: Isaac’s Comfort
They made the long journey back to Beersheba. As soon as Rebekah saw Isaac in the distance she jumped off the camel and veiled her face. The servant introduced Isaac to his new bride. Isaac did not know her, but he immediately agreed to the marriage. He took her into Sarah’s tent - a sign that she was taking Sarah’s place in the family. The story ends – v. 67.
Genesis 24 shows us how the choice of a bride for Isaac was God’s choice. He was the One working behind the scenes. He never spoke. He never said anything. Yet this clearly shows that behind the affairs of men stood Almighty God. It all happened the way God had planned from the beginning.
Abraham sought it. His servant found it. The sign confirmed it. Laban recognised it. Rebekah accepted it. Isaac enjoyed it. But God did the choosing. He was the divine matchmaker who orchestrated the details so that the right man and the right woman would come together at precisely the right moment.
Three Lessons Regarding Guidance
1. Knowing God’s will involves forethought, planning, preparation and prayer.
Did Abraham do the will of God? Absolutely. He saw the need, conceived a plan, called his servant, told him what to do and even gave him Plan B instructions. Abraham understood the will of God and then took practical steps to see that it was fulfilled.
Sometimes we get too mystical about God’s will. We want dreams and visions and odd things to happen to us. God doesn’t always work that way. More often God works through the mundane details of life. God works through circumstances to see that his will is done in your life. Whether or not we see the miraculous, our responsibility is to use the information we have to make wise plans for the future.
2. Focus on the Lord and leave the details in His hands.
God holds himself responsible to guide your life. When you put him first, the Lord says, “I will make sure you get to the right place at the right time." When you focus on God, he takes responsibility for the details of your life. Focus on being faithful to him and knowing him. Focus on doing what God wants you to do. He will take care of the details of your life.
3. God is in control of the details, you can relax, knowing that He will reveal His plan for your life one step at a time.
God’s will is more like a sunrise than a sunburst. At first the sky lightens, then the first rays streak across the sky, then the rim of the sun begins to rise slowly. Eventually the whole sun is seen, rising until it dominates the sky, giving light to the earth and driving away the darkness. God’s will is like that. At first we see his plan dimly and then the outline begins to emerge. Slowly, over time, the clouds vanish, the darkness disappears and the brightness of his presence fills our lives.
Do you get anxious at sunrise when all you can see is the tiny rim of the sun? If you wait long enough you will see the sun in all its brilliance. The same is true of God’s plan for your life. You never see everything in advance, but if you wait long enough, God always reveals his will. So relax! God is in charge. When the time is right the darkness will vanish, and all that is vague will be made perfectly clear.
“Loving Father, teach us to trust you. We want clear direction, and you say, “Give me your heart.” We want precise answers, and you say, “Trust me to do right.” We want to know about tomorrow, and you say, “Follow me today.” Lord, make us willing to be made willing to do your will in everything. We pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.”