Of all Rebekah's qualities we've looked at this week... strength, hospitality, kindness... obedience is the one that God requires and rewards the most. As we saw yesterday, Rebekah is obedient to God's plan and she is blessed in ways that she never could have imagined, even long after her life had ended her descendents still consider her one of the most important women in their history.
Belonging to God is sort of a blessing and curse. When we say "I will go" to God, we enter into a covenant with him. When we are obedient, we are blessed. When we are disobedient, we are cursed. So simple and yet so difficult sometimes.
So what are the other gods we sometimes follow? I'll let you make that list for yourself, but for me it can be my schedule, my money, my pride, anything I put before the one true God... anything that would keep me from being obedient.
Throughout Deuteronomy God tells his people how he will bless them if they are just obedient to his commands. They will have strength and live a long time. They will be successful in all they do. But since everything they are doing is commanded by God, it sort of makes sense. This is not a selfish prosperity, but a reward of being right where God wants you to be.
It's hard to be a young girl and head off with a stranger to a place you've never seen to marry someone you've never met. It's REALLY hard to be a teenaged girl and find out you've been chosen to bear the child of God (in a culture that murders unwed pregnant women still). What we are asked to do probably compares in these opportunities for obedience. But we are still called to obey God.
DAILY CHALLENGE: Do you feel blessed or cursed? Are you in the center of where God wants you to be? Pray and ask God for his guidance so that you can be obedient.
I will go.
What a powerful statement Rebekah makes. She is young... as young as 10 and no older than 14 according to Rabbis... and she doesn't falter when asked if she will fulfill her purpose in God's plan.
I am reminded of Mary's words to the angel "I am the Lord's servant. May it be to me as you have said."
Do we have this attitude when we follow God? Are we willing to risk everything we know and love for the cause of Christ? It's a hard question to ask.
But let's look at the results of Rebekah's willingness to do what God required of her.
She is the mother of Jacob and Esau. They were twins who fought over their father's blessing and Jacob is the same one who wrestled with the angel.
Jacob had 12 sons: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph, and Benjamin. They went on to become the heads of the twelve tribes of Israel. Jesse and David were the descendents of Judah. Jesus was a descendent of David and of the tribe of Judah. (See Matthew 1 for the whole story!)
Her little decision to leave home to marry a stranger and be an answer to prayer had reprecussions throughout the rest of Biblical history! What if she had said "No" and the servant had left without her. How would things have changed?
When God calls us to obey, we might not understand why at the time. We might not ever understand why. But it might be a part of a much bigger plan, the way Rebekah's choice was. But we need to be able to answer as she did. We need to be able to say "I will go."
DAILY CHALLENGE: Ask God what he wants you to do to fulfill the plans he has for you. Don't wait or hesitate to do it, either. Be obedient and just say "I will go."
In today’s reading it becomes clear why Rebekah is the young woman that she is. Her whole family is that way!
We are part of a family of faith. A few years ago, Barna Research included this as one of the year’s most intriguing findings:
Religious teaching minimally affect people's moral choices. The major influences on such decisions are the expected personal outcomes of their choices, minimizing conflict over their choices, and the values their parents taught them.
Of course, this shouldn’t be a big shock to anyone. You can teach a child religious values in Sunday school, but if those aren’t backed up at home, they aren’t likely to stick.
So that got me thinking… what if our family of faith began to adopt that idea at all times? What if we insisted on the same things we do with children? What if we demanded manners, respect and kindness in all things? What if we reprimanded when folks didn’t share or listen?
In our house, even though the kids are getting older, we still have to tell them to take turns on the Wii, to speak nicely to one another and about one another, and to respect others’ ears and turn down the guitars!
As a family of faith, our influence should be major. We should be teaching one another how to be kind to strangers, the way that Rebekah’s family no doubt taught her. There was room and food not only for Abraham’s servant, but also his ten camels. Are we willing to make room in our family of faith this way for a stranger? To feed, clothe and house them when they are in need? Honestly, are we even willing to do it for those in our family of faith?
Of course, this MUST be done in love and humility. (Colossians 3:15-17). Without that, we're just a bunch of nitpickers.
DAILY CHALLENGE: Are you willing to teach AND learn from your family of faith? Are our teachings as a church backed up in how we act towards one another?
Before he had finished praying God answered his prayer. She was everything that Abraham had requested, everything the servant wanted and more.
The servant had brought ten camels with him. Rebekah offers not only to give the servant water (showing a humble and hospitable spirit) but she also offers to water his camels.
Please note that this young woman has just offered a huge thing. She is, obviously, running back and forth drawing water from the well and placing it in a trough. I looked it up because I was curious and the average camel will drink 20-30 gallons of water at one time. Multiply that times 10. Then imagine one young woman taking on this huge task. 250 gallons brought up from the well, carried to the trough and dumped in the desert heat.
She is obviously physically strong. Middle Eastern wells are not a hole in the ground with a bucket, but a hole dug with sloping sides where you go up and down from the trough to the water. She was working hard and likely for a long time for a stranger and his animals. I don't know any teenager who would do this today!
Before the servant is finished he has two more questions for her: Who are her relatives and was their room to house him and his camels. She has provided the right answer for both, showing the servant that she is the woman that God wanted for Isaac. She is strong, beautiful, hospitable, kind, and generous.
Now the only question that remains to be answered is whether she will be willing to come with him!
DAILY CHALLENGE: God may be asking you to work hard for him. Sometimes the world needs to see us going the extra mile so that they know we mean what we say. How can you be like Rebekah and give water not only to the stranger, but all of his camels as well?
This week we will be looking at the story of a young woman named Rebekah or Rivkah (in the Hebrew tradition). She is truly the hand that rocks the cradle of God's people. Because from her, everything else happens.
Abraham is now too old to go looking for a wife for his son, who is mourning the loss of his beloved Mother, Sarai. So Abraham sends a servant back to the land he came from and tells him to find a wife. She must be from Abraham's kinsmen and she must be willing to come. Those are the only stipulations that Abraham puts on the servant.
So the head of the household starts off on the journey with ten camels. TEN camels. Remember that tomorrow.
When he arrives, he prays that God will show him a sign. He wants to find Isaac a wife who is not only of their people and willing, but also generous and hospitable.
He knows that God has the young woman already in mind for Isaac. He just needs to be shown which one it is.
Each of us is one-of-a-kind with a completely unique set of skills, talents and experiences. We are who God has made us to be (if we have allowed him). We are called to be used by God for just who we are. The servant has asked God to show him this woman in secret. He isn't coming in and announcing a beauty pageant where the girls will pretend to be something they are not to impress anyone. He wants someone who is genuine.
Notice that not once does physical beauty enter into these requirements of a good wife. God does not need for us to look or act perfect. What we do need, though, is to be part of the family of faith, have a willing heart to go where we are asked, and to be hospitable to strangers. That is what makes us beautiful.
DAILY CHALLENGE: What is God calling you do to this year? Who is out there praying that your one-of-a-kind help will come their way? Ask God to show you today.