In Abraham, as being the depository of the promises of God to the patriarchs, we find the fundamental principles of the believer. Abraham having offered up his son Isaac, and having received him back, this act gives us the type of the resurrection of Jesus, who becomes, like Isaac, heir of all the goods of His Father. Rebekah, type of the church, is called to be the bride of Isaac risen. Afterwards in Jacob we have the typical history of the Jewish people.
In Abraham we have the principle of man's relationship with God, pure grace without law. Hagar is introduced as a figure of the law coming in. Isaac, raised from the dead in figure, shows us Christ, the Head, having accomplished His work, and being in the position to maintain all the results of the divine counsels.
In this chapter Abraham sends Eliezer to seek a wife for Isaac. This represents the Holy Spirit sent by the Father to seek the church, "the bride, the Lamb's wife." It is not Isaac who goes to look for a bride. No more does Christ return to this earth to choose a church for Himself. Rebekah must leave her country and come to the land of promise. In this chapter we see the features of the Holy Spirit's work, how a soul is conducted under His guidance. That is what we are about to see in Eliezer and Rebekah.
Abraham, having become old, says to the eldest servant of house, that ruled over all that he had, "Put, I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh: and I will make thee swear by the Lord, the God of heaven, and the God of the earth, that thou shalt not take a wife unto my son of the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell." (Verse 1-3.) The first thing which is presented to us here is Eliezer, who has the superintendence of all the goods of his master. He is not the heir - the son is the heir. Thus the Holy Spirit has the disposal of all things. He takes of the things of Christ, and shows them unto us; that is, to the church. "But thou shalt go unto my country, and to my kindred, and take a wife unto my son Isaac. And the servant said unto him, Peradventure the woman will not be willing to follow me unto this land: must I needs bring thy son again unto the land from whence thou comest? And Abraham said unto him, Beware thou that thou bring not my son thither again." (Verse 4.) It is impossible that there should be any relation between Christ risen again and this world. Isaac does not go for Rebekah, but she must come to him.
Abraham gives directions to his servant. Thus the first thing is to be directed by the word of God. Instead of making further inquiries, Abraham's servant makes ready and goes off to Mesopotamia, to the city of Nahor, with no other information. (Verse 9-11.)
It is important that we should act in the same manner. Natural wisdom can form a judgment up to a certain point, but it takes the soul away from the presence of God, even when we are doing things according to God. If we begin to deliberate, there is hesitation: we take counsel of flesh and blood. The first thing is to put ourselves in the presence of God: without that there is neither wisdom nor power; whereas, placed in the path of blessing, we get from Him all the intelligence which we shall need. We observe this in the journey of Abraham's servant. Eliezer says, "O Lord God of my master Abraham." He does not say "my God." The promises had been made to Abraham, and God had revealed Himself as the God of Abraham. Here the servant shows himself in entire dependence; and we find him in the path of promise, not exalting himself, but acting according to the counsels of God in entire dependence, and not pretending to have anything, except where God had placed the blessing; for the promises had been made to Abraham. For us this blessing is in Christ, and there is the answer to our requests; nor do we desire to obtain anything save where God has put His blessing; namely, in the path of obedience to the faith.
Eliezer addresses the God of his master Abraham, praying him to favour his master: "O Lord, let it come to pass, that the damsel to whom I shall say, Let down thy pitcher, I pray thee, that I may drink; and she shall say, Drink, and I will give thy camels drink also: let the same be she that thou hast appointed for thy servant Isaac; and thereby shall I know that thou hast showed kindness unto my master." (O Lord, thou must act, and I must know by that the one whom thou hast designed to be the wife of thy servant Isaac; the one who will do these things will be the one whom thou hast chosen.) "And it came to pass, before he had done speaking, that, behold, Rebekah came out, who was born to Bethuel, son of Milcah, the wife of Nahor, Abraham's brother, with her pitcher upon her shoulder. And the damsel was very fair to look upon, a virgin, neither had any man known her and she went down to the well, and filled her pitcher, and came up. And the servant ran to meet her, and said, Let me, I pray thee, drink a little water of thy pitcher. And when she had done giving him drink, she said, I will draw water for thy camels also, until they have done drinking. And she hasted, and emptied her pitcher into the trough, and ran again unto the well to draw water, and drew for all his camels. And the man wondering at her held his peace."
Why any doubt? Why does the servant hesitate, since his request has obtained such an answer? Here is the reason. Whatever may be the apparent manifestation of the hand of God, there is a positive rule in the word to which the Christian must pay attention, and which he must not neglect, because of his weakness in discerning what is of God. Faith looks to the power of God, but judges all by the word; for God must act according to His word; and the servant, being in communion with God, ought to act in this thought; and even when there may be signs, he should decide nothing until the will of God be clear according to His word. He must be able to say, "This is indeed according to God."
"And it came to pass, as the camels had done drinking, that the man took a golden earring of half a shekel weight, and two bracelets for her hands of ten shekels weight of gold; and said, Whose daughter art thou? tell me, I pray thee: is there room in thy father's house for us to lodge in? And she said unto him, I am the daughter of Bethuel the son of Milcah, whom she bare unto Nahor. She said moreover unto him, We have both straw and provender enough, and room to lodge in."
God had perfectly answered the desire of Abraham. Eliezer, for his part, sees that he has been heard. Before going farther, before even entering the house, inasmuch as he had recognized the intervention of God in the whole of this business, he bowed himself and worshipped the Lord, and said, "Blessed be the Lord God of my master Abraham, who hath not left destitute my master of his mercy and his truth: I being in the way, the Lord led me to the house of my master's brethren."
We see the same thing in Daniel; he betakes himself to prayer with his companions; and when Daniel has received the revelation of the dream, before presenting himself before the king who had commanded that he should come, he blesses God for having revealed to him that which the king wanted to know. It is always thus when God is in our hearts; we feel that it is He who is acting, and we thank Him.
"And the damsel ran, and told them of her mother's house these things. And Rebekah had a brother, and his name was Laban: and Laban ran out unto the man, unto the well. And it came to pass, when he saw the earring and bracelets upon his sister's hands, and when he heard the words of Rebekah his sister, saying, Thus spake the man unto me; that he came unto the man; and, behold, he stood by the camels at the well. And he said, Come in, thou blessed of the Lord; wherefore standest thou without? for I have prepared the house, and room for the camels."
Laban and Bethuel, after having heard Abraham's servant narrate the circumstances, acknowledge that the thing proceeds from the Lord, and say, "We cannot speak unto thee bad or good." (Ver. 50.) Thus, if in the circumstances of our Christian life we act in entire dependence on God, He will make our way plain, and will even soften our enemies, on account of the dependence on Him in which we live. Because we have set the Lord before us, He will be always at our right hand.
If I have asked anything of God, and have received His answer, I then act with assurance, with the conviction that I am in the path of God's will; I am happy and contented. If I meet with some difficulty, this does not stop me; it is only an obstacle which faith has to surmount. But if I have not this certainty before I begin, I am in indecision, I know not what to do. There may be a trial of my faith, or it may be that I ought not to do what I am doing. I am in suspense, and I hesitate; even if I am doing the will of God, I am not sure about it, and I am not happy. I ought therefore to be assured that I am doing His will before I begin to act.
Observe, in passing, that God disposes all things according to the desire of Eliezer. This is what necessarily happens to all those who have their delight in the Lord. All the wheels of God's providence go in the way of His will which I am carrying out. The Holy Spirit, by the word, gives me the knowledge of His will. This is all that I want. God causes that all things should contribute to the accomplishment of His will. If, by spiritual intelligence, we are walking according to God, He assists us in the carrying out of His will, of His objects. There is need of this spiritual discernment, that it may abound in us in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, "If thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light." I know not whither He will lead me, but this is the step I must take to proceed in the path in which I have to walk.
Abraham's servant enters into the house. "And there was set meat before him to eat: but he said, I will not eat, until I have told my errand." Laban said, "Speak on." What firmness of character in the servant! Look at a man who is not decided: he consults this one and that one, when it is a question of how he is to act; and even, having some desire to do his own will, he will rather seek counsel of those who have not as much faith as himself. Paul took counsel of neither flesh nor blood. He saw that it was Christ who called him, and he went forward.
Eliezer, taken up with this errand, does not accept the offer of food which is made him. He does what he has to do. One secret of the Christian's life, as soon as he knows God's will, is to do his work, to occupy himself with it, to let no delay interfere with it; even to satisfy the wants of his body. This is the effect and the sign of the Holy Spirit's work. Eliezer wishes to deliver his errand. And what was it that was in questions? The interests and the honour of Abraham his master. He had entrusted to him the interests of Isaac his son.
And God has committed to us down here the glory of Jesus His Son; and this glory occupies us by the Holy Ghost who is given to us; that is, where there is a single eye in spiritual discernment, according to the position in which, God hath placed us. If we are there, there is no hesitation; being in our place, we act with liberty and joy. If I think about my convenience, my interests, about what concerns myself or my family (there are a thousand reasons which are contrary to a prompt obedience), this is to consult flesh and blood. But if I inquire what is the interest of Christ, the thing will be instantly decided. If I think of anything else I have not at heart the glory which is entrusted to me, nor confidence in Him who has placed me there.
Eliezer thinks always about Abraham, who had entrusted everything to him; his thoughts are upon this as he sets forth before Rebekah the privileges and the good tidings of his master's house.
If our hearts are filled with the Holy Spirit, it will be the same with us. It is very important for us to bear in mind that God has confided to us the glory of Jesus. He had no need of us; besides, what can we do? It is He who works in us, and we have but to let Him act. It is His will to be glorified in us by the presence of the Holy Spirit. It is the same thing we see in those to whom the five and the ten talents were committed. Confidence in the master displays itself in the decision of the servant; as here Eliezer says, "I will not eat until I have told my errand."
This pre-occupation with his master's glory makes him refuse to take any food until his errand was performed. This is to do God's will. He tells Laban about the matter, and how he had been guided, and that without using any argument, without saying it would be wise to act in such and such a way, but with simplicity committing to God the issue of the affair. "Then Laban and Bethuel answered and said, The thing proceedeth from the Lord." If, instead of spending our time in reasoning, we were more simple and obedient, and presented things as the Holy Ghost tells them to us, the result would be better. But we often substitute our human wisdom for the commands of God. Often the things which are the most simply said produce the greatest effect. Peter said to the Jews, "You killed the Prince of life." This is what you did, and what I have to tell you on the part of God. (Acts 3)
If we apprehend things, and present them to men such as they are in the sight of God, the Holy Ghost accompanies the testimony, and the conscience is reached. Thus men think neither of Peter nor of John (except so far as they recognize them to be men of intelligence according to God, according as God had manifested them to themselves); it was God whom they had found, or rather who had found them. When God gives us this simplicity, which makes us occupy ourselves with things in the manner in which God sees them, we ought to speak to any one, according to the state he is in before God. If I feel that he is lost, I tell him so simply; and the most simple addresses are the best and the most blessed.
"And he did eat and drink, he and the men that were with him, and tarried all night; and they rose up in the morning, and he said, Send me away unto my master. And her brother and mother said, Let the damsel abide with us a few days, at the least ten; after that she shall go. And he said unto them, Hinder me not, seeing the Lord hath prospered my way; send me away that I may go to my master."
We see Eliezer asking that he may hasten his departure; he must use despatch in this business, so as to conduct Rebekah to his master's son; and, having accomplished his mission, he says, "Delay me not." He does not trouble himself about Laban's house, and he gives no consideration to his request; he does not stop on account of it. His love for his master makes him consider his orders before everything else.
It is in this generally that weakness is shown. We spare the flesh, and neglect what we owe to God: in reality, we are sparing ourselves through fear of not being agreeable to others. I have seen men, who are faithful in what they have to say to others, blessed of God, when they speak with simplicity and without hesitation.
"And they said, We will call the damsel, and enquire at her mouth And they called Rebekah, and said unto her, Wilt thou go with this man? And she said, I will go." There is no hesitation here. So likewise, through the influence of the Holy Spirit, the bride says, "I will go." She makes up her mind, instantly, in the most decided manner, and leaves all: "I will go," she says.
Now let us examine Rebekah's position: she had neither the house of Laban nor that of Isaac. It is the same with us. We have neither the earth, on which we are, nor heaven, to which we are going. Rebekah has left everything, and said, "I will go." Eliezer, type of the Holy Ghost, talks to Rebekah during the journey of that which is in the house of her bridegroom's father: precious conversation for the soul which needs to be encouraged by the view of these things, so as to be able to endure the fatigues and difficulties of the journey, and not to think of the house and the country from whence they came out! For Rebekah was going, like us, across the desert; and Eliezer, the faithful servant, who was leading her, took care to comfort her, and to speak to her of the precious things which are in the father's house; to repeat to her the greatness and power of the father, and that "he has given all that he hath to his son."
For us the servant sets forth the Holy Ghost, the Comforter, who likewise communicates to us all that there is in the Father's house for those who are the bride of Christ. It is He who takes of the things of Christ and shows them unto us. It is He who leads us into all truth, while we are crossing the wilderness of this world, and who teaches us all things.
If Rebekah had hesitated, and had thought about the country which she had left, she would have been unhappy; she would have had neither Isaac's house nor her father Bethuel's. To have left all, and to have neither one thing nor the other, her heart, isolated in the wilderness, would have felt itself in an untenable position. But she has left all; and, conversing with Eliezer, she occupies herself with what interests her heart, and raises it above the things which she has now left for ever. And she journeys in peace towards the abode of her bridegroom.
So it is with us now. The Christian who is not spiritual, but rather worldly, has a sorrowful lot; he cannot be happy if seeking after the world. The worldly man has at least something; he makes trial of these passing pleasures, and finds in them his joy, worthless as it may be; for in truth this joy does not satisfy. But the Christian finds in these things only uneasiness, because he bears about a conscience affected by the Holy Spirit. If he wishes to take his pleasure in the things of earth, and his heart hangs back from following the Lord, he is unhappy; he cannot chide a conscience which torments him; and as he has not listened to the Holy Spirit's invitation, and has not obeyed it, there is no joy for him. The spiritual things, which ought to have constituted his joy, produce reproaches in his heart when he turns towards them. But we have the grace of Him who calls us, and who leads us, if we are faithful, in an uniform path, for the sake of His name. If we sin, this does not put us under the law; but we have an advocate with the Father, who intercedes for us; and God, who is faithful, cannot fail when He is appealed to. "What wilt thou do with thy great name?" Besides, His glory is involved in lifting us up again; and this is grace. Yes, we have a Saviour who intercedes with the Father for us, and who works to bring us back to the gracious God - who has begun this work in us and will perfect it till the day of Christ, accomplishing all that concerns us.
In the scene before us Eliezer conducts Rebekah to her bridegroom. So also the Holy Ghost conducts us to the end and goal. What Rebekah first perceives is Isaac; and Isaac takes his bride into his mother's tent. Possessing the bridegroom, she no longer takes thought for anything; she thinks no longer of the possessions, but of the bridegroom himself. The important business was to bring the bride to the bridegroom.
And, as to what regards us in the type which is here presented to us, God seeks us in this world of sin; He finds us; He wills that we should not delay to follow Him when we have said, "I will go;" and He leads us into the presence of Jesus. The Holy Spirit accompanies us in the journey to help us, to comfort us, to tell us of the blessings and glory which await us, and to introduce us into the presence of Jesus, our heavenly Bridegroom.
This may be modified, as regards the manner, by various circumstances; but such is the effect of the power of the Holy Ghost. The efficacious principle of our calling is that we should freely decide to allow ourselves to be led by Him, to walk with goodwill; knowing that, being in this manner led, we shall arrive at the wished-for end: "So shall we ever be with the Lord."
May God grant us all this mercy. Amen.