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Year 1, Week 5, Day 2

I have a brief observation for today’s reading of Genesis 23-24.

Today’s reading begins with the death of Sarah; but then transitions to the acquisition of a wife for Isaac, who is comforted by his new wife over the loss of his mother. Isaac marries Rebekah, who is a great niece of Abraham. Most of Genesis 23, which records the death of Sarah, is spent explaining the process in which Abraham obtains the burial grounds for Sarah. Genesis 24 incorporates a lot of repetition as it first explains how Abraham’s servant would go about obtaining a wife for Isaac, followed up by essentially a restatement in recording how a wife for Isaac was actually found.

What struck me about the LORD from today’s reading is what it shows about God’s work to bring about what He sets out to accomplish. Each chapter in today’s reading reveals their own unique features to how God works in the situations and circumstances of life. The LORD governs: “The LORD looks down from heaven; he sees all the children of man; from where he sits enthroned he looks out on all the inhabitants of the earth, he who fashions the hearts of them all and observes all their deeds.” (Psalms 33:13-15). 

Abraham grieves the death of his wife: “And Sarah died at Kiriath-arba (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan, and Abraham went in to mourn for Sarah and to weep for her.” (Genesis 23:2). However, the focus of Genesis 23 is not Abraham’s grief over the loss of his wife, but the negotiations over the purchase of the property acquired for Sarah’s burial. This emphasis is not to suggest that the value of property is greater than the value of a person. While He is not explicitly mentioned in Genesis 23, God is at work through the events of this chapter to accomplish something extremely important to the fulfillment of certain aspects of the Abrahamic Covenant. The LORD has promised Abraham and his descendants the land of Canaan. But Abraham is still regarded as a stranger and a sojourner: “I am a sojourner and foreigner among you; give me property among you for a burying place, that I may bury my dead out of my sight.” (Genesis 23:4). The death of Sarah becomes the occasion to push the matter of possessing the land to the forefront. Abraham wishes to bury Sarah in his own property, and while he seeks to buy just a cave, in the providential workings of the LORD, Abraham ends up with the whole property in a publicly witnessed sale. This secures for Abraham and his descendant a deed in the land of Canaan. While He is not noticed, the LORD was faithfully at work.

Genesis 24 records an aging Abraham burdened about his son Isaac’s future wife. Abraham dispatches a servant who returns to Abraham’s relatives with the hopes that a wife can be found for Isaac. The servant, while traveling, prays: “O LORD, God of my master Abraham, please grant me success today and show steadfast love to my master Abraham.” (Genesis 24:12). The servant realizes he is dependent upon the LORD to accomplish the mission for which Abraham has sent him. The servant realizes that he is also dependent upon the LORD to make it evident, which woman was to be Isaac’s wife. So he prays: “Behold, I am standing by the spring of water, and the daughters of the men of the city are coming out to draw water. Let the young woman to whom I shall say, ‘Please let down your jar that I may drink,’ and who shall say, ‘Drink, and I will water your camels’—let her be the one whom you have appointed for your servant Isaac. By this I shall know that you have shown steadfast love to my master.” (Genesis 24:13-14). When Rebekah is found, the servant prays again: “Blessed be the LORD, the God of my master Abraham, who has not forsaken his steadfast love and his faithfulness toward my master. As for me, the LORD has led me in the way to the house of my master's kinsmen.” (Genesis 24:27). The servant knew it was not mere coincidence that accounted for discovering Rebekah. The LORD had provided and this is not only reflected in the servant’s prayers, but also in His recollection of events to Rebekah’s family. The servant faithfully recounts the LORD’s faithfulness as the reason behind what had unfolded.

The providential outworking of God’s plans and purposes does not require our prayers, but our prayers reveal our convictions about the active, present, faithful involvement of the LORD in our lives: “But truly God has listened; he has attended to the voice of my prayer.” (Psalm 66:19).

Certainly, God is up to big things. The LORD is providentially working out His big plans and purposes on a global scale, as the Abrahamic Covenant promises. However, the LORD is also aware of and committed to each and every one of His particular people. For in securing a wife for Isaac, He is carrying out world-wide blessings, but He is also attentive to soothing Isaac’s grief: "Then Isaac brought her into the tent of Sarah his mother and took Rebekah, and she became his wife, and he loved her. So Isaac was comforted after his mother's death.” (Genesis 24:67).

What struck you in today’s reading? What questions were prompted from today’s reading?

Pastor Joe