Genesis 24:28-33 The young woman ran and told her mother’s household about these things. Now Rebekah had a brother named Laban, and he hurried out to the man at the spring. As soon as he had seen the nose ring, and the bracelets on his sister’s arms, and had heard Rebekah tell what the man said to her, he went out to the man and found him standing by the camels near the spring. “Come, you who are blessed by the Lord,” he said. “Why are you standing out here? I have prepared the house and a place for the camels.” So the man went to the house, and the camels were unloaded. Straw and fodder were brought for the camels, and water for him and his men to wash their feet. Then food was set before him, but he said, “I will not eat until I have told you what I have to say.” “Then tell us,” Laban said.
Following our story in Genesis 24, the servant of Abraham has asked God for a sign to show him God's choice of who he will ask to come back with him to bring as a bride to Isaac, Abraham's son. Rebekah's act of above-and-beyond hospitality was the sign the servant asked for, and Rebekah has just hurried back to her house to share everything that has happened.
Here is where we get to first meet Laban in the story. For those who may be familiar with other Bible stories, Laban is also the same uncle Laban who was shrewd in his ways with dealing with his nephew Jacob later in Genesis. Laban is that kind of guy who is intelligent and sharp - witty in getting what he wants through clever ways. It was in this part of the story that we get to see Laban and Abraham's servant's interesting interaction. As soon as Laban saw the signs of wealth that Rebekah had received, he knew that this servant must have been wealthy. Seeing it as an opportunity to enrich himself, he quickly comes to seize his prize. Laban uses the right lingo: "Come you who are blessed by the LORD!" Laban shifts the provider of hospitality to himself: "I (not Rebekah) have prepared the house and a place for the camels." This may be a foreshadow of Jacob's 'genetic-family-trait' of seizing blessing from others.
So the servant follows Laban's lead to hospitality. Much food and water was prepared for Abraham's servant and his men (and also for the camels). It is here that we find this remarkable (and potentially rude) pause of the festivities that Abraham's servant had to do. "I will not eat until I have told you what I have to say."
I find Abraham's servant to be very perceptive of the situation of what Laban had been doing. The hospitality, grand food and drink he was receiving at this moment may not have been driven because of Laban's giving nature, but as a response to possibly a heart wishing to enrich himself with this wealthy family. Some may call this an ancient "gold-digger."
Abraham's servant proceeds to re-assert and re-frame what had transpired to the leading of God's hand:
Genesis 22:34-49 So he said, “I am Abraham’s servant. The Lord has blessed my master abundantly, and he has become wealthy. He has given him sheep and cattle, silver and gold, male and female servants, and camels and donkeys. My master’s wife Sarah has borne him a son in her old age, and he has given him everything he owns. And my master made me swear an oath, and said, ‘You must not get a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, in whose land I live, but go to my father’s family and to my own clan, and get a wife for my son.’ “Then I asked my master, ‘What if the woman will not come back with me?’ “He replied, ‘The Lord, before whom I have walked faithfully, will send his angel with you and make your journey a success, so that you can get a wife for my son from my own clan and from my father’s family. You will be released from my oath if, when you go to my clan, they refuse to give her to you—then you will be released from my oath.’ “When I came to the spring today, I said, ‘Lord, God of my master Abraham, if you will, please grant success to the journey on which I have come. See, I am standing beside this spring. If a young woman comes out to draw water and I say to her, “Please let me drink a little water from your jar,” and if she says to me, “Drink, and I’ll draw water for your camels too,” let her be the one the Lord has chosen for my master’s son.’ “Before I finished praying in my heart, Rebekah came out, with her jar on her shoulder. She went down to the spring and drew water, and I said to her, ‘Please give me a drink.’ “She quickly lowered her jar from her shoulder and said, ‘Drink, and I’ll water your camels too.’ So I drank, and she watered the camels also. “I asked her, ‘Whose daughter are you?’ “She said, ‘The daughter of Bethuel son of Nahor, whom Milkah bore to him.’ “Then I put the ring in her nose and the bracelets on her arms, and I bowed down and worshiped the Lord. I praised the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who had led me on the right road to get the granddaughter of my master’s brother for his son. Now if you will show kindness and faithfulness to my master, tell me; and if not, tell me, so I may know which way to turn.”
Here was Abraham's servant who exhibited quite a few good traits in how he handled the situation:
1. He remained humble
- he didn't want Laban or Rebekah to get the wrong idea that he was a rich man who had rewarded Rebekah for her kindness. He quickly identified himself as Abraham's servant and focused on how God was good to Abraham.
2. He moved the spotlight to Rebekah's actions as a fulfillment of God's plan instead of Laban's hospitality (no mention of Laban at all interestingly)
- Abraham's servant established the defining moment to have been Rebekah's action. This must have been quite an interesting development in a patriarchal society as essentially Abraham's servant was giving Rebekah a load of credit in the search instead of Laban.
3. He saw this as God's leading him on the right path
- This was not just happy coincidence or a measure of his own wit and cleverness in finding Rebekah, but Abraham's servant saw the whole thing as God's orchestration of leading him to God's choice.
4. He refocused the conversation back to the mission
- He was not celebrating until he got the business done. Here was a faithful servant who could in his position indulged in the perks that had come with the developments in the business his master had sent him, but he remained undistracted and focused on the task at hand. He had not asked for this hospitality as the sign from God, and placed the question back to Rebekah's father and Laban his brother: what was it going to be? Will Rebekah be released to Isaac? If not, then he shall be on his way. By doing this, Abraham's servant avoided being bound by obligation as he would have had already received the food offered by Laban. He had placed things in proper order and didn't prioritize his personal comfort at the expense of the mission.
What was the response that Laban and the father gave?
Genesis 24:50-54a Laban and Bethuel answered, “This is from the Lord; we can say nothing to you one way or the other. Here is Rebekah; take her and go, and let her become the wife of your master’s son, as the Lord has directed.” When Abraham’s servant heard what they said, he bowed down to the ground before the Lord. Then the servant brought out gold and silver jewelry and articles of clothing and gave them to Rebekah; he also gave costly gifts to her brother and to her mother. Then he and the men who were with him ate and drank and spent the night there.
It is worthy of note that Abraham's servant's first response to the father's approval was worship to God. He was so focused in his heart praying to God for His favor that the first response was worship. He then proceeded to show Abraham's hospitality to the family, and received the festivities set before him for the night.
In our lives, do we also find ourselves often distracted with the world's invitation to comfort that we no longer have God's mission at our heart? Will we have the discipline to overcome these distractions with humility and shift the spotlight back to what God had done and will do? Will we pray in our hearts that we are being lead by God in the right path? Will we respond to the fulfillment of God's plans with worship?
My dear reader, where is your focus today? Often we start of properly, encountering much of God's grace in our lives, only to forget it because we chased after the grace rather than God and His mission. Can we also just like the servant in Genesis 24 find it in our hearts a saturated focus on God that it dictates how we even receive hospitality from others? Will we ask God for such a manifestation of self-control? If we do, I believe that such character will awaken the church that has prayed so long for revival in the world where comfort has been idolized and the children of God distracted.
What mission has God given you in your heart? What will you do today to get it back to focus?
Dear God, I beg of your forgiveness if I have shelved your mission in exchange for my personal comfort. Help me now to pause and get my focus back before I proceed with the life of grace I am receiving. Let the blessings be removed if it means I am to follow Your will, and let them remain if it is confirmed to be your leading. May Your Holy Spirit be my guide as I navigate through life undistracted and focused in Your call.
Hungry Chaplain Update:
Apologies on the delay of the publishing of this post, it has been quite a busy week. This is the pen-ultimate part of the Isaac-Rebekah series which will conclude in next week's update. Let us keep Ukraine and the world in prayer, knowing that many are suffering pain because of war. Challenge for the week: find someone who is in need of food and offer them bread in Jesus' Name. May we be Jesus' ambassadors of peace in this time of despair.