One of the most important persons you’ve never heard of
I am confident you have never heard of this man, at least by name. The Bible does not even mention his name. You may know his story. He was a pivotal individual in the redemptive plan of God. Indeed, when the nation of Israel—and the line into which Messiah Jesus would be born—hung by a slender thread, God used this man to ensure future generations. The man of whom I speak is referred to in Genesis 24 simply as “the oldest servant of his [Abraham’s] house.”
At a time when Abraham lived as a stranger in the Promised Land, he charged this servant with the task of finding a bride for his only son by his late, beloved wife Sarah. The land of Canaan was populated by a godless, sometimes quite wicked people. Abraham surely did not want Isaac to intermarry with them. The only good prospects would be back in Mesopotamia, among relatives. So the servant, bound by an oath, set out with a large party of men, camels, and goods to do his master’s bidding.
Arriving in the city of Abraham’s brother Nahor, the servant appealed to the Lord for help. As young women of the city came to draw water, would the Lord please touch the heart of “Miss Right” not only to offer the servant a drink but also to offer water for his camels? Rebekah , a cousin of Isaac, proved to be the one.
It’s the actions of the servant from that point that illustrate true servanthood. When Rebekah’s father Bethuel and brother Laban rolled out the red carpet for the servant, he refused even to eat the plate of food set before him. “I will not eat until I have told about my errand,” he insisted. “I am Abraham’s servant.” Notice that he did not even identify himself by his own name. Everything he did and said was for the benefit of his master Abraham. He could not rest easy until he had reached a satisfactory agreement and was back on his way home, a bride for Isaac in tow.
Imagine Isaac’s excitement when one day weeks later as he was coming in from the fields, he spied the servant and caravan approaching—and Rebekah. “And he took Rebekah and she became his wife, and he loved her.” A side note here: the Bible has virtually nothing to say about the process of finding a wife, other than that a believer must not marry an unbeliever. While this marriage was arranged, Scripture does not command parents to arrange their children’s marriages. A Christian can find the ideal mate for life also through acceptable dating practices. On the other hand, the blessed gift of romance is reserved for that death-do-us-part commitment called marriage. It is not the recreational contact sport that popular culture makes it out to be.
The true story of Abraham’s servant and Isaac’s bride provides a living, flesh-and-blood example of selflessness and faithfulness to duty. Never concerned with his own interests, this servant sought only to ensure Isaac’s future. In a similar fashion the Son of God entered the human race as a servant seeking our good. “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:5-7). He pursued that selfless course even to the humiliating and painful death by Roman crucifixion. “And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:8).
When Christ returns one day, He will arrive as a conquering King ready to execute judgment. But as we approach Easter, remember that the Resurrection (and our redemption) would not have occurred without His first coming here as the Suffering Servant.
“The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28).