Saturday, November 15, 2008

Genesis 24:2-4 Taking Care of Business

Genesis 24:2-4: And Abraham said to his servant, the oldest of his household, who had charge of all that he owned, “Please place your hand under my thigh, and I will make you swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and the God of earth, that you shall not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I live, but you shall go to my country and to my relatives, and take a wife for my son Isaac.”

It is probable but not certain that Abraham sensed his days were coming to an end. Isaac had also become a young man, eligible for marriage. So Abraham calls his most trusted servant to come to his side. Even though he was the longest-standing employee in Abraham’s household and the one in charge of all that Abraham possessed, I think it is noteworthy that the servant’s name is not mentioned in the text. At least it is not mentioned here. In Genesis 15:2 we read about Abram’s steward, a man called Eliezer from the house of Damascus. However, there is controversy as to whether this was still the same person or one who had been promoted to the job when Eliezer died. Regardless of who it was, what matters is that true servants do not get credit. Their service is all for and about their master. In this day and age, this aspect of service is hard for many to grasp and adhere to. Ultimately, people want to be recognized and praised for their part.

I recently considered that very issue. Does God really get cranky if one of us receives some recognition for our accomplishments? Aren’t most fathers thrilled when their children succeed? Does not every young person want to become great? Some, men in particular, also want to be recognized as such when they achieve something of significance. So, is this wrong?

There is no doubt that “to God be all Glory” is the modus operandi for the Christian that has an opportunity to achieve something great. But I believe that is different than giving credit and recognizing someone else who has achieved something great. While there is a fine line here, I believe our job as Christians is to recognize others and their achievements and then wait for them to give God the glory for what they have done. It is not to strip them of their recognition and credit.

We need to partner together to raise young men and women who will attempt and accomplish great things for God. But let us be clear. Greatness is not glory. Glory belongs to God. Greatness is reflected glory like the stars and the moon reflect the glory of the sun. As Christians we are to reflect the Glory of Christ. And if some seek the glory, don’t worry, God can take care of Himself, he knows those that are serving out of impure motives.

Abraham asks his servant to place his hand under his master’s thigh. This is believed to have been an ancient form of undertaking a very serious oath. It required the oath taker to swear his total commitment and deliverance of the request. It is interesting how Abraham makes his servant swear by the “Lord, the God of heaven and the God of earth” to make good his promise. We first came across this idea of “swearing by God” in Genesis 21:23 where Abimelech makes Abraham swear that he will not deal falsely with him, or his son, or his grandson. And Abraham obliged. Throughout the centuries taking an oath in the name of God is considered a most serious business. Even today in our court systems, we take an oath to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth, “so help us) God” and we take that oath with our hand on a copy of the Bible. Abraham was the first one to take such an oath and the second one to require it.

So what was it that Abraham wanted his trusted servant to do? Simply this: that he makes sure that Isaac does not marry a daughter of the Canaanites, the very people among whom Abraham lived. Instead the servant was to go back to Abraham’s own country and to his own relatives to find a wife for Abraham’s son Isaac. Abraham knew that the promise had to come through as pure a lineage as possible from those that were true God worshippers.

He asked his servant to undertake this journey either because Abraham was too old to make such a journey, or more likely, because it was customary that one’s trusted servant or steward be entrusted with such responsibility as a representative of the parent. I would venture to say that should this have happened in this day and age, at least in North America, the valet’s response might be totally different than what we are told the servant responded with in the next passage.

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