Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Genesis 24:5-9 Seeking Clarification of the Task Required

Genesis 24:5-9: And the servant said to him, “Suppose the woman will not be willing to follow me to this land; should I take your son back to the land from where you came?” Then Abraham said to him, “Beware lest you take my son back there! The Lord, the God of heaven, who took me from my father’s house and from the land of my birth, and who spoke to me, and who swore to me, saying, To your descendants I will give this land, He will send His angel before you, and you will take a wife for my son from there. But if the woman is not willing to follow you, then you will be free from this my oath; only do not take my son back there.” So the servant placed his hand under the thigh of Abraham his master, and swore to him concerning this matter.

There is this need in good servants to make sure they have their instructions right. They do not want to mess up. Smart servants also think ahead and consider the possible outcomes of following their instructions. Abraham’s servant wants to know what would happen if the woman he chose for Isaac would not be willing to return with him. What is interesting about this question is that the servant was only told, at the end of verse four in the previous section, to “take a wife for my son Isaac.” He was not told how to do it exactly. Knowing his master well enough, the servant was able to figure out that Abraham would want the woman brought back and he was to ask her to return with him.

Sometimes men and women who want to serve God expect every detail to be provided in terms of every action they are to take in the process. Is this due to our inability to think for ourselves? I hope not, because God created us in His image. We are intelligent beings that have been blessed with the gift of creativity. Is it due to our laziness and the fact that our culture likes to spoon-feed us on just about everything? Again, I hope not, because serving the Lord requires us to give it all we have in terms of effort. One other possibility is that we do not know our Master well enough to ascertain what He would expect. If so, we need to spend more time with Him.

So Abraham’s servant asks the question he did, along with suggesting one possible answer – that he return alone and get Isaac and take him back there for the chosen woman to see. That was the last thing Abraham wanted and indicated so. But let us look closer at how he really answered the question. He simply shared with his servant that the God of heaven who has already proven His involvement in Abraham’s life, will indeed “send His angel before you, and you will take a wife for my son from there.” That is the kind of earthly master I would want to work for; someone who hears my suggestion, understands my concern, and who can reject it kindly while still addressing my need. And in the process, assuring me of success. Abraham told his servant that in no way should Isaac be taken back there, but instead God will send his angel and the servant will succeed. And as an extra measure of comfort for the servant, Abraham tells him that should the woman not be willing to follow him back, he will be free from the covenant or promise he made to Abraham. Do as I requested, and if it does not work out, you’re free from that obligation. Isn’t this how we often treat our children that we love so much when they hesitate to take a risk in life.

Even though I have been a people manager for close to four decades now, I am still learning the lesson that good employees who want to serve me and our organization well need not only clarification as to their instructions, but also a level of comfort that they can succeed or that they will be absolved of their responsibility under certain conditions. The secret of course in a situation like this is to have such a relationship between supervisor and supervisee that the former takes the time to address the needs of the latter and the latter has enough confidence in the former’s assessment of the task and his/her abilities to perform it, that they can commit themselves to it. Such was the case here. Abraham addressed the servant’s concerns and the servant was able to fully commit himself to the assigned task and swore to him that he would perform it.

We are called to be that kind of servant to God. Some of us are called to be that kind of servant to our earthly managers. Others are also called to be that kind of ‘master’ to those that are under our care as employees and as members of our household.

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