Last week I mentioned that we are in the transitional part of Abraham’s story. The tension of Isaac’s birth has been resolved and the transition began with the death of Sarah. We now move to the second transition, which is the finding of a wife for Isaac in Genesis 24.
As I’ve thought about this passage, I’ve found that it strikes me as a bit odd. Here we are looking at a rather lengthy account of Isaac getting a wife. While on one level this seems expected and natural. At the same time it seems so common.
I think that part of the reason it seems so odd is because we don’t have a lot of expectation for God to show up or be involved much in the everyday. God may show up on Sunday morning for worship, a missions trip, during our efforts for social justice, but it’s easier to doubt that God has anything to do with the things we don’t label as spiritual.
Even Abraham’s story has an odd element to it in this regard. God is directly connected to something as simple as the birth of a child. Sure it was done in a rather miraculous way, but even Abraham and Sarah showed they could find ways to produce a child, as they did through Hagar.
Looking at the story of Abraham’s servant finding Isaac a wife, we see a story that sees God close even in the rather mundane details of life. Even though God doesn’t appear to take quite as active a hand in this story, as with the birth of Isaac, there is a sense that God permeates the air of the story. Walter Brueggemann in his commentary on Genesis says that this story is “…a presentation of how it is to live in an ethos in which life is accepted and perceived as a gift from God.”
I think Brueggemann is onto something with that description. We see this reliance on God throughout the story. Abraham starts it off by having his servant swear an oath in the name of the Lord. Abraham also doesn’t want Isaac to go back to the land of his father because of the promise that God had relayed to Abraham. The servant also prayed to God when he reached his destination, and expected that prayer to be answered. The servant also praises God when he finds that Rebekah comes as a seeming answer to his prayer. We continue to see this reference to God as the servant tells his tale and in the reactions of Laban and Bethuel. The point as probably been hammered enough, right?
Even though God is not directly active, the story presents God as being involved in the finding of a wife for Isaac. I suppose a push back to this is that God is simply being involved in the promise coming to pass. For Isaac to have descendants he needs a wife. At the same time the promise did not hinge on just the right woman being found. So it seems strange to pass this off as just God involved in his promise.
The question that arises out of this story that sees God in every action, is does God really work this way? Is God involved in our daily lives to such a point? It’s a tricky question. On one level yes may seem to be the obvious answer, but I wonder how many of us would struggle to give examples of this in our own lives. I also wonder how many people who would be able to say that they’ve been looking and longing for that, but God just doesn’t seem to be there.
Sometimes we miss God’s activity, because we just aren’t really looking for it. We just write everything off as perfectly natural or coincidence and think nothing of it. Other times we are looking for God. We are searching desperately for God to be found in the midst of our daily lives, but God seems to be missing. I wish I had a simple answer to gift wrap, but I don’t.
I do believe in a God who is active and surrounds our daily lives. I believe he can be found in interactions with family, friends, and complete strangers. I also believe that sometimes he seems very distant. Sometimes we realize that this distance wasn’t real, and in hindsight we can see how God was with us even when it seemed like he wasn’t. Other times we don’t know, and may never know what God was doing during certain periods of our lives.
Maybe part of the problem in all this is that we expect God will work certain ways in our lives. We expect every story will be in the vein of how God was involved in finding my spouse. However, we don’t seem to hold that same expectation in the stories of burying a spouse (my thought goes back to last chapter with the death of Sarah). We seem to be more comfortable with God’s activity in the good times and the difficult times. This is no criticism of that fact, just that is the reality I have experience personally.
Even so, I think that this story encourages us to trust that God works in our daily lives. To live in such a way to be expecting God to work. This doesn’t mean we’ll see or hear God directly intervening in our lives, like this story doesn’t show God directly involved (at least compared to the earlier parts of the Abraham story). It simply means that God is active in the world. In the common everyday aspects of life we have the chance to see God at work. I all too often miss those chances I think, I hope to have eyes that are able to see them more often.