Bible reading for Jan 23: Genesis 24; Matthew 23.
And Isaac went out to meditate in the field toward evening. And he lifted up his eyes and saw, and behold, there were camels coming. And Rebekah lifted up her eyes, and when she saw Isaac, she dismounted from the camel and said to the servant, "Who is that man, walking in the field to meet us?" The servant said, "It is my master." So she took her veil and covered herself." ... Then Isaac brought her into the tent of Sarah his mother and took Rebekah, and she became his wife, and he loved her. So Isaac was comforted after his mother's death. (Gen 24:63-65, 67 ESV)
It's all arranged. The courtship that we see in chapter 24 of Genesis is, well, it's not even a courtship, it's an engagement by faith, sight unseen. It's an arranged marriage. And such a marriage is far, far removed from anything our post-modern culture would find acceptable. And yet, how beautiful and dignified is this story. It's a bit like the book of Ruth, a sort of Mideastern romance. They both "lifted up their eyes" in seeing each other (24:63-64), perhaps to indicate gazing upon something (or someone) the Lord has provided (see Gen 13:14; 18:2; 22:13; Ps 121:1; 123:1). And "she became his wife, and he loved her."
Not a template. First, this is not a template for courtship today, or dating, or arranged marriages, for that matter. That's not the reason this chapter is in the Bible. It's part of an historical narrative and nowhere does the Bible say, "go and do likewise." What it does show is Abraham's concern for a godly marriage for his son Isaac, and his care to avoid any Canaanite (polytheistic) union. He trusts God to guide his servant, and his servant prays, looks for good character first, but also notes Rebekah's beauty. What stands out is Abraham's high value upon marriage, Isaac's relationship with God, and Rebekah's grace and modesty. The resulting story-line demonstrates that God again provides for Abraham and preserves his family line. Believers today also hold this high view of marriage. One NT principle illustrated here is, "Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?" (2 Cor 6:14)
Marrying a stranger. Some years ago, a woman who was part of an arranged marriage was asked by a Dallas reporter, "So, what's it like waking up in the morning lying next to a stranger?" The woman, who described herself as happily married, went on to tell how their parents were involved in the match-making, and how she freely accepted their guidance for her new husband. At the end of the interview she said that love was a decision and over time they came to love each other deeply. She concluded by saying, and I'm paraphrasing here, "You Americans 'fall in love' and get married while you are infatuated, and then a year or two later you wake up in the morning and realize that you are lying in bed next to a stranger. At that time you must begin to learn how to love. We just cut out that year of disillusionment." What wise way of looking at life and love!
"The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted." (Matt 23:11-12)
"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! See, your house is left to you desolate." (Matt 23:37-38)
Woe to you! In Matthew 23 we see Jesus calling out seven "woes" to the leaders in Jerusalem, specifically upon the scribes and the Pharisees. He describes their many sins. They were blind guides, proud, obsessed with their own honor and appearance, hypocritical, without compassion, neglecting the weightier matters of the law, outwardly clean but inwardly defiled, and a "brood of vipers."
Whoever exalts himself will be humbled... Pronouncing woes was common among the OT prophets, including Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Amos, and others. It was the prelude to judgment. Sadly, though their house will be left desolate, Jesus still speaks tenderly of his willingness to gather them to himself. May we also be so willing and tender to receive those who turn to Christ, even from the brink of judgment.
We are following the Robert Murray M'Cheyne (RMM) two-year reading schedule found here.
Scripture quotations, unless otherwise noted, are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.