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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

A Marriage Made in Heaven

By Scott Harrup
Feb. 14, 2010

She wasn't Cinderella, and he wasn't a prince carrying a glass slipper. But their meeting had the makings of a fairy tale.

In a region encompassing modern Syria and Iraq, he showed up in the ancient town of Nahor near the end of another typically blistering day. Though not royalty, the man might as well have been, judging from the size of his entourage - 10 camels laden with fine goods, and a group of men whose hands were never far from their swords.

The man was Abraham's head servant on a mission to find a wife for his master's heir, Isaac. He had been given the finest gifts from his master's treasure and the ablest bodyguards from the small army protecting his master's camp.

This was no ordinary Middle Eastern dowry agreement. This was a divinely orchestrated matchmaking mission. Abraham, under God's direction, had sworn his servant to a specific course of action - find a young woman from Abraham's own clan and bring her to Isaac. No woman from among Canaan's idolatrous kingdoms would do.

Read Genesis 24 and you get a bird's eye view of what happened next. Sitting near the town well, the servant prayed for a sign - that God's intended wife for Isaac would be among the women coming to the well for water, and that she would also offer to water those 10 camels when the servant asked her for a drink. No small task, when a thirsty camel can down about 30 gallons in just 10 minutes.

Young Rebekah proved to be the answer to the servant's prayer, and the balance of Genesis 24 records the dialog between the servant and Rebekah's family, her journey back to Canaan to meet Isaac, and their marriage.

An unattached young woman headed to the village well becomes the wife of a vastly wealthy nomad. A 40-year-old bachelor mourning his mother's death meets the woman of his dreams. A marriage made in heaven.

Middle Eastern marriage dowries, parental involvement in spouse selection, and some 4,000 years of history notwithstanding, an encouraging narrative thread emerges for today's Christian. Any man or woman who commits their marriage decision to God's care can meet the partner who most fully shares their faith and their life's calling. Move over E-Harmony.

Trouble in paradise
Flash forward 20 years, and Isaac and Rebekah are hitting perhaps the greatest roadblock to marital fulfillment they could have imagined - childlessness. To complicate matters, there's no shortage of births in the family camp.

Genesis 25 opens with patriarch Abraham remarrying after Sarah's death. Abraham and Keturah were wonderfully fertile, producing six sons before Abraham died at 175. During much of that time, Rebekah was unable to have children. Besides his six primary sons, Abraham managed to sire a number of additional offspring from several concubines.

Since the clan lived in one sprawling group, Rebekah most likely spent every one of her first 20 years of marriage with her father-in-law expecting a son or doting over a new baby or toddler. All the while, she remained barren.

Would Isaac stay true to her? Their culture would have offered nothing but congratulations had he searched out a young and fruitful second wife, or even a concubine.

Where was God's promise to Abraham of an immeasurable family, since Isaac was the first son of that promise? How could Rebekah possibly be part of that plan after 20 years of childlessness? When would Isaac look elsewhere for the mother of his children?


The solution? Prayer.

Genesis 25:21 says, "Isaac prayed to the Lord on behalf of his wife, because she was barren" (NIV). There's no time frame to the verse. Verse 20 tells us Isaac was 40 when they married. Verse 26 notes he was 60 when Rebekah gave birth to twins Esau and Jacob. The implication: Isaac spent some 20 years interceding for the love of his life, believing all the while she was the chosen partner God intended to use in the fulfillment of the family promise.

A marriage made in heaven.

Family feud
Jump ahead some 70 years (keep in mind those Old Testament life spans), and the twins are middle-aged and still living on the family compound. Esau and Jacob could not have been more different. Unfortunately, their contrasting personalities drew them into opposing relationships with their parents.

Esau, the "man's man," was the joy of Isaac's life. There would have been plenty of evening campfire tales of that brother's latest hunt. Jacob, probably hanging in the shadows, was more comfortable around a cooking pot. Rebekah had gravitated toward him.

Genesis 27 records the final rift in this arrangement. Isaac planned to bestow a fatherly blessing on Esau, and asked for some wild game as a commemorative meal. Rebekah overheard the arrangement and soon had Jacob scurrying into Isaac's tent dressed in Esau's clothes and serving "wild" goat from the family flock.

Isaac blesses Jacob; Jacob exits; Esau enters; the deception is discovered. A marriage made in heaven?

At the emotional nadir of their relationship, Isaac and Rebekah remember where everything for them began. God had brought them together. If His blessings were to continue in their family, He needed to be brought back into the equation for the next generation. They send Jacob back to Rebekah's homeland with a prayer that God will lead him.

Esau only grasped the outer fringes of that reality. He had married two Hittite women years earlier. When he saw Jacob seeking out a godly wife with his parents' blessing, he compromised by taking another wife within the extended family through Ishmael. He would forever drift farther from the family of God's promise.

As Jacob moves into his own life journey, the Genesis narrative follows him. Little else is said of his parents. No date is given to Rebekah's death, but she is apparently long gone when Jacob finally returns to Canaan with his wives and children, is reconciled to Esau, and the two of them bury Isaac. The Book of Genesis gives a late footnote on Isaac and Rebekah in chapter 49, when Jacob tells his sons that his parents are buried with Abraham and Sarah.

But that final footnote is still instructive. By all indications, even in an age of polygamy and concubines, Isaac remained true to his heaven-sent partner throughout their lives. No heartache, no disagreement, no hurt was great enough to fracture their original foundation.

A marriage made in heaven.

Warts and all
When God brings together a man and a woman, He doesn't turn them into angels, He doesn't erase their personalities, and He doesn't smooth out every rut and bump in life's road. That's important to remember. Otherwise, the inevitable less-than-angelic behavior, personality conflicts, and life's ruts and bumps will make it tempting to question any marriage commitment.

Nothing that happened in the decades following Isaac and Rebekah's wedding diluted the divine direction that brought them together. Because they each kept their relationship with God in focus, they could keep their own relationship alive.

Aged and feeble near the end of their journey, they could not have been more different from the beautiful young woman and dashing young heir they once were. That's an inescapable reality in this life. None of us is the man or woman our spouse married. Everyone gets a little battle weary.

But God's foundation will always hold true, if only we will hold to it. "This is from the Lord," Rebekah's family had said all those years before.
God never changed His mind about that pivotal couple's relationship. For that matter, His goal is for every marriage to last a lifetime.

Because any marriage that is committed to Him is a marriage made in heaven.

SCOTT HARRUP is senior associate editor of the Pentecostal Evangel.

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