ďHow God Guides UsĒ†† Genesis 24:1-67††††††† September 27, 2009
SI:† Weíve been studying the life of Abraham, Genesis chapters 12-25.
Heís called the father of those who believe.
†† His life is a pattern of faith in Christ.
†† Weíre nearing the end of Abrahamís story.
This chapter is about the last great task of Abrahamís lifeó
†† a task he entrusted to his most loyal servantógetting a wife for Isaac.
There is value in reading this whole story, but since so long,
†† going to read part now, and the rest before the sermon.† 1-28
Letís finish reading Genesis 24.† Pick up in verse 29.
Weíre told the name of Abrahamís oldest and most trusted servant way back in
†† chapter 15, 50 years earlier.† His name was Eliezer of Damascus.
Heís one of the most winsome minor characters in the Bibleó
†† a man full of faith in the Lord, just like his master Abraham.
In this most important assignment of his life, we see how God guides us.
INTRO: †This past summer we were at Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado,
†† We had an excellent tour guide who led us through the Indian ruins in the cliffs of
†† Mesa Verde.† He was actually a retired Presbyterian minister, working as a ranger.
†† He knew everything about the place and he was a talented communicator.†
We went on two tours with himó
†† a ruin called Cliff Palace and another called Balcony House.†
Both times he made those mysterious ruins come alive.
†† We could imagine the Indians building those structures and living there.†
One part of the tour we had to climb a 60 foot ladder to get from one
†† set of ruins to another and he told us, if you are afraid of heights,
†† donít look back, it will make you dizzy.
Iím not particularly afraid of heights, so I looked back and I saw what
†† he was saying, because I wasnít looking down 60 feet, I was looking down
†† 900 feet, right down the cliff and into the valley.
One of our children, I wonít tell you which one, was above me on the ladder,
†† and I heard her saying, O help me!† Help me, Lord!† I canít do it!† I canít do it!
And our faithful ranger guide was at the top saying, Come on, you can do it.
†† Come on you Presbyterians (he knew we were because one of us was wearing
†† a Christ Covenant t-shirt.)† And he got us all out in one piece. †
We all agreed that the tour by Ranger Bruce was one of the highlights of our trip.
As Christians we have a guide not just for the important times or the hard times,
†† but for every day of our lives.†
Thatís what the Lord is for us.† Heís our guide.†
And as our guide, the Lord goes before us.† He directs our steps.
†† He says walk this way.† This is the path of blessing.†
†† Donít go over there.† Youíll get hurt.
He helps us understand what we are seeing
†† And heís with us to the end.† He makes sure we make it.
One of the best verses in the Bible about Godís guidance is Proverbs 3:5-6.
If youíre my age or older, you probably memorized it in King James:
†† ďTrust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not on thine own understanding,
†† in all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.†
There is a command.† Trust the Lord.† Trust him with all your heart.†
Donít trust yourself.† Acknowledge the Lord in every plan and decision.
And then with that command is this magnificent promiseó
†† ďHe shall direct thy paths.Ē† NIV says, ďHe will make your paths straight.Ē
†† He will lead you the right way.† He wonít lead you astray or let you be led astray.
How does the Lord do it?† How does he guide us?
I was talking to someone recently who had a big decision to make and he said:†
†† I wish God would just tell me what to do!
I said, You mean like write a message in the sky.† ďJohn, do this.Ē
†† He said, Yes, that would be nice.† God, just tell me what to do, and Iíll do it.
But of course this Christian man knew, and we all know, thatís not
†† the way the Lord guides us.† He uses other ways.†
And thatís why Genesis 24 is such a valuable chapter in the Bible.
†† It is a detailed, living picture of the Lordís guidance.
†† Itís Proverbs 3:5-6 in living color, in HDTV.†
Abraham sent Eliezer on the most important mission of his life.
†† A long trip, 400 miles one way, from Hebron to Haran in Mesopotamia.
Eliezer said:† How do I know this is going to work?
†† What if the girl doesnít want to come back with me?
Abraham said:† The angel of the Lord will go before you and give success.
†† In other words, the Lord will go ahead of you, he will make your paths straight,
†† he will guide you in this task.† And he did, in an incredible way.
And the Lord also guides you.†
†† Every day of your life, in every decision big and small he goes ahead of you,
†† and makes the way straightóyou have to trust him.
Big part of that is knowing how he guidesóseeing it, and then trusting
†† him enough to walk in the path he has laid out for you.
In this story we see five ways the Lord guides his people.
†† By calling, precept, wisdom, prayer, and providence.
Weíll separate them to talk about them, but they are intertwined.
†† And you often experience them all together and in different combinations.
†† Letís look at each.
First, the Lord leads you through calling.†
To be a Christian is to be a person called by God.† Your calling is to serve him.
†† And the way you serve God, the way your calling is expressed,
†† is in the many callings (plural) of your life.
Your work is a calling from God.† Whether you are a teacher, a secretary or
†† businessman, he has put you there through talents and circumstances.†
†† You serve him through that calling.† Donít have career, you have a calling.
Your relationships are callings from God.† Called you to be child of your parents,
†† and a husband or wife, a brother or sister, a parent of your children.
All the other stations of lifeómembership in church, coach of childís team.
†† All of those are from God, he has put you there.† So the Christian asks:
How can I serve the Lord in this? †How can I advance his interests in this place?
What was Eliezerís calling?† He was Abrahamís servant.
†† He was born in Damascus, and then at some point early on,
†† he was purchased by Abraham and became his servant for life.
Did you notice how often he referred to himself as Abrahamís servant?
†† Every time he spoke about himself and what he planned to do.
†† Had a deep sense of calling.† He knew by serving Abraham, he was serving Lord.†
And the way that worked out practically, was that Eliezer was always making
†† decisions based on Abrahamís interests, not his own.† The most striking to me
†† is when Rebekahís family said, stay ten days.† He had just traveled 400 miles.
Several months on road, but he said noóhave to get back to Abraham and Isaac.
†† Iím not called to serve myself, but other people, and through them, the Lord.
†† Calling means this:† Itís not about me.† I serve God by serving other people.
I think Iíve mentioned before a relative who called me once to discuss a promotion.
†† It was the sort of thing that most men would have automatically jumped at.
But his question was:† How can I best serve God?† Staying where I am, taking it?
†† And will this be good for family?† In a good church where we are, they are
†† happy and being fed spiritually.† He was pondering that as well.
You might say, that sounds more complicated.† Would be easier to say: Iím doing
†† what I want.† Iím doing whatís best for me.† Take promotion without a thought.
That would be easier.† But weíre talking about Godís guidance, and straight paths.
†† One way he guides you is when you seriously ponder your callings and ask
†† yourself and how you can serve God best, and promote his interests.†
Second, the Lord guides you through precept.
†† By precept I mean Godís commands, his moral law as revealed to us in Scripture.†
What was the precept that guided Eliezer in this episode?
Whatever you do, Eliezer, donít let Isaac marry a Canaanite
†† and donít let him leave the land of promise.† God has spoken.
Sons of Abraham must not marry daughters of Canaan.
†† Believers must marry in the Lord.
We looked at it in detail last Sunday, how God has made it clear in Old and New
†† Testaments that believers are to marry in the Lord as an expression of faith
†† in his covenant promises.† How through godly marriages he pours out his grace
†† to a thousand generations.†
God guides you through his precepts.† He sets boundaries for decisions.†
†† His precepts show you what pleases him and what is the path to the good life.
†† When God says this is righteous and this is unrighteous, His will is clear.
Itís Godís will for you to be ethical in business.
Itís Godís will for you to speak words that build others up
†† rather than words that tear them down.
Itís Godís will for you to be sexually pure.
Itís Godís will for you to be content with what you have and live within your
†† means and cheerfully give a regular portion of your income to the church.
Itís Godís will to raise your children in the faith and have a lifestyle that
†† enables them to worship God and fellowship with his people.
And on and on we could go.†
In many matters, the law of God written on your heart.† You know what is right
†† and what is wrong.† But you canít always rely on your conscience.
†† The conscience gets a mixed review in Scripture.†
†† Some Christians have better consciences than others.
In some matters, you are going to have to search the Scriptures.
†† When you find that Godís word says donít do this, or you must do tható
†† the Lord is speaking to you.†
You donít need to pray:† Lord, should I marry this cute little Canaanite or not.†
†† Heís already guided you.
†† Heís made your path straight.† Trust him and walk in it.
Third, the Lord guides you through wisdom.
What is wisdom?
†† It is a biblical mind evaluating choices and circumstances.
†† Bible also calls it prudence, sound judgment, discernment, and insight.
As Eliezer neared the well in the city of Nahor, he started praying.
†† Lord, please lead me to the right woman.† When I ask her for water,
†† if she says, let me water your camels too, let her be the one.
There are two different ways of looking at this.† Some have said that Eliezer
†† was testing God.† That he was saying, God you have to do it this way.
But there is another way of looking at Eliezerís prayer.† He wasnít testing God.
†† He was asking God to reveal to him the womanís character by her actions.
Think how often the book of Proverbs teaches the wise man to judge character
†† by a personís work and service.† And how often the good wife is described as one
†† who works.† Proverbs 31 comes to mind.†
There would be nothing unusual for a young woman to give him a drinkó
†† but to volunteer to water his 10 camels would reveal something significant
†† about her character, her spirit, and her suitability to be the wife of Isaac.
(Out of curiosity I got on the internet to find out how much a thirsty camel can drink and one source said up to 25gallons.† If Rebekah had a three gallon water jar, that would be 83 trips to the well!† Notice that little detail that she quickly emptied
her jar into the trough and ran to the well.)
All this time Eliezer was watching her ďto learn whether the Lord had prospered his
†† journey or not.Ē† And then when he found out whose daughter she was, he put
†† two and two together and realized, this a young woman was not only from
†† a believing family, she knew Lord, and it showed in her character and work.
Eliezer was guided by wisdom.† And Lord guides us the same way.
You know that it is Godís will for you to be generous and not stingy.
†† But how do you apply that to a particular person?† How do you know if giving
†† to them is helping or enabling them to live irresponsibly?† That requires wisdom.
You know itís Godís will to raise your children in nurture and admonition of Lord.
†† But how do you decide which movies to let them watch, dating decisions?
Those are matters of wisdom.† You may say, Iím not very wise.† But one of the first
†† principles of wisdom is seeking godly counsel.† You can do that.† God guides.
Fourth, the Lord guides you through prayer.
Eliezer was the oldest servant in Abrahamís household.
†† At one time, before Isaac was born, he as actually Abrahamís heir.
Abraham trusted him so much that he managed everything.†
†† And it wasnít just Abraham and Isaac and a few goats.
There were several thousand people connected to Abraham by this time.
†† Back in 14, told he had a security force of 318 trained men born in his household.
Fifty years had passed and he had become much more wealthy.
†† He had vast herds of animals.† Numerous servants and freemen connected to him.
†† Eliezer was in charge of everything Abraham owned.
He was also a man who understood people and had the strength of personality
†† to command them.† You see the way he handled Rebekahís family.
†† He wasnít rude but he got his way.† This is how it has to be.
My point is that he was a man of tremendous competence and ability.
But for all that Eliezer had at his disposal, for all his competence and ability,
†† he didnít trust in those things, he trusted God.† He prayed for success.†
†† He asked the Lord to do something.† Lead him to the woman, give him insight.
And appealed to Godís lovingkindness and promises to Abraham.
†† Not as a last resort.† It wasnít after he had tried and failed that he finally broke
†† down and prayed. †He didnít bargain with God.†
Youíve heard the one about the man driving down the street, in a sweat,
†† because he had an important meeting and couldnít find parking.
Looking up toward heaven, he said, ďLord, take pity on me. †If you find me a
†† parking space, I will go to church every Sunday for the rest of my life
†† and give up drinking.Ē† Miraculously, a parking space appeared.
The man looked up again and said, ďNever mind.† I found one.Ē
But when you read Eliezerís three prayers in this story, they are so spontaneous,
†† so real, that you see that for him, prayer was really talking to the Lord.
He had a palpable sense of Godís immediate presence.† Knew the Lord was near.
†† And through his prayers, the Lord not only changed things, he guided him.
Do you want Godís guidance.† Pray.† Not as a last resort.† Not bargaining.
†† But show your trust in the living God by talking to himótrust him,
†† and he promises to direct your paths.
Fifth, the Lord guides you through providence.
†† Godís providence is his active ruling and guiding every detail of creation,
†† and every detail of your life.† In other words, the providence of God means
†† that there is a purpose, Godís purpose, in everything that happens.
Not a sparrow falls, Jesus said, apart from the will of my Father in heaven.†
†† And even the very hairs of your head are numbered.
†† David wrote:† All my days were written in your book before they came to be.
Eliezer rode his camels on a 400 mile journey, and then not five minutes after he
†† pulled up to the well, before he could even finish his prayer, Rebekah arrived.†
What if he had gotten there 30 minutes later, after she had leftó
†† the whole history of world the might have been different.
But that perfect meeting, that perfect timing, was all part of Godís plan, and that
†† plan could no more fail than God could cease to be God.
There is that wonderful detail in verse 21, where he has prayed, and he gazes
†† at this woman in silence, to see if the Lord has prospered his journey.
You should be able to see yourself in Eliezerís place, sitting by the well,
†† watching intently the events unfolding in your life, wondering what God has done
†† and what he will do.† And when we see his hand in the details, itís wonderful.
Iím not saying that you will know Godís purposes in all things.† Some you
†† will understand in time, but many, most, you wonít.
And there are many times when Godís providence confuses us terribly, and hurts.
†† We could easily imagine Eliezer finding Rebekah, and being sure God had
†† answered his prayer, and then finding out she was engaged to another man.
Those sorts of things often happen to Christians.† We think we know what God
†† is doing and then he does something that completely confuses us.
But the point of the Bibleís teaching about Godís providence is that even though
†† God doesnít tell us what his is doing, or why, we do know that he is the one
†† doing these things.† He has our lives and all reality under his control.
He is accomplishing the plans he has for the world and for our lives.
Believing this does guides you, because it makes God and Christ great in your eyes,
†† and it makes you infinitely secure.† It extinguishes fear, it makes victory certain,
†† and makes the heart and arm strong because you know that to be a Christian
†† is to be a person who is guided every moment by the present and active God.†
CONC:† We have a Guide.†
†† He is the guide of Abraham, and Eliezer and all who trust him?
Do you trust Him?† Are you following his callings?
†† Are you learning and obeying his precepts?
†† Are you growing in his wisdom?
†† Are you communing with him in prayer?
†† Are you believing in his providence?
When you trust in the Lord with all your heart, he will make your paths straight.
Thatís not a promise that everything will work out as you planned.
†† We canít read this story and say that it means that every time
†† the Christian who trusts God gets the girl.
Although there are, for everyone who trusts God,
† †tons of blessings and answered prayers.†
And this is not a promise that you wonít make mistakes.†
†† You will.† Even big ones.
But as Christians walk with him, their decisions do become
†† more wise with every passing year.† You do grow in wisdom and grace.
†† He does enable you to sayóIíve faced this before.† Thank you Lord.
†† Now I know the way I should walk.
But the heart of the marvelous promise, is that no matter what happens,
†† good or bad, in the blessings and disappointments,
†† you can be assured that the Lord is your guide.
He knows you, and knows the way, and heís guiding you on the right path.
An old hymn says:
†† He is our Guide and Friend, To us heíll condescend,
†† His love will never endóHallelujah.† Amen.
And thatís where this great teaching leads usóto worship.
†† How marvelous that the God of all things, and his Eternal Son,
†† has taken an interest in our livesóthe things that seem so huge to us,
†† but compared to God and the universe and eternity are so small.
He has condescended to guide us through this life,
†† and lead us safely home.† Letís praise him, and now come to the Table
†† and Commune with that Godóour Guide and Friend.