This week’s parasha is entitled Chayei Sarah, meaning “The Life of Sarah” and covers Genesis 23:1-25:18. In this parasha we see God’s plan to continue His promises through Abraham’s son Isaac, and a teaching for us on what it means to be servants of the Lord.
As our parasha opens, immediately we are confronted with the death of Abraham’s wife Sarah at age 127. Abraham mourns her passing, and then negotiates with the Hittites who live near him the purchase of a cave and field to bury his wife. He purchases this cave from Ephron the Hittite. Now Abraham was a wanderer in the land of Canaan and this cave the only land that he owned in his lifetime. The Lord had promised him this entire land but he did not see it accomplished in his lifetime. Despite having to wait for God’s timing Abraham remained trusting even to his death that Adonai would give physical ownership of the entire land to his descendants.
In chapter 24 a very elderly Abraham calls his oldest and most trusted servant Eliezer to his side and makes him swear an oath to find a wife for his son Isaac. We find this oath in verses 2–9. Listen to some of what Abraham said to him:
He said to the senior servant in his household, the one in charge of all that he had, “Put your hand under my thigh. I want you to swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and the God of earth, that you will not get a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I am living, but will go to my country and my own relatives and get a wife for my son Isaac.” The servant asked him, “What if the woman is unwilling to come back with me to this land? Shall I then take your son back to the country you came from?” “Make sure that you do not take my son back there,” Abraham said. “The Lord, the God of heaven, who brought me out of my father’s household and my native land and who spoke to me and promised me on oath, saying, ‘To your offspring I will give this land’—he will send his angel before you so that you can get a wife for my son from there, If the woman is unwilling to come back with you, then you will be released from this oath of mine. Only do not take my son back there.” So the servant put his hand under the thigh of his master Abraham and swore an oath to him concerning this matter.
Abraham was a righteous and wise man, he knew that he needed a proper wife for Isaac to continue God’s promises of redemption for mankind. He knew not to go to the pagan Canaanites and he knew that it was not Isaac’s place to go back to the land they had been called out of. Abraham assured his servant that Adonai would be with him, and his servant swore the oath immediately, departing with 10 camels to the city of Nahor, where Abraham’s brother lived.
After arriving at the city’s well, Eliezer prayed to Adonai to make known His will for Isaac’s wife. His prayer was that the woman who would come and offer to draw water for him and his camels would be the one God had chosen for Isaac. This was a task that would require hours of work but would demonstrate true kindness and humility. Before Eliezer had even finished praying, the Torah says his prayer was answered. Rebekah appeared and fulfilled his prayer perfectly, and he knew that she was the one chosen by God for Isaac.
He accompanied her to her father’s house, but refused any hospitality until he first stated his business. After telling them of Abraham, and his oath, and how God had fulfilled his prayer, he asked for their consent to take Rebekah back with him. They understood this was God’s will, but left the decision up to Rebekah. In what took great faith, she consented to go. After spending the night he was immediately ready to depart yet Rebekah’s mother and brother wanted her to wait 10 days before leaving. Eliezer knew that this was the Lord’s will and urged them not to delay him. We should remember this was a man Rebekah had met only yesterday, sent by an uncle she had never met, an uncle who years ago left her family to follow the voice of God and go where He would show him. Yet without any hesitation about leaving her homeland and family she again agreed to go, demonstrating the same kind of trust that Abraham had shown towards God years earlier. The chapter concludes with Isaac falling in love with Rebekah and marrying her.
Eliezer, Abraham, and Rebekah, are great examples for us today. First, in Eliezer we see a true servant of God. When he was commanded to do his master’s will, he immediately complied. At the right time he offered to God a righteous prayer which was then answered. At every point where he might otherwise have dragged his feet or given up because of obstacles he kept moving forward. Eliezer demonstrates faith in action. His was not a passive or lazy faith. We can learn from Eliezer that when the Lord calls us we should be quick to respond. When obstacles or uncertainties cross our path we should pray to the Lord to make His will known and then press on.
Second, Abraham was determined that his son not marry a woman from the pagan Canaanites, nor return to the land he had been called out of. Abraham trusted in the promises of Adonai and knew that the Lord would once again provide for him. He exhibited that quality of faith we find in Hebrews 11 – being assured of things he hoped for, and confident of things he did not see. Abraham provides in this parasha the example of sincere faith that comes from a right understanding of who Adonai is.
Finally consider Rebekah, God’s chosen bride for Isaac. She is described with many positive qualities including beauty and a servant’s heart, but her greatest attribute was her faith in the Lord. Like Abraham, she left her family and her land to fulfill the calling of God; in a sense to seek out that better country. Like Abraham, she showed no hesitation in trusting in Adonai’s will, though she was not given all the details. Like Eliezer, she was quick to respond to God’s call, and stood up to her family in order to accompany Eliezer immediately back to Abraham’s land.
Three very different people – and yet in one important way they exhibit one and the same quality; a willing to trust in Adonai, and to act on it even without all the details of their circumstances.
In Luke 9:62 Messiah Yeshua told a man who wanted to first say goodbye to his family before following Him: “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” Abraham, Eliezer, and Rebekah demonstrated this level of commitment for Adonai’s Kingdom. They set out to do the work of God without hesitation and without looking back.
So what should we take away from this parasha? First if you want to find a good wife go to the local well – find someone kind and generous with their time. But also that we should imitate the example these men and women of God have given us. We should look forward to God’s Kingdom, and not look back to the kingdom of darkness we have been called from. We also should have a trust in the goodness of Adonai and His plans for us, even though we don’t know all the details. Finally, we need to be willing to act on that faith when we are called, pushing through the obstacles and uncertainties of this world with the guiding help of our God. With the help of our Messiah we can accomplish all that has been set before us and He will not be ashamed to be known as our God!