In Genesis 24, Abraham decides that it is time for his beloved son Isaac to have a wife. Now, in Abraham’s day, as in some places in the world still today, marriages were “arranged” by the families of the bride and groom. So, like all good dads of his time and place in history, Abraham arranged a marriage for Isaac. Looking at this text through that lens, two priorities emerge as preeminent to Abraham in selecting a wife for Isaac:
- He wanted God to be the matchmaker. Abraham set what must have seemed an impossible standard for the woman that Isaac would marry. His future wife, who turned out to be Rebekah, would have to leave her family and her country in an act of faith and move to a country she had never seen to marry a man she had never met. Abraham knew that God had called him and his family to this land, and for him that calling included his future daughter-in-law. Because he trusted in God’s calling and God’s sovereignty, Abraham did not consider it too small a thing for God to orchestrate some very specific events, so that they would know that He sovereignly put this couple together. My wife Cristi and I were both single until we were 35. Both Cristi and I had always dreamed of being married and having a family. In my 20s, I was a Wall Street investment banker – traveling and doing deals all over the country and making a lot of money. During her 20’s, Cristi became a Registered Dietician, interned at a very prestigious hospital in San Francisco, and then worked in public health in the Dallas area. Both of us were successful singles, but we didn’t want that – we wanted to be married and have a family. We both prayed earnestly that God would make that happen. But, around age 30, it hadn’t happened for either of us. And both of us actually got to the point around that age of giving that desire to be married back to God. We see in Genesis 22 that God wants what is most precious to us, because He wants to be most precious to us. For Cristi and I, at age 30, the most precious thing to both of us was that dream of a spouse, children and a house in the suburbs. I even owned a house in the suburbs. But around age 30 for both of us, in a very real way, we gave up that dream. Cristi went to seminary and on to the mission field. What do you think the odds were of her meeting the man of her dreams in Albania? Not too great. And I sold the house in the affluent suburb, got an apartment (thinking that God would likely move me somewhere else after seminary), and started seminary and working in youth ministry. Even my wonderful, Godly mom (who really wanted grandkids) asked me more than once, “How are you going to meet a girl your age when you’re hanging out with teenagers all the time?” But God knew what He was doing. Those sweet girls that Cristi led to Christ and discipled in Albania prayed for her to find a husband. And I had colleagues and friends in youth ministry who were praying for me. And when Cristi came home on a furlough and went on a women’s retreat at her church with the wife of a colleague of mine, my colleague’s wife decided to arrange a blind date. And then civil unrest broke out in Albania, prolonging Cristi’s furlough in the states. And she came back to Albania with a ring on her finger! I love that woman more and more each day. And I am amazed with each passing day that God put us together in an amazing way. So, you see, crazy God stories (like this one in Genesis 24), where God arranges just a lot of random things in perfect sync still happen today! My wife and I didn’t do any of the things that I see a lot of Christian singles trying to do to meet someone. Neither one of us was ever involved in a “singles ministry.” Neither one of us selected a church based on the number of young singles in the church. Neither one of us hung out at bars or in clubs to meet girls. All we did was pursue the Lord, seek to serve Him as best we could, and continue to pray for Him to bless us with the desire of our hearts. And He did!
- He wanted to make sure that Isaac’s bride worshipped the same God as Isaac. Another thing that was very important to Cristi and I in a marriage partner was worshipping the same God – being on the same page spiritually. Neither of us would have entertained marrying a non-believer or marrying someone of a different faith or theological conviction. This is an area where I have seen a lot of young people compromise, and I don’t think it is wise. A person’s faith (if they take it seriously) defines a lot of who they are and how they relate to God and other people. So, it is important to be on the same page with your marriage partner about matters of sin, salvation, God, Jesus, the role of the Holy Spirit, the Bible, etc. Abraham believed this too. That is why he insisted that a wife be chosen for Isaac from their home country. Abraham feared that a marriage to a Canaanite woman would draw Isaac away from worship of God. Throughout Scripture, the Canaanites are depicted as being wicked, ungodly people (See 9:24–27; 10:6–20; 13:11–13). It was very important for Abraham that his son and daughter-in-law share the same convictions about the things that were most important to him. Spiritual intimacy should precede physical and emotional intimacy. I have seen a lot of couples get this backwards, and it always causes conflict.
As someone who earns my living in part by counseling couples, I can say that I have seen first-hand the devastating and deadly effects of sin and misplaced priorities in dating and marriage. Trusting in God’s sovereignty does not preclude taking steps to find a Godly wife. In fact, that is exactly what Abraham did in this text. He was proactive. He didn’t simply wait around for a woman to show up for Isaac. He acted. But he acted in faith that God would provide the right woman for Isaac without compromising his son’s calling or his son’s faith.