Explore: God provides

• The Explore the Bible lesson for Nov. 29 focuses on Genesis 24:1-17.

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• The Explore the Bible lesson for Nov. 29 focuses on Genesis 24:1-17.

As we reach the end of our Genesis study, it’s amazing we still are considering God’s important promise to the first missionary, Abraham. As chapter 24 unfolds, Abraham, recognizing he is near the end of his life, is concerned his son Isaac will marry well. Most especially, that the chief servant assigned to find Isaac a wife will not pursue a Canaanite woman, rather one from his own country. For the ancient Near Eastern people, it was vital they marry from within their own nationality. If you read Deuteronomy, you find this a recurring theme.

It was a huge task. It was a long, arduous journey. And to us, it sounds a bit creepy. 

In the ancient Near Eastern world, marriages often were arranged. This arrangement was a bit different, however. It would have been normal for Abraham to choose a wife for Isaac, based on a familial relationship with the potential bride’s family. But Abraham, being the first missionary and advanced in years, probably couldn’t make the long trek back to his homeland. Yet, Isaac also couldn’t marry a Canaanite woman. So, Abraham gives “power of attorney” to his most trusted servant. He will be the exact representative for Abraham. In the ancient Near East, this type servant was viewed as family and a confidant.

The head servant is a bit unsure of this arrangement and plan, which is the main reason we know the request was a bit unusual. But Abraham is reminded of God’s great covenant—that simple, original covenant, of creating a great nation out of Abraham and Sarah. Abraham is so certain of God’s provision, he tells the servant, God “will send his angel before you so that you can get a wife for my son from there” (v. 7). Here is what is interesting: God didn’t tell Abraham to say that. Abraham, with this declaration, simply trusted God would provide this angel. And indeed, God did. It’s a fascinating interchange and shows great faith on Abraham’s part.

An interrupted prayer 

As the head servant was praying, the Bible teaches us something truly amazing—God started answering the prayer before the prayer was even finished. “Before he had finished praying, Rebekah came out with her jar on her shoulder …” (v. 15). The requests in the prayer were so specific, and God answered them very specifically, to the exact detail of the requests. Talk about nice timing. 

The servant seems to be entranced, shocked at how God answered his prayers so specifically and quickly. “Without saying a word, the man watched her closely,” (v. 21). I bet he did! And he was thrilled to find a young woman with the heart of a servant—beautiful, pure, holy and kind. But mostly, he seemed to be enthralled with a God who made his “business trip” a smashing success. And after so explaining to the leader of the family, Rebekah made one simple statement: “I will go” (v. 58). She sounds amazingly like her soon to be father-in-law Abraham: “Yes Lord, I will go.”

The chocolate chip cookie caper

I love to tell stories. This is my personal all-time favorite. Heather was my new girlfriend. We went on our first date on April 2, 1993, while we were attending Houston Baptist University. Things went well for many months. So much so, I started wondering if she was “the one.” I even started praying about it.

By November 1993, God already had answered several of my prayers about our relationship, so I started saving some money for an engagement ring. I was reading a book about the Holy Spirit. In it, the author talked about praying very specifically before he asked his girlfriend to magically turn into his fiancé. As she was dropping him off at the airport, he prayed, “Lord, if you want me to marry her, when she picks me up in a week, have her say: ‘I made you a cheesecake. Let’s go to my parents’ house and eat it.’” And you guessed it, a week later, long after he had forgotten about that prayer, she picked him up and said: “I made you a cheesecake. Let’s go to my parents’ house and eat it.” Six months later, they were married.

One a cold November morning, I pulled out of my driveway at 6:06 a.m. I remember it exactly. A junior at Houston Baptist University, I was headed to my 8 a.m. Greek class. Thinking about the book, I laughed to myself and said out loud, “OK, Lord. If you want me to marry Heather, have her… uhm … err … make me a batch of chocolate chip cookies.” Funny prayer over. Didn’t think about it again.

And then Thursday came. I lived 45 miles from Houston Baptist University, where Heather also was a student. She didn’t own a car. I was working, feverishly, on a term paper for David Capes, professor of Christianity. There was a knock on my door around 9 p.m. Heather was standing there with her roommate.  Heather had convinced her to drive across town. 

Heather bolted out: “Surprise! I knew you were studying, so I made and brought you a batch of chocolate chip cookies!” I stood there, flabbergasted, and didn’t even invite them in at first. When they finally entered, I started laughing uncontrollably. And six months later, we were married.

I want to be careful to say that God had answered my prayers about Heather being my wife many, many times, but this one took the cake, or the cookie, rather.

My point? The servant of Abraham prayed for an exact something, and God answered his prayer. The author of the book about the Holy Spirit prayed for something exactly, and God answered his prayer. I prayed for something exactly, and God answered my prayer. You can pray exactly, and because of God’s goodness, he will answer you exactly. It might not be in your timing, but God will answer you exactly.

Application ideas for your Bible study group:

1. In what very specific ways has God answered your specific prayers?

2. How does a person know when God has answered a specific prayer? What should a Christian do when they believe God is not answering their prayer?

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