Bridgewater, Massachusetts, October 21,
Genesis 24:54-67 Isaac and Rebekah
they got up the next morning, Abraham's servant said,
"Send me on my way to my master."
her brother and her mother replied, "Let the girl
remain with us ten days or so; then you may go."
he said to them, "Do not detain me, now that the Lord
has granted success to my journey. Send me on my way so I
may go to my master."
they said, "Let's call the girl and ask her about
it." So they called Rebekah and asked her, "Will
you go with this man?"
will go," she said.
they sent their sister Rebekah on her way, along with her
nurse and Abraham's servant and his men. And they blessed
Rebekah and said to her, "Our sister, may you
increase to thousands upon thousands; may your offspring
possess the gates of their enemies."
Rebekah and her maids got ready and mounted their camels
and went back with the man. So the servant took Rebekah
Isaac had come from Beer Lahai Roi, for he was living in
the Negev. He went out to the field one evening to
meditate, and as he looked up, he saw camels approaching.
Rebekah also looked up and saw Isaac. She got down from
her camel and asked the servant, "Who is that man in
the field coming to meet us?"
is my master," the servant answered. So she took her
veil and covered herself.
the servant told Isaac all he had done. Isaac brought her
into the tent of his mother Sarah, and he married Rebekah.
So she became his wife, and he loved her; and Isaac was
comforted after his mother's death.
Mark 10:2-9 Divorce and marriage
Pharisees came and tested Jesus by asking, "Is it
lawful for a man to divorce his wife?"
did Moses command you?" he replied.
said, "Moses permitted a man to write a certificate
of divorce and send her away."
was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you
this law," Jesus replied. "But at the beginning
of creation God made them male and female. 'For this
reason a man will leave his father and mother and be
united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.' So
they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has
joined together, let humans not separate."
Love in Marriage #180 The attributes of marital love
characteristics of marital love are innocence, peace,
tranquillity, deep friendship, full confidence, and a
desire in heart and soul to do everything good for each
other. From all these things come blessedness, happiness,
joy, passion, and from the eternal enjoyment of these,
brought Rebekah into the tent of his mother Sarah, and he
married her. So she became his wife, and he loved her; and
Isaac was comforted after his mother's death. (Genesis
have a pet peeve about the love stories in popular movies
and novels. We could call it the
Everyone knows that the most popular ending for fairy
tales is, "And they lived happily ever after."
In the fairy tales, the routine goes like this: The story
opens with "Once upon a time. . . ."
Then the characters are introduced, and they go on to get
into various kinds of adventures and troubles. Finally,
their troubles are resolved, their adventure ends in
success, and . . . they live happily ever
is also the most common format for love stories in popular
movies and novels. As the late Rev. Leslie Marshall put
it, nearly all love stories are based on the principle,
"Boy meets girl, boy and girl separate, boy and girl
join again and are married." Sometimes the separation
is emotional rather than physical; often it is both
physical and emotional. Whichever way, this pattern
is followed in thousands and thousands of love stories.
course, for children, a happy ending is nice. It conveys
the idea that even if we have to go through a lot of
trouble and hardship, things will work out in the end. And
even though that is often not the case in the material
world, from a spiritual perspective, unless we willfully
choose to turn our backs on God and our neighbor, things will
work out in the end: no matter what pain and struggle we
have to suffer through here, we will find happiness as
angels in heaven. And I suppose that adults, too, need
continual reassurance that things will work out in the
end. Hence the popularity of happy endings in adult
here's my pet peeve: over and over again, the love stories
in popular movies and fiction are all about the boy getting
the girl and the girl getting the boy. Over and
over again, we're treated to the good-looking young guy
pursuing the beautiful young gal, and all their
misadventures and misunderstandings along the way, until
finally the story comes to its uplifting climax when they
fall madly in love, smother one another with passionate
kisses and embraces, and--if a "traditional"
ending is wanted--meet at the altar to the strains of the
organ and depart arm in arm in a snowstorm of confetti.
we are left to assume, they live happily ever after.
problem is, it doesn't quite work that way. As exciting
and powerful as falling in love can be, when a couple has
fallen in love and gotten married, that is the beginning
of the story, not the end. Only in the movies do we see
the confetti flying around the beaming couple as they
emerge from the church, and immediately segue to the
closing credits. In real life, the couple generally heads
off on a honeymoon, and pretty soon they're back at home
beginning the everyday business of getting along with one
can be, and usually is, a lot of work. Soon each partner's
rough edges begin to show, and that wonderful "soul
mate" turns out to be made not of soul only, but of
all sorts of attitudes, desires, feelings, and beliefs,
some of which may turn out to be quite annoying, or worse.
Yes, the wedding day is only the beginning of the
story. "Ever after" comes the much less exciting
job of actually living together and building a
relationship day by day, week by week, month by month, and
year by year.
this way, it is very much like the Christian idea of being
"born again." There seem to be a number of
Christians who think that once you're "saved" by
being born again, that's the end of the story. Everything
else, apparently is the closing credits, because the
climax has already happened. Yet if we look at the
physical process of birth, from which being spiritually
born again derives its symbolism, we find that although
birth is indeed the climax of nine months of gestation in
the womb, it is still only a beginning in the story
of a human being's life. A whole lifetime stretches out in
front of the newborn baby!
Patty was carrying Heidi, our firstborn, and we were
reading all the birth books, just as you're supposed to, a
friend of ours who had several children of her own gave us
some wise advice. "Don't forget," she said,
"that the birth lasts only a few hours, but you'll be
taking care of that baby for years and years. While you're
reading all those books on childbirth, be sure you learn
something how to take care of the baby after it's
of books and movies give us just about every conceivable
variation of how couples can fall in love. But as nice as
that is, it doesn't mean a lot if the resulting marriages
soon break up in bitterness and pain. We have many models
in our society of how to fall in love; we have very few
about how to be in love. And even fewer about how
to grow in love. (One example that does come to
mind is the TV comedy "Mad About You.")
how important an issue our love life is for us humans, we
would think that the Bible would say a lot about love and
marriage. But there is really very little direct
instruction in the Bible on the subject. Yes, there are
Jesus' statements about marriage, adultery, and divorce.
And there are many laws in the Old Testament Levitical
code about various sexual relations that are and are not
allowed. There is the ancient book "Song of
Solomon," which is a poetic expression of the love
between a man and a woman.
for the most part, the Bible's "instruction"
about love and marriage comes in the form of telling the
stories of various couples as their lives intertwine with
the Bible's storyline. And we are left to glean what
wisdom we can from those stories--and turn to other
sources to come to a deeper understanding of the realities
course, one of those sources is the book Love in
Marriage, by Emanuel Swedenborg--which is both one of
his more popular books and one of his more controversial
books. I would recommend a thoughtful reading of it,
especially to anyone who is either moving toward marriage
or who is involved in a marriage. While some of the gender
roles and social customs described in the book draw on
Swedenborg's culture of over two hundred years ago, the
deeper, spiritual principles that shine through are
to the Bible, the story of Isaac and Rebekah, which we
read a short piece of earlier, is one of the more
endearing love stories in the Bible. We did not take the
time to read all of Genesis 24 from the beginning, which
tells the wonderful story of how the aged Abraham's chief
steward went back to his extended family's home about four
hundred miles northeast in Haran, and led by the Lord,
found Rebekah, the young woman who would be Isaac's wife.
After the steward brings Rebekah back, we have the
understated conclusion, "Isaac brought her into the
tent of his mother Sarah, and he married Rebekah. So she
became his wife, and he loved her; and Isaac was comforted
after his mother's death." This is about as close as
the Bible comes to saying, "And they lived happily
a pattern for us to follow, there are some problems with
the story of how Isaac and Rebekah met and were married.
Not many of us, for example, would be happy to have our
parents--let along our parents' hired hand--choose the
person we will marry. We prefer to choose our own partner,
yet, there is an element in the story that is just as
critical to a happy and lasting marriage now as it was
then. Really, it was neither Abraham nor his steward who
picked out a wife for Isaac. Yes, they both had an
important part in it: Abraham sent his steward on a
journey to get a wife for his son from his own people, and
the steward did his master's bidding. Yet just before he
successfully made contact with Isaac's bride-to-be, he prayed
to the Lord. And it was the steward's reliance on the
Lord's guidance that enabled him to achieve success in his
mission. The one who really chooses the right
partner for us--if, indeed, we find the right one--is the
fact, the Lord has these things in preparation under
Providence for years and years before we ever actually
meet our "soul mate." The Lord is preparing us
for one another even before birth. And as we make various
choices and take various directions in our life, the Lord
is always working to provide us, sooner or later, with
just the right person to share our life with.
even more important than finding the right person
is being the right person. When we get married, we
live at very close quarters with our partner. And even if
we find the theoretical "right one," if we are
too wrapped up in ourselves and too oblivious to the needs
and the happiness of our partner, our marriage will soon
be headed for the rocks.
full discussion of preparation for marriage is far more
than we can do in our brief time together this morning. I
will leave you with just one thought that is the most
important part of a working, growing, loving marriage.
Isaac and Rebekah's marriage worked over time because they
had a critical ingredient for marriage: a willingness to
follow where the Lord led them. As soon as Rebekah heard
the story of Abraham's steward, she knew, along with her
family, that this matter had come from God. And when asked
whether she would go with the man--on very short
notice--she said, without hesitation, "I will
what was Isaac doing when the woman who would soon be his
wife first approached his home? He was out in the fields
meditating. Isaac's whole life is the story of a man who
was willing to be led by the Lord, and to live at peace
with his fellow human beings.
we are looking toward marriage or living in marriage,
there is only one way to live happily ever after: we must
listen to what the Lord is saying to us, and follow it. If
we do this, although we will certainly still have
struggles, disappointments, pains, and setbacks in our
relationships, we will be laying the foundation for an
eternally happy marriage. Amen.
The Wedding Song
© Paul Stookey
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