Bridgewater, Massachusetts, November 21, 2004
Sermons on Audio
24:10-28 Abraham servant finds Rebekah
the servant took ten of his master's camels and left,
taking with him all kinds of good things from his
master. He set out for Aram Naharaim and made his way to
the town of Nahor. He made the camels kneel down near
the well outside the town; it was towards evening, the
time the women go out to draw water.
he prayed, "O Lord, God of my master Abraham, give
me success today, and show kindness to my master
Abraham. See, I am standing beside this spring, and the
daughters of the townspeople are coming out to draw
water. May it be that when I say to a girl, 'Please let
down your jar that I may have a drink,' and she says,
'Drink, and I'll water your camels too'--let her be the
one you have chosen for your servant Isaac. By this I
will know that you have shown kindness to my
he had finished praying, Rebekah came out with her jar
on her shoulder. She was the daughter of Bethuel son of
Milcah, who was the wife of Abraham's brother Nahor. The
girl was very beautiful, a virgin; no man had ever lain
with her. She went down to the spring, filled her jar,
and came up again.
servant hurried to meet her and said, "Please give
me a little water from your jar."
my lord," she said, and quickly lowered the jar to
her hands and gave him a drink.
she had given him a drink, she said, "I'll draw
water for your camels too, until they have finished
drinking." So she quickly emptied her jar into the
trough, ran back to the well to draw more water, and
drew enough for all his camels. Without saying a word,
the man watched her closely to learn whether or not the
Lord had made his journey successful.
the camels had finished drinking, the man took out a
gold nose ring weighing a half shekel and two gold
bracelets weighing ten shekels. Then he asked,
"Whose daughter are you? Please tell me, is there
room in your father's house for us to spend the
answered him, "I am the daughter of Bethuel, the
son that Milcah bore to Nahor." And she added,
"We have plenty of straw and fodder, as well as
room for you to spend the night."
the man bowed down and worshipped the Lord, saying,
"Praise be to the Lord, the God of my master
Abraham, who has not abandoned his kindness and
faithfulness to my master. As for me, the Lord has led
me on the journey to the house of my master's
girl ran and told her mother's household about these
6:43-45 A tree and its fruit
good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good
fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. Figs
are not gathered from thorns, nor are grapes picked from
briers. A good person brings good things out of the good
stored up the heart, and an evil person brings evil
things out of the evil stored up in the heart. For the
mouth speaks out of the abundance of the heart.
Coelestia #3080 Beauty from within
beauty comes from goodness that has innocence within it.
When it flows from our inner self to our outer self,
goodness itself is what is beautiful; goodness is the
source of all human beauty. We can recognize this from
the fact that it is not a person's face, but the love
shining out from the face that stirs feelings in another
person. With those who love goodness, it is the love of
goodness seen in someone's face that moves them; and it
moves them just as much as there is innocence behind the
goodness that they love. So it is the spiritual reality
within the material surface that stir their love, not
the material apart from the spiritual.
he had finished praying, Rebekah came out with her jar
on her shoulder. . . . The girl was very
beautiful, a virgin; no man had ever lain with her. She
went down to the spring, filled her jar, and came up
again. (Genesis 24:15, 16)
story, the second in our four-part series on Genesis 24,
is a story of seeking oneness. It is a story of seeking
a wife for Isaac, who would become one flesh with him.
In last week's story, Abraham commanded his head servant
to travel to his relatives at Haran, in the northern
part of the fertile crescent, and find a wife for Isaac.
He was very specific in saying that Isaac should not
marry one of the Canaanites from the surrounding lands,
who were pagans, and were not of the same mind with the
Hebrews. The servant was to go back to Abraham's own
people and find a wife for Isaac there.
today's story Abraham's servant goes with great
faithfulness to do what his master has asked of him. And
we can see by the servant's actions why Abraham chose
him to do this most precious task of finding a wife for
his son Isaac. He is a God-fearing man who prays to the
Lord and does what his master commands with a lot of
heart and a lot of intelligence. Today we will go
through the different parts of the story, and then use
it as a metaphor not only for the Lord's inner process
and our parallel inner process, as we have in previous
sermons, but also for what we go through in seeking an
eternal life partner for marriage.
first thing the servant does is to get ready. He takes
ten of his master's camels, and loads them with many
good things. He also takes other servants with him to
help him on the journey. Then he sets out for Haran, to
seek a wife for Isaac.
he reaches his destination, the first thing he does,
after settling his camels down, is to kneel down near
the well and pray to the Lord for success. In his
prayer, he proposes a test to help him recognize the
right woman: Let the one God has chosen for Isaac be the
one who, when I ask for a drink, not only gives me a
drink, but also offers to draw water for my camels. This
was not an arbitrary test. A young woman who did this
would be a woman of good character. She would be a woman
who was eager to help and serve others, who was
thoughtful and put out the extra effort, and who had
personal grace and a respect for visitors. This was the
kind of woman the servant would want to find for his
beautifully fulfills the test of character. There is
some suspense in the story as we read along. When he
first asks for a drink of water, she lowers the jar and
says, "Drink, my lord." She does not
immediately say she will water his camels also. And we
can imagine the servant waiting and wondering to see if
the Lord has given him success. But as soon as the
servant has finished drinking, she says, "I'll draw
water for your camels too."
the servant does something very important: he follows
through. Rebekah has taken the initiative and shown that
she is a good and thoughtful woman. Now the servant
follows through, giving her gifts: a golden nose ring
and bracelets. And he asks for an invitation: "Is
there room in your father's house for us to spend the
night?" And she says, "We have plenty of straw
and fodder, as well as room for you to spend the
night." The whole exchange is about mutual
agreement; about proposing and accepting.
the servant prays once again--a prayer of thanks to the
Lord for giving him success on the journey. He is not
yet certain that he has gained success, but he knows
that so far the Lord is making it come out just right,
and he thanks the Lord for that gift.
are the steps the servant goes through in finding
let's look at the story on three levels: the Lord's
inner life, our inner life, and our relationship with a
life partner. These correlate with the three levels of
deeper meaning in the Bible: the highest,
"heavenly" meaning, which is about the Lord;
the second, "spiritual" meaning, which is
about our inner life and spiritual growth; and third,
"internal historical" meaning, which involves
our relations with one another as human beings.
look first at the highest level of meaning: the heavenly
level, about the Lord.
is not an arbitrary thing; it comes from God. In the
beginning God created humans male and female; both were
created in the image and likeness of God, and they were
created to be joined together in marriage. Throughout
the Bible we find the metaphor of the divine
marriage--and that is where our marriages come from.
is this divine marriage in God? As we look the divine
marriage expressed in the life of Jesus, it is the union
between the Lord's heart--his deep love for
humanity--and his rational mind--his understanding,
intelligence, and wisdom. It is the union between the
outpouring divine love that he felt within him and the
guidance of the divine truth.
went through a definite process to achieve that inner
marriage of head and heart. And he achieved it through
the very same steps that take place in today's story.
Jesus accepted the inner call to move toward a higher
and deeper union within himself. He heard God from
within, represented by Abraham, calling him to find a
deeper union--one from "his own people,"
meaning one from the Divine itself.
the servant in the story, Jesus also continually prayed
to the Divine within for help and guidance. In Gospel
story we find Jesus on many occasions praying to
God--which was really to his own inner divine soul--for
the help and strength he needed.
also turned to Scripture and to the inner guidance of
divine truth. In the story, the servant found Rebekah at
a well. A well is source of water--which is a
universal symbol for truth. At that inner, divine well
Jesus found not only living water to satisfy his mind's
thirst for truth, but also divine love in his heart,
represented by the woman, Rebekah. These are the bride
and groom of inner marriage.
moved very consciously toward that marriage--toward a
oneness of heart and mind in which he would never say or
do anything that did not come from the heart. How many
of us can say that we always speak and act from the
heart? We often say superficial things and do careless
things. The Lord was always moving to a state in which
everything he thought, said, and did came from the heart
of divine love, and was shaped by the mind of divine
truth. This was the marriage represented in the story of
the servant seeking a wife for Isaac--seeking to unite
male and female.
Jesus did achieve that inner marriage. After he had gone
through his life on earth, and through his final,
terrible temptation on the cross, he rose to full union
with the Divine within, so that there was a complete
marriage between the head and the heart of God, and
between the inner and the outer levels of God. Now in
Jesus we see God fully and seamlessly represented--and
as fully present with each of us as we are able to
receive. And the Lord achieved this by a process
corresponding to our story of seeking a wife for Isaac.
to the spiritual level, the level of our inner
spiritual life, we also are always seeking union between
heart and head.
example, we tend to look for a career that we not only
have the knowledge and skills for, but that we also
love. How many of us enjoy a job that we are good at,
but that we don't love? And if we want to go into some
career, but the knowledge and skills required are beyond
us, it can be very frustrating. We want a job that we
both love and understand.
to the deeper spiritual levels represented by the story,
we first hear a call from God to move to a higher union:
a union of our deeper loves and our higher thoughts.
This is the call that Abraham gives to the servant in
us. Then, if we wish to fulfill that call, we need to
spend time praying to God to give us the heart and the
guidance we need to follow this spiritual path. And if
we do pray sincerely, God will show us the way.
also need to turn to Scripture, while listening to the
inner guidance that we get from God in prayer. We go to
the "well" of God's truth to gain insights
that will guide us toward a deeper life. That inner
guidance becomes the standard by which we do everything.
example, if we are in the business world, making money
will no longer be the most important thing for us. Yes,
making money is important in the business world, and we
will still recognize that. But for us, the most
important thing will be serving our customers well, and
always doing what is right. We will then be moving
forward spiritually while following our material
profession. We will be acting from higher and deeper
motives--from a sense of the mission that God has given
us to carry out on this earth.
prayed to God, and having sought out the well of divine
guidance, we move consciously toward a union with the
love that comes from within. As we move along in life,
we have to make decisions about what we will devote our
lives to. My decision was to devote my life to working
in the church. Yours will probably be something else.
But if we wish to have a truly fulfilled life, at some
point in our lives we must make a decision about the
direction we will go, and what we will devote our life
to. With God's help, we can make our life into something
"very good." To do this, we move consciously
toward uniting our heart with our head; we move toward
uniting the love that we feel from within with the
understanding we have gained in our life's journey.
God promises us that if we make this decision and this
commitment, he will give us success. It may not be
material success; we may not become wealthy. But we will
have spiritual success. We will become good people, and
we will also come into good relationships with those
around us because we are acting out of love for God and
love for our neighbor.
on to the third level of meaning, what does this
story, and our explanation of it so far, have to do with
the kind of marriage that we seek with a life partner?
we set out toward marriage, just as the servant went to
seek a wife for Isaac, we must go with a belief in
marriage, and pledge ourselves to seek not just a
physical and social connection, but an inner, spiritual
connection with another human being.
our Bible story once more, if we truly want to have a
spiritual union, we must spend time praying to God and
saying, "Please send me the person who will be the
right one for me. But especially, please make me the
person who can be in loving relationship with my life
is the connection between the inner marriage we spoke of
earlier and our outer marriage with another person? It
is this: If we are not moving toward a marriage of head
and heart within ourselves, we will never experience
true marriage with another person outside of ourselves.
To be ready for marriage with another person, we must
have love in our hearts, and we must have definite
values and beliefs, based on our inner love, to guide
our lives. Only then we can be of one mind, knowing who
we are and where we are going. And only then can we seek
out a person who loves what we love, who values and
believes what we value and believe, and who can
therefore be of one mind with us. This is why we must
continually pray to God for help and guidance not only
in finding our life partner, but in becoming an inwardly
"married" person who can be in a loving
of course, when we do seek out a partner, it would be
foolish to simply look at the exterior, and make our
choice based on how good the other person looks. Beauty
and good looks are fine. After all, God created human
beauty for us to enjoy. But as our reading from
Swedenborg points out, true beauty is not on the
surface; it comes from within. We know that this is
true. We can look at a face and see that it is very
beautiful, yet find it cold and uninviting because there
is no love shining through. But when we see a face that
has love shining through it, that face becomes very
beautiful, and attracts us to the person behind it.
is the inner character, the inner love, that truly makes
a person beautiful. I am sure we all have dearly loved
family members and friends that we think of as beautiful
even if they would never get their photo in a fashion
magazine. My father tells a story from his youth about
his minister, a man whom he loved and admired. One time
someone said to my father, "He's a wonderful man;
too bad he's crippled." My father was taken aback:
"Crippled! He's not crippled!" Physically he
was, in fact, crippled. But my father never thought of
him that way. He only saw the beauty of his minister's
character. In the things that count most, in his inner
character, he was a strong and whole person--one who had
love in his heart and the guidance of God's truth in his
we seek someone for marriage, we are not merely seeking
someone who is good-looking outwardly, but someone who
has a good inner character--just as the servant sought a
woman of good character as a wife for Isaac. And we are
seeking to become a person of good character ourselves,
so that we can be united with that person.
also have to take conscious steps to make the
connection. We can't just sit back and let marriage come
to us. We have to make a decision and a commitment. We
have to propose and accept. We have to reach out to the
person, just as the servant reached out to Rebekah. It
says that he ran to her and spoke to her. We run
in spirit to the other person to speak to him or
her--and to find out whether God has sent us our eternal
this is not only for those who are seeking a partner,
but for those of us who are already married, and seek a
deeper oneness with our partner. God promises that if we
will prepare ourselves, pray to the Lord, seek an inner
union of head and heart, and then reach out in love and
thoughtfulness, seeking to find and unite with another,
we will find true love, whether in this world or in the
Glass Window at Trinity Church, Roslyn, New York
Music: At the Wishing Well
© Bruce DeBoer
Used with Permission
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