A Match Made in Heaven
Picture this: You’re single, and your father thinks it’s time you got married. But he doesn’t want you to marry just anybody. He’s got a certain kind of person in mind for you. So what does he do? He calls in the top person who works for him, his right-hand man, and he tells him to find you a spouse.
Doesn’t sound very romantic, does it? Would you want your father to decide what sort of person you should spend the rest of your life with? Would you want the vice president of your dad’s business to be the one who goes out to find that special person for you?
That’s not the way most of us go about looking for a sweetheart, is it? That might be okay for people in long-ago cultures with arranged marriages, but not for us. We believe in freedom, personal choice, romance, love at first sight! We’re modern! We’re advanced! We couldn’t possibly let our parents get involved in choosing our marriage partner. No, we depend on reliable, romantic things, like singles bars and newspaper ads and computerized dating services.
Come to think of it, maybe those old days weren’t so bad. We might smirk at the strangeness of another culture’s matchmaking customs, but look at the funny business in our own culture: overpriced flowers, classified ads, bar hopping, backseat groping, Internet romance, video dating services, chocolate valentines, and all the rest of our oh-so-progressive-and-romantic culture. Is this really so much better than having your parents set it all up for you?
At any rate, we’re going to look at a story that includes all sorts of things we’re not accustomed to: ancient customs, tribal clans, arranged marriages, thirsty camels, nose rings. (Oops, history I guess history has come full circle and nose rings are back in style for some folks. But anyway…) Our story involves a number of things that seem strange to modern ears, and not all of these things need to be imitated today. But at the heart of the story is something that must never go out of style, something that should always be central to the matchmaking process. The special something is prayer.
At a crucial point in our story, a man prays, “O Lord God, give me success… Let her be the one you have chosen.” That should be the prayer of every person searching for a spouse. There’s nothing more important than choosing the person God has chosen for you, and to do that, you need to pray. If you want a match made in heaven, you need help from the God of heaven.
Have you ever prayed that God would provide the right mate for you, or for your children, or for a dear friend? Have you ever prayed, “Lord, let her be the one you have chosen”? The Bible story where we find those words involves some unusual, ancient ways of matchmaking that you might not want to copy. You probably aren’t too eager to have your dad or his top manager pick your mate for you. But how about having God pick your mate for you? How about praying to God and being matched up with exactly the person God provides? That’s what ends up happening in the story we’re going to look at, and that’s what needs to happen in our own stories, the stories that are being written right now.
In Genesis 24 the Bible tells how Isaac, the son of Abraham, ended up with a wife. Father Abraham wanted to make sure his son got the right kind of wife, so he called in his chief servant, the man in charge of all he owned, and he made the man take an oath in God’s name to get a wife for Isaac—and not just any wife. She had to come from a clan of people who worshiped the Lord, the one God of heaven and earth. In the search for a wife, some basic principles had to be honored.
Years earlier God had called Abraham to leave his family and relatives behind and go a new land that God would give him and his descendants, the land of Canaan. However, there were no women in Canaan who worshiped the one true God, so the woman for Isaac would have to come from somewhere back in the old country. There, at least, women in the clan Abraham had come from would know the name of the Lord. Abraham’s servant would have to go on a long trip to that area in search of that special someone for Isaac.
There might be a problem, though. Suppose the servant found a good woman but she didn’t want to move? “What if the woman is unwilling to come back with me to this land?” the servant asked. “Shall I then take your son back to the country you came from?”
“No,” said Abraham. “Make sure that you do not take my son back there. The Lord, the God of heaven, brought me out of my native land and promised me and my offspring 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.”
Abraham was absolutely convinced that it would be wrong for Isaac to marry someone who didn’t worship the true God, and he was convinced that it would be wrong for Isaac to marry anyone who would lead him to move back to the old country and give up on the destiny God had promised for Abraham’s descendants. Abraham was convinced of these principles, and he was convinced that if they stuck to these principles as they searched for a wife for Isaac, God would prepare the way and provide the right kind of woman. If God didn’t, the search would be over. It would be better for Isaac to go on as a single man than to marry a heathen woman or a woman who would pull him away from where he belonged.
Notice that all of this was nailed down before the search even began, before any prayer for special guidance. That’s an important lesson for us. First get your principles straight; only then should you pray for more specific help in finding a mate.
Never consider marrying someone who doesn’t share your faith. Don’t even date such a person. If you’re a Christian and you’re dating someone from a non-Christian religion or no religion at all, don’t bother praying and asking God to show you whether this is the right person. It’s not. You don’t find the right person by looking in the wrong crowd. You don’t find a match made in heaven among people who aren’t headed for heaven. The Bible says, “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For… what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?” (2 Corinthians 6:14)
Isaac was a person set apart, the child of promise that God had given to Abraham and Sarah. It was through Isaac and his offspring that God was going to carry on his special plan in the world and bring blessing to all nations. It was through Isaac’s line that God would raise up a people for himself, and it was through Isaac’s line that the Savior of the world would come. Isaac was under God’s covenant, and he needed a wife who would help him keep that covenant and maintain it to the next generation. A godless wife might end up damaging Isaac’s relationship to God, and just as serious, she might lead their children away from God.
Still today, Christians need mates who will build their faith, not tear it down. We need mates with whom we can nurture children who will live under God’s covenant promises and carry God’s blessings to the people around them and the entire world. For God’s sake, for your own sake, and for the sake of any children you might have, you absolutely must stick to the principle of marrying only someone who shares your faith.
A second principle Abraham insisted on is one that we also need to keep. Abraham insisted that it wasn’t enough to find a godly person for Isaac; she also had to be someone whose own preferences wouldn’t lead Isaac away from his place and calling. Isaac couldn’t go back to live in her land on her terms. God had plans for Isaac in the land of promise, and so any person who wouldn’t join him there just wasn’t the person for Isaac.
You may have a strong sense that God calls you to a certain place or to a certain type of work. Then you meet a person who is a good Christian but whose own choices don’t fit with your calling, who doesn’t want to go the direction you have to go. Even if you feel an attraction, that’s not the person for you, at least not if your prior sense of calling is really from God. You need to be matched with someone who can be your partner in the place God puts you, not someone who feels the need to be somewhere else.
Get your principles straight. Know what kind of person you need. Your future spouse must be someone who shares your faith, and your future spouse must be able to support any special calling that God has for you. If God wants you to be married, he’ll provide that kind of person. If he doesn’t, you’re not meant to be married—at least not yet. Stay single until God brings into your life a person who matches the principles you must follow as a member of God’s covenant. You’re better off being single and wishing you were married, than being married and wishing you were single.
Praying for Guidance
Back to our story in Genesis 24. With the basic principles clear in his mind, Abraham’s servant loaded up ten camels with all kinds of good things and set out for the town where Abraham’s old clan was located. When he got there, he parked his camels near a well just outside the town. He was in the right place, looking among the right people, but how in the world would he know which girl was the right one for Isaac? He did what every person of faith should do in such a situation. He prayed. He said,
“O Lord, God of my master Abraham, give me success today… 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 so 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.” (v. 12-14).
The man was praying for a special sign. Quite a number of girls might be kind enough to give a sip of water to a stranger, but how many would offer to lug water for ten thirsty camels that could drink more than twenty gallons each? If God answered the man’s prayer by leading a girl to do something so unusual, then he would have his sign. “Let her be the one you have chosen.” And what happened?
Before he had finished praying, Rebekah come 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 with water, and came up again.
The servant hurried to meet her and said, “Please give me a little water from your jar.”
Rebekah said, “Drink, my lord”… After 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.
By the time Rebekah finished getting over 200 gallons worth of water out of the spring and carrying it over to the water trough for those ten big, ugly camels, the man had seen enough. He took out a gold nose ring and two gold bracelets and he asked, “Whose daughter are you? Please tell me, is there room in your father’s house for us to spend the night?”
He found out that, yes, this hard-working young beauty was from the same clan as Abraham, and yes, there would be plenty of feed for the camels and room for him to spend the night. The servant bowed and worshiped the Lord and thanked God for his kindness and faithfulness and for answering his prayers.
The Bible then describes with a chuckle how Rebekah’s family handled all this. Rebekah went back and told them what had happened. Her brother Laban had expensive taste and liked anything having to do with money. Laban took one look at the gold nose ring and the gold bracelets, and he figured the right man was after Rebekah. He raced out to meet Abraham’s servant and blessed him in the name of the Lord and said, “Why are you standing out here? I have prepared the house and a place for the camels.”
Abraham’s servant went to the house, took care of the camels, and washed up, but he insisted that he wouldn’t eat a bite of food until he first said what he had to say. He told how God had made Abraham rich and how God had blessed Abraham and Sarah with their son Isaac and how Isaac needed a wife. He told of how he himself had prayed and of how God answered his prayer right while he was still praying. Then he asked if Rebekah could come and meet Isaac and marry him.
Rebekah’s father and brother answered that this was all from the Lord. Who were they to say yes or no? Of course Rebekah should go. However, the next morning, when Abraham’s servant wanted to leave with Rebekah, her brother and mother wanted her to stay another ten days or so. But the servant said he wanted to go right away. The Lord had answered his prayers, and he didn’t want to keep Isaac waiting. They asked Rebekah if she was willing to leave so soon, and she said, “I will go.” Then her family gave her a parting blessing and sent her off.
What a woman Rebekah was! She was beautiful, and the Bible doesn’t mind saying so. But her beauty wasn’t only skin deep. She was a woman of purity, a virgin. She was a lovely, desirable woman, but she kept herself pure for the man she would marry. Rebekah was also kind: she gave a stranger a drink. And she was kind far beyond the call of duty: she carried a couple hundred gallons of water for the man’s thirsty camels. And to top it all off, she was courageous and decisive. She was willing to leave her home and family on short notice, in the simple trust that this was God’s leading and that the man God had appointed for her would be a good one.
God didn’t disappoint Abraham and Isaac and their good servant. They stuck to their principles, they prayed for God’s guidance, and God answered their prayers. Rebekah wasn’t perfect. Nobody is. But she was quite a person, and beautiful besides. She was just the woman Isaac needed. She was God’s answer to prayer.
Love That Lasts
Here’s how the Genesis 24 ends. Isaac went out to the field one evening to meditate. (I think I’d meditate too if I knew that I might be getting a wife soon, and all I knew about her was that she’d be somebody picked by my dad’s top employee—and by God! But anyway…) The Bible says, “Isaac 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 asked the servant who that man was, and the servant said, “That’s my master.” After Isaac met Rebekah and heard the servant’s story, Isaac brought Rebekah into his tent and married her. “So,” says the Bible, “she became his wife, and he loved her” (v. 67).
It all began with a deep commitment to principle, and with a fervent prayer for God’s help, and it ended with a great marriage: “She became his wife, and he loved her.”
Now, as I said before, you might not want your father and his most trusted confidant to pick your wife for you. Still, if you’ve got good parents with a solid marriage, it wouldn’t hurt to at least get their advice and even to seek their approval when you’re starting a relationship or thinking about getting married. But, above all, you need to pray and seek God’s help. Nose rings may go in and out of style, but prayer is always in style when it comes to looking for a mate. We need to keep communicating with heaven in order to enjoy matches made in heaven.
My wife and I have eight children. Long before any of them were even close to marrying age, we were already praying for our children’s future spouses. If you have children or grandchildren, I encourage you to pray often about their future, and to start praying already when they’re little. Pray that someday God will give them a good mate who loves the Lord Jesus Christ, or else help them to serve Jesus as pure, energetic singles. I pray about my children’s future marriages in my private, personal prayers, and when I pray aloud with my children each night, I often pray with them about a possible future spouse. I want each of them to have a match made in heaven, and I want them to go through life with a sense that love and marriage are precious gifts from God and that prayer is an important key to obtaining these gifts.
Pray this way not only on behalf of your children or grandchildren but also on behalf of any friends who would like to meet and marry the right person. Pray that they can enjoy serving God as singles, and pray that if they are meant to be married, God will lead them to the right person and that they will be sensitive to God’s guidance. A match made in heaven isn’t just a matter of two individuals magically meeting each other. Often the guidance of heaven is clearest where family and friends and fellow believers pray for God’s help in finding the right person and for God’s blessing on marriages that have already been established. All the good advice in the world can’t replace the power of prayer.
Now, if you should pray for God to guide others in meeting a mate, then you should be praying extra hard if you yourself are in the market for a mate. Commit yourself to the principle of finding someone who loves the Lord and can be part of God’s covenant along with you. Commit yourself to the principle of finding a mate whose own plans for life won’t force you to give up any special calling the Lord may have laid on you. Then pray. Ask for God’s leading. I don’t suggest asking for a person who will water your ten thirsty camels for you, but you should certainly ask for a strong sense of God’s leading and guidance. Pray the biblical prayer: “O Lord, give me success. Lead me to the person you have chosen.”
And if you’re already married, keep right on praying. Pray that God will nourish your love and make it grow ever stronger and more beautiful. Pray every day for God’s blessing on your mate, and pray that you will be the kind of person who brings joy to the one you love. Remember, love is an ongoing choice and commitment, not just a warm feeling. When you get married through a match made in heaven, love your spouse as Isaac loved Rebekah. And at a deeper level, love as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her (Ephesians 5:25). Marriage is designed to show something about the relationship between Jesus Christ and his people, so make sure your marriage doesn’t tell lies about Jesus. Make your love a reflection of his, so that Jesus’ light and love shine from your marriage and home.
All of this is vital to living by faith. Faith isn’t just a feeling or an abstract idea. Faith is living in a covenant with your Creator and Savior. Faith is trusting the God who calls you into his family through Jesus Christ, and it’s living in the love and faithfulness of that loving and faithful God. Covenant faith involves parents who, like Abraham, want what’s best for their covenant children. Covenant faith involves young people who, like Rebekah, keep their bodies pure, are kind to strangers, and are willing to work and to follow God wherever he leads. Covenant faith involves people who, like Isaac, meditate on God and tenderly love the person God gives them. Covenant faith involves people who, like Abraham’s servant, stick to their principles and depend on prayer when they’re not sure what to do next. Covenant faith involves all of us who know that a flourishing relationship with God is the foundation for flourishing relationships in marriage, family, and friendship.
By David Feddes. Originally broadcasted on the Back to God Hour and published in The Radio Pulpit.