In a single, punctiliar moment, salvation history can go left or right.
This devotional is a condensed version of a sermon preached at the Spring Meeting of the Executive Committee of the General Conference in April 2021.—Editors.
From the Psalms’ pilgrim worshippers to God Himself, the response of “I will go” is found throughout Scripture. Though the Hebrew term is common, its translation as “I will go” by itself can be found only in a few places. One noteworthy passage is Genesis 24.
Verse 1 provides context, saying, “Now Abraham was old, well advanced in age; and the Lord had blessed Abraham in all things.” Life is coming to an end, and the great patriarch feels a heavy burden for his unmarried son Isaac. Abraham calls his servant Eliezer and makes him swear not to find a Canaanite to be Isaac’s wife. Being familiar with the locals, Abraham wanted Isaac to have a wife who would be receptive to God’s covenant and His promises. He knew the importance of having a wise and godly spouse.
Eliezer has traveled a long time to get to Haran in Syria. He finally arrives at the town’s well around noon. In the desert nobody usually retrieves water from a well at noon, but rather early in the morning or later in the evening. Drawing water was part of the domestic duties of women at that time, so wells were a prime place to find a spouse for the master’s son.
In verses 12-14 the servant arrives in the evening and prays for his mission’s success. However, the very next verse starts with “Before he had finished praying . . .” (verse 15, NIV). There are many circumstances and problems that we simply don’t know how to solve. But before we say amen, God already is orchestrating a solution to these issues. This passage offers us the assurance that God hears us before we even conclude our prayers.
Verse 15 continues to mention a jar upon Rebekah’s shoulder. While some might imagine a delicate porcelain pitcher, there is archaeological evidence of large clay pots that were used for carrying water. In a time without plumbing, the only running water for cleaning, drinking, and cooking was with women “sprinting” back and forth. Rebekah’s shoulder was not slim and delicate, but must have had some muscle to have carried these pots! Second, wells were not nicely canopied holes, but rather underground springs in caves and caverns. Verse 16 balances her beauty and purity with her ability to go spelunking by herself while carrying a clay waterpot.
Eliezer meets Rebekah and asks her for a drink of water (verse 17). Though Rebekah has not been asked, she goes above and beyond the request, especially as she offers to give the 10 camels water “until they have finished drinking” (verse 19). Though not the most beautiful, these desert beasts are wonderfully designed by God. They can close their nostrils to sandstorms. They have long eyelashes to prevent dust in their eyes. Their mouths have hardened protrusions called papillae that allow a diet of cacti. Though these animals often have poor temperaments as well as the habit of spitting out foamy saliva, they can endure the harshness of desert conditions.
Camels have been known to drink 190 liters (50 gallons) of water in three minutes, when not thirsty. At minimum, Rebekah was running around carrying 1,900 liters (500 gallons) of water and dodging saliva from 10 cantankerous camels—all with some grace!
But did Rebekah know who this man was? Did she wake up that morning saying, “Today is the day when everything will change; today I am going above and beyond my normal self ”? Her innocence and service are expressions of her character.
WILL WE GO?
Would you have given water to, essentially, a nobody and 10 camels? The powerful part of this passage is that it was in Rebekah’s innate character to be kind above conventionality, to mingle with strangers, to desire to quench their thirst, to show loving sympathy to their needs, to minister to their camels, and to win their confidence. “Success in this life, success in gaining the future life,” writes Ellen White, “depends upon a faithful, conscientious attention to the little things.”*
We are so busy (even with a pandemic) that we have lost clarity of the moment in little things. We don’t recognize the spiritual importance of little things. We worry about and focus on repercussions and circumstances. But when it comes to God’s last-day movement, which is called to preach the three angels’ warnings, His people need a heightened clarity, a sensitive sobriety, and a faithfulness in little things to seemingly inconsequential people and their 10 camels. How many liters or gallons might we be carrying?
LIKE BROTHER, NOT SISTER
Contrast Rebekah to her brother Laban in verse 30, who sees a costly ring and bracelets. Unlike Rebekah, Laban sees the reward first, and the kindness is shown second. Indeed, Laban also goes above and beyond in his service, but the intention is for some profit, when he says smoothly, “Come in, O blessed of the Lord! Why do you stand outside? For I have prepared the house, and a place for the camels. . . . And he [Laban] unloaded the camels, and provided straw and feed for the camels, and water to wash his feet” (verses 31, 32).
Laban’s character is later fully revealed in his dealing with Jacob and the bride price of 14 years. The biblical text tells us that he attempts to postpone the return of the servant (verses 54-57). The dialogue concludes with Rebekah being able to choose her future when she is asked, “Will you go with this man?” (verse 58).
In a single, punctiliar moment, salvation history can go left or right. Rebekah recognized that moment and replied, “I will go.” Not for selfish gain or driven by material calculations, she ultimately chooses to partake in the Abrahamic covenant, to be a blessing to all the families of the world, and to be part of a lineage of messianic progenitors. Her family blesses her, saying, “Our sister, may you become the mother of thousands of ten thousands” (verse 60). And Rebekah does become part of a salvation plan for myriads.
It’s not only big decisions in councils, committees, and deliberations. It’s also in seemingly random moments with strangers that we must say, “I will go,” and be part of God’s salvation plan, to be part of the three angels’ messages, and to tell the world about Jesus’ second coming.
God calls Rebekahs today—those willing to give strange people and their 10 camels a little water. His glory, or Christlike character, is revealed through little things. As God Himself is looking for a people (or bride) for His Son once again, may we ask Him to grant us the grace to be faithful not only in big things, in character, in our communities, in our families, but in the seemingly little things too.
* Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1890, 1908), p. 574.