Abraham instructed his servant to leave Canaan, return to Abraham’s homeland and find a wife for Isaac. Abraham was far too old to make the journey himself and trusted in God to make the procurement of a daughter-in-law a successful one. Abraham’s servant, likewise, trusted in this same God. The servant set out to Abraham’s homeland mirroring the same belief that God would be part of the journey and reveal the woman who was to be brought back to Canaan and become Isaac’s wife.
Very early in Scripture we see that a relationship with God has many facets. It involves trust, diligence, faith, and silence. Securing Rebekah as Isaac’s wife, and thus the woman to whom God’s promises would continue to manifest, began with trust. Abraham trusted that God would provide the wife who was intended to carry on the mantle of Sarah. Abraham’s servant, making an oath, also had this same trust. Abraham’s witness over the course of his lifetime, in fact, brought many of his pagan neighbors to an understanding of the one true God and thus earned him great favor in the sight of the Almighty. It was, undoubtedly, this act of witnessing that allowed his servant to travel on such a journey with the confidence that one ought to have when journeying with God.
What begins with trust, however, must also involve diligence. Walking with God does not translate into a life of, as they say, leisure and bon-bons. Rebekah didn’t come waltzing into town and announce she was from Abraham’s homeland and thus show herself as the one who was intended to become Abraham’s daughter-in-law. No, Abraham had to turn his trust in God into action that reflected the trust. It required him to become involved in such a way that God could act through Abraham’s actions — actions that, as we see in Genesis, required using an outside party, namely Abraham’s servant.
Indeed, trusting in God turns us into His instruments because we become aware of the greatness of His plan and the need to surrender in such a way as to become, literally, that mechanism. Here, the instrument is Abraham’s servant who takes on the same attitude of trust and then diligently proceeds, with the implementation of God’s plan, to secure a wife for Isaac. Notice how telling it is that Abraham had to rely on someone else even though God’s great promise had been made to Abraham. Again, early in Scripture, we see the roots of our faith that calls us to community. The Jewish roots of who we are as Catholics is evidenced by this reliance on another person to help us in our journey with God.
So, we begin with God’s plan for Abraham’s descendants to be more numerous than the stars in the sky. God both reveals and promises this to Abraham. Abraham must display trust in such a way that he (Abraham) can move forward with this belief and become actively involved in the plan. Remember, though, that Sarah made the rash decision to hurry this plan along and had given Hagar to Abraham which resulted in the birth of Ishmael. And while God promised Hagar that Ishmael would become the father of many, this still wasn’t the original intention of God’s revelation to Abraham. Thus we see that God’s promises were not made only to Abraham but to the coveted marriage of Abraham and Sarah. Once again our Jewish roots reveal to us, as Catholics, that the sacredness of the sacrament of marriage, and God’s view of us “as one,” began with Adam and Eve and is reiterated with Abraham and Sarah.
We also see the real notion that our time is not God’s time, that even when we understand God’s plan, we ought to be aware of the delicate balance between waiting for it and working towards it.
This is where Abraham’s servant reveals to us the critical piece of working with God: silence. The man watched her the whole time, silently waiting to learn whether or not the Lord had made his errand successful (Genesis 24:21). Silence is an act of faith in our earthly journeys. Its timing is an integral component of a successful walk with God. Like Abraham, his servant, and Sarah, we all have a decent amount of trust in God. And, like these same people, we all have a fair amount of energy to persevere for His kingdom..
So it is fitting that a simple sentence in the story of Abraham, Isaac, and Rebekah makes a point of telling of the necessity for silence — a time when discernment can take place and, in this story, the servant can be made aware of God’s “answer.” Consider the reality that the servant was embarking on a journey that was anointed by God and yet he (the servant) did not presuppose his own will over that of the Creator’s. He (the servant) continued to turn to God with each step of the journey to get his bearings, so to speak.
That time of silence is often where we may find ourselves squirming because we are anxious to hear from Him. We are ready for answers and feel that we’ve been fruitful enough to warrant them. And the idea of silence may make us even more fretful when we begin contemplating that the answer we may hear could be “no.” Abraham’s servant, however, was willing to hear just that. We can assume he was exhausted from his journey (just as we may be) and maybe he would have felt a bit broken in spirit if Rebekah was not “the one” and yet, in faith, the servant waited to hear her offer of water. Those would be the telling words that God had said “yes.” The servant wasn’t testing God but earnestly attempting to carry out His will. The servant was showing us that while we set out in trust and then actively participate with diligence, we ought to be mindful of the importance of waiting, in silence, to hear from God. With faith we know that His response to our questions will be right, timely, and true.
Jesus had many demands on His time. People sought Him for healing and counsel. He was busier than any of us could ever imagine. And in the midst of His busy walk on earth, He showed us the need for silence. Christ would separate Himself from the daily tasks of His life as Lord and Savior and seek silence with His Father. We often say that He took on human form to experience life in such a way as to be able to empathetically relate to our own experiences. He became our example for resisting temptation, to live with a humble spirit, and to show how to should serve one another. He, too, became our example of the need for silence. Jesus shows how it is often in this silence that God is able to quell our aching heart and share answers to our prayers.