Reading: Genesis 24
She was about to make the second biggest choice in her life. Her first and greatest decision was to believe God. Now, there was a tense anticipation as everyone froze, waiting for her to speak. The question, “Will you go with this man?” (Gen 24:58), echoed inside her head as her mind raced back over all that had happened since Abraham’s servant met her at the well. Even though she had never seen Isaac before, she finally declared, “I will go!”
The Bible gives us the story of Rebekah for some beautiful symbolic lessons, but it also serves as a guide for decision making. The goal of a believer is to be “in the way the Lord led me”(v27), just like Abraham’s servant. There is confidence in the moment of decision, and comfort afterwards when a believer is truly led of the Lord, whether it is in the choice of who to date and marry, what major to pursue in college, where to live, or what job to accept. Therefore, studying the principles that led to Rebekah’s decision will provide guidelines for the choices of young people today.
Before looking at tools for making good decisions, it is necessary to ask, “Why are so many vital choices made when we are young and have little experience in decision making?” Parents make all major decisions for babies and then slowly transfer this responsibility as their child grows into a young adult. God has intentionally designed it so young people will feel their inexperience and inadequacy and depend on Him for guidance. So, if you feel insecure or unprepared for these big choices, humbly admit your need and seek His help in prayer. He says, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God” (James 1:5). Thankfully, God has provided some effective tools through which He can help you to determine His will.
Tool #1: Spiritual Goals
In approaching major decisions, a believer needs to begin with a personal, spiritual assessment. Isaac and Rebekah, individually, were living with a clear commitment to know and do the will of God. Abraham’s servant was equally committed in his search for a wife for Isaac. However, after he realized this bride must be from Abraham’s kin he was concerned his mission might be futile. In answering this concern, Abraham’s direction was clear – if she refuses to come, you will be cleared of the responsibility (Gen 24:37-42, 58). In other words, “Don’t force it!” Far better that Isaac remain single than to have a wife who was not God’s choice.
Search your life. The wise man told his son, “In ALL thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths” (Prov 3:6). Sometimes, believers can get all concerned about the will of God in a moment of decision, when they have not been “acknowledging Him in all their ways” in other areas of life. It is always much easier to steer a car when it is already moving. Likewise, it is much easier to be directed by the Lord when you are already moving in obedience to His revealed Word.
Tool #2: The Bible
The first guideline cited in the passage is that the servant was not to seek a wife from among the pagan Canaanites surrounding Isaac (Gen 24:3). Abraham cites God’s purpose to form a distinct people and give them a specific territory and they would in turn be exclusively devoted to Him (17:8). If Isaac took a Canaanite wife he would go against God’s plans and potentially be drawn toward idolatry. Abraham wisely considered God’s commands and principles. Therefore, your first reaction before making any choice should be to dive into the Book and see what God has to say on the matter.
Tool #3: Prayer and Praise
Another test when making a key choice in life is to evaluate your communication with God. In the attitude of dependence mentioned above, Abraham’s servant repeatedly communicates with God on the matter (vv12-15; 42) in prayer. But, how does praying help us to know God’s will?
Open communication is a classic litmus test for the will of God. To use an extreme example, it would be hard for any child to honestly and sincerely ask his earthly father for permission to steal from his mother. The conscience of the child would not even allow him to speak to his father about this possibility. Likewise, when a believer tries to pray about a decision, the lack or the abundance of liberty to speak openly about it can be a good indicator.
Beyond open communication in prayer, the servant also modeled the importance of worshiping God during the process of determining His will (vv26-27, 48, 52). Sometimes the stress of uncertainty, the fear of making a mistake, or, even worse, the insistence of your own desires will rob you of joy and worship will dwindle. On the other hand, really seeing the Lord direct in your life is a priceless joy that produces worship. Twice in one day, it brought the servant to bow and adore the God of heaven.
Tool #4: Circumstances
Was it fate or coincidence that Rebekah “happened” to meet the servant at the well? Neither! Sometimes, we are capable of going to two extremes with circumstances. At times, we can minimize them out of a fear of misinterpreting them and we miss the direction of the Lord. On the other hand, we can misinterpret them and use them to justify what we really want. Therefore, the safe policy is that circumstances are only valid indicators of the will of God when they confirm what God has already revealed in His Word. For example, suppose a believer feels the Lord is guiding him to accept a job offer in which he will make more money, but have to work every Sunday morning. His basis is that the job offer came to him in an email at exactly 10:00am on a Sunday, exactly when the meeting was to start. His interpretation is that God is telling him to take the job and miss the Breaking of Bread. Impossible! The Lord Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of Me”(1Cor 11:24). The Spirit of God will never direct in a way that contradicts the Bible. Therefore, in this hypothetical situation, the circumstances are not God’s guidance because they contradict Scripture.
Another example is the young man who says to the elders in the assembly, “I met Tiffany in chemistry class. She just happened to sit next to me, we are in the same lab group, and we both share cobalt as our favorite chemical on the periodic table. I know she is not saved, but it must be the Lord guiding me to ask her on a date.” Nonsense! The Lord would never tell him to do that when he has clearly stated, “Be not unequally yoked with unbelievers” (2Cor 6:14).
Tool #5: Counselors
The Bible instructs us that, “Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counselors there is safety” (Prov 11:14). The servant wisely went to Rebekah’s father Bethuel and Laban her brother to seek their input. This was not an attempt to get a friend to side with him. Instead, he selected counselors who would want the best, be objective, and above all be spiritual. It must have been confirming to hear Laban say, “The thing proceedeth from the Lord” (Gen 24:50). Therefore, in key decisions, double check your own judgment by seeking input from godly, wise, mature, and objective counselors such as parents, grandparents, and elders. They can bring to bear on your thinking their experience, their knowledge of the Scriptures, and their caring advice.
Tool #6: Common Sense
In making decisions, please don’t forget the computer God has given you – your mind. God says, “Commit thy works unto the Lord and thy thoughts shall be established” (Prov 16:3). Many times, the will of the Lord can be determined by using our minds to analyze, apply reason, and think through consequences. The servant objectively looked at her beauty (Gen 24:16a), her purity (v16b), her charity (v24), her industry (vv16, 18-20), and her spirituality (v58). Rather than romantic impulses directing the decision, the servant, knowing Isaac’s values, personality, lifestyle, and spirituality, concluded that this was a good match.
Tool #7: First Step
When everything seems to be a green light to move forward, you must take your foot off the brake and proceed. For Rebekah, the moment came when her father asked, “Wilt thou go with this man?” ( v61). At that very instant, she could move forward, trusting God to continue to open the way or to close the door. Therefore, when God speaks or indicates His will, a believer must move forward, looking to God for confirmation or redirection.
The servant said, “The Lord hath prospered my way” (v56). How true! There is no greater prosperity than to be guided by the Lord. So may God help you to “live the rest of [your] time in the flesh … to the will of God” (1Peter 4:2).