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Wednesday, July 1, 2020
Today’s Scripture Reading | Genesis 24:34–38, 42–49, 58–67
So he said, “I am Abraham’s servant. The Lord has greatly blessed my master, and he has become wealthy; he has given him flocks and herds, silver and gold, male and female slaves, camels and donkeys. And Sarah my master’s wife bore a son to my master when she was old; and he has given him all that he has. My master made me swear, saying, ‘You shall not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, in whose land I live; but you shall go to my father’s house, to my kindred, and get a wife for my son.’ “I came today to the spring, and said, ‘O Lord, the God of my master Abraham, if now you will only make successful the way I am going! I am standing here by the spring of water; let the young woman who comes out to draw, to whom I shall say, “Please give me a little water from your jar to drink,” and who will say to me, “Drink, and I will draw for your camels also”—let her be the woman whom the Lord has appointed for my master’s son.’ “Before I had finished speaking in my heart, there was Rebekah coming out with her water jar on her shoulder; and she went down to the spring, and drew. I said to her, ‘Please let me drink.’ She quickly let down her jar from her shoulder, and said, ‘Drink, and I will also water your camels.’ So I drank, and she also watered the camels. Then I asked her, ‘Whose daughter are you?’ She said, ‘The daughter of Bethuel, Nahor’s son, whom Milcah bore to him.’ So I put the ring on her nose, and the bracelets on her arms. Then I bowed my head and worshiped the Lord, and blessed the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who had led me by the right way to obtain the daughter of my master’s kinsman for his son. Now then, if you will deal loyally and truly with my master, tell me; and if not, tell me, so that I may turn either to the right hand or to the left.” And they called Rebekah, and said to her, “Will you go with this man?” She said, “I will.” So they sent away their sister Rebekah and her nurse along with Abraham’s servant and his men. And they blessed Rebekah and said to her, “May you, our sister, become thousands of myriads; may your offspring gain possession of the gates of their foes.” Then Rebekah and her maids rose up, mounted the camels, and followed the man; thus the servant took Rebekah, and went his way.
Now Isaac had come from Beer-lahai-roi, and was settled in the Negeb. Isaac went out in the evening to walk in the field; and looking up, he saw camels coming. And Rebekah looked up, and when she saw Isaac, she slipped quickly from the camel, and said to the servant, “Who is the man over there, walking in the field to meet us?” The servant said, “It is my master.” So she took her veil and covered herself. And the servant told Isaac all the things that he had done. Then Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent. He took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her. So Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death. (NRSV)
In ancient Near East, the well was more than just a physical location. It served many purposes. As the source of water in parched lands, the well was a means to sustain material life. And because of that, it also served as a kind of commons, a frequent gathering spot where dealmaking and matchmaking were facilitated. As vulnerable persons encountered each other to supply their material needs at the well, peace was struck, spouses were found, and barriers broken.
Moses meets Zipporah at the well of his father-in-law, Jethro; Isaac’s son Jacob meets Rachel at a well, and in New Testament stories, Jesus crosses social boundaries at wells. The well, by extension, could also serve as a place of sanctuary and welcome for those traveling far from the familiar sights of home. It’s no surprise then that Isaac, through the surrogate of his family’s trusted servant, ends up finding himself a suitable life partner through an experience at the well.
Who does the servant meet at the well but Rebekah, a distant relative in Abraham’s family. But Rebekah has other, arguably more important qualities that immediately become recognizable. In response to the servant’s prayer and material need, Rebekah rushes to provide both him and his camels with water to refresh and renew their thirst. It is this response of generous hospitality that becomes for the servant a sign that she is indeed the match for Isaac. When asked whether she should choose to leave kin and country to join Isaac in a faraway land, her forthrightness reveals a person of courage as well as generosity.
Where is your well? Where is that place of mutual need and vulnerability where you might encounter others? Wherever that place may be, how will you respond to those you meet? May you follow the example of Rebekah and bring compassion where there is need, courage where there is fear, and hope where there is despair.
Hospitable God, who shelters and provides for us, help me be a person of generous compassion and loving-kindness for whomever I encounter this day on the road of life. Amen.
Written by Joseph L. Morrow, Minister for Evangelism
Reflection and Prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church
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