…and I bowed down and worshiped the Lord. I praised the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who had led me on the right road to get the granddaughter of my master’s brother for his son. Genesis 24:48
Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest. Hebrews 3:1
For pilots, learning to fly by instruments is an important skill. It is what a pilot must do when all the other more conventional ways of “getting your bearings” fall by the wayside. When darkness and weather and confusion and chaos make it difficult to figure out which way is up and which way is down, all a pilot has left is the cockpit instruments.
I was reminded of that when I found myself preparing a lesson from the story of Isaac and Rebekah. It is a story chock full of ancient culture about betrothal and marriage and what seems to our modern world to be a horribly flawed and archaic and unromantic matrimonial system. At first glance, it is not an easy task pulling relevant truths out of this story…truths which we can apply to our lives today. It would be easy to read this unusual story about marriage and lose your bearings trying to find a lesson.
For example, Abraham sent his servant off to a faraway land to find a wife for his (Abraham’s) son. O.K., not gonna learn from that…for so many reasons. The servant chose a blood cousin of the groom to be the bride…this would become a pattern for this family. Not gonna use that lesson either. The bride’s family blessed her, saying, “May your offspring possess the cities of their enemies!” Um…no. Then there is the nose ring for the bride. Not even gonna touch that one!
But what if the eternal truths from this story do not have anything at all to do with the culture or the traditions or anything the people in the story did or did not do? What if the real lesson here has little to do with the people at all? What if the lesson is all about what God did?
It occurs to me that, if we are looking for eternal truth in God’s story, we need to pay close attention to the things God does and says, and not nearly so much to the things men do or say. This God, after all, is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow, from everlasting to everlasting. He does not change. The same God whose story is told in the Bible, who was at work in the ancient world, is at work in our lives today. Isn’t that where the lesson is?
It is like that in the church as well. When issues begin to cloud our perspective, when relationships get messy and complicated, it can be difficult (as leaders) to see our way forward. That is a good time to remember this lesson. That is the time to pay particular attention to what God is doing and saying and not get too distracted by what flawed church members (or leaders) are doing or saying. For God’s people, the way forward is rarely as easy as just the cultural norms or traditions or trappings of this world. Those things are relevant, to be sure. But the way forward has much more to do with what God is doing and saying.
So, whether you find yourself digging for lessons in stories of ancient matrimony or perhaps staying up at night worrying about some more pressing chaos currently in your church, the most important questions are the same: What do your instruments tell you? What is God doing? What is God saying? Are there any questions more important than these?