A Blind Date
December 21st, 1988 @ 7:30 PM
A BLIND DATE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
12-21-88 7:30 p.m.
And once again, welcome to the throngs of you who share this hour on radio. This is the pastor bringing the message from one of the most beautiful of all of the chapters in the Bible: Genesis, chapter 24. I have entitled it A Blind Date. It concerns the seeking of a bride for the son of Abraham, for Isaac.
Courtship is always interesting. No matter who you are, or how old you are, or where you are, or the kind of somebody you are, it’s always interesting how young people or older people go about cementing a relationship that involves the building of a home.
There was a nervous suitor who couldn’t get up enough strength to ask the girl of his choice to marry him. So he decided to propose to her on the telephone. So he called her and asked her to be his wife. "Will you?" She said, "Yes, indeed. Who are you speaking to me?"
A fellow was asked, "How did you meet your wife?" And he replied, "I did not meet her. She overtook me."
There were two old maids who were talking, and one said to the other, "Dear, will one large stocking hold all you want for Christmas?" And the other old maid replied, "No, but two little short socks would."
Nothing is more interesting than the courtship that ends in a marriage. This is the story that you have in Genesis 24. It is possibly as beautiful a type as you will ever find in all the Word of God. And to spend these few moments with you in looking at that typology, the spiritual overtone of the glorious message is a blessing to my heart in preparing it, and I pray it will be an encouragement to you in your Christian pilgrimage.
For the first thing, I want you to look at the length of the chapter. It is a long, long chapter; and when you compare it with the other chapters around it, it’s about two or three times as long as any other chapter in this part of the Bible. God occupies Himself with the story, and He is absorbed with the way that the servant represents the Holy Spirit of God in our lives and in our world wooing us.
The characters in the story are, for the most part, to begin with, three. There is Abraham, the father. There is Isaac, the son; and there is Eliezer, the servant, representing the Holy Spirit and its mission in seeking a bride for the Son. So Abraham calls Eliezer. In this chapter, he’s never named, and we’re going to see a reason for that in a moment; but in the fifteenth chapter of the book of Genesis, he is called "Eliezer of Damascus" [Genesis 15:2]. He is the steward. He is the head of the household of Abraham. And Abraham calls Eliezer, his servant, and sends him to Haran [Genesis 24:1-4, 9-10]. Haran is in the northern part of Mesopotamia on the other side of the Euphrates River; and there in Haran lived Nahor, the brother of Abraham, and his son Bethuel, and his two children, Laban and Rebekah [Genesis 22:20-24, 24:15, 29].
So he is sent on a mission to Haran, up there in the northern part of the Mesopotamian Valley on the other side of the Euphrates River, to seek a bride for his son Isaac. The last time we have seen Isaac is in chapter 15 of the Book of Genesis where – I mean chapter 22 in the Book of Genesis [Genesis 22:1-19] – where he is offered as a sacrifice on Mount Moriah and is marvelously preserved and raised: a type, in Hebrews 11:19, of the resurrection of the dead. So Isaac is a type raised from the dead after having been offered on the altar of Mount Moriah [Genesis 22:1-19]; and now Isaac reappears waiting for his bride: a beautiful type of the sacrifice of our Lord on the altar of expiation, His resurrection from the dead, and now His seeking a bride – His church. "Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it" [Ephesians 5:25].
So we follow the story here in Genesis 24. Number one: Verses 2 to 9, there is a charge to the servant, Eliezer. The bride is to be brought out of the land. And in Genesis 24, verse 5: If she will not come, is Isaac to go there? No. The bride is to be brought out of the land and presented to Isaac, her husband – a beautiful type of us in our mission and ministry in the world. We are not to go to the world to be identified with the world. We’re to come out of the world [Romans 12:2; 2 Peter 2:20; 1 John 2:15-17]. We’re to be separated from the world, and we are to be joined unto Christ. And if one will not do that – if there is someone called and he refuses, if she refuses, to answer the call and to separate from the world – then there is no union. Christ demands of us that we come out of the world and be joined to Him [Romans 7:4; Ephesians 5:22-27; 2 Peter 1:4].
So the charge to the servant Eliezer: "You’re to bring the bride out of Mesopotamia, and out of Haran, and out of her father’s house, and she is to be brought to the promised land; and if she will not come, then there is no union. Isaac is not to be brought back to the land that Abraham forsook in order to go to a land he should afterward receive for an inheritance [Genesis 24:4-8].
Now, look at verse 10 in this twenty-fourth chapter: the servant does not go empty-handed. He has ten camels loaded with all kinds of marvelous and precious gifts – ten camels loaded with every good thing that the master could place upon those beasts of burden. That is a picture and a type: when the Holy Spirit comes for us, He brings with Him wonderful gifts, good gifts, loaded down, unbelievable, precious and dear – love, joy, gladness [Romans 12:6-8; Galatians 5:22; Acts 2:38]. The camels are burdened with the good things the Holy Spirit has for us if we will but receive His invitation.
Now I am not saying, and you yourself know in experience that does not mean that there are not tears in the pilgrim way and there are not frustrations and despairs that come into the life of the Christian. There are many disappointments that we share with our Lord when we give our hearts and lives to Him [Matthew 10:24-25; John 15:20, 16:33;]. But, but these things are as nothing compared to the gladness and the overflowing, abounding, gracious goodnesses of God when we open our hearts heavenward and Christward [2 Corinthians 1:3-7; 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17]. And these gifts of the Holy Spirit that we enjoy now are but harbingers, and earnests, and promises of the greater gifts that we are yet to receive [Ephesians 1:13-14]..
Now, I want you to look at verse 14, and I am going to speak of something that is dear to my heart and has been for the years and the years. I’m going to speak now of confirming signs. When this Eliezer comes, he says to the Lord God, "Dear God, I am here in a strange city, and in a strange country, among people I’ve never seen before and whom I do not know; and yet, I am sent on a mission to bring out of this place a bride for my master’s son. Lord, how shall I know? I ask you, God, for a confirming sign. I pray Thee, send me good speed, show kindness to my master, Abraham." Then he says it. "I’m going to stand here by the well of water where the daughters of the city come to draw, and let it come to pass that the damsel to whom I shall say, ‘Let down thy pitcher, I pray thee, that I may drink,’ and she shall say, ‘Drink, and I will give thy camels drink also,’ let the same be she that Thou hast appointed to be the bride of Thy servant Isaac. And thereby shall I know that Thou hast showed kindness unto my master" [Genesis 24:12-14].
A confirming sign: do you believe in that? With all of my soul and with all of my heart. Gideon said to the Lord, "How shall I know that You’ll go with me as I face these bitter, hasty Midianites?" And the sign: "I’m going to put out a fleece, and let it be that the dew is on the fleece and all the earth around is dry" [Judges 6:36-38]. Then the next night, "Dear God, let it be that the fleece is dry and the whole earth around is wet with dew" [Judges 6:39-40]. A confirming sign.
Or again, when Hezekiah in Isaiah 38 says to the Lord God, "If You are to be with me as I face Sennacherib and the Assyrian Army, Lord, let the sign be that the shadow on the dial of Ahaz goes back ten degrees" [2 Kings 20:1-11; Isaiah 38:1-8]. Great God in heaven, how could you ask even of the Lord Creator a sign like that – let the sun go back ten degrees and its shadow cast on the sundial of Ahaz? But Hezekiah asked it of God, and God confirmed His promise to Hezekiah: "I’ll be with you." And that sundial went back ten degrees [2 Kings 20:11; Isaiah 38:8].
I believe in confirming signs. You heard me say that so many times for now forty-five years. I believe in confirming signs. Out of my life and out of a multitude, I’m going to select two. One concerns this organ you see in front of you that Rick Land plays on Sunday and Dr. Hansen here plays on Wednesday – the organ. There came a man out of the blue of the sky to me by the name of Morrison from Toronto, Canada; and he said to me, "I can place in your hands here, an organ, $1,400,000.00 – $1,400,000.00. I can place in your hands here, for your church, an organ that costs $1,400,000.00; but you can have it, I will get it for you, for $400,000.00. Save you a million dollars, and you tell me what your answer is."
Well, I don’t have $400,000.00. So I asked the Lord, "Dear God, it’d be wonderful if our church could have a marvelous instrument like that to glorify Thee, and, dear Lord," I said, "I’m going to ask three men to help me with that $400,000.00; and if those three men reply ‘yes,’ and they give me a gracious gift, I’m going to take it as a confirming sign from heaven that You’re pleased that I try to raise that $400,000.00 and we get this $1,400,000.00 organ in our church."
So I started. I asked the first man, and he graciously responded with a generous gift. I asked the second man, and he no less preciously replied; and I asked the third man, and he did the same. It was my confirming sign from heaven that God intended us to have this beautiful organ in the sanctuary of God’s First Baptist Church. And, sweet people, I raised that $400,000.00 so simply and so easily that I doubt whether there is a one here in divine presence who can even remember that I did it. A confirming sign from heaven: God is in it, and God will bless you, and He did.
Now, may I take one other leaf out of my life? A confirming sign from heaven. In these years past, I began my ministry in the deepest Depression, and my first full-time church was among a people that desperately felt the lack and the want of a sustaining income – poverty-stricken. Down there at the white wagon yard were families and families and families who lived on nothing. The Depression. These youngsters who are born today have no idea what it’s like when you don’t have anything – you don’t have any clothes, you don’t have any food, you don’t have any house, you don’t have anything. That was my first full-time pastorate.
So I organized what I called my "Good Shepherd Department," my "Good Shepherd Division" of the church, and we ministered to those poor people. Did it every day. Did it every night. Did it through the cold days of the wintertime. We fed them. We took care of them. I would have programs at the church, and they would bring white Christmas packages that went clear to the ceiling. The church clear to the ceiling – those white Christmas packages filled with food and clothing for the poor.
Well, when I came to Dallas, these things are a part of my heart and my ministry – my giving to God what the Lord has put on my soul and in my heart. Well, this church had never even thought of anything like that – never approached anything like that; and in a quandary here, as the pastor of this congregation, I did not quite know what to do or where to turn. Yet there was brought to me appeals from the Baptist Association, the Dallas Baptist Association, that I take a responsibility in helping those poor people, and they referred to West Dallas.
Well, the confirming sign. What happened? As I prayed before the Lord and asked God, "What should we do?" I never come down to the church in a morning hour – never ever. I study in the morning. My study is at the parsonage. I study every morning. Now that I’m older and don’t get up as early as I used to, I study at night, make up for it at night. I study in the morning; and I don’t like to get out of the house, and I don’t like to be called for anything in the morning. I study in the morning. I prepare my sermons in the morning, and I talk to God, and read the Bible, and pray, and ask the Lord to bless us. I do that in the morning. In the afternoon, I’ll do anything that blesses the church. In the evening, I’ll go to any kind of a meeting; but in the morning, I want to be left alone with God. I don’t leave the house in the morning.
Well, this morning I was down here at the church. I can’t remember what or why, but I was down here at the church. I came down Patterson Street, and when I did, I saw a large crowd at that front door – big crowd. They were gathered around the front door of our First Baptist Church here in Dallas, right there. Well, I elbowed my way through the crowd, and when I got to the steps of our First Baptist Church Ervay Street entrance right there, I saw a man dressed in blue overalls and a workingman’s shirt open at the collar. He was lying on his back on those steps, and his hands were reaching up toward the door of our church – like that. And when I had come through the crowd to where I could bend over him, he breathed his last, and he died there with his hands outstretched toward the front door of our church.
Well, the police came, and they picked him up and put him in the back seat of their police car and drove away, and the crowd separated and forgot it. But not I. Dear people, I remember that as vividly today as I did when it happened over forty years ago. And I turned, and I thought in my heart, "Who was that man? What was his name? Where did he come from? Why was he on the steps of our dear church? And of all things, to die with his hands outstretched toward our front door."
The rest of it you know. We have twenty-nine chapels in our church. We have twenty-nine missions in our church. And out of all of the things that we do in this dear congregation, there’s not anything that brings joy to my heart like the knowledge that with Lanny Elmore over there and the ministers with him, every day, every night, every Sunday, we’re ministering to the poor of the city of Dallas; and I think in God’s gracious goodness, we’re going to have an even greater open door to minister to those who need our blessed Savior. A confirming sign. If it’s in the will of God, God will do something, and you’ll know that this is His affirmation from heaven.
I must hasten. In the twenty-third verse of this chapter 24 [Genesis 24:23], he asked to be invited into the house; and had he not been invited, the mission from heaven would never have materialized. If you don’t invite the Holy Spirit into your heart, you will never know the blessings of God’s heaven.
Now invited in, Eliezer says not one word about himself. Not one. You carefully read this beautiful chapter. Not one word does he say about himself [Genesis 24:29-]. He’s speaking about his master, about his master, and that’s the way with the Holy Spirit. "He shall not speak of Himself, He shall take the things of Me and show them unto thee" [John 16:13-14]. And it’s a great, wonderful thing when a preacher’s like that.
I one time heard of the two great preachers in London in the last century. One was named Joseph Parker, and one was named Charles Haddon Spurgeon. The people would go hear Joseph Parker, and I have many of his books in my library – a brilliant, brilliant theologian and a glorious orator. People would go hear Joseph Parker and turn and say, "What a great preacher. What a great preacher!" And people would go hear Charles Haddon Spurgeon and turn away and say, "What a great Savior. What a great Savior!"
That’s the way all of us ought to be: not calling attention to ourselves but pointing to Him, speaking about Him. Ten thousand things may be derelict in me, nothing wrong with Him, pointing to Jesus. Eliezer never saying a word about himself, speaking of his master.
So in verse 58, he asks, "Rebekah, will you go?" And she says, "Yes" [Genesis 24:58]. The Spirit never forces an unwilling response. Out of the deep of your heart, "Yes, God, yes." When friends and relatives would have detained her: "No, I’m on my way." In verse 61, it is 600-mile desert journey to that promised land. She turned her back forever on the old life, and the old home, and the old friends and turned her face to the promised land [Genesis 24:61]; and in verses 62 to 67, she meets Isaac, and they are married [Genesis 24:62-67].
And that is a picture of Revelation 19 in the Marriage Supper of the Lamb when we sit down with our blessed Lord, and we are joined to Him forever and ever and ever [Revelation 19:7-10]. No more sickness. No more death. No more sorrow. No more crying. We’re at home with our Lord in His place, in His beautiful city, in a New Jerusalem, in a mansion prepared for those who love Him [John 14:2; 1 Corinthians 15:42-57; Revelation 21:1-5, 27] – beautiful, beautiful chapter and beautiful promise to our hearts.
Now, Fred, I want us to stand and sing us a song. And while we sing the song, I’ll be standing here; and if God has spoken to you tonight to come in to the fellowship of our dear church, or to give your heart to Jesus, or to answer the call of the Spirit, you come and stand by me as you open your heart Godward. If there is some decision tonight to which the Holy Spirit calls you, make it "yes" and "here I am," and God bless you in your coming, while we stand and while we sing.
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. Genesis 24:2-9; Abraham’s servant to bring Rebekah out of her land
II. Servant does not go empty handed [24:10]
III. Approached prayerfully [24:11, 13]
IV. Testimony of the servant [24:23]
V. Rebekah’s response [24:58]
VI. Desert journey [24:61]
VII. Isaac sees his bride [24:63]