Matthew 1:18-25

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Matthew 1

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). 24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.

Just when you thought you had heard it all, I offer you the following from                                          www.st-josephstatue.com:

St Joseph Statue

Saint Joseph has helped thousands of people to sell their homes and other real estate. The biggest part of this help is to give you faith in Saint Joseph and yourself; the belief that you now will sell your house with the help and blessing of Saint Joseph. So if you need help to sell your real estate or another house please read more on our Saint Joseph Statue homepage.

Sell My House

Do you have friends that are having trouble selling their real estate? Are you about to put your own house out in the home sales market? Have you tried everything but still haven´t sold your house? Are you in the real estate business and need an extra incentive for your customers?
– In all cases above you have come to the right place. The use of a St Joseph statue and the belief in St Joseph is a tradition known all over the world for helping you to sell your house in a smooth way. To bury a statue of Saint Joseph is both a wonderful tradition and a great gift to friends and customers.

The Home Seller Kit

There are some different home sales kit from which you may choose. It is not that important which one you prefer, the most important thing is that you have faith in yourself and in Saint Joseph. You can read more about how to use the home selling kit here.[1]

I actually first heard of this in Georgia a number of years ago when a lady mentioned it to me. She said that she had buried a statue of Joseph upside down in the yard and that her house sold not too long thereafter. She appeared to be a believer in this.

To put it mildly, I am not. But I am a fan of Joseph the earthly father of Jesus. Some call Joseph Jesus’ “foster father” or “step father.” All of these titles are efforts to recognize that God, of course, was truly Jesus’ father. But there was a man who loved Mary, the mother of Jesus, and this man played a very important role in the story of Jesus’ first advent. Even so, it seems like we never quite know what to do with Joseph. We either say a few polite words about him and move on, or we try to do strained detective work to figure out exactly what happened to him, or we ignore him outright, or, heaven forbid, we bury statues of poor Joseph upside down in our yards as some sort of real estate hocus pocus.

Yet, behind all of these approaches stands Joseph the man. All that really matters for us on this side of heaven is what we know of him from scripture. As it turns out, the portrait that scripture paints of Joseph is a beautiful portrait indeed.

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Conflict Resolution in the Shadow of the Cross (Part 4)

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Sometimes conflicts come upon us so stealthily that we seemingly wake to find ourselves in the midst of strife with another person. There are those who love conflict. That cannot be denied. Even so, I suspect that many are frustrated to find that despite their best efforts not to be involved in conflicts, they sometimes cannot avoid them. And I would say this is true: try as we might, we will at times find ourselves in conflicts. Of course, at other times, there really is no great mystery to it at all, is there? Sometimes we know perfectly well why we are in the midst of conflict and it is because we caused it! Sometimes—perhaps more rarely than we like to tell ourselves—we find ourselves in conflicts because there truly is a matter of righteousness and unrighteousness at stake. Sometimes issues are black and white.

What, then, do we do? How do we handle conflicts? While exceptional situations may call for unusual and varied responses, I believe that scripture gives us certain strong and guiding principles that, if adhered to, can greatly lesson the amount of conflicts in our lives.

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Matthew 1:1-17

 

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Matthew 1

1 The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram, and Ram the father of Amminadab, and Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king. And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asaph, and Asaph the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah, and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, 10 and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amos, and Amos the father of Josiah, 11 and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon. 12 And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Shealtiel, and Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, 13 and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor, 14 and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud, 15 and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, 16 and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ. 17 So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations.

James Montgomery Boice tells a fascinating story about a young man who came to know Jesus through reading and wrestling with the genealogies of Jesus in Matthew and Luke.

       Ron Blankley, a former area director of Campus Crusade for Christ, was walking through the student union of the University of Pennsylvania one day when he saw a student reading a Bible. He remembered Philip’s approach to the Ethiopian, so he walked over to the student, introduced himself, and asked, “Do you understand what you’re reading?”

       The student replied, “No, as a matter of fact, I don’t. I’m reading the genealogies of Jesus in Matthew and Luke, and I don’t understand them because they seem to be different.” Blankley had been at Tenth Presbyterian Church the Sunday immediately before this when, curiously enough, I had explained the genealogies exactly as I have just done here. He explained them to this student, and as a result of that explanation, the young man came to faith in Jesus Christ as his Savior.[1]

This is a reminder that I and, perhaps, all of us need, for the genealogies of scripture can too easily become “fly-over country” for many modern readers. We assume, wrongly, that all of those strange names perhaps meant something to the original readers (if they meant anything even to them!) but they cannot mean much to us. When we hear a story like Boice’s above, however, we are reminded of the amazing fact that all scripture truly is God’s word and can therefore be used mightily of God for the salvation of sinners. We skip over or skim these sections to our own loss.

Let us, then, listen carefully to these words which, while strange sounding in many ways, are yet “God-breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16) and valuable! What does this geneaology tell us?

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Conflict Resolution in the Shadow of the Cross (Part 3)

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In 1633, George Herbert poetically bemoaned Church conflict and schisms. While older English like this can be a challenge, Herbert’s point is worth the effort it takes to read this.

Brave rose, (alas!) where art thou? in the chair

Where thou didst lately so triumph and shine,

A worm doth sit, whose many feet and hair

Are the more foul, the more thou wert divine.

This, this hath done it, this did bite the root

And bottome of the leaves: which when the winde

Did once perceive, it blew them under foot,

Where rude unhallow’d steps do crush and grinde

        Their beauteous glories. Onely shreds of thee,

        And those all bitten, in thy chair I see.

Why doth my Mother blush? is she the rose,

And shows it so? Indeed Christs precious bloud

Gave you a colour once; which when your foes

Thought to let out, the bleeding did you good,

And made you look much fresher then before.

But when debates and fretting jealousies

Did worm and work within you more and more,

Your colour faded, and calamities

        Turned your ruddie into pale and bleak:

        Your health and beautie both began to break.

Then did your sev’rall parts unloose and start:

Which when your neighbours saw, like a north-winde,

They rushed in, and cast them in the dirt

Where Pagans tread. O Mother deare and kinde,

Where shall I get me eyes enough to weep,

As many eyes as starres? since it is night,

And much of Asia and Europe fast asleep,

And ev’n all Africk; would at least I might

         With these two poore ones lick up all the dew,

         Which falls by night, and poure it out for you![1]

Herbert employs a number of startling and effective images in this poem. The most jarring, however, is that of the rose and the worm. The church is supposed to be a rose but it has become, Herbert argues, a worm. Why? Because of conflict. Because of “debates and fretting jealousies” that “did worm and work within you more and more.” As a result, the beauty of the church faded, the church was weakened, the church fractured, and the enemies of God “rushed in” to take advantage of the church’s splintered state. And what does this do to Herbert? It causes him to weep as if his very eyes had licked up the dew and “poure[d] it out for you.”

Man! What a poem! What an image! What a heartbreaking thought!

Yes, conflict, if not managed well, can wreak havoc in the church of the living God. It can decimate our health and our witness. Conflict carries within itself the potential for great degradation. For this reason, and for the honor and cause of Christ, the church must not allow conflict to tear her apart.

We now approach the practical steps of conflict resolution. This morning, I would like to give five warnings. The next couple of weeks I will give a number of positive steps. But first, let us consider our all-too-common reactions to conflicts and the ways that these reactions serve to exacerbate the problem. I would like to do this in this way: I would like to give you five steps to take if you want to make conflict worse and wreak ungodly havoc in the church. In other words, if you want to maximize conflict, increase disunity, and make yourself and everybody else around you utterly miserable, these are the steps you should take.

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Conflict Resolution in the Shadow of the Cross (Part 2)

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In Cormac McCarthy’s unsettling novel, Blood Meridian, the Judge, a truly terrifying character, sits with the men of his gang around the fire and holds forth on the nature of war. He begins by making a statement about the enduring power and inevitability of war.

It makes no difference what men think of war, said the judge. War endures. As well ask men what they think of stone. War was always here. Before man was, war waited for him. The ultimate trade awaiting its ultimate practitioner. That is the way it was and will be. That way and not some other way.

He goes on to talk about how war permeates every aspect of life.

All other trades are contained in that of war. Is that why war endures? No. It endures because young men love it and old men love it in them. Those that fought, those that did not.

Finally, he reaches his shocking conclusion.

Seen so, war is the truest form of divination. It is the testing of one’s will and the will of another within that larger will which because it binds them is therefore forced to select. War is the ultimate game because war is at last a forcing of the unity of existence. War is god.[1]

Perhaps you can see why I called the Judge “terrifying.” There are those who suggest that the hulking, violent, seemingly indestructible character of the Judge in Blood Meridian is the personification of war itself. For me, one of the things that is so jarring about his musings is the way in which any sober-minded observation of the world lends credence to some of them.

When the Judge says, “War endures,” is he mistaken? He appears not to be. Somebody has said that Americans love peace monuments; we build one after every war. Yes, war seems to endure.

And what of his idea that men love war—“young men love it and old men love it in them”—is that true? Honestly, it may very well be. War, viewed from a distance, has a kind of romantic idealism about it. Many are the men and women who likely feel towards war something akin to love.

But what of his last statement, indeed, his worst statement—“War is god.”—is that true? And here, thankfully, we see the wickedness behind the Judge’s words unmasked. No, war is not God and God is not war. On the contrary, God is love and those who walk with God should exhibit the marks of peace, love, joy, and unity in their lives.

Human conflict and strife and war is not of God. Therefore, the children of God must learn to navigate it and resolve it rightly. But whatever we do, we must not worship and love it.

To conquer a thing, you must first know and name that thing. We must do this with human conflict. So I ask: What is human conflict? From whence does it come? Why do human beings conflict so much? Indeed, why do Christians conflict so much in the church? To these questions, the scriptures give us telling answers. But I would like to consider this last question in particular: why do Christians conflict so much? To this question, we will offer five reasons.

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Matthew 1:1

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Matthew 1

1 The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.

James Kellerman has passed on an interesting story about one of the great minds of the church’s past:

As Thomas Aquinas was approaching Paris, a fellow traveler pointed out the lovely buildings gracing the city. Aquinas was impressed, to be sure, but he sighed and stated that he would rather have the complete Incomplete Commentary on Matthew than be mayor of Paris itself.

Thomas was referring to the Opus imperfectum in Matthaeum, a fragmentary early-5th century commentary on the gospel of Matthew. It is an interesting commentary that is a mixture of fascinating insights and also, at points, questionable theology. It is to be read carefully, to be sure. It was for some time attributed to John Chrysostom but now the author is widely considered to be unknown.

As a lover of books, this story interests me, as does this incomplete manuscript. There is something about an incomplete ancient book that really strikes one with intrigue! Where is the rest of it? Might we ever find it? What might the missing parts say or reveal about the author?

Then a thought occurs to me: what is better than both having the complete Opus imperfectum in Matthaeum AND being mayor of Paris? Simple: having the gospel of Matthew itself! And we do have it! And it is a treasure indeed. The writer of the Opus imperfectum in fact put it well when he wrote this about the book:

This book is a treasury of grace, as it were. For just as in some rich person’s treasury each person could find whatever he desired, so also in this book every soul finds what it needs.[1]

That is true! The gospel of Matthew is a treasure! And here it is! And we are privileged to turn to it and journey through it. We begin at the beginning, with the first fascinating sentence.

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Conflict Resolution in the Shadow of the Cross (Part 1)

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1 Corinthians 6

1 When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church? I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers, but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers? To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? But you yourselves wrong and defraud—even your own brothers!

I clipped a newspaper article some years ago that told a sad but interesting story. Listen:

Magistrate tells church, pastor to settle their own dispute

The Associated Press

Spartanburg, [SC] – A magistrate told church members and the pastor they are trying to fire that he may not have the authority to settle their months long dispute and urged them to resolve their differences out of court.

The dispute involves Foster Chapel Baptist Church and its efforts to oust its pastor, the Rev. Douglas E. Dennis.  On several occasions, the church has voted to fire Dennis, but he has refused to stop representing himself as pastor or to leave the parsonage.

On Thursday, Magistrate Robert Hall told about 60 church members crowded into a Spartanburg County courtroom for Dennis’ eviction hearing that they need to settle the issue themselves.

“I’m asking you as a judge, and maybe I shouldn’t, but I’m asking you as a Christian, to resolve this matter,” Hall told the crowd, which included Dennis’ supporters and church supporters…

Dennis refused to comment on whether he thinks the dispute is resolvable.  “I’ll be back in the pulpit on Sunday.  That’s all I can say.” he said.[1]

I am less concerned about the particulars of the actual case than I am the wider dynamics involved:

  • A church has a conflict between members.
  • The church finds itself unable to resolve the conflicts.
  • The church goes to a secular court for resolution.
  • The judge, a Christian, pleads with the church to reconvene and resolve the issue.

This raises lots of questions: Why could the church not resolve its conflicts? Were they right to go to a secular court? What did the judge see as a Christian that the members of the church could not (would not?) see? What happened? How were they supposed to resolve their issues? Did they?

These questions and the dynamics lurking behind them were present in the early church as well. In an intriguing text, the Apostle Paul reprimanded the Christians of Corinth for their going to a secular judge for conflict resolution, but, moreso, he reprimanded them for not being able to handle conflict better.

To be human is to live on the edge of conflict. Try as we might—when we try, that is—the possibility of conflict with other people is always there and, tragically, we too often see these possibilities actualized in interpersonal clashes. We might think that the church would be a safe-haven from such, that, somehow, people who all profess Christ would have no reason to conflict. To think this, however, would be naïve. For one thing, the scriptures contain many references to conflict and conflict resolution. This, in and of itself, tells us that this is an issue we need to consider soberly and diligently.

Let us consider, then, the nature of conflict in the church and how we might resolve such conflicts rightly. We will consider a number of introductory considerations first, and then move to specific and particular actions as we progress.

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Genesis 25

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Genesis 25

1 Abraham took another wife, whose name was Keturah. 2 She bore him Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah. 3 Jokshan fathered Sheba and Dedan. The sons of Dedan were Asshurim, Letushim, and Leummim. 4 The sons of Midian were Ephah, Epher, Hanoch, Abida, and Eldaah. All these were the children of Keturah. 5 Abraham gave all he had to Isaac. 6 But to the sons of his concubines Abraham gave gifts, and while he was still living he sent them away from his son Isaac, eastward to the east country. 7 These are the days of the years of Abraham’s life, 175 years. 8 Abraham breathed his last and died in a good old age, an old man and full of years, and was gathered to his people. 9 Isaac and Ishmael his sons buried him in the cave of Machpelah, in the field of Ephron the son of Zohar the Hittite, east of Mamre, 10 the field that Abraham purchased from the Hittites. There Abraham was buried, with Sarah his wife. 11 After the death of Abraham, God blessed Isaac his son. And Isaac settled at Beer-lahai-roi. 12 These are the generations of Ishmael, Abraham’s son, whom Hagar the Egyptian, Sarah’s servant, bore to Abraham. 13 These are the names of the sons of Ishmael, named in the order of their birth: Nebaioth, the firstborn of Ishmael; and Kedar, Adbeel, Mibsam, 14 Mishma, Dumah, Massa, 15 Hadad, Tema, Jetur, Naphish, and Kedemah. 16 These are the sons of Ishmael and these are their names, by their villages and by their encampments, twelve princes according to their tribes. 17 (These are the years of the life of Ishmael: 137 years. He breathed his last and died, and was gathered to his people.) 18 They settled from Havilah to Shur, which is opposite Egypt in the direction of Assyria. He settled over against all his kinsmen. 19 These are the generations of Isaac, Abraham’s son: Abraham fathered Isaac, 20 and Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebekah, the daughter of Bethuel the Aramean of Paddan-aram, the sister of Laban the Aramean, to be his wife. 21 And Isaac prayed to the Lord for his wife, because she was barren. And the Lord granted his prayer, and Rebekah his wife conceived. 22 The children struggled together within her, and she said, “If it is thus, why is this happening to me?” So she went to inquire of the Lord. 23 And the Lord said to her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the older shall serve the younger.” 24 When her days to give birth were completed, behold, there were twins in her womb. 25 The first came out red, all his body like a hairy cloak, so they called his name Esau. 26 Afterward his brother came out with his hand holding Esau’s heel, so his name was called Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when she bore them. 27 When the boys grew up, Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field, while Jacob was a quiet man, dwelling in tents. 28 Isaac loved Esau because he ate of his game, but Rebekah loved Jacob. 29 Once when Jacob was cooking stew, Esau came in from the field, and he was exhausted. 30 And Esau said to Jacob, “Let me eat some of that red stew, for I am exhausted!” (Therefore his name was called Edom.) 31 Jacob said, “Sell me your birthright now.” 32 Esau said, “I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?” 33 Jacob said, “Swear to me now.” So he swore to him and sold his birthright to Jacob. 34 Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew, and he ate and drank and rose and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.

As we consider Genesis 25 and Esau’s selling of his birthright to Jacob, I would like to consider two meals: one of shame and compromise and the other of obedience and salvation. One meal led to the loss of a birthright. The other meal leads to the restoration of a birthright previously abandoned. One meal is the meal of man. The other is the meal of the Savior.

To unpack what is happening in this amazing and troubling exchange between Isaac’s sons, we need to understand the concept of birthright. The Dictionary of Biblical Imagery offers a helpful summary of this idea:

The concept of birthright is expressed in the OT by the noun bekor/bekora…The concept of birthright alludes to the privileges and expectations of primogeniture. The noun always occurs in the singular with the special meaning of the legal claims of the eldest son to a double portion of the inheritance and the right to bear the family’s name and other privileges.[1]

Esau, as the firstborn, therefore had a birthright. His was a privileged position of both blessing and responsibility. Yet he sells his birthright for a meal.

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Genesis 24:29-67

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Genesis 24

29 Rebekah had a brother whose name was Laban. Laban ran out toward the man, to the spring. 30 As soon as he saw the ring and the bracelets on his sister’s arms, and heard the words of Rebekah his sister, “Thus the man spoke to me,” he went to the man. And behold, he was standing by the camels at the spring. 31 He said, “Come in, O blessed of the Lord. Why do you stand outside? For I have prepared the house and a place for the camels.” 32 So the man came to the house and unharnessed the camels, and gave straw and fodder to the camels, and there was water to wash his feet and the feet of the men who were with him. 33 Then food was set before him to eat. But he said, “I will not eat until I have said what I have to say.” He said, “Speak on.” 34 So he said, “I am Abraham’s servant. 35 The Lord has greatly blessed my master, and he has become great. He has given him flocks and herds, silver and gold, male servants and female servants, camels and donkeys. 36 And Sarah my master’s wife bore a son to my master when she was old, and to him he has given all that he has. 37 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 dwell, 38 but you shall go to my father’s house and to my clan and take a wife for my son.’ 39 I said to my master, ‘Perhaps the woman will not follow me.’ 40 But he said to me, ‘The Lord, before whom I have walked, will send his angel with you and prosper your way. You shall take a wife for my son from my clan and from my father’s house. 41 Then you will be free from my oath, when you come to my clan. And if they will not give her to you, you will be free from my oath.’ 42 “I came today to the spring and said, ‘O Lord, the God of my master Abraham, if now you are prospering the way that I go, 43 behold, I am standing by the spring of water. Let the virgin who comes out to draw water, to whom I shall say, “Please give me a little water from your jar to drink,” 44 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.’ 45 “Before I had finished speaking in my heart, behold, Rebekah came out with her water jar on her shoulder, and she went down to the spring and drew water. I said to her, ‘Please let me drink.’ 46 She quickly let down her jar from her shoulder and said, ‘Drink, and I will give your camels drink also.’ So I drank, and she gave the camels drink also. 47 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. 48 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 take the daughter of my master’s kinsman for his son. 49 Now then, if you are going to show steadfast love and faithfulness to my master, tell me; and if not, tell me, that I may turn to the right hand or to the left.” 50 Then Laban and Bethuel answered and said, “The thing has come from the Lord; we cannot speak to you bad or good. 51 Behold, Rebekah is before you; take her and go, and let her be the wife of your master’s son, as the Lord has spoken.” 52 When Abraham’s servant heard their words, he bowed himself to the earth before the Lord. 53 And the servant brought out jewelry of silver and of gold, and garments, and gave them to Rebekah. He also gave to her brother and to her mother costly ornaments. 54 And he and the men who were with him ate and drank, and they spent the night there. When they arose in the morning, he said, “Send me away to my master.” 55 Her brother and her mother said, “Let the young woman remain with us a while, at least ten days; after that she may go.” 56 But he said to them, “Do not delay me, since the Lord has prospered my way. Send me away that I may go to my master.” 57 They said, “Let us call the young woman and ask her.” 58 And they called Rebekah and said to her, “Will you go with this man?” She said, “I will go.” 59 So they sent away Rebekah their sister and her nurse, and Abraham’s servant and his men. 60 And they blessed Rebekah and said to her, “Our sister, may you become thousands of ten thousands, and may your offspring possess the gate of those who hate him!” 61 Then Rebekah and her young women arose and rode on the camels and followed the man. Thus the servant took Rebekah and went his way. 62 Now Isaac had returned from Beer-lahai-roi and was dwelling in the Negeb.63 And Isaac went out to meditate in the field toward evening. And he lifted up his eyes and saw, and behold, there were camels coming. 64 And Rebekah lifted up her eyes, and when she saw Isaac, she dismounted from the camel 65 and said to the servant, “Who is that man, walking in the field to meet us?” The servant said, “It is my master.” So she took her veil and covered herself. 66 And the servant told Isaac all the things that he had done. 67 Then Isaac brought her into the tent of Sarah his mother and took Rebekah, and she became his wife, and he loved her. So Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.

I believe that one of the saddest interviews I ever read was with John Derbyshire of National Review. It began with this interesting answer:

  1. Are you a Christian?
  2. No. I take the minimal definition of a Christian to be a person who is sure that Jesus of Nazareth was divine, or part-divine, and that the Resurrection was a real event. I don’t believe either of those things.

Later in the interview, we read:

  1. Did you raise your kids as Christians?
  2. Sort of. My wife’s not a Christian, and never had any inclination to become one, so there was never much question of us attending church as a family. I could have just taken the kids, I suppose, but it didn’t seem right, especially as I wasn’t a regular churchgoer myself. I did little things to jumpstart the religious modules in their infant brains. We read the picture Bible, we said grace before meals, I tried to teach them the Lord’s Prayer, and so on. I made sure they know that Christmas is not just “Winter Holiday.” …We still say Grace before meals, incidentally. I see no reason to confuse the kids by imposing my own loss of faith on them. And heck, someone might be listening…[1]

What strikes me as pitiful about this is Derbyshire’s failure to give himself wholly either to faith or unbelief. At least at the time of this interview he seems to be unable to believe yet is also bound to some sort of “just in case” belief that effectively hedges his bets.

I very much hope that he has moved into true faith since this interview but this much is sure: what is expressed in this interview is not “faith” in any biblical sense. In fact, the Bible gives us a very clear definition of faith in Hebrews 11:

1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

Those two nouns are very important: assurance and conviction. They are important and they are also likely not what many people both within the church and outside of it think of when they think of faith. For many, faith is the blind leap into the dark, a crossing of one’s spiritual fingers, a wager (to invoke the image of Pascal).

But biblical faith is an assurance and a conviction. Yes, it is an assurance “of things hoped for” and a conviction “of things not seen,” but it is assurance and conviction nonetheless. Such faith is what fueled the early church. It is also what drove the great men and women of the Old Testament. Faith is on brilliant display in Genesis 24, and I am tempted to argue that it should be placed alongside Hebrews 11 as the Old Testament “Hall of Faith”! I say this because faith is demonstrated by so many people in this chapter: Abraham, Abraham’s servant, Rebekah, Rebekah’s brother, and Rebekah’s father.

As we consider the second half of this amazing chapter, let us see biblical faith in action.

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