Images of the Savior (12 -- The Provision of a Wife for Isaac)
It is altogether fitting that Abrahamâ€™s promised Son, Isaac, should be set forth as a type of our Savior in every notable event of his life: for, first of all, his birth was of so miraculous a nature as to reinforce to Abraham the truth that the promised Seed, who would bless all the nations of the earth, could never come naturally, by the efforts of the flesh, as Ishmael came. On the contrary Isaac came by the divine promise, and through the divine power, which is even able to bring life out of death. And so that son in whom was said to be the promised Seed, Christ our Savior, was, even from his birth, a type of the Savior, by virtue of his life which was brought out of death, through the power of God, and in accordance with his covenant promise. And second, in the account of Abrahamâ€™s testing, we have as clear a personal type as can be found in all of scriptures, of the substitutionary sacrifice and the rising again of our Savior; by means of which test, Abraham demonstrated his faith in the coming Messiah, whom he knew that God would certainly raise from the dead, and thus received his own promised son, â€œin a figure,â€ back from the dead (Hebrews 11:17-19). And so, if in two marvelous and unsurpassed ways this man Isaac served to foreshadow the life of our Savior, then we may with some reason suppose that the next notable circumstance in his life, the means by which he obtained his wife, may also convey some truth to us about the coming work of the true Seed of Abraham, Jesus Christ. In pursuance of which expectation, we will now turn to the account in Genesis, chapter twenty-four.
We must first make mention of the redemptive-historical significance of this quest for Isaacâ€™s wife. For it was certainly promised that the promised Seed was in Isaac; and it was therefore imperative that he find a fitting wife by whom he might advance the Messianic line another generation. And furthermore, it was necessary, not only that he find a wife, but that he find a wife who was not of the Gentiles around him, but who was of the chosen race of Abraham. The quest upon which Abraham sent his most trusted servant was, therefore, a matter of the utmost urgency. And this urgency Abraham signified by causing his servant to swear, having placed his hand under his thigh, from where his seed and generational power had its issuance. Which is just the same thing as to say, â€œThis is a matter which is as vital as the continuation of my line, which will finally result in the coming of the Messiah, who will bless all the nations of the earthâ€. And yet, the very gravity of this oath was likewise the guarantee of its ultimate success â€“ for had not God himself sworn that he would bring the Seed of blessing to Abraham? And so he assured his servant that the Angel of the Lord would make his way prosperous, and grant him good success.
But now, having established the vital importance of this journey, what may we learn of the typically-instructive manner in which it was carried out? Let us first note the position and roles of the chief characters of the story: first, we have Abraham, the father of Isaac, who commissions and sends out his servant to secure a bride for his son. He fills him up with many precious things, which will adorn and honor the woman, and make her a fitting and glorious bride. He promises him success, and charges him with the utmost gravity to fulfill his task faithfully. Next, we have the servant, who is overwhelmed by the seriousness of his mission, and so pours out his heart in prayer for good success. He searches out those who are of the same kindred as Isaac, and, when he has found them, he brings the news of his masterâ€™s decision to find a bride, and invites her to come along with him, until he lead her to him. When she has accepted his good news, he adorns her with many precious things; and, though her family would detain her, he takes her immediately with him, and starts her on her journey to see her husband. Then we have Isaac, the heir of his father, to whom really belong all the riches that are given to the servant. He is worthy of a beautifully adorned and willing bride, and he waits at the side of his Father, until he brings his prized bride unto him. Finally, we have the bride, Rebekah, who, when she hears of the desire of the fatherâ€™s son and heir to secure a bride, most willingly leaves her land and kindred for the sake of him whom, having not seen, she still loves. At the very beginning of her journey, she is given most precious things, but they are as nothing compared to the riches that await her, when she finally sees her espoused husband.
Now, having laid out the story in brief, let us consider the story of Christâ€™s winning for himself a bride. Just as Abraham determined to find a glorious bride for his Son, so the Father called out from the far lands of the world a people whom he would espouse to Christ his Son, and present to him as â€œa glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle,â€ that is, as a fitting and beautiful bride (see Ephesians 1:4; Ephesians 5:25-27). Just as Abraham sent out his servant, warned him of the gravity of the task, exhorted him to faithfulness, and promised him success, so God sent out the ministers of the gospel, to persuade the bride to come to Christ, exhorting them to faithfulness (I Corinthians 4:2), and promising them success (Acts 18:10). And to this task, from the first, the gospel ministers devoted all their labors; as Paul the apostle said, â€œI am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christâ€ (II Corinthians 11:2). Even as Isaac, so Christ was made the heir of all things (Hebrews 1:2); and that which he inherits, he causes his bride to inherit together with him (Romans 8:17). Just as Rebekah, those who readily consent, when they have been called out by the ministers of the gospel, and, notwithstanding the implorings of their dearest friends and family members, immediately set off on their journey to meet the husband to whom they have been espoused; these are, from the beginning, given many rich spiritual blessings (Ephesians 1:3; Ephesians 4:8). But these gifts are but a foretaste of the heavenly riches awaiting them, concerning which, â€œeye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither have they entered into the heart of manâ€ (I Corinthians 2:9). These great treasures are laid up for the bride of Christ, who although she has not seen him, she loves him, and â€œrejoices with joy unspeakable and full of gloryâ€ (I Peter 1:8); just as Rebekah loved Isaac, and was willing to be his, when as yet she had not seen him. Because these are as Rebekah, they will be among those who are blessed to be called to the marriage supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:5-9).
Let us here apply to our hearts that which we have observed of the marriage of Isaac, and how it marvelously signified and foreshadowed the marriage of the Lamb. First of all, if Abrahamâ€™s servant was so overcome with the gravity of his mission, and so willing to apply to the God of Abraham for aid, in light of his own vast insufficiency â€“ and he was only searching for a bride who would be a shadow and type of the bride of Christ â€“ if he was so serious in his task, how much more serious must we be, who are ministers of the gospel? How much more urgent is it that the Lamb, who shed his precious blood to espouse to himself a bride without spot and without blemish â€“ how much more pressing is this goal, and how much less able are we, in our own native strength, to the task! Oh, let us learn from the example of Abrahamâ€™s servant, and not fritter away our lives in meaningless endeavors, nor yet nullify our labors by trusting in our own strength. No, let us be serious and heavenly-minded, and let us pour out our hearts to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God who alone can make our way prosperous!
And second, if Rebekah was so willing to leave her family and friends, her home and all that she knew, to be the bride of Isaac, who is but a shadow of our true husband; and if she received, for the course of her journey, only gold and silver, which will soon dissolve away; how much more should we, who have been called to a greater Bridegroom than Isaac, and who have been given greater spiritual blessings than all the treasure of the world, be willing to hate our father and mother, take up our cross, and joyfully follow Jesus (see Luke 14:26-27), whom to know is to love, and whom to see, with the eyes of faith, is to rejoice with unspeakable joy? Oh, let us ponder, and tremble with the greatness of the good news that has been entrusted to us; let us forsake all, to follow our true Bridegroom, Jesus Christ!