The Story of Isaac and Rebekah
One of the clearest representations of the Gospel in the Old Testament is in Genesis 24, the story of Abraham’s search for a suitable wife for his son, Isaac. Through the lens of the bridal paradigm, this story is an astonishing prophetic picture of what God had in mind for His people as He pursued them for the sake of His beloved Son.
Abraham declares that his longing to have a suitable bride for Isaac will not be fulfilled in the land of Canaan, but among his kindred people, his family. The old and trusted servant, Eliezer, is commanded by the father not to settle for one of the local girls, but to go to the home country, among his own people, there to find a wife suitable for his son.
Eliezer fills a dual role in this picture of the Gospel. At first he stands in the role of Jesus, coming to earth as God incarnate, yet not presented in the regal disclosure of His power and majesty, but in the hiddenness of the Servant’s identity. He takes with him gifts from the father’s house to woo the prospective bride, gifts that indicate the wealth of the father’s house without overwhelming her freedom to accept or reject the offer of a husband.
The servant sets out on the long journey to the bride’s country (a picture of the incarnation) and meets her in a place designed to reveal her spirit of servanthood. He arrives at the well near Rebekah’s hometown at about the time the women come to draw water. His test for the prospective bride is that she be not only beautiful, but that she also have the willingness to serve with gladness of heart. This part of the picture is very important, for the Lord also is looking for a Bride with a servant’s spirit. This is not because He is a taskmaster looking for help, but because He Himself is the Servant and is seeking a like-minded partner. Only a Servant-Bride completes the picture adequately.
Of course, Rebekah serves him gladly, going the extra mile of watering his ten camels until they are satisfied. Eliezer meets Rebekah’s family and joins them for a meal, another picture of Jesus’ willingness to have fellowship with human beings. Upon disclosing to them his identity and mission, Eliezer inquires about the possibility of Rebekah going with him to become Isaac’s wife.
Although the girl has never seen Isaac, she realizes that something has happened in her heart through this encounter with the servant: She loves Isaac. She is eager to go with Eliezer to realize her destiny. In the same way, Jesus came to the Bride’s country in the guise of a Servant, sharing the gifts of the Father’s house: healing, deliverance, the truth about the Kingdom of God. The Servant-Bride, having seen the Father’s heart through the life of the Servant, falls in love with the Son. And she loves Him even though she has not yet seen Him in His eternal power and glory. She’s only seen the disguise of his humanity, which by comparison has no form or comeliness that he should be desired at all.
Rebekah takes the long journey with Eliezer back to meet the son face to face. This journey is a picture of the Christian life, a journey through the wilderness, the bride making herself ready in the difficult context of riding through the desert on the back of a camel. Could there be a better picture of the preparatory journey of the believer’s walk of faith on the way to heaven? At this point, in my imagination, Eliezer takes on the role of the Holy Spirit, functioning as Rebekah’s guide and friend, keeping her focus fixed on the beauty of the son so she will have the grace to endure the journey.
Finally, the ordeal is complete, and Rebekah sees Isaac walking in the field near Abraham’s home. She finishes her preparation just in time to be introduced to the son. He is delighted with her, and his heart is captured by this beautiful woman (“Rebekah” means “snared by beauty”!) who has been provided for him by the desire of the father’s heart. Their union is a picture of the culmination of human history, when we will meet our Bridegroom. The veil will be taken away. We shall see Jesus as He is and we shall be like Him, forever joined with Him as His Bride.