July 2, 2021
After the burial of Sarah in the Hebron, Abraham said to the senior servant of his household, who had charge of all his possessions: “Put your hand under my thigh, and I will make you swear by the LORD, the God of heaven and the God of earth, that you will not procure a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites among whom I live, but that you will go to my own land and to my kindred to get a wife for my son Isaac.” Gn_23:1-24:67
As Jesus passed by, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the customs post. He said to him, “Follow me.” . . . The Pharisees said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” . . . Jesus replied, “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. Go and learn the meaning of the words, I desire mercy, not sacrifice. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.” Mt_9:9-13
There was something that struck me about this story of Abraham finding a wife for Isaac, the first time I read it. It is a fairly long, 66-verse narrative, preceding and ending with notes about Isaac’s mother, Sarah. And the pieces about Sarah are pretty significant to the Covenant that God had made with Abraham.
Remember, that Covenant had three parts – to the benefit of Abraham and the world,
if he remained faithful to God. First, Abraham would be the father of a great nation, with as many descendants “as the sands of the sea, and the stars in the sky.” And there, with the help of Sarah, despite their old age, they began the fulfillment of this part of the Covenant, with the birth of their son Isaac. (Gn_15:5 and Gn 17:5)
The second part of the Covenant was that Abraham, Sarah and their descendants would be a source of blessing for the whole world. Gn_12:2-3 Of course, we know, that the greatest of those blessings came with the name, Jesus.
Then the third part of God’s promise, was that Abraham would possess the whole land of Canaan. It was that property would come to be known as “the promised land.” And that’s where we see, in the death of Sarah, the infant beginnings of the fulfillment of this third promise.
You see, Abraham could just as well have accepted, as a gift, the piece of land that the Hittites who lived there offered, as a burial place for Sarah. But instead, Abraham insisted on officially BUYING the land, so that there would never be any question or contradiction that he owned it. It was the first installment in the fulfillment of receiving that “Promised Land.” And the remainder of the land would be acquired through God’s expulsion of the inhabitants, 400-years later, following Israel’s Exodus from Egypt.
And so, we see Sarah’s intimate involvement in the fulfillment of all three parts of God’s Covenant with Abraham (the Progeny, the Blessing and the Land).
But now, with Sarah gone, it fell to Abraham to see to it that Isaac didn’t drop the ball in expanding that promise of descendants. And to keep that line of descendants pure, Isaac’s wife had to come from the family line of Abraham, and not from the Canaanites. Fortunately for Abraham, Isaac was a bit of a “Mama’s boy,” as we heard at the end of the passage, and so, Abraham didn’t have to worry about Isaac straying from the herd.
Which gets us to the beautiful and prophetic allegory of the calling of Rebekah. Unfortunately, our First Reading today didn’t include all 66-Verses. So we’ll have to leave it up to you guys to fill in the gap, with the reading of the rest of Gn_24. It’s one of those magnificent adventure stories with signs and wonders, with prayer and blessings, with anxious anticipation and joyful surprises.
But to put it all in a nutshell, kind of like looking at just a narrow slice of a rainbow, here’s the image that so struck me in its reading: It said that Abraham “sent his servant” into a foreign and possibly hostile land, to “find a bride” (Rebekah} “for his son” (Isaac).
Does it sound, at least a little familiar to another story, a bigger story? A story where: God sent His servant, (John) into a foreign and hostile land (of Romans and Pharisees) to find a bride (US), for His Son (Jesus)! Wow!
You see, brothers and sisters, we’ve been called to that marriage feast, just as Rebekah was, and just as Matthew and all the apostles were. We’ve been called to leave behind
all that might hinder us from offering Him our full devotion.
And we’ve been called in “Mercy and not Sacrifice.” Mercy forgives and Mercy loves. Mercy gives and Mercy lives. And just as we have been given to, we are called to give, as well. Jesus is calling us today to be His bride and (in His Mercy and Love) to live with Him forever!
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