She said yes!
Genesis 24: 7-8, 57-67 (NRSVA)
7 The Lord, the God of heaven, who took me from my father’s house and from the land of my birth, and who spoke to me and swore to me, “To your offspring I will give this land”, he will send his angel before you; you shall take a wife for my son from there. 8 But if the woman is not willing to follow you, then you will be free from this oath of mine; only you must not take my son back there.’
57 They said, ‘We will call the girl, and ask her.’ 58 And they called Rebekah, and said to her, ‘Will you go with this man?’ She said, ‘I will.’ 59 So they sent away their sister Rebekah and her nurse along with Abraham’s servant and his men. 60 And they blessed Rebekah and said to her,
‘May you, our sister, become
thousands of myriads;
may your offspring gain possession
of the gates of their foes.’
61 Then Rebekah and her maids rose up, mounted the camels, and followed the man; thus the servant took Rebekah, and went his way.
62 Now Isaac had come from Beer-lahai-roi, and was settled in the Negeb. 63 Isaac went out in the evening to walk in the field; and looking up, he saw camels coming. 64 And Rebekah looked up, and when she saw Isaac, she slipped quickly from the camel, 65 and said to the servant, ‘Who is the man over there, 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 his mother Sarah’s tent. He took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her. So Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.
This week starts our new theme for July: ‘Best laid plans…’ We will be exploring our relationship with God when things go off-script, off-piste, off-trajectory. The title is inspired by the Robert Burns’ classic ‘To A Mouse’: “The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men / Gang aft agley” (thanks to Edward Steel for illustrating the incredible theme image). The line comes after the narrator has stumbled across the wee timorous beastie with his plough. The ploughman didn’t plan to engage in rodent demolition and the furry critter certainly wasn’t expecting it.
Sometimes we are the mouse — with home and life and gravity turned suddenly upside down. Sometimes we are the ploughman — blundering in, oblivious, confused. And sometimes we are the poet — looking on, feeling keenly and kindly.
But plan or no plan, mouse or man, God loves us and travels with us through the twists and turns promising restoration and beauty and justice and mercy.
Verses 57-58 of today’s reading are striking. In a patriarchal society — one in which servants are sent off to go find wives for their master’s son — Rebekah is asked if SHE wants to go and SHE says she will. In was not in Rebekah’s life plan to be chatted up by some random steward at a well (I’m guessing). Perhaps given her limited options she saw in that moment a chance of adventure, of travel, of new horizons and she decided to go. But she doesn’t just sleepwalk into it. She’s keeping her eyes open. She saw Isaac in the field and asked questions. Rebekah seems self-possessed; I could imagine if she didn’t like the look of Isaac she would have got the camels to turn around.
From the 21st century it is notable that in the midst of a narrative about ‘getting a wife’ the men are fairly passive and it is Rebekah who takes the agency. The story rests on her decisions. The servant doesn’t say “Isaac is coming, quick hop off the camel and put a veil on.” It was not a conventional romance but at a time when women were often understood to be their father or husband’s property it is Rebekah who takes the decisive action in this encounter.
Sometimes life comes calling — inviting us in a new direction, to tear up the old plan and go somewhere different. Sometimes the best bet is to test the waters. To pack up and go some of the way.
Romance is always an adventure and it usually throws us a bit off kilter — but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have our eyes open, ready to turn the camels around if we have to.
Open our eyes to possibility and adventure
open our eyes to the dignity of one another
open our eyes to your call.