Isaac: 9. The Bride Called for Isaac

Genesis 24:1‑9  •  11 min. read  •  grade level: 10
Chapter 22 gave us the new and unique position of the son and heir, dead and risen, the figure of the infinite reality where the antitype was also the lamb that God would provide Himself for a burnt-offering; chap. 23 the passing away, at this point of God's ways, of Sarah, the mother of the child of promise. For those who ought to have received the dead and risen Messiah stumbled at the stumbling-stone, and by their blind insubjection put off for the present the application of a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. As regards the ancient people, it was dead through their unbelief, though grace would not permit it to fail for a godly remnant and for those of the nations who believe the gospel. That blood, which the Jews imprecated as a curse on themselves and on their children (Matt. 26:2828For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. (Matthew 26:28)), is to Christians the cup of blessing which they bless, Christ's blood of the new covenant that was shed for many unto remission of sins. Its literal terms and full extent for the earth await the chosen nation to whom it is pledged by Him Who will infallibly accomplish it another day. Not more surely shall Sarah rise again than the covenant of grace shall be made good to Israel, notwithstanding all that they have done, when they shall say, Blessed is He that cometh in Jehovah's name. Then will he execute judgment and righteousness in the land, and Jehovah shall be King over all the earth; in that day there shall be one Jehovah and His name one.
But it is a wholly different prospect here, the no less distinct figure of the new and heavenly relationship which grace forms, while the Jew abides in unbelief and therefore postpones the magnificent scenes of predicted glory for Israel and all the Gentiles in that day. It is the call of a bride for Isaac out of that world from which Abraham had been called. The trusty servant, described in terms quite exceptional, “the eldest of his house, who ruled over all that he had,” is charged with the delicate mission of finding her out according to God, and of guiding her across the desert to the bridegroom.
“And Abraham was old, advanced in age; and Jehovah had blessed Abraham in all things. And Abraham said to his servant, the eldest in his house, that ruled over all that he had, Put, I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh, and I will make thee swear by Jehovah, the God of the heavens and the God of the earth, that thou take not a wife for my son of the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell; but thou shalt go to my land and to my kindred, and take a wife for my son Isaac. And the servant said to him, Perhaps the woman will not be willing to follow me to this land: must I, then, bring thy son again anywise to the land from which thou earnest out? And Abraham said to him, Beware thou that thou bring not my son thither again. Jehovah, the God of the heavens, who took me out of my father's house and out of the land of my nativity, and who spake to me and who swore to me, saying, To thy seed will I give this land; even he will send his angel before thee; and thou shalt take a wife thence for my son. And if the woman be not willing to follow thee, then shalt thou be clear from this mine oath: only bring not my son thither again. And the servant put his hand under the thigh of Abraham his master, and swore to him concerning this matter” (vers. 1-9).
No one denies that in the letter the aged father was devising in a grave and pious spirit to help his son Isaac in the most important step of a life, not merely momentous to the Jewish seed which had earthly blessing divinely promised, and in the highest degree, but yet more bound up with still better blessing in his own seed to all the families of the earth. Nor was Abraham content with the long proved fidelity of him who had from earlier days earned and deserved his confidence. Here and now only he exacts of Eliezer an oath of peculiar solemnity, that the bride taken should be, not from the accursed race of Canaan, but out of that land from which he himself had been called, and of his kindred. But he who weighs the typical meaning which the N. T. authoritatively gives to the previous history, as we have seen, will not be disposed to deny it here; where the exceeding fullness and character of the narrative suggest a deeper import, which is itself the certain truth of God, and fits it here, as nowhere else, precisely answering to the new history, but of more exalted application and of the nearest interest to the Christian reader.
“I will make thee swear by Jehovah, the God of the heavens and the God of the earth, that thou take not for my son a wife of the daughters of the Canaanites among whom I dwell; but to my country and to my kindred thou shalt go and take a wife for my son Isaac.” It is well to remark that here the divine title is most note worthy, besides proving the groundlessness of Astrue's conjecture which has exercised so powerful a spell over rationalist minds. The nearest to it in the book of Genesis, (both without parallel in the Pentateuch) is found in chap. 16. There “God Most High” is in conjunction with “possessor of the heavens and earth;” and the evidence points to the days of the kingdom as yet future, when it will not be merely the “order” in contrast with Aaron's, but the true Melchizedek will exercise His priesthood in blessing the victors at the end of the age, and the heavens and earth shall be united instead of severed as they are still.
In chap. 24 before us “the God of the heavens and the God of the earth” presents the universal rights of the only true God, revealed fully and only when the Son of God is come, and He dead and risen brings out all the truth distinctly in connection with the call of the church, the bride of Christ. Hence, in Eph. 3, the apostle speaks of the mystery or secret hid in God Who created all things (ver. 9) and the Father from whom every family in the heavens and on earth is named (ver. 14), one God and Father of all, Who is over all and through all and in us (or, you) all (4:6). Thus it is not only life and incorruption which are now brought to light in Christ Jesus, but the highest and widest rights of God in His universal supremacy, universal providence, and yet the truest intimacy of relationship with His children, and them all. Now if God intended to communicate this as far as a type (only intelligible with the antitype), where could it be fittingly introduced but here? Truly God's ways are as marvelous as blessed; and His word as here is the revelation of them, as also of His counsels and nature. Of this rationalism is profoundly ignorant, and necessarily so because it is rationalism, and not faith.
The answer of the servant and the reply confirm the force of another and connected truth. “Perhaps the woman will not be willing to follow me to this land: must I then bring thy son again to the land whence thou camest out? And Abraham said to him, Beware thou, that thou bring not again my son thither.” Here we see the utmost stress (and it is reiterated once more) laid on Isaac's abiding in Canaan. There only must he be found; and he only of all the patriarchs. For as his father came out of Mesopotamia, so did he for a time go down into Egypt; and again his son Jacob returned to Mesopotamia, and also went down into Egypt, and died there. But Isaac alone must and did never leave the land of Canaan. In this he most strikingly represents Christ after He died, rose, and ascended; in which condition He becomes Head of the church, and the Bridegroom. He is emphatically the heavenly (ὁ ἐπουράνιος). God makes Christians “heavenly,” not yet as a displayed fact (for we still bear the image of the man of dust), but as a spiritual title and reality, on which we are called to walk while in the world, but not of it as He was not. Compare Eph. 1:3-30; 2:6; 3:10; 4:8-16; 5:25-32; 6:126And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: (Ephesians 2:6)
10To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, (Ephesians 3:10)
8Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. 9(Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? 10He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.) 11And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 13Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: 14That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; 15But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: 16From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love. (Ephesians 4:8‑16)
25Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; 26That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, 27That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. 28So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. 29For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: 30For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. 31For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. 32This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. (Ephesians 5:25‑32)
12For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. (Ephesians 6:12)
; also 1 Cor. 15:48, 4948As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. 49And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. (1 Corinthians 15:48‑49).
Hence Abraham continues, “Jehovah, the God of the heavens, who took me from my father's house and from the land of my kindred, and who spoke to me and who swore to me, saying, To thy seed will I give this land; he will send his angel before thee; and thou shalt take thence a wife to my son. And if the woman be not willing to follow thee, then shalt thou be clear from this mine oath: only my son bring not again thither.” And so the servant swore. The Head given to the church remains heavenly in the most exclusive terms and according to the most distinct and persistent purpose. And such is the clear and sure doctrine, which the apostle was the inspired vessel to communicate. It was a secret revealed (Eph. 6) to the holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit; but Paul became minister of the church (Col. 1:2525Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God; (Colossians 1:25)) according to the stewardship given him to complete the word of God in this respect; as in fact no other writes of the church as he does. Christ is glorified in heaven to be the church's Head; and He is there only while the body is formed in the power of the Holy Spirit sent for this end. “As He is, so are we in this world.” The Christian, the church, is called to manifest the mind of heaven on earth. But the ground of this is that we are already joined to the Lord, one spirit with Him Who is on high. Thus it is that we characteristically know Him; no more according to flesh, but dead, risen, and ascended (2 Cor. 5).
Here the shortcoming of Christendom through unbelief is all but universal, though in varying shape. Some are so dark as not to comprehend what answers to Hagar and her child expelled from the house of Abraham. The bondmaid covenant of Sinai is still their rule of life, though they deny not the birth of the true son and heir. Others advance no farther than the covenant of promise in Sarah and Isaac, though they see that the son of the bondmaid cannot be heir with the son of the free-woman. They believe in the atonement; but they have no right apprehension of the new place of the Son as dead, risen, and associated only with heaven. Yet this alone, as we have seen in the figure, gives the proper blessedness of the Christian in union with Christ, by virtue of the Holy Spirit given to us on the ground of His sacrificial death, where He is, being Himself on high till He comes to take us to the Father's house. Hence as the heavenly relationship of the church is unknown as Christ's body and bride, as the truth of having died with Christ and being risen with Him and seated in Him in the heavenlies, is utterly vague and uninfluential, the door lies open to the rudiments of the world, as well as philosophy and the vain deceit of rationalism; hence the baptized set their mind like Jews or Gentiles on the things upon the earth instead of those above, where Christ sits at God's right hand. They are so ignorant of the power of Christ's resurrection and ascension, that they cannot read its wondrous foreshadowing in the first book of the O. T. Thank God, they do not deny His death adumbrated in the sentence on Isaac, though only effected and forever efficacious in the cross of Christ. But they wholly fail to appropriate the new standing prefigured in Isaac risen and never quitting Canaan, while the bride is being called from the world to join him there.
Let us recall the beautiful conformity of the Acts of the Apostles, and of God's ways in this connection. After Christ went to heaven, Peter preached to the Jews in Solomon's porch, as recorded in chap. 3, and pointed out how the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob glorified His servant Jesus Whom they denied and slew. Yet did he assure them that, on their repentance and conversion, not only should their sins be blotted out but God would send Jesus Who was fore-appointed for them, in order to bring in times of restoring all things as His prophets had ever declared. But the Jews sealed their unbelief; and thus the new covenant lapsed as far as the people were concerned; and an apostle was called by the Lord in heaven to preach to the Gentiles and reveal the full heavenly place of the church, one with Christ above. This it is which is called “the mystery,” or secret hidden of old when God gave promises and prophecies. In the Epistles of Paul we have the mystery revealed as to Christ and as to the church.