Saturday, May 5, 2007

A Man Named Eliezer

There is a man mentioned in the Old Testament who is usually relegated to being a ‘detail’ when the stories are told of other more prominant characters.
I want to make the story about him!

His name is Eliezer , Abraham’s servant.
The only time he is mentioned by name in the bible is in Gen. 15:1 when Abraham is talking to God about him, and refers to him as Eliezer from Damascus.
In all other references, he is simply identified as Abraham’s servant.

Abraham needed many servants to manage his vast household and large flocks. We are not told details, but one of his servants had a child born to her in Abraham’s house. That child was Eliezer. He knew no life other than the life of someone who belonged to someone else.

While he was well treated by Abraham, he was none the less not his own person We, living in a slave-free society, have really lost our sense of empathy with what it means to be a possession rather than a person with freedom and rights to make their own decisions, to build their own life.

Eliezer obviously grew up to be an intelligent and gifted man. His faithfulness and diligence earned him the highest place of trust, that of managing all of Abraham’s affairs.
Abraham, who watched Eliezer grow up, had developed a deep love for this boy, to the extent that he intended that Elieazer would inherit his vast wealth. It seems that in Abraham’s heart, Eliezer took the place left achingly empty by the bareness of Sarah’s womb.

In one of Abraham’s discourses with God he named Eliezer as his heir, but God declared that Eliezer should NOT be Abraham’s heir but rather his son who would be born to Sarah. At the time it seemed so impossible.

In our delight to see a son born to a couple well past child-bearing age and our fascination with the twist in the story provided by Ishmael – the son of Sarah’s maid and Abraham - Eliezer is forgotten.
But consider……

Eliezer was born in Abraham’s house; he grew up knowing Abraham’s affection and attention. We would expect that he would have felt honoured and unbelievably excited to think that he would one day be elevated to be the master and not the slave.
Then things changed... first there was Ishmael and then the promised son, Isaac.
What I love about Eliezer, is that we see absolutely no jealousy toward either Ishmael or Isaac, and nothing but the deepest respect toward Abraham.
If he felt any disappointment in being usurped from his promised inheritance he kept it to himself.

He is an example of integrity and honour.

We may have been able to ignore his presence behind the scenes in the account of Abraham’s story – except for one incident.
For me this is where Eliezer shines as the hero of the story and endears him to my heart.
Abraham was old and time was running out to take care of a pressing matter. There was only one solution that would be acceptable and its success depended on Eliezer.
Abraham called his servant to him.
Abraham’s request is evidence of the absolute trust he had in the faithfulness of Eliezer. Isaac was of marrying age and needed a wife. Abraham is uncompromising in his insistence that Isaac's wife be a girl from his own country and kindred - not from the Cananite people among whom he dwelt. He asked Eliezer to swear that he would personally make sure his wishes were carried out. Abraham had no doubt that if Eliezer swore, Eliezer would be true to his word.
But there was more to what Abraham was asking.
He was sending Eliezer on a journey. A journey that for Eliezer was to a foreign land and people he had never met…. And there he was to personally choose a wife for Isaac.
If there was any hidden resentment, any jealousy toward Isaac, any brewing sense of injustice, here would have been a perfect opportunity to get even! Bring back a wife that would make Isaac’s life miserable!!
But we see nothing but loyalty from Eliezer and a desire to fulfill Abraham’s wishes.
Eliezer’s sense of logic and foresight immediately brought to his mind the things that could go wrong.
“What if the girl does not want to come back with me? What if she doesn’t want to leave her country? Shall I then take your son back to your home country?”
Abraham was adamant, “Under NO condition shall you take Isaac back to my home country. This is the land that God swore to me was where my descendents would live.”

Perhaps Abraham observed the uncertainty on Eliezer’s face, because he gently added, “Eliezer, God will send His angel to go before you and if – perchance- the woman will not come with you then you are released from this oath that you have sworn to me.”
And so Eliezer promised.

He immediately made preparations for the journey, packing 10 of Abraham’s camels, and departed for Mesopotamia, the city of Nahor.

Nearing his destination , Eliezer came to the well outside the city at evening time. He realized that the women of the city would soon be coming to draw water, as was the custom.
He must have been thinking and wondering throughout his journey how he was going to choose the woman that should be Isaac’s wife, how he could know she was the right one.

Here we see the secret of Eliezer’s heart. He had a deep faith in the God of his master Abraham.
Here outside a strange city, facing the unknown, he knows what to do. He kneels down to pray.
He says, “ O Lord, God of my master Abraham, please give me success this day, and show kindness to my master Abraham. Behold, I stand here by the well of water and the daughters of the men of the city are coming to draw water.”

Eliezer’s faith in God was strong. Perhaps because all his life he had managed Abraham’s household well, knowing how and when things should be done, he therefore had no doubt that the God Abraham had taught him to believe in was in control of all things.

So he humbly asked, “ Now, let it be that the girl to whom I say, ‘Please let down your pitcher that I may drink, and she says, ‘Drink, and I will also give your camels a drink’ - let her be the one whom you have chosen for Your servant Isaac. And by this I will know that You have shown kindness to my master.”

Isn’t that a wonderfully, revealing prayer of Eliezer’s heart? He knows what it is to be a servant, he knows what it is to desire and work for the good of someone else. He shows a totally self-less attitude, Abraham's wishes became his own desires.
What a beautiful example he is of how we should serve others, striving for their good!
But we see that Eliezer also recognizes his need of divine guidance and asks that God would make clear to him what he should do. We have in Eliezer a picture of a truly humble man. He has such a servant’s heart and attitude that he does not even take possession of his own right to approach God. He comes, unassumingly acknowledging Him as the God of his master, Abraham. Yet he displays a childlike faith that God will hear and answer.
In fact, God answers before he has finished praying.
We know the story.

A girl approaches the well and responds according to the sign Eliezer had requested of God.
Eliezer was a man with a cool head and did not make decisions based on emotions. While the girl was happily drawing water for his camels, he stood in silence- wondering and watching to make sure she was truly the one worthy to be Isaac’s bride.
What he saw and felt must have convinced him because when she had finished watering his camels he gave her the gifts he had brought …. A golden nose ring weighing half a shekel, and two bracelets for her wrists weighing ten shekels of gold. (a shekel is about .4 of an ounce)

He then asks who her father is and asks for lodging in her house. Her reply confirms to Eliezer that this is indeed the girl that God has chosen.
The girl is Rebecca, the daughter of Nehur , Abraham’s brother.

We have Eliezer’s grateful response in his own words, “ I bowed my head and worshiped the Lord, and blessed the Lord God of my master Abraham, who had led me in the way of truth.”

Regretfully, Eliezer is never mentioned again - he ends his life in obscurity as it began. But his memory lives on in the pages of scripture – a portrait of a man who was self-less, kind, and trustworthy with a child-like faith in Abraham’s God.


I’m sure Eliezer would have been astounded if someone had told him that he would be spoken of thousands of years after his death. He would have been even more amazed if he had been told that the prayer he prayed in secret at the well, would be recorded word for word and printed in a book.

We just never know the lasting impact a life can have, do we.

What will you be remembered for?

2 comments:

Yokoso said...

WOW! Julie that was a long one...but you know I GOT THROUGH IT!!!

I often wonder that myself...you know? What will I be remembered for? I have no idea!

I know what you will be remembered for...teaching God's word so magnificently!!! *smile* AND for being a faithful supportive friend!!! **even bigger smile**

Lovella said...

I certainly agree with Demara about what you will in part be remembered for.

I too found this story an encouragement to become all that God wants me to be. That is my desire.