A stone well cover
A stone well cover
The bible is fond of wells as backdrops for fateful meetings. This story is no different. It begins at the well in Haran and ends at the well Beer-Lahai-roi, which means The Well of the Living One Who Sees Me. We encounter the living God in Christ Jesus who died, rose from the dead and is the Living One Who Sees Us. We cannot make it on our own, so let us receive living water that is ours in baptism and take up the easy yoke that we may find comfort for our souls
Camel — Pablo Picasso
Jean-Leon Gerome — Camels at the Trough
Wisdom is vindicated by her actions.
Jesus — Matthew’s Gospel
Nicholas Poussin – Eliazer and Rebecca at the well
Tissot – Rebecca Comes to Meet Isaac
July 6, 2008
Proper 9A – Revised Lectionary
Last Sunday God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac, as a burnt offering. Abraham did just as he was commanded and Isaac was bound on the altar with the knife at his throat when God stopped the slashing motion. A ram caught by the horns in a thicket became the offering instead and the place was known as “The Lord shall provide.” Abraham trusted his God and he was faithful in a near thing. Afterwards Abraham went back down the mountain. Note that Isaac does not go back with him. Isaac was a grown man by now. If you do the math Isaac is 37.
I think it safe to say that Isaac was deeply affected by this test. He is correct toward this God of his father but never intimate. You can sort of see why. In the next passage Sarah dies. The text has her in a different residence than Abraham her husband. Many think that the binding of Isaac unraveled his parent’s marriage and that they were separated at her death. At any rate she dies and Abraham buried her.
Next on the list is to get Isaac married off. Abraham sends his butler, the man who supervised all of his estate, to Abraham’s homefolks back in Haran seeking a bride who will come willingly to marry Isaac.
The Butler prays, “O Lord, God of my master Abraham, please make it happen before me this day and do kindness unto my master Abraham. Behold I stand near the fountain of water and the daughters of the men of the city come out to draw water. Let it happen that the maiden to whom I shall say, ‘Let down, please, thy pitcher that I may drink, and she shall say, ‘Drink, and also they camels will I give drink,’ be the very one that Thou hast chosen for Thy servant, for Isaac, and thus I shall know that Thou hast done kindness to my master.” (24:12-14)
The portion of Matthew read last Sunday said, “whoever gives even a cup of cold water in the name of Jesus will not lose their reward.” Here we have a more than a cup of cold water offered to Abraham’s butler and his camels (camels beloved can drink a lot of water). They can drink up to 52.84 gallons of water at a time, and they are quick drinkers, 26.4 gallons of water in about 10 minutes. We are talking about upwards of 500 gallons of water and in a hurry.
Rebecca was apparently a sturdy girl with a great attitude so she did it. And “IT” paid off for her. In this case the Butler really did do it. He announced his identity and his mission and told Rebecca that if she were willing she had a groom waiting for her back in the Promised Land. Even though her greedy brother Laban tried to gum up the works she showed her decisive nature and left town with the Butler riding the very camels she had refueled with water only twenty-four hours earlier. As they near their destination she sees a man walking in the fields and asked who he was; “he is my master,” the Butler told her and the text says that she literally fell off her camel putting on her veil.
Isaac looked up on saw camels coming and went to meet his bride. Having heard and that had happened in Haran, Isaac took Rebecca into his mother’s tent, he took her as his wife and he loved her. Finally he was comforted for the first time since Sarah’s death.
So how to make some sense of these readings?
Isaac is all of us – wounded – wounded like Paul writes the Romans, “the things I would do I do not do and the things I wouldn’t do – I turn out to do. I am a mixture a mélange – I can see the good, even will the good, but I cannot sustain the good. Woe is me. Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!
However we can only be rescued from the body of death IF WE ARE WILLING!
Matthew records the experience of Jesus with those who were determined not to believe, who had the kind of invincible ignorance that is fatal. You said John the Baptizer had a demon when he came preaching judgment and the law AND you said Jesus was a drunkard and glutton with questionable morals when he came preaching grace. So either way your pouted and refused to play calling John the Baptist narrow and Jesus loose.
This is the tragedy. People are wounded and hostile to the only medicine that can cure them. “Come,” says Jesus, “all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
We are all looking for rest for our souls. We may call it something else but we are looking for rest for our souls. The story of Isaac the wounded soul and his beautiful, generous and strong willed Rebecca is our story. God plans for the marriage of our wounded soul with the kind of wisdom that Rebecca represents, the kind that is vindicated by her actions, as Jesus puts in today’s Gospel. Wisdom is the wife of our soul and draws us water from the well of salvation.
The bible is fond of wells as backdrops for fateful meetings. This story is no different. It begins at the well in Haran and ends at the well Beer-Lahai-roi, which means The Well of the Living One Who Sees Me. We encounter the living God in Christ Jesus who died, rose from the dead and is the Living One Who Sees Us. We cannot make it on our own, so let us receive living water that is ours in baptism and take up the easy yoke that we may find comfort for our souls and life everlasting.