I’d suggest you read, before considering this article, the chapter of Genesis 24. There is found that interesting account of Abraham who sent his chief servant to the land of Haran to find a wife for his 40 year old son, Isaac. Of course, questions have been raised concerning the propriety of an elderly father (140 years old) choosing a wife for his son. I do not intend to enter into that question now. I do want to suggest that Abraham is deeply conscious of several important principles in choosing a wife (or husband)—principles which apply equally today. I want to point these out.
First of all, Abraham requires his servant to promise under oath that he will not obtain a wife for Isaac out of the land of Canaan, but would go to Haran to obtain her. Why was Abraham so concerned on this score? We often answer, correctly, that the girls of the land of Canaan were wicked. The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah had recently been destroyed because of their unbelievable corruptions. Nor was the rest of Canaan a paradise of righteousness by any means. But besides this, the Canaanites were the self-same people who were under the curse of God because of Ham’s sin. These were the people who would finally be destroyed from the face of the earth. In addition to that, there is the fact that God had promised the land of Canaan to Abraham and his seed. That seed would come through the line of Isaac (not from Ishmael who was sent away). Marriage with one of the daughters of the land would be an alliance between Abraham and the people who were to be cast out. It would unite those who might not be united. Therefore, Abraham insists that a wife for Isaac must come rather from the land of Haran.
Do you see any principle which you can apply to yourself? It is this: light and darkness may never unite. Children of the covenant may never marry with children of this world. Marriage must never be considered as some sort of mission endeavor to convert a marriage partner to the Lord. Marriage is a sacred relationship between two who are united in the faith and seek a common goal. It is a relationship in which two can bring forth the seed of the covenant—and together instruct them in the fear of God’s Name. This principle may never be forgotten in seeking a wife (or husband).
A second important principle is suggested by Abraham’s actions. The servant asks Abraham what he is to do should the woman refuse to return with the servant to the land of Canaan. Should the servant then take Isaac to Haran and have him live there? The problem could conceivably arise. After all, this woman would have to leave her father’s house to marry a man she had never met. She would never see her relatives again. She would have to live in a strange land with strange people and she would have to be ready to marry a strange man. What girl would willingly agree to all of this?
But Abraham insists that the servant may never take Isaac from the land of Canaan to return to Haran or Ur. Never! The land of Canaan was the land of promise. It was typical of the heavenly and eternal Canaan. It was part of the type and shadow of the old dispensation. To forsake the shadow, even for a wife, would be to forsake the reality. By no means may Isaac do that. He must inherit Canaan with all of the spiritual blessings of God that went with that. To return to Haran would be as though he returned to the world with all of its wickedness and corruption. Isaac must stay in Canaan.
Can you apply that principle to yourself, too? Usually marriage is of highest importance to young people—understandably so. It seems normal and right. When one “falls in love”, what else can be expected but that these two marry? But there is a more important duty in the life of the saint than marriage. He is to praise and glorify his God in all things. Marriage can never be an end in itself, but a means whereby God’s commands may be obeyed and His Name glorified.
The question then must be asked, will this marriage lead from the land of Canaan? Or put it this way, will this marriage lead one to separation from the church of Christ and a return to the world? Will it lead to separation from the church of Christ, where the word of God is most purely maintained, to return to such a church where the marks of the true church are not clearly seen anymore? Will one sacrifice God’s word and truth for the sake of marriage? Then marriage no longer becomes a means to a specific goal, but it becomes the goal itself. God, according to this view, must be subservient to the desires of man.
But Christian young people understand well that their calling also is to seek first the kingdom of God and its righteousness—believing that all other things will be added unto them. One may not forsake the truths of God’s word even for a wife. Abraham recognized that principle—as we also should.
A third principle is also evident. Abraham’s servant is reminded by his master of the faithfulness of our covenant God. The servant asks what he is to do if the woman refused to return to Canaan. Abraham reminds the servant that God had called Abraham from the land of Ur to go to Canaan. It was God’s will to separate Abraham this way and to take him to the promised land. And God had abundantly prospered Abraham in this land. There God had given the son of promise. There God had given assurance of a seed as numerous as the stars of heaven. God had indicated that He would have Abraham remain in this land—though for the present he was a pilgrim and stranger.
This must mean, since God’s will was very evident in all of this, that God also would not forsake Abraham and Isaac in the time of need. If the promised seed is to be born through the line of Isaac, then God would also see to it that he would receive a proper wife through whom the promise would be realized. There could be no doubt of it. By faith Abraham also believed this. It was in harmony with His promise that God also did indicate that Rebekah was the wife Isaac must have. Marvelous it is how God provides.
And did you apply this principle also to yourself? We often worry and fret. We might wonder if God will send a proper husband and wife to us. We can point to instances where some remained unmarried because they loved God’s truths more than a union which would require separation from those truths. The principle, you must understand, is that God will provide. He does not indeed promise to every covenant youth a husband or wife. He does promise to provide according to His good pleasure.
Hold fast to the principles of God’s Word—and believe that God provides. Walk according to the above principles, young people, and you will indeed experience His favor all of your days. Don’t misunderstand or misconstrue the will of God. Don’t say, as some have, that because I met so-and-so by the direction of God, therefore it must be the intent of God that I marry him or her—though he belongs not to the church. That would be a deliberate distortion of the idea of God’s providence. Though it is true that God directs “chance” meeting of young people, He requires that we walk according to the principles of His Word in choosing a mate. By grace, do this—and enjoy His blessing on such a union.
Originally Published in:
Vol. 29 No. 4 June July 1969