Reading Genesis 24 recently I was struck by the ending. Not the way Hollywood, or the BBC, would have portrayed it. We see Isaac take Rebekah, but not quite in the sense the movies use the phrase. This is quite a different taking. It’s the same taking, if not done in quite the same way today, as is done by every man and woman who desire marriage — “Do you take . . . to be your wife/husband?”
Isaac took Rebekah into the tent, but the camera stays outside. We do not need to enter the tent. Indeed, we ought not to enter the tent. What happens there is neither for us to share, or imagine. What is important is not the entering of the tent, or what happens there, but that Rebekah became his wife, and that Isaac loved her. Here is marriage as God intended, with all that those two phrases entail.
As divinely told, the story is as tender as when God introduced Adam to his wife. Yet, these are no Hollywood fantasies, endearingly romantic, but utterly unreal. The whole story is one of God’s careful and marvellous providence, not just the ending. How else could it end: “he loved her”? How could he not? Did we not love her the moment she stepped up to the well?
But more than that, we bowed our heads with Abraham’s servant and worshipped with him, did we not? For, as tender as the love Isaac had for Rebekah, more tender was the love that planned it all. That wise old servant saw it clearly when he said, “Blessed by the LORD, the God of my master Abraham, who has not forsaken his steadfast love and his faithfulness toward my master.” (Gen. 24:27)
This is the whole point of the story, is it not? With what relish and excitement must he have related everything to Isaac on his return, before Isaac took Rebekah. How could this not have been the highlight of his story? And what a perfect beginning to their marriage, to see and to know the hand of God so clearly in all the detail.
And as perfect as the story we read is, much more perfect is the providential love God still has for his people. Ought we not to stand by the well ourselves from time to time, and bow our heads and worship that selfsame God. Edith McNeill put it well in her paraphrase of Lam. 3:22-23:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,
His mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning, new every morning:
great is Your faithfulness, O Lord,
great is Your faithfulness.