Discerning Church Learning to discern the movement of God's Spirit

Watching to Learn

In the morning, I generally read Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals. The book is designed for community reading, but it works well as a devotion. It leads me into focused prayer and provides Scripture for reflection.

This morning, I was reading Genesis 24:1-27. This is the story of Abraham’s servant being commissioned to find Isaac’s wife. The servant is doubtful that he will succeed; yet after agreeing on provisions, he agrees to the task.

(Genesis 24:9 NIV) So the servant put his hand under the thigh of his master Abraham and swore an oath to him concerning this matter.

While it might seem awkward placing our hand under our master’s thigh, this is how they did it in those days :). Anyway, he packs his bags and heads off to Abraham’s homeland. As I read the story, I was struck by the servant’s dependance on God’s leading. He doesn’t devise a strategic plan for finding Isaac’s wife; he doesn’t gather a team to plan his trip. He simply heads off trusting God to provide.

(Genesis 24:12 NIV) Then he prayed, “O LORD, God of my master Abraham, give me success today, and show kindness to my master Abraham.

He understands that he cannot succeed on his own. He continues to ask God for guidance.

(Genesis 24:13–14 NIV) 13) See, I am standing beside this spring, and the daughters of the townspeople are coming out to draw water. 14) May it be that when I say to a girl, ‘Please let down your jar that I may have a drink,’ and she says, ‘Drink, and I’ll water your camels too’ — let her be the one you have chosen for your servant Isaac. By this I will know that you have shown kindness to my master.”

He pleads for direction, for God’s will to be accomplished in this deal. He knows his task is difficult. He will need to convince the future wife to leave her homeland, her family. He understands the drawbacks for the chosen girl. As you continue to read the story, the young girl fulfills the servant’s request to God. In v. 21, we find the posture of the servant; this is what it means to discern.

(Genesis 24:21 NIV) Without saying a word, the man watched her closely to learn whether or not the LORD had made his journey successful.

I love that phrase “the man watched . . . closely to learn”. What a great definition of discerning. This is what it means to discern God’s movement in the world. I fear that we are often so busy working the plan that we fail to “watch closely to learn.” The rest is history. There are a few more twists and turns along the way, but ultimately this is the girl for Isaac. In the end, the servant worships.

(Genesis 24:26–27 NIV) 26) Then the man bowed down and worshiped the LORD, 27) saying, “Praise be to the LORD, the God of my master Abraham, who has not abandoned his kindness and faithfulness to my master. As for me, the LORD has led me on the journey to the house of my master’s relatives.”

May we be a discerning people who “watch closely to learn” what God is doing in our midst. May we be suspicious of orderly plans that leave God’s movements out of the equation. May we, like Abraham’s servant, understand our dependance on God.