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

Leaning on God

In a few weeks, I will be preaching from Genesis 24, the search for Isaac’s wife. The story is one of adventure, doubt, anticipation and relief. Abraham commissions one of his servants to return to his homeland to find a wife for his son. If we rewind a bit, we remember that Abraham was called out of that land by God. While he resides in God’s chosen place, it is still occupied by a pagan people; he doesn’t want his son to be negatively influenced by a Canaanite wife.

God had promised to make a great nation from Abraham’s descendants. He miraculously provided a child to his old, barren wife. But this son is unmarried, and Abraham is getting near the end of his life. How is God going work this out? Abraham calls a trusted servant and explains his desire for Isaac to marry; he sends him to his country. But what woman is going to leave her family, her homeland? The plan seems far-fetched.

Abraham acknowledges the difficulty but offers to release the servant from his orders if it doesn’t work out.

(Genesis 24:8 NIV) If the woman is unwilling to come back with you, then you will be released from this oath of mine.

I wonder what was going through the servant’s mind as he traversed the land. “This old man is crazy; I will never find a wife for his son in such a far-away land.” Yet he attempts the impossible. Before arriving in Aram Naharaim, he has a conversation with God. “God, can you give me a sign. How will I know who to approach? If you are providing a wife, let me know who it is.” He develops a plan. The servant, at the town well, will ask for water. The woman who offers not only water, but water for the camels will be the one. Before he can get the words out of his mouth Rebekah arrives. Her beauty catches his attention; he hurries to ask her for a drink. Rebekah does exactly what the servant prayed the chosen woman would do. You would think that he would celebrate and proclaim “she is the one!”

We are often quick to discern. We draw out scenarios asking God for a sign. “If the next person who walks through the door is wearing flip-flops, then I need to take the job.” “If it rains after 5 pm today, then we should sell the house.” We want to make our discerning quick and easy; we want it predictable and sure. Notice the response of Abraham’s servant.

(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.

He keeps a close eye on what God is doing. Just because she said the “magic words” did not mean that the deal was closed. It seemed that God was moving, but there was still more to learn. Would she agree to come? Was her father going to be OK with the plan? In this case, she was the one. As the servant relates his experience, her father and brother agree that God is active. Their language is discernment language.

(Genesis 24:50 NIV) Laban and Bethuel answered, “This is from the LORD; we can say nothing to you one way or the other.

Yes, they conclude, God has acted. This is confirmed again and again in the story. Their response is one of obedience.

As we discern God’s moving among us, let’s remember that it usually comes in pieces. Quick, hasty decisions are often mislead. May we submit to what God is doing among us at First Baptist Church. May we keep a close eye on what He is doing and respond, not with our our own opinions, but with attention to His movement. May we set our own agendas aside for God’s purposes to be fulfilled in this place. His plan is always better than ours.