Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent
In Genesis 24, we meet a man who only identifies as “Abraham’s servant” (v. 34). This unnamed servant is most likely Eliezer, Abraham’s household servant, whom he expected to be his heir (Genesis 15.2). Jewish tradition is in favor of this. However, because the chapter fails to identify him, we will also refrain from doing so. Hence, this unnamed servant teaches us three things as he obeys his master’s will to obtain a wife for his son from among his relatives in modern-day Iraq.
The unnamed servant teaches us humility. The fact that the unnamed servant only refers to himself as a servant of his master says a lot. He considers his identity to be secondary to his position in his master’s household. Our Great Example was similarly humble, much like this servant. We can see that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was the most humble person of all when he took on human form and died for the salvation of mankind (Philippians 2:5–10).
Humility is an essential virtue. Humility, according to the Bible, is necessary for Christians to cultivate. For example, the book of James says, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6 NASB 1995) Thus, Christians are to approach God with modesty, acknowledging their shortcomings.
But we should not confuse humility with self-deprecation. God’s word doesn’t tell us to belittle ourselves or our accomplishments. Instead, humility involves acknowledging that all good things come from God, upon Whom we depend for our success (James 1.17). Humility also requires service. The Bible calls us to be the servants of others, just as Jesus modeled servant leadership (John 13.14-16). Humility consists in putting the needs of others ahead of our desires and ambitions.
And God doesn’t overlook this service. Instead, humility is a key to spiritual growth, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. In the book of Matthew, Jesus says, “Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted” (Matthew 23.12 NASB1995). James reminds us: “Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.” (James 4.10 NASB1995)
Therefore, when Christians talk about humility, they stress the importance of knowing our limits and weaknesses, helping others, and coming to God with a humble heart.
The unnamed servant teaches us to trust in God’s Providence. The nameless servant believed that God’s providence would help him succeed in his task. So likewise, God’s word instructs us to trust in God’s providence throughout the Bible, which means we accept that God is in charge of everything and has a plan for our lives. “For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29.11 NASB1995). I would be amiss if I did not point out that this is not a personal promise to us, as it was spoken to the Israelites on the verge of Babylonian captivity. However, we can accept that it means that God has plans for His people.
Thus, God urges us to trust that His purpose for our lives is beneficial, even if it may not seem logical or beneficial. This trust is part of submitting ourselves to God’s will. Surrendering to God’s will is part of trusting in providence. Christians are urged to pray for God’s direction and guidance and believe that God’s plan for their lives is what is best for them. “I know, O Lord, that a man’s way is not in himself, nor is it in a man who walks to direct his steps,” Jeremiah says again (Jeremiah 10.23 NASB 1995).
The Bible teaches us to trust in God’s provision, which implies that we believe that God will provide for our necessities (Matthew 6.33). Even in challenging circumstances, we know God will provide for our needs. So, the Christian doctrine of trust in providence stresses the importance of believing in God’s plan for each person’s life, submitting to His will, and trusting in His provision.
The unnamed servant teaches us to be shrewd. The servant who put Rebecca through the “camel test” was astute. Have you ever thought how this man must have appeared to the young Rebecca? The unnamed servant was a physically fit man. In addition, he needs other strong men to travel with him and a caravan of ten camels. Why, then, would he need a woman to bring him water and tend to his livestock?
What could this servant learn from administering the “camel test”? Rebecca’s response suggested much about her character. For example, what concern would she have for her family if she returned the water she had given a stranger to drink? Did she have the servant’s heart to recognize and want to meet a need when it was within her power? Did she consider others first? Finally, Rebecca had to demonstrate her worth to Isaac and, eventually, to Abraham, his master.
Jesus told his disciples to “be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10.16 NASB 1995). In other words, Jesus tells us to be wise and intelligent when we talk to other people but also to be kind and safe. The term “wise as serpents” might be understood to suggest that the disciples should be as intelligent and crafty as snakes in their relationships with others. But it’s important to remember that Jesus didn’t want his followers to lie or trick people. Instead, he wanted them to be honest and wise in their relationships with others. Likewise, “harmless as doves” alludes to the doves’ gentleness and lack of aggression. Even in challenging or hostile circumstances, Jesus pushes his followers to remain calm and non-threatening in their relationships with others.
Jesus asked his followers to be intelligent and astute in their interactions while being mild and non-threatening. We should apply this advice and use it when applicable.
The unnamed servant in Genesis 24 teaches essential lessons about humility, faith in providence, and shrewdness. His humble demeanor reminds us of the importance of admitting our flaws and prioritizing the needs of others. Trusting in God’s providence entails believing that God has a plan for our lives and that everything will work out for the best. Finally, being shrewd implies being wise and intelligent in our interactions with others while maintaining our integrity. As Christians, we can learn from the example of the unnamed servant and strive to live a life that honors God. The unnamed servant in Genesis 24 teaches essential lessons about humility, faith in providence, and shrewdness. His humble demeanor reminds us of the importance of admitting our flaws and prioritizing the needs of others. Trusting in God’s providence entails believing that God has a plan for our lives and that everything will work out for the best. Finally, being shrewd implies being wise and intelligent in our interactions with others while maintaining our integrity. As Christians, we can learn from the example of the unnamed servant and strive to live a life that honors God.