We’re continuing through the stories of Genesis, and today is a particularly unique story. It’s got a lot of weird elements, from Abraham’s slave Eliezer meeting Rebekah at a well and his insistence on camel-watering as a sign from God; to Laban and Bethuel negotiating with Eliezer over Rebekah, to the touching scene where she sees Isaac off in the distant field. On some level it sounds odd to our ears, but this was a huge story to the Israelites. So huge, in fact, that this is the longest chapter in the whole of Genesis! So what is it a story of, exactly?
This is the ancient Israelite’s version of “How I Met Your Mother.” Only, the mother and father in this case were the ancestors of a nation. So like the story your parents told you of how they met, but important on a national scale. But isn’t that an important story? Most if not all of us have heard the story of how our parents met. Those of us who are married have the cherished story of how we met our partner. It’s a sweet story that’s as humdrum as it is magical.
Because we know this tendency—the tendency to set up those meetings as destined, as haloed in fate, as colored with magic. Like how my parents just happened to meet the way they did: her the waitress, him the sailor, a quick ID check to get his name and the rest is history! Or when you think of how your own parents met and the story they’ve told. In my experience, it’s a rare person who tells the story of how they met their partner and doesn’t attribute at least some of it to an outside force—God, fate, the Universe, or whatever.
So it should come as no shock to us that God is such a central, if slightly hidden, character in this whole saga. Abraham, at the beginning of the chapter and before our reading started, sent Eliezer off with a promise that it would be God’s angel that would guide him to the right woman for Isaac. At the well, Eliezer makes clear his explicit expectations of how God is going to help him in his quest. Every character in this story shrugs at the suggestion that God had a part in this because of course God had a part in it and why would anyone believe otherwise?
Those big moments in life, like finding that partner who will go with you in life, or retelling the story of the very people who gave you life and how they came together, is filled with the awareness that God is at work in it. God is providing the guidance, nudging people in the direction they need to go, laying the foundations for a promised future. But it’s not just when two people fall in love that God is at work behind it.
We had a professor at seminary who shaped our understanding of the world by reminding us to ask the question: Where is God in all this? Where is God working in the ordinary pieces of your life? Where is God at work when neighbors come together to clean up after a flood, or when people decide to wear a mask at the grocery store because they know it’ll help keep others safe, or friends and family search for a missing horse? In this story about how Isaac met Rebekah, we get a reminder to ask the question where is God in all this?
Because God is present. We know this. God’s presence in the world is like gravity or weather patterns or two people meeting. It doesn’t take away from God’s activity if we don’t acknowledge how God is present and at work, but it adds to our own understanding and appreciation of the world and what God calls us to do in the world when we start asking that question—where is God in all this? And what’s more, that awareness gets heightened, and our trust in God grows, when we start looking at what God is doing not as a broad generalization, but as specific things and places and times where we see God.
Look at how Eliezer acts in this story. His prayer starts off by naming “I am standing here by this well.” He is being specific about the context of where he expects to find God. It’s here, by this well. He’s looking for God in this place. He goes on, “the woman who offers me and the camels a drink of water is the one you mean for me to find.” He states the specific hoped-for situation where he’ll find God. He names the specific outline of how he will see God acting in the world. And when he does find God’s work happening right in front of him, when he finds God in all this, he bows down and worships. He immediately recognizes and acknowledges what God is doing as soon as he figures it out.
What this story reminds us is that when we start getting specific in understanding how God is acting in the world around us and through us, we’ll get better at it. Eliezer had had a long time to practice looking for God’s activity. We are called to ask that question—“where is God in all this?”—and the more we ask the better we’ll get at answering it. But, we’re not alone in discerning how God is at work. It wasn’t just Eliezer who noticed God’s presence. It was Laban and Bethuel and all of Rebekah’s family too. They all recognized that this whole meeting wasn’t a coincidence. We discern God’s presence best when we do it together, as a community.
So this week, I want you to sit down at the end of the day and ask the question: where was God in all this? Where did you see God at work in the ordinary things that happened each day? Where was God present in your decisions, in the people you met, in the places you went or the things you saw? Really take the time to think about it, maybe write it down if you need to.
Because the more we ask the question “where is God in all this,” the more we’ll do it as a reflex. And the more it becomes an ordinary part of how we look at the world, the more we’ll trust that God will always be present in our daily lives. We’ll come to trust in the provision of God, and come to a deeper place of hope in the ways God will guide us and be present with us, whatever our circumstances are.
So ask the question. Wonder how God is acting. Thank God for the ways God has provided. God is always present, it’s just a matter of how.
Thanks be to God. Amen.