I can hardly imagine a more difficult task than the one Eliezer, the servant of Abraham, was given. Eliezer was to find a bride for Isaac. He was given the full trust and confidence of his master Abraham in this important mission. The way he handled the request is instructive to those of us who want to be faithful servants to our Master.
In Genesis 24:12–14, we see that the first thing Eliezer did was offer a prayer. His prayer was unselfish. Eliezer was not praying for himself or Isaac. He was praying that the master would be pleased and that his desires would be met. What a good reminder to us to make sure that our motive is to please our Master.
While Eliezer was praying, he devised a plan and asked the Lord to point out the bride for Isaac based on a simple but somewhat strange test. Eliezer basically said, “I’ll stand here by the well of water and ask for a drink and would You, Lord, let the one You’ve chosen to be Isaac’s bride offer to water all of my camels?”
Now this was unusual, to say the least. To give a drink of water to a stranger was a common courtesy in Bible times. It would have been a breach of etiquette to refuse such a request. However, to water the camels was another matter entirely.
I’m told that these camels were the one-hump variety that can weigh up to 1,500 pounds and can consume around 50 gallons of water when they are very thirsty. Let’s assume that Rebekah could carry 5 gallons of water at a time. (I think this to be quite unlikely. The container that she placed on her shoulder would have been made either of clay or stone.) Even allowing her to have a five-gallon container on her shoulder would require 100 trips from the well to the trough where the camels were drinking (remember that Eliezer had ten camels with him). The Bible does not tell the distance between the well and the trough, but it does say that she “…emptied her pitcher into the trough, and ran again unto the well to draw water…” (Genesis 24:20). It had to have been more than a few steps if she could get up to a speed considered running.
The requirement seemed unfair. Why didn’t Eliezer help? Why should she be expected to water all the camels? Shouldn’t some of the other women of her village participate in meeting the needs of this stranger? But the requirement was unequivocal. If she did not water all the camels, she was not the bride for Isaac.
I am intrigued by her response in Genesis 24:18. It was completely unprompted. All Eliezer asked for was a drink of water for himself. But here was a woman who was willing to do much more than was asked of her.
In addition to this, verse 19 tells us that she was unhesitating. How many of God’s people are willing to serve Him… later? Once they’re finished with their education; once the children are a little older; once the remodeling project is completed; once the apprenticeship is done; once they get the next promotion— the excuses are numerous! God is never impressed with what we would do with the time we don’t have. He is interested in what we do with the time we do have.
Rebekah’s response was also unfaltering. Note verse 19: “…she said, I will draw water for thy camels also, until they have done drinking.” Our churches are filled with former bus workers, former Sunday school teachers, former soulwinners, former choir members, and former nursery workers. Many have the idea that they have “served their time” and it is now someone else’s responsibility. But I have a hunch that in all of our towns there are still thirsty camels. There are still broken marriages, fatherless children, confused teenagers, and countless people living pointless existences who desperately need the gospel of our Lord Jesus.
Because of Rebekah’s response, she received a great reward. Once the camels had all been watered, Eliezer took “…a golden earring of half a shekel weight, and two bracelets for her hands of ten shekels weight of gold” (v. 22). Now, by my calculations, this is approximately four ounces of gold. Four ounces of gold is worth approximately $4,800 in today’s money. I don’t know how long Rebekah worked, but it was evening when she started watering. I think it would not be a stretch to say that she worked as long as four hours. That would be $1,200 an hour! When we serve God, He has unbelievable rewards for us.
It is significant to me that the reward was unknown. I believe that if Eliezer had stood up in front of the well, held up the bracelets and the earring and said, “Ladies, I am willing to give these to the first person who waters all of my camels,” he would have had plenty of takers. But he was not looking for a woman who would serve because of what was in it for her. He was looking for someone who would serve because it was the right thing to do—someone who would serve because they had the heart of a servant.
The God who led Eliezer to Rebekah is still the same God we serve today. When He leads us to water camels, our responsibility is to follow Him, even though we cannot see our reward. When I came to the First Baptist Church of Bridgeport, there was not a long list of candidates knocking at the door to get in. The offerings were $195 weekly and the budget was $395 per week. The buildings were in disrepair, the church was struggling, and the house for the pastor had not been lived in for seven years. (There were cigarette burns in the carpet where transients had stayed overnight. When my wife and I first viewed the house, there was no bathtub or shower. After we moved in, we even discovered someone’s ashes in the basement!) Two other churches had spoken to me about the possibility of coming. Both would have had better living conditions and possessed better buildings. But the First Baptist Church of Bridgeport was located near a larger population. It looked to me like there were more camels to water there. I was happy when God made it clear that I was to go to Bridgeport and not to the other two churches. I did not know all of the blessings God would give. I could not imagine that He would prosper and use our ministry as He has.
Just like Rebekah, we should also be prepared and willing to water camels wherever we go. An evangelist I know said that one day when vacationing in Hawaii, he saw a man reading the Book of Mormon under a palm tree. He approached the man and asked if he was reading the book because he was a Mormon or because he was interested in Mormonism. The man responded that he was just looking for the truth. The evangelist then invited the man—who’s name was Nick Porter—to his motel room. Nick went to get his wife, Mary, and they headed to the evangelist’s room. For the next three and a half hours, the evangelist did nothing but open up the Bible and answer the Porters’ questions. Then, Nick looked at Mary and said, “Well, do you have any more questions?” Mary replied that she didn’t, so Nick said, “I guess there’s just one thing for us to do, then. We might as well get saved.”
Here was a preacher on vacation in one of the most beautiful parts of the world who took half a day to water camels. But the story does not end there. The evangelist did not know that Nick Porter owned a large and successful construction company. A few months later, he received a check in the mail for $2,000. For several months, the checks continued in amounts between $1,200 and $2,000. Then one day they stopped. Many months went by without hearing from the Porters before they sent the evangelist a letter that said, “I just thought you’d like to know what a couple of your spiritual kids have been up to. You didn’t know this, but Nick is fluent in the Russian language. When the Wall came down in Berlin and the Iron Curtain was lifted, we liquidated our business and went at our own expense to Russia to preach the gospel. Recently, we got stuck on an elevator with ten members of the Russian Olympic Wrestling Team. By the time the elevator had been repaired an hour later, six of them had trusted Christ as their Saviour. We have signed decision slips from 375,000 people who said they were saved in the campaigns we have conducted.”
The monthly checks—that’s the bracelet and the earrings. When we are faithful to simply follow the Lord’s leading, He blesses us beyond our own understanding. Ephesians 3:20 says that He “…is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us.”
Those who trusted Christ in this illustration—that’s Isaac. They get to be the recipients of someone being faithful to follow the Lord’s leading, looking for camels to water. When we are faithful to follow the Lord as He leads us, it affects more people than just ourselves.
Thirsty camels are all around us waiting for somebody to give them water. We have the privilege of giving them that water by simply following the Lord’s leading, the way Eliezer did. We also need to be willing to do the Lord’s work no matter how difficult it may be, like Rebekah did. Although it may at times be challenging, doing the Lord’s work by ministering to people is one of the most rewarding privileges that Christians get to do. May we all be looking for thirsty camels.