Fellow Passengers: This week’s Promise Passage* (Genesis 24) transports me to the ancient land of pick-up lines, parental concessions, and promises sealed by a squeeze of the thigh. When I hear people today espousing family values, and urging us to get back to the old time religion, I wonder if they mean stories like this one of Abraham’s search for a daughter-in-law. How would this kind of family drama play out today among the defenders of marriage?
First you’ve got Abraham calling in his servant and sending him on a mission to pick out a suitable cousin for his son Isaac to marry. Let’s keep it in the family. The servant has to put his hand under Abe’s thigh and swear not to bring back any girl other than kith and kin. The servant takes a flock of camels and travels back to Father Abraham’s home turf and hangs out at the local watering hole, waiting to try out his sure-fire pick-up line: please, give me a little water from your jar (the ancient Middle Eastern version of what’s your sign?). Beautiful cousin Rebekah is the first he tries it out on, and she disregards whatever stranger-danger advice she’s ever been given, responding positively, drink, my lord, and your camels, too. The servant takes that as a hopeful sign, and immediately inserts a gold ring in her nose and places bracelets on both arms. Then he weasels his way into overnight accommodations at her family’s home. Big bro Laban and Daddy Bethuel meet the servant, and over dinner the servant tells his mission – I’m here to find a pretty cousin to marry my lord Abraham’s boy, Isaac. He recounts the meeting at the well, and asks if he can take this little beauty home with him. Laban, Godly man that he is, says all this sounds like the Lord’s doing to him, so the next morning he sends baby girl on her way, mounted on a camel from this stranger’s menagerie. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the theme song from an old Elvis movie keeps running through Isaac’s head – We’ll kiss all night, I’ll squeeze her tight, But we’re kissin’ cousins ‘n that’s what makes it all right, All right, all right, all right. . .
Who can resist the image of a beautiful teenage girl sporting a nose-ring and hightailing it away from home with a stranger, galloping bareback (barehump?) into the sunset for a blind date with her cousin – her soon to be kissing cousin hubby? What father wouldn’t accept the terms of this marriage for his baby girl? Obviously, we’ve traveled quite a cultural distance from the Biblical times version of Family Guy. It’s just another example of how important it is for us to learn to read these fascinating old sacred stories and mine the truth from their veins, without drawing straight lines from their particular practices to ours. As we swing the pick in that deep mine of scripture, and as we sift through the ore of the passage to see what value it does offer us, we might as well sing while we work: Gimme that old time religion. . . it was good enough for Rebekah (and Elvis), it’s good enough for me.
How about you? Where does this Promise Passage take you on your journey of faith? Feel free to comment.