Sarah dies and Abraham buys a field that also has a sepulcher so that he can bury her. He then has his most trusted servant, Eliezer, go back to the land from which Abraham came, to his own people in order to get a wife for Isaac. Under no conditions, though, is Eliezer ever to bring Isaac back to Ur.
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Eliezer stops at a well, which would be the place all the women would eventually come to and asks God for a specific sign that would identify the woman God wants to be Isaac’s wife. Rebekah, the granddaughter of Abraham’s brother Nachor, does exactly what Eliezer asked God to have the woman he chose to do, and immediately gives her gifts. When she returns to her tent, her brother, Laban sees the gifts and goes back to the well to bring Eliezer into their tent.
Laban is motivated to be hospitable only because of the gifts Rebekah received. We can here see, for the first time, Laban’s true nature. Later in this book, we will see more of his greed and treachery in the way he treats Jacob.
Eliezer is invited to eat but refuses to do so until he is able to secure their permission to bring Rebekah back to Isaac to be his wife. Rebekah agrees to go, and Laban, who seems to be speaking in the place of the father as leader of the family, also agrees to let her go (of course he would, given how rich Abraham is) and they leave the next day to return to Abraham. Isaac sees Rebekah on their way back, takes her into his mother’s tent and their marriage is consummated.
The parashah ends with the death of Abraham.
I could go on forever about this section of the Torah, the story of the first Patriarch of Judaism. There are many lessons for us here, but what struck me as I was reading was the prayer of Eliezer to have God give him a sign. It made me think about when Yeshua told Satan, quoting from the Tanakh (of course), that we are not to test the Lord, our God. I thought to myself, “Is it proper to ask God to provide a sign? Isn’t that the same thing as testing him?”
I believe there is a difference between asking for a sign and testing the Lord, but what is it?
In Judges 6:36-40, Gideon “threw the fleece before the Lord” in order to make sure that it was God speaking to him. This was, in truth, a test. After the fleece was found wet and the ground around it dry, Gideon then asked God to do it again, but this time have the fleece dry and the surrounding ground wet. And when he asked for God to give a sign twice, he apologized to God. To me, this indicates Gideon knew that what he was asking from God was wrong.
God tells us the only manner in which we are allowed to test him is in relation to tithing, which we find in Malachi 3:10, and that test is to first give the proper tithe, after which God will shower you with more blessings than you can imagine. This test is one where we don’t ask God to do something, but we do something that God promises to reward. It is a test of the Lord, but not a test of who or how powerful he is, rather that he is trustworthy to keep his promises.
I think the difference between asking for a sign and testing the Lord has to do with the reason we ask. If I am in need of confirmation that I am doing something right in God’s eyes, and I ask him to show me what he wants, that is not a test. It is a genuine request for help. However, if I tell God that unless he gives me a sign I will not believe in him…to me that sounds more like a test than asking for a sign.
Faith – true faith – is not asking God to prove anything. True faith is choosing to believe, without any proof. I don’t need a sign, or a miraculous event, or even a confirmation from someone else for me to believe that God exists and that he hears my prayers. Of course, when he does answer my prayers I am grateful, and it does confirm my faith; but because my faith is by choice and not based on any specific event, when I don’t get an answer it doesn’t reduce my faith.
I don’t need “proof” because I have faith; anyone who needs proof doesn’t have faith, and frankly, even if they believe because they got proof”, their faith will always be weak.
I believe, in fact I know, that anyone who believes in God because of some miraculous event will be the first to apostatize because we know (from reading Revelation) that the Enemy and the minions of the Enemy will perform many miracles, which will turn many away from the true faith. If your faith is based on a miracle, your future is questionable because if one miracle convinces you that God is real, then another miracle will turn you from God to Satan.
Now that we have discussed this, I think it is safe to say that when you pray to God and ask for signs or confirmation that will help you stay in his will and show you what he wants from you, that is acceptable and even a good thing to do. On the other hand, if you find yourself asking God to prove something, that is testing him.
Satan wants us to test God because he can perform miracles that will fool us into thinking he is God, and by the time we realize we were fooled, it will be too late. Eve found out too late that she had been fooled- don’t let that happen to you.
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Shabbat shalom, and until next time L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!