By Joshua Spurlock
Avraham (Abraham) is a hero of our faith. He left everything with a promise from G-d. He lived for decades with the unshakable belief that HaShem (the LORD) would give him an heir in spite of the trial of infertility.
Can anyone possibly approach the faith of Avraham?
Actually, Avraham—spiritual giant that he is—is intended to serve as an example for us and our lives in Messiah Yeshua, and the proof that it can be done is in Parashat Chayei Sarah, which gives us the example of Rivkah (Rebekah).
More than just a worthy mate for Yitzkhak (Isaac), Rivkah shows herself to be a great woman of faith, with a faith like Avraham Avinu. May her example inspire us!
According to tradition, Avraham was surrounded by pagan idolatry. His own father is said to have owned an idol shop (cf. Genesis Rabbah 38). It was hardly an ideal location for Avraham to grow in faith towards the one true G-d, HaShem.
Rivkah had a similar upbringing. Little is known of her father, but the Torah portrays her brother Lavan (Laban) as a trickster who also worshipped idols (cf. Bereshit / Genesis 31:30, 41). Hence, Rivkah does not begin in the greatest of circumstances either. For the faithful, however, this is not nearly as unusual as it might appear.
Throughout the history of Yisrael (Israel), ignorant and sometimes even evil fathers have given rise to righteous men and women. This is especially true regarding the history of the Kings of Yisrael. While many of the greatest heroes of the faith come from righteous families, not all do.
Indeed, according to prophecy, even pagan Gentiles will realize their own fathers were wrong about the divine.
“O LORD, my strength and my stronghold, my refuge in the day of trouble, to you shall the nations come from the ends of the earth and say: ‘Our fathers have inherited nothing but lies, worthless things in which there is no profit. Can man make for himself gods? Such are not gods!’”
– Yirmeyahu (Jeremiah) 16:19-20, ESV
Avraham came from a similar background. So did Rivkah. And because of that, there is hope for anyone.
Rivkah’s faith is not expressed for us initially. Unlike Avraham, we do not see an ongoing relationship between Rivkah and HaShem right away. For Rivkah, the proof of her faith is in what she does.
Artscroll’s “The Stone Edition: The Chumash” notes in its commentary from Chullin 95b that as Avraham’s servant goes in search of a wife for Yitzhak, he asks HaShem to point her out by her deeds.
As the Scriptures record,
“And he said, ‘O LORD, God of my master Abraham [Elohei Adoni Avraham], please grant me success today and show steadfast love to my master Abraham [Avraham]. Behold, I am standing by the spring of water, and the daughters of the men of the city are coming out to draw water. Let the young woman to whom I shall say, ‘Please let down your jar that I may drink,’ and who shall say, ‘Drink, and I will water your camels’—let her be the one whom you have appointed for your servant Isaac [Yitzhak]. By this I shall know that you have shown steadfast love to my master.’”
– Bereshit (Genesis) 24:12-14, ESV
The servant’s criteria is a high one. It wasn’t enough that the woman offer a complete stranger a drink from her own drawn water. Watering 10 camels (v.10) is much more. But this servant was in for quite a sight: Not only did Rivkah do precisely what the servant wanted, but she did in a special way:
“When she had finished giving him a drink, she said, ‘I will draw water for your camels also, until they have finished drinking.’ So she quickly emptied her jar into the trough and ran again to the well to draw water, and she drew for all his camels.”
– Bereshit (Genesis) 24:19-20, ESV
The commentary in Artscroll’s “The Stone Edition: The Chumash” points out that Rivkah ran to do her good works, and this is a trait we have already seen of Avraham (cf. Bereshit 18:7) when he served the three mysterious visitors.
“And Abraham [Avraham] ran to the herd and took a calf, tender and good, and gave it to a young man, who prepared it quickly.”
– Bereshit (Genesis) 18:7, ESV
Rivkah not only mirrored her future father-in-law’s hospitality to strangers in a general sense, but she did it with the same alacrity that he had displayed. Clearly, she was worthy to join Avraham’s family. Indeed, caring for others is something that HaShem takes very seriously.
A teacher once pointed out the following truth to a class I was attending: Consider the vile Sedom and Amora (Sodom and Gomorrah), and then consider which sins HaShem highlights concerning them.
Which are the more serious in His Eyes?
“Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom [Sedom]: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy.”
– Yekhezkiel (Ezekiel) 16:49, ESV
Rivkah, however, was not like the people of Sedom. She cared for others, even strangers. She did this despite living in a house apparently influenced by idolatry, and she did it exceptionally well. Do you?
Consider Yeshua’s words about caring for others:
“He said also to the man who had invited him, ‘When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.’”
– Luke 14:12-14, ESV
Avraham was given quite a directive from HaShem: Leave everyone you know and go to an unknown place that will someday be owned by your family. As a testimony to his faith, he apparently does so without even asking any questions (cf. Bereshit 12:1-4).
Rivkah is given a similar opportunity, and she too acts in faith. Avraham’s servant makes it clear that HaShem had led him to find Rivkah to be the wife for Yitzkhak. Even Rivkah’s brother believes that (cf. Bereshit 24:50). But when it comes time for Rivkah to leave, her family is suddenly reticent.
“Her brother and her mother said, ‘Let the young woman remain with us a while, at least ten days; after that she may go.’”
– Bereshit (Genesis) 24:55, ESV
This is truly a monumental decision for Rivkah. This is before the age of telephones, email, or motorized transportation. Based on the text, it appears she never sees her family again once she leaves. She is essentially leaving her entire world to marry and live with a man she has never met—because a stranger received a miraculous sign from HaShem!
To make things even more intense for her, the servant insisted she leave the day after he arrived. The decision is left up to Rivkah, and her decision is very similar to her father-in-law’s in whose footsteps she follows.
“And they called Rebekah [Rivkah] and said to her, ‘Will you go with this man?’ She said, ‘I will go.’ So they sent away Rebekah [Rivkah] their sister and her nurse, and Abraham’s [Avraham’s] servant and his men.”
– Bereshit (Genesis) 24:58-59, ESV
Does your faith follow Avraham’s, and Rivkah’s like him? Are you committed, truly committed, to following HaShem’s directives?
Yokhannan (John) and Ya’acov (James) likewise left everything to follow Yeshua without hesitation (cf. Mattityahu / Matthew 4:21-22).
“Yet another said, ‘I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.’ Jesus [Yeshua] said to him, ‘No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God [Malkhutei Elohim].’”
– Luke 9:60-61, ESV
HaShem wants and deserves our immediate obedience. Yeshua expects that those who start after Him must be genuinely determined to follow. We are not always called to leave family—sometimes the call is towards family—but we must answer the call either way.
Rivkah did this, and in so doing demonstrated sincere faith.
Faith in Prayer
Avraham often spoke with HaShem. Their relationship was remarkably vibrant. Time and again, Avraham poured out his heart to HaShem. And when HaShem gave him instruction, no matter how difficult, Avraham obeyed.
Rivkah took a similar approach to divine conversation, but showed even more initiative. When she and Yitzkhak were unable to bear children, she joined him in prayer according to the traditional interpretation of Bereshit 25:21 (See Rashi, Artscroll’s “The Stone Edition: The Chumash”).
Then, as she has questions in her pregnancy, she again looks to HaShem.
“The children struggled together within her, and she said, ‘If it is thus, why is this happening to me?’ So she went to inquire of the Lord.”
– Bereshit (Genesis) 25:22, ESV
Yeshua encourages us to be similarly eager and persistent in prayer when we have needs.
“And he said to them, ‘Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’? I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs. And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.’”
– Luke 11:5-10, ESV
Ya’akov likewise says,
“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”
– Ya’akov (James) 1:5-6, ESV
Rivkah understood this truth and she sought HaShem’s help. She, like Avraham, wasn’t perfect, but her faith in HaShem was demonstrated through actions—including prayer.
Faith in You
There really is no excuse. Rivkah’s background was spiritually challenging and her life experience wasn’t easy either. Yet like Avraham, she persevered in faith. She left her entire family behind to marry a stranger. She prayed her way through infertility and difficulty in the ensuing pregnancy. Rivkah was indeed a worthy mother of Yitzkhak’s children, for she was a woman of faith.
May your faith in HaShem likewise be strong through Messiah Yeshua, and may you shine for the glory of our Father in Heaven by the grace and power of our Lord.