Speaker: Tim Bollinger
Scripture: Genesis 24:50-67

From the series Part 3

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Full Sermon Transcript

Good morning. It’s good to see all of you that are gathered here today and those of you that are joining online. As you heard, if this is your first Sunday with us, we’re just so glad that you’re here. In fact, right after the service through those doors, I’ll be in our West lobby and I’d love to meet you, shake your hand, and just thank you for being here today. Those of you that are watching online, you can jump into the chat and our online hosts will welcome you in that form as well as we are only three weeks away from concluding Genesis part three. And everybody said no, you’re supposed to say, because this is so impacted and transformed your life that you don’t want Genesis to ever and do you? Last week, if you were here and you were single, you heard Ben just give a very powerful message.

If you weren’t here, I would encourage you to go listen to that, because today we’re going to be concluding what he left off with last week because we’re actually in Genesis chapter 24, which is the longest chapter in Genesis. So we needed to break it up into two parts. But before we get into that, let me ask you a simple question this morning. What comes first, love or marriage? See, you guys are getting smart because some of you were hesitant to ask or answer the question because, you know, we’ve been baiting you into questions here at Shepherds Gate. Now, I want you to think about this because we’re actually conditioned from a very young age to to believe there’s a certain order to these two words. In fact, you take two people sitting in a tree. First comes, then comes, then comes. Supposedly this is how it’s supposed to work.

Well, we all know things sometimes get a little turned upside down. Think about this. Married couple households comprise 55% of all U.S. households. In 1990, that number is now 46% as of the data in 2020. How many you believe believe this number is only going to decrease over time? All right. Most of us probably see that. How about this? In 1980, the average American male married at 25. The average woman was 22. Now it’s 30 for the groom, 28 for the bride. How do you believe these numbers are only going to increase as time goes on? People are waiting longer and longer to get married. They say the growth in the single population is driven mainly by two things.

Decline in marriage. So people just don’t want to bother with marriage. And maybe they came out of a divorce situation or their parents were divorced or whatever the case may be. And there’s also obviously a rise in adults who are cohabitating and I’m going to guess nobody’s surprised by this research. I mean, we see this all around us. We see this here even in metro Detroit. So let’s do a status check this morning because you fall into one of these four categories. You’re here this morning and you’re single or you’re here this morning and you’re single again. And that may be due to divorce or death. Maybe you’re in a relationship and you’re wondering if this is the one and if this is going to work out or maybe you’re engaged and so you have plans in the near future to be married.

And then obviously those who are married in this room or are watching online. Now, I’ll tell you this, there’s really only four relationship statuses that you can have according to God’s word. These are the four relationship statuses. And I want to let you know here that if you are going through a divorce, if you’re in the process of going through a divorce and that divorce has not been finalized yet, you should not be dating anybody else. See, marriage is an institution created by God, and there is a holiness in a reference to the union and the covenant. We use that word on purpose, the covenant of marriage. Likewise, we believe that that marriage is so sacred and so holy that God instituted it for our benefit and for the benefit of our families. And that’s why we talk so directly about marriage and families here at Shepherds Gate.

Now, if you are married, I guess the next question would be how is your marriage going? Maybe another way to ask the question is how are you investing in your marriage? Did you notice how quiet it is in here? Is the fact that nobody’s responding? Is that a good thing or a bad thing and the person that’s married to that person, would you say the same thing? Again, let’s go back to last week because this is what we learned. Abraham, who’s been our main character pretty much the last three months, he’s the one who sends a servant. You could call him a matchmaker to find a wife for his son, Isaac. Isaac is 40 years old. So think about this 4000 years ago. He’s 40 years old.

He has not been married. And this matchmaker servant travels 500 miles with ten camels and a whole entourage of servants. And he has choice gifts, the Bible tells us. And when he finally arrives at the place he’s told to go, he arrives at a well and he prays to God. Please help me figure out who I’m supposed to bring back to marry my servant, Isaac. Isaac. And so wouldn’t you know that mid prayer Rebecca appears and she gives the servant and his ten camels water and that was the confirmation that he needed, that this was the person that God had chosen. And so, of course, the next step is for the servant to ask Rebecca’s family if he can take her back 500 miles away to Isaac.

And that’s where we pick up in verse 50 this morning. It says Laban, who’s Rebecca’s brother, and Matthew, whose Rebecca’s father, answered together, These guys, this is from the Lord. They recognize that this is from God. We can say nothing to you one way or the other. Here is Rebecca. Take her and go and let her become the wife of your master son, as the Lord has direct it. Now. Isn’t it interesting, 4000 years later, and one of the practices that we still strongly encourage young men who are pursuing young women to do is before they get engaged, to show honor to the father of the bride and to go to him and to ask his permission for his daughter’s hand in marriage. How many of you think we should continue that tradition today?

Look at that. Now, I’ll tell you this, because some of you in here, you might be thinking, well, I didn’t do that. And it’s been five years or ten years or 20 years or 30 years. Can I just encourage you this morning, even if you’ve been married for 50 years, I would go back to the father of your bride and I would have that conversation with him and I would ask him for his blessing upon your relationship. Because here’s what I know about men. There is not a single man in this room watching our line or in this universe that doesn’t value being respected. And this is one of those traditions that I hope that we never, ever, ever lose sight of. And some of you, you’re probably thinking you are crazy. I have been married to this woman for 30 years.

I just want to give her back to her dad in which we have counseling classes and specialist here. But I can tell you this because I’ve challenged other men here at Shepherds Gate, and the first response is, You’re crazy. No way. No way, No way. And then all of a sudden they find an opportunity to have that conversation. And each and every time they’ve come back to me and they say, You’re not going to believe the way that I responded. You’re not going to believe how well that went over and how much he appreciated that. I acknowledge they never did it the first time and he was glad that I was willing to ask for his blessing even so many years later.

What’s really interesting to it is you notice that it’s the father and the brother, and there’s only one wedding that I have ever done in all the weddings that I have performed in my role here at Shepherds Gate, where the father of the bride brought his daughter up to the front, in the words that I say is, Who gives this woman to marry this man? And he said, I do. And her two brothers do as well. And I at first I wasn’t expecting that, but I actually thought that was really cool. And then I actually felt really bad for the groom because I was like, not only should you not take off Dad, you should be really careful to take care of her because she’s got two brothers that are also keeping eyes on her as well.

Look, it says next in the text, it says, When Abraham’s servant heard what they said, he bowed to the ground before the Lord and the servant brought out gold and silver jewelry and articles of clothing, and he gave them to Rebecca. Isn’t it interesting? 4000 years later, women still love gold and silver jewelry. And isn’t it incredible? 4000 years later, women still love it when a man takes them on a shopping spree and pays for all of it on their credit card. Hey, men, women. Smart guy, isn’t he? He also gave costly gifts to her brother and her mother. Now there’s a little nugget of truth in here as well, because you might be thinking, well, how come he’s not giving anything to the father? And the reason is, is because there’s already been a transfer within the family. And those of you that own businesses or you have wealth and there’s there’s part of that is your family lineage and heritage where there’s a transfer.

This is what you see taking place. The the the estate and the well-being of the family has actually already been placed on the brother. And so that’s why he’s honoring the brother and that’s why he’s honoring the mother in this text. But what it does for me is it leads me to kind of ask this question and I want to ask you this question. Well, what did your wedding cost you? And isn’t it interesting that we seem to live in a day and age when weddings are getting more and more expensive and there is this expectation that’s placed on our young couples to have to have these extravagant celebrations and all of this financial pressure that’s placed upon them before they even begin their first day as husband and wife.

And I’ll tell you, if that’s you and you’re engaged, let me tell you the number one piece of advice I give every single couple I have the opportunity to talk to. I say to every single one of them, spend less on your wedding and more on your marriage. Spend less on your wedding and more on your marriage. And I say that because someone got in front of my wife, Lisa and I, and they said these words so much so that we were actually planning to go into debt. There were some things that we thought that we should have or that we really needed to have at our wedding. And after someone gave us kind of permission to not live under that kind of pressure, we changed things around. In fact, instead of having beef for the reception, we changed ready for this to chicken and fish. And someone told us, the people that are there, they’re there because they love you.

They’re there because they want to celebrate with you. In fact, the next day they’re not going to remember what you fed them. And if there’s people that bring their checkbook to the wedding reception and they wait to fill out the gift that they’re going to give you based on the food that you put in front of them, then they really aren’t really a part of your life anyways. They really don’t want you to prosper. And it’s not really a gift. They’re just being selfish, a man. And I’m telling you, there’s liberty in that. When you learn the principles of investing in your marriage over even your wedding day. But this is the other question that I think causes us to kind of pause this morning is what is your marriage costing you?

Again, it’s super quiet in here. How much money are you investing in your marriage? Now? Think of it for those of us that have kids and how easily it is to put the kids at the top of the priority order, how easy it is for us to kind of make them the number one priority, even the financial priority in our lives. I can tell you my wife and I struggle with this as well, and I just believe that we need to hear a whole lot more of permission giving and listening to be young couples with kids. You do not have to give your kids everything they want. It is okay for you to spend money on your marriage. It is okay for you to invest in your marriage.

It is okay if your kids suffer and whine and complain because you didn’t buy them something because you were going to use that money to invest in the most important relationship God has given you on this planet and that is with your spouse. Amen. So I want you to think about this because my wife and I, one of the things that we’ve been doing the last several months as a way to flirt with each other is we send each other reels on Instagram back and forth, back and forth. Anybody else do this? Okay, Lisa, I think there’s like ten people that are going to do this with us and there’s a certain app that we absolutely love, and it’s also somebody we follow on Instagram called the Ultimate Intimacy App, and they have incredible ideas of how to invest in your marriage. And one of the ones that we kind of really honed in on and we’ve kind of put that as the target on the wall and we’re working hard to try to figure out if we can do this.

It’s called the principle of 1111. Anybody? No, this principle or this rule. Anybody heard of this? All right. Here, I’m going to give it to you. Morning. It’s great. Rule number one, one week vacation alone each year, emphasis on the no kids and all the people with kids said. And you know what you’re saying right now, You’re nervous and you’re sweating because you’re saying that costs money. Grandparents that are in this room. How many of you believe your kids that are raising your grandkids need to make this a priority in their lives? Go ahead, Raise your hand, grandparents. Okay. You’re raising your hands nice and high because I’m baiting you in on this on purpose. We cannot do this without you. You have to be willing to take your grandkids If you’re not doing this for an extended period of time.

We get it that you raised us. We get it, that you had your time, we get it. That it’s really exhausting. It takes you three months to recover after our kids for a week. But if you believe in investing in the next generation and helping us with our marriages, we need you. We can’t do this without you. Number two, one date night a week, no distractions. Does this one cost money? Doesn’t have to. Exactly. You don’t have to go out to dinner. You don’t have to spend a crazy amount of money. Maybe your date is you just go to a park and you just walk around. You just talk to each other and listen to each other. Invest in each other. Number three, one time a week, each spouse initiate intimacy.

Do I need to explain this one? Okay, Good number for 130 minute block of no screen time every single night. If we’re willing to admit how much our phones have become almost an appendage of our bodies, our cell phones have almost become this third arm. And now we have the capacity to work 24 seven. And so there’s always another text message. There’s always another e-mail. If you work at Shepherd’s Gate, there’s always another team chat that someone wants you on. There’s always something else to pull us away from the number one relationship. God has given and instituted in our lives. Now, I’ll tell you, Lisa and I have not hit all four of these. We are still striving to do this.

We’ve been able to do a little weekend trips away. We haven’t necessarily gotten to the point of doing a whole week yet and even at night how difficult it is even to have 30 minutes. And usually it’s my fault because I usually or my one is falling asleep 10 minutes into our 30 minutes that we’re trying to invest in each other. It’s a matter of priority. It’s a matter of of scaling back and kind of looking at the big picture and saying, Man, am I just living a life that’s out of control? Am I living a life that’s being dictated by the culture? Am I living a life and comparing myself to every other Instagram, Facebook, tick tock, you name it real that’s out there instead of living my own life that God has given me and blessed me with.

And because of that, I am missing out not only of receiving the blessings that my spouse can be giving to me, I’m also missing out on the blessings that I could be giving to her as well. Let’s continue in our text verse 54. He said, The servant and the men who were with them, they ate and they drank and they spent the night there. When they got up the next morning, the servant said, Send me on my way to my master. Hey, you given me permission to take Rebecca home? Great. We all agree that this is a thing of God, not let us get out of here. But what happens is, is her brother and her mother replied, Let the young woman remain with us ten days or so.

Then you may go. Well, wait a second. Why do they need another ten days? What’s going on in this text? And I want you to think about the human component to this. And one of the reasons I so appreciate scripture is it gives us the human components as well, because those of you that have children and you’ve raised them in your home and they get to that point where they do get and you’re excited for them. And and the wedding day is approaching faster and faster and faster. And you realize that pretty soon there’s going to come a day when they are no longer going to be in your house and you are going to wake up and you’re not going to see them first thing in the morning and the dynamics of your family are going to change.

What you see in this text. Their human response of, Hey, we believe this is of God and we’re excited for Rebecca and we’re glad that you found a suitor for her. But there’s also this part of us that’s going to grieve that she’s no longer with us. So could you just give us another listen, isn’t this really cool ten days or so? Because he knows if he gives him ten days, you know, you give somebody a little bit, they’re going to ask for more. But he says to them, do not detain me. Now that the Lord has granted success to my journey, just send me my way so I can go to my master, the servant. He’s he’s on task. He knows what he’s called to do, and he wants to get back to his master.

Now, people oftentimes will read scripture and they’ll say, The reason I don’t follow Scripture, the reason, especially with the Old Testament, is it seems to always be degrading to women, and women always seem to be second class citizens, and no one ever respects women. Watch what happens next. This is so cool. Then they said, Let’s call the young one Rebecca and asked her about it. Let’s ask her what she thinks. Let’s ask her if she wants to go. And so they call Rebecca and they asked her, Will you go with this man? And what did she say? She’s the one that gets to call the shot. She’s the one that gets to determine, hey, I am ready to leave this house. Thank you for raising me up to this point, but I am ready to go see who this man is that God has chosen for me.

And so they sent their sister Rebecca, on her way along with her nurse and Abraham’s servants and all his men. They blessed Rebecca and said to her, Our sister, may you increase the thousands upon thousands. May your offspring possess the cities of their enemies. And so Rebecca, in her got ready. They mounted the camels and they went back to the man. And so the servant took Rebecca and left all of these people an even bigger entourage than what came 500 miles. Long time to travel back then. Now, these remaining few verses, they read like a hallmark story. This is what I love about Scripture says Now, Isaac had come from Bear the high ROI, for he was living in the Nagra and he went out to the field one evening to meditate.

You get in the picture, 40 years old guy just wants a wife and he looks up and he saw camels. It’s not very romantic, is it? Why does he see camels approaching first? Thank you. Because the camels are the tallest thing that is coming toward him. He gets better. Stay with me. Rebecca also looked up and she saw. She got down from her camel and she asked the service who is that man in the field? Come in to meet us. He is my master, the servant answered, and she took her veil and she covered herself. She’s playing hard to get, isn’t she? And then it actually ends with the servant told Isaac all he had done. Here’s what’s so incredible.

You’re 40 years old. You have been waiting a very long time, especially in this culture, to get married. The last thing you want is for the servant to give you a step by step, play by play recap everything he did to bring Rebecca to you. Am I correct, guys? You just want to meet her and make sure and finalize the deal. But that’s exactly what Scripture says that he did. And so Isaac brought her into the town of his mother, Sarah. And he does what? He marries Rebecca. She became his wife and he loved her. And Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death hole in his heart. And it goes all the way back to Genesis when God looked at the first man, Adam, and said, It is not good for him to be alone, I will make a helper suitable for him.

And here we are, 24 verses later, God looks at Isaac and says it is not good for him to be alone. In fact, I promised his father Abraham, that through his seed, all the world would be blessed. And this is the next step. Isaac marrying Rebecca. I want you to think of all that we just read in our text this morning, which came first for Isaac and Rebecca. Love or marriage. Don’t you find that fascinating? Don’t you find that very intriguing in the world in which we live? Because this whole idea of dating that we have now in our culture and it’s pretty prevalent in most Western cultures is actually only been going on a little over 100 years. So if you rewind just back a little over 100 years ago, families were much more involved in setting up their kids for marriage.

And now because of the way society’s gone and the pressures of the way things have been placed upon young people coming up, there’s all this pressure to date and to date and to date and to find the right person. Find the right person, Find the right person. But I just believe it’s exhausting. I believe so often it just gets frustrating as you’re trying to find a Christian person. But some of you know my story. I started here at Shepherd’s Gate as a single guy. I had no idea what God had in store for me. And after a few years of being here, my role was the student director. I begin to have this fear in my heart that if I didn’t find a spouse and I didn’t get married, that they were going to come down and they were going to tell me that I couldn’t serve as a student minister anymore because I just felt like I was going to get to a certain age where it just became weird to be single and be hanging out with teenagers.

And I can tell you this nobody in leadership at Shepherd’s Gate ever said that to me. That was my own paranoia. That was my own fear. And so I started doing online dating. I looked at that as a tool that maybe this is what God would use to bring someone into my life. And I can tell you this I dated a lot of people. I feel like I have perfected online dating if any of you want advice afterwards, because at first I would go to dinner or go to the movies and, you know, it doesn’t really take that long to figure out if you have chemistry with someone or if they have chemistry with you. And you know, the best place to take someone on a first date, it’s a coffeehouse.

It’s an easy, an easy out, and you’re only in for five bucks. It’s incredible. And I went on, I mean, there was times that I’d book like three or four dates a week because you could do it if you’re just going for coffee. Single Youth Minister Tim. Until I randomly met my wife at a surprise birthday party for a mutual friend at the age of 29 years old. And I didn’t get married until I was 31 years old. I know many of you are like, Man, I didn’t know you were that old. You look so good and so young. And that’s because my wife is six years younger than me. That’s why you just don’t know what God has in store and it’s been said last week, most of the weddings that I do now are from people that use online services.

We actually have someone here at Shepherd’s Gate that just became a certified matchmaker, like she feels God is calling her to help single people connect with other people. And so for the single people, the friends that we have in this room, I want you to hear my heart loud and clear. I know the struggle and I get the pain. And sometimes waiting on God, it just becomes frustrating because you’re like, okay, God, could you at least drop a couple bread crumbs? Could you at least give me a little bit of a hint because there be something that moves in the right direction. And so often even hearing the words, we’ll just wait on God, we’ll just pray about it, we’ll just do this, we’ll just do that.

Can sometimes become overwhelming and becomes frustrating. I just want you to know that we care about you. We see you, we love you. We’re going to do everything that we can to continue partnering with you. As God lays out his perfect will in his perfect timing for your life. Because when you think of this account, one of the things that we go back to so often is this It’s the definition of love. What is love? And again, we live in a time when this word has been defined and redefined over and over and over again. And we just believe as a church that the only person that gets to determine the definition of love is God, because God is love and because God is love, he knows it best. In fact, the simplest way to explain this, this morning, especially for those of you in relationship and in marriage, is this if you’ve been married for 5 seconds, you know, this is true.

Love is a choice. You can be on your honeymoon in all of the warm fuzzies and all of the feelings that you have for the other person can instantly be pushed aside because someone said something or did something and hurt your feelings each and every day. We are called to love our spouses each and every day. We’re called to invest in the relationship that he has placed us in, in his sovereign grace and mercy. Love is absolutely a choice. And if you wonder why the divorce rate continues to trend the way that it does and why people walk away from the marriage, in the end, the relationships that they’ve had even sometimes 25 years, 30 years ago, people say, I’ve been married for 35 years and all of a sudden my spouse wants nothing to do with me is because they lost sight of the fact of the correct definition of love.

It becomes all about them and it becomes this selfish, innate desire where they feel like they have to be the one that feels love or receive love instead of understanding. No, each and every day it is a struggle. Marriage is hard, and yet, somehow, by God’s grace, he gives us the ability to love others. So how well are you loving those that God has placed in your life? Are you loving well, are you angry? And you just walking around and you just spew venom? You never have anything good to say. People that just rip their spouses to shreds, people that are talking to their spouses and words and actions that are just unholy and unbiblical. Can I tell you this? If your marriage is struggling, the worst thing that you can do is to keep it to yourself.

If your marriage is hanging on by a thread, the worst thing that you can do is try to ignore it and just live in your house and not address the situation. In fact, for Ben and I here at the church, we obviously hear of these circumstances and we walk alongside couples who find themselves at a crossroad where they don’t know where to turn. And I’m always intrigued when it comes to investing in marriages, especially when it comes to laying down our finances. And when we meet with the couple and we say, really what you need is you need a strong marriage counselor. You need to give up not only your most precious resource, which is your time, and figure out how to get to a counseling appointment.

You’re also going to have to give up your financial resources to pay for this. And I can’t tell you how many times people push back on their people just think they don’t have the money to invest in their marriage. And can I just tell you this, that when it comes to your marriage, you should never stop separating heaven and earth to repair that relationship. And if it means selling the furniture in your living room, you should sell the furniture in your living room. If it means downsizing one of your cars so that you can repair your marriage and you should downsize one of your cars again, if it means saying no to one of your kids activities or one of the things that they so desperately think that they want but they really don’t need, it is okay to do that.

You’ve got to be brought back to what God’s plan and design is for you, because there’s enough people in this church that will tell you once the kids are gone and out of the house, if you don’t invest in your marriage, you’re going to look at each other and you’re going to be like, I don’t even know you and I don’t know you, and you’re going to walk away and you’re going to end your marriage. And we know that God does not want that for you or any relationship in this church. One of the things that I’ve been privileged to be a part of the last six weeks is a marriage class that we’ve been running on Wednesday night. We’ve been co-leading it with another couple and we’ve been watching a video that last anywhere from 22 to 25 minutes.

And we’re gathered around round tables and we have discussion afterwards. And it’s been an incredible experience, as so many of you have attended this class. And I’ll be honest, I haven’t been at every single one because of my schedule and prior commitments that I’ve had to kind of shift and move things around. But this is some good news for all of you today. You ready for this? If you are serious about investing in your marriage? And today’s message is a wake up call for you and it’s ringing your bell. We have another whole six week session that’s coming up a month from now, and it’s going to be here on Wednesday nights. And all you have to do is show up, sit at a table, listen to the video and go through three questions that they ask at the end.

Here’s what I love about the way in which we have access to technology. Now, if you missed the last six weeks, we can send you a link to all six videos and you can watch them with your spouse in your home. Remember the 30 minute challenge, the last one of the four ones? This could be your 30 minutes where you watch that video together and you go over the three questions together as husband and wife men in this room. I guarantee you there is not a woman on the planet that wouldn’t want you to lead this endeavor for your marriage. In fact, because of my wife and my schedule, there are times that she will send me an invite, a calendar invite for 10:00 on a Tuesday night to watch that 30 minute video so that we make sure that we’re making this a priority in our lives.

You can do it, too. I know you can. And if you give us your email at the welcome center on your way out, we’ll make sure that you get that and then you can join us again a month from now as we go through part two. We don’t want marriages to crumble here at Shepherds Gate. Again, God is the one who gives us the definition for love. And this is what he said in John 13. He said, I give you a new commandment to love one another. This isn’t a suggestion. This isn’t just, you know, an idea that he’s floating out. No, this is a command. I’m commanding you to love one another as I have loved you. You are to love one another so much so that the unbelieving world is actually going to know that you belong to me.

That you follow me, that you’re my disciple if you love one another. Same guy that wrote John wrote first John. He put it this way Dear friends, let us love one another. For love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God because why God is love. Look to Him. Look at what He has done. Finally, this is how God showed his love among us. He said His one and only son until the world that we might live through him. This is love hears God’s definition. Not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent his son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

Because the truth is, we’re not going to get it right. We’re going to screw up our marriages, we’re going to fall and we’re going to fail. But the secret in all this is understanding who God is and how incredible his love and his mercy and his grace and forgiveness is for each and every one of us. See, we don’t have to do this love and marriage thing with God because God’s the one that chose us. He created us. Psalm 139. He’s the one that chose us. Colossians three, and he loves us and he wants to be in relationship with us. And he wants to not only be in relation with us, he wants to strengthen all of the relationships that we have in and around our lives. And when we understand who God is and the incredible sacrifice that He’s made for each and every one of us. Of course, then we can love one another.