Section navigation

Eliezer: Faithfulness in Fulfilling a Trust

Author
Category Articles
Date September 27, 2019

Well done, good and faithful Servant.
Matt. 25:21

Of all the Servants spoken of in Scripture, if one were called upon to say which most nearly comes up to the idea one forms to oneself of a ‘good and faithful servant’, it would be that eldest servant of Abraham’s house, whom Abraham sent into Padan Aram to take a wife for his son Isaac. The history is set down at great length in the 24th chapter of Genesis and is familiar to us all.

It will be remembered that in the 15th chapter Abraham, with reference to his childless estate, expostulates thus with Almighty God, ‘Behold, to me Thou hast given no seed; and one born in mine house is my heir;’ for, ‘the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus.’ We are reminded by this of the entire difference between the manners and usages of that remote age and the present. In case Abraham were to die childless, a servant born in his house would — in the ordinary course of events — ­succeed to Abraham’s vast property, and become his heir.

Of course, if this was the servant spoken of in the 24th chapter, the man’s conduct and demeanour becomes dignified marvellously. Then is he the very pattern of disinterestedness: a servant who deserved to reign in the world as a king. But although I do for my own part entirely believe that it was Eliezer whom Abraham sent into Padan Aram; Eliezer who met Rebekah at the well of water; Eliezer who brought Rebekah back as a wife for Isaac; — I shall build nothing that follows on this presumed identity. I cannot prove it. I may be mistaken in my opinion. I will therefore not build upon it: but confine myself entirely to the evidence of a ‘good and faithful Servant’ afforded by the narrative in the 24th chapter — whatever that person’s name may have been.

And, by way of making my remarks practically useful, I propose to narrow the issue yet further. I shall invite you to attend specially to the feature of character which this narrative discloses — viz. the faithfulness of a good servant in fulfilling a commission. All servants have had, or are to have commissions — trusts of importance — to fulfil; and it is for those who read to consider with themselves secretly whether, in the discharge of such trusts, they resemble Abraham’s servant or not.

Abraham was old, and the Lord had blessed Abraham in all things.

And he took an oath of the eldest servant of his house, that ruled over all he had, making him swear by the Lord, ‘the God of Heaven and the God of the Earth’, that he would not take a wife unto his son of the daughters of the Canaanites among whom he dwelt. ‘But thou shalt go’ (said he) ‘unto my country and to my kindred, and take a wife unto my son Isaac.’ Very strict was the charge he gave to his servant that on no account might he bring Isaac his son back to the land of his fathers. If the woman would not consent to follow him back, then was the servant to be held clear from the oath. But in truth, Abraham was acting under Divine guidance, and he knew it. ‘The Lord God of hosts’ (said he) ‘which took me from my Father’s house, and from the land of my kindred, and that sware unto me, saying, “Unto thy seed will I give this land”, he shall send his Angel before thee.’ Accordingly, the servant took the oath prescribed him, touching Abraham’s thigh while he took it. The meaning of this is plain when you consider that, according to the idiom of the sacred language, descendants are said to come from the thigh of their remote ancestor. In token therefore of the Patriarch’s certain conviction that Messiah should in after-ages be descended from himself, he employed this ceremony in taking an oath of his servant.

It follows: — ‘And the servant took ten camels of the camels of his master, and departed; for all the goods of his master were in his hand: and he arose, and went to Mesopotamia, unto the city of Nahor. And he made his camels to kneel down without the city by a well of water at the time of the evening, even the time that women go out to draw water. And he said, O Lord God of my master Abraham, I pray thee, send me good speed this day, and show kindness unto my master Abraham. Behold, I stand here at the well of water; and the daughters of the men of the city come out to draw water. And let it come to pass, that the damsel to whom I shall say, Let down thy pitcher, I pray thee, that I may drink; and she shall say, Drink, and I will give thy camels drink also: let the same be she that thou hast appointed for thy servant Isaac; and, thereby shall I know that thou hast showed kindness unto my master. And it came to pass, before he had done speaking, that, behold, Rebekah came out. . . with her pitcher upon her shoulder. . . And the damsel was very fair to look upon, a virgin. . . And the servant ran to meet her, and said, Let me, I pray thee, drink a little water of thy pitcher.’ Her willing compliance, (for, ‘Drink, my lord’, she said, ‘and I will draw water for thy camels also, until they have done drinking’), and the servant’s adoring wonder, (for ‘the man wondering at her held his peace, to know whether the Lord had made his journey prosperous or not’) — you cannot have forgotten; no, nor how the servant put an ornament of gold upon her face, and bracelets upon her hands, and asked her name, and inquired if there were room in her father’s house for him and his men to lodge in. She satisfied him at once about every particular; ‘and the man bowed down his head, and worshipped the Lord. And he said, Blessed be the Lord God of my master Abraham, who hath not left destitute my master of his mercy and his truth. I being in the way, the Lord led me to the house of my master’s brethren’ (Gen. 24:10-27).

1. What I admire so much in all this is the beautiful admixture of piety, and obedience, and trust in God; the walking in faith, ‘as seeing him who is invisible’; the confident and trustful walking, which the narrative displays. In choosing a sign and praying the Lord to fulfil it in a certain way, Abraham’s servant (you may be sure) acted by some higher guidance than the light of natural reason. What is quite certain, God was in all his thoughts. That at least is plain. The work which he did was begun, continued, and ended in God. And this is our first lesson. Nothing, I say, can be more unmistakable than this — the way the man refers the whole of his errand to God. ‘O Lord God of my master Abraham, I pray thee, send me good speed this day, and show kindness unto my master Abraham. Behold, I stand here by the well of water; and the daughters of the men of the city come out to draw water’ — and so forth. . . When the sign has been vouchsafed, and Rebekah has been spoken with — ‘Blessed be the Lord God of my master Abraham, who hath not left destitute my master of his mercy and his truth. I being in the way, the Lord led me to the house of my master’s brethren.’

2. How the damsel ‘ran and told them of her mother’s house these things’: how Laban her brother came out and constrained the servant to come in, and the men that were with him; gave them water to wash their feet, and ungirded the camels: — all these beautiful and life-like features of the Eastern story no one can ever forget. The act of hospitality which is common to East and West alike, the offer of food, comes next. ‘There was set meat before’ Abraham’s servant ‘to eat. But he said, I will not eat until I have told my errand.’

Now I am sure I need not enlarge on this. After a long and fatiguing journey; at the close of the day, and that day a day in Syria; — who but a servant good and faithful indeed would have postponed the refreshment of a meal to the delivery of a message? Of whom is one so much reminded as of him who at the well of Samaria declared that he had meat to eat which his disciples knew not of: for that his meat was to do the will of the Father who had sent him, and to finish his work? This forgetfulness of self; this prime regard for duty; this supreme care for the thing committed to his trust; this finding of his soul’s refreshment and his spirit’s sustentation in the faithful delivery of the message which he had brought (‘I will not eat until I have told my errand’): all this marks the ‘good and faithful servant.’ It was a long message which he had to deliver. At the close of it (and it was a rehearsal of all that had happened, and of a vast deal more than is set down, as I could easily prove), at the close of it ­’And now if ye will deal kindly and truly with my master, tell me: and if not, tell me: that I may turn to the right hand, or to the left’. . . ‘Then Laban and Bethuel answered and said, The thing proceedeth from the Lord; we cannot speak unto thee bad or good.’ Jewels and gifts were given: the contract, as it were, was sealed: then and not before ‘they did eat and drink, he and the men that were with him’. . . So true is it that one faithful servant makes many: that goodness propagates itself, is infectious, extends from the superior servant to those who are placed under him!

3. I shall make only one point more out of this narrative. ‘Send me away unto my master’, said Abraham’s servant in the morning. Laban (the brother of Rebekah), and Rebekah’s mother, requested delay; the interval of at least the third of a month. But, ‘Hinder me not,’ said the servant ‘seeing the Lord hath prospered my way. Send me away, that I may go to my master.’ Such earnestness wrought compliance. The servant set off at once with Rebekah and her maidens, and Isaac meets his bride as he ‘went in the field to meditate in the field at the eventide’, when he had ‘come from the way of the well Lahai-roi’ (verses 62-63).

There are in all this tokens unmistakable of that earnest and strenuous zeal which identifies itself with its work, and finds its service perfect freedom. O how unlike that temper and disposition which ask chiefly how little is required and then do that little grudgingly! In other words, leave that little half undone. There can be no faithful service except there be love. And the form love takes in a ‘good and faithful servant’ is sure to be the form which meets us here: — I mean, an eager, anxious love identifying itself with the welfare of those it serves: a self-sacrificing, self-denying, self-forgetting love: — a love like that of Abraham’s servant for his master Abraham.

Faithfulness then in fulfilling trusts: –– this is the lesson we carry away from the 24th chapter of Genesis; and our pattern is a Servant. And why? Because servants we are, everyone of us, and a trust is committed to us all. Verily, he who took upon himself the form of a servant for our sakes, hath sanctified the relation I speak of, and sublimed it, and perfected it likewise. But his example may seem, as it is, above us: not so, at least, the example of the Syrian servant, or rather slave, of Abraham. And the characteristic graces of his example have been shown to be threefold: (1) His calm trust and confidence in God, and reference of all he says and does to him. (2) His self-denying earnestness and zeal, which postponed the very refreshment of nature to the discharge of duty. Lastly, (3) His making his master’s interests his own, and acting throughout as if it were for himself that he acted — for himself that he toiled and strove!. . . And thus he hath won for himself a place on the imperishable page: and few have ever reached the end of the narrative which is the close of the chapter, without exclaiming secretly, ‘Well done!’ ‘Well done, good and faithful Servant!’


The above is a chapter from Dean Burgon’s valuable and rare little book, The Servants of Scripture, 1893, being addresses delivered in the afternoon con­gregation of St. Mary-the-Virgin, Oxford, in the years 1871-1875. At these services a number of domestic servants were present. This article is taken from the December 1973 edition of the Banner of Truth magazine.

Of Further Interest

    Book Cover for 'Acceptable Sacrifice'
    price From: $6.00

    Description

    Well done, good and faithful Servant. — Matt. 25:21 Of all the Servants spoken of in Scripture, if one were called upon to say which most nearly comes up to the idea one forms to oneself of a ‘good and faithful servant’, it would be that eldest servant of Abraham’s house, whom Abraham sent into […]

    Walking With God

    Walking With God

    Learning Discipleship in the Psalms

    by Richard D. Phillips


    price $13.00 $10.40

    Description

    Well done, good and faithful Servant. — Matt. 25:21 Of all the Servants spoken of in Scripture, if one were called upon to say which most nearly comes up to the idea one forms to oneself of a ‘good and faithful servant’, it would be that eldest servant of Abraham’s house, whom Abraham sent into […]

    Spiritual-Mindedness
    price $10.00 $8.00

    Description

    Well done, good and faithful Servant. — Matt. 25:21 Of all the Servants spoken of in Scripture, if one were called upon to say which most nearly comes up to the idea one forms to oneself of a ‘good and faithful servant’, it would be that eldest servant of Abraham’s house, whom Abraham sent into […]

Latest Articles

Music in the Work of Calvin (Part Two) December 10, 2019

This second half of the address by the most eminent of all Calvin’s biographers was delivered in the ‘Salle de la Reformation’, at Geneva, in April 1902. It was translated and printed in the Princeton Theological Review, October 1909, from which source it is here reprinted with very slight abridgement. Emile Doumergue (1844-1937) was, at this […]

Music in the Life of Calvin (Part One) December 6, 2019

This address by the most eminent of all Calvin’s biographers was delivered in the ‘Salle de la Reformation’, at Geneva, in April 1902. It was translated and printed in the Princeton Theological Review, October 1909, from which source it is here reprinted with very slight abridgement. The allusions at the opening of the Address are […]