Methodist Church

Abraham’s servant: I’ve grown to know this Yahweh

In this new series, “Servants of The Lord”, we shall focus on a category of (generally) nameless and overlooked characters in the Old Testament – the servants. In the social and economic structures of the day, households were large establishments, comprising the family, together with the extended family of siblings, relatives, concubines, children and a host of servants. Throughout the narrative of the Old Testament, we read of servants doing their master’s (or mistress’) bidding and were thus as much instruments of God’s divine plan, though in less obvious ways. What were their perceptions of Yahweh and His human agents? How does God’s Story look like from their eyes? We shall imagine these things in this work of fiction.

NOW I can die in peace. I have done all that I need to do. I have, I believe, served my master (and the late mistress, bless her!) well.

I am indeed very satisfied with myself, for I have served my master for altogether 50 years now, more if you count my days as a boy, and less if you count just those years that I was head steward … but all those years were part of my preparation to be head steward. Ah, this is indeed the biggest achievement, to be head steward of this large, prosperous and prominent family!

Hmm, this was indeed a good family to serve, even if they are Jews. I sometimes hear talk about how Jews can’t be trusted, but I have found that Master was a man of his word. You could trust him to do it, look at how he fought for his nephew, that good for nothing Master Lot!

I heard him, you know, heard him talking to those men, bargaining with them as if his own life depended on it. But it was not for himself, it was for Yahweh’s name, he said. Strange. Why do all that for someone else? But Yahweh’s name, that I can understand; for name is character, no? Which is why my name is so much to me, and I know that I have to be a man of my word, for that is my character.

I’ve grown to know this Yahweh through the years; it makes sense to worship the God of your masters, but honestly, in the beginning I found Yahweh a little strange. Not like the gods of our fathers who had to be appeased with offerings and rituals, and even then they still did as they pleased.

This Yahweh is different; well he still had his rituals, like the burnt offerings, those are all still necessary, no? But He wasn’t … capricious, like our gods. What he says, goes. Like the ram which became the sacrifice for Master Isaac … ah, that was a strange thing. I was there … Which is why Master wants a wife for him from their own family, so that they worship the same God, yes?

So of course he had to send me … who else could be trusted to carry on this important task? So, what did I do? Well, first of all, I brought many fine gifts on 10 camels, to show that we are a good family, and a rich one, no? Ah, the gold, and jewelry and fine cloths, some of our best. Packed all those things, and then, well, then I made the journey. Took us some days, but it was a good journey. Smooth, no bandits, though we were well prepared for them.
Then I prayed to Yahweh of my Master, and said, “God of my Master Abraham, give me success,” then I spelled out very specifically what I felt was needed.

That’s what I learned from my master, when you pray, you ask for something specific; so it makes you think. Not just the way we used to pray to our gods, give me this or that; my Master said last time, think about what you’re praying, work through the consequences, and then see if Yahweh would be pleased to make all that happen. Which is what I did.

So, what did I ask for? I asked for a girl who would water me and the camels. And immediately this girl offered, and she turns out to be everything I wanted! A virgin, a daughter of the family, and, willing to serve. That was a blessing, surely Yahweh was with me that day.

She was willing to come back with me straight away. She told me why. We had a couple of long talks, actually, on the journey back; though most of the time she was with the women. But when I went over to check, she’d usually come out and we’d talk. So, she told me about how as a family they too never wanted to get too close to the Canaanites, their gods were different, their ways were different, she said.

They had always, in their own way followed Yahweh, and they felt that it was important to marry within the family. But her father died, and her brother Laban was too busy with looking after the household and caring for their mother that he didn’t have time to look for her husband. So I came, just at the right time. She was ready to leave that household.

So, you see, I have been a good servant. I’ve done my master’s bidding all these years, served him well, travelled with them through hostile lands and fought off hostile people. Those were the good days, I was young then. But now, as I face the end, I’m glad that I’ve been able to have helped to bring in the new generation, no? – Genesis 24.

Kwa Kiem Kiok, a member of Trinity Methodist Church, is on sabbatical at Asbury Theological Seminary in Kentucky, the United States.

 

PRAY FOR SOMETHING SPECIFIC

‘Then I prayed to Yahweh of my Master, and said, “God of my Master Abraham, give me success,”  then I spelled out very specifically what I felt was needed. That’s what I learned from my master, when you pray, you ask for something specific; so it makes you think. Not just the way we used to pray to our gods, give me this or that …’

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