Sep 26 2009

11- REBEKAH: GENESIS Ch. 24 – 27, Part 2

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The Woman at the Well

A-   Rebekah

(Part 2 of 2)

II. Abraham’s servant and the journey to Canaan (contd. )

4. Rebekah’s journey in the wilderness represents the journey of the Church, and every soul in it, in the wilderness of this world:
The slave was an honest guide to Rebekah in her journey; he protected her from wild beasts and highwaymen and entertained her by talking nicely about her bridegroom and her new land.  We can easily see how this vividly illustrates the guidance of the Holy Spirit to the Church in the Book of Acts.  From the first chapter we read God’s commandment to the apostles not to depart from Jerusalem before the descent of the Holy Spirit upon them (Acts 1:2-5).  Then we see how the Church is guided by the Holy Spirit in choosing the ministers (13:2,3), assigning the road map for their travels, and even closing before them certain doors in order to open new ones for ministry (13:4; 16:6-10).  The apostles were filled with the Holy Spirit before they wrote a letter or took a decision (Acts 13:9; 15:28).  Likewise, the prophets (men and women) who were guided by the Holy Spirit directed the Church and warned against future hardships (11:27-30, 13:1,2; 21:4, 9-11).

As for individuals, our unique example is our Lord Jesus.  Although He is the incarnate God, He “emptied himself taking the form of a servant” (Ph. 2:7).  We can follow the Gospels to trace the work of the Holy Spirit in “guiding Jesus at very critical moments of his life on earth (Luke 3:22, 4:1, 18; Matt. 12:28).

The Holy Spirit works in every soul since the beginning of its spiritual life, “no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Co. 12:3).  We are like Rebekah who was led by the servant to Canaan, and like her children who were led by Moses in the desert of Sinai, and their children who came back from the captivity of Babylon to Jerusalem after seven centuries.  We, too, walk through the wilderness of the world led and guided by the Holy Spirit.  Unless we grieve the Holy Spirit or extinguish His work in us, He goes along with us until we safely reach our heavenly bridegroom.

The Scriptures are abundant with examples of the work of the Holy Spirit in our souls.  Prophets wrote about this by implication through symbols and references, but our Lord spoke about it quite clearly to the disciples in His farewell speech after the Last Supper (John 14-16).  Also, the Fathers of the Church, since its early centuries, have left us many theological writings and spiritual teachings about the Holy Spirit’s work in us.  I want to confirm the presence of such literature and to underline the importance of reading it and adopting it in our spiritual life, and not just listening to empty words – void of the Holy Spirit – repeatedly delivered from pulpits and written in magazines in our present time 1.

The Holy Spirit is like the wind which “blows where it wills” (John 3:8), so that we cannot limit His work by human laws, or subject it to conventional wisdom.  But through the teachings of the Bible and the Church Fathers, we are able to see two different aspects of the work of the Holy Spirit in our life.  First, the Mysteries of the Church, which are known to be visible means carrying the grace of the Holy Spirit that is unseen.  Secondly, The Holy Spirit working directly in the heart in synergy with the human effort.  The Greek biblical word (synergy) was used by the Church Fathers in their writings about the role of God’s grace and the human efforts in spiritual life.  This concept brought about many controversies to the Church because of the heretical doctrine of Pelagius, interdicted by the Council of Ephesus in the 5th century A.D., with its carry-over still present today.  Until now, theological unawareness of some spiritual leaders may lead to extremism in one of two ways:

1. To consider that man’s struggle for his own salvation is no less important than the work of God (heresy of Pelagius) although all one must do is open one’s heart to Christ and submit oneself to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  God is the only savior, but He does not impose His will on any one, nor does He revoke man’s freedom.  The Holy Spirit who leads us on our way of salvation does not work in a vacuum; He works in those who hand over their direction to the work of the Spirit.  The fruits of the Spirit will only grow in good soil.

2. To abolish man’s will and consider man after the fall of Adam totally corrupt.  Consequently, only the divine grace (given according to this teaching only to the chosen people) can save man.  All these are the teachings of St. Augustine whose reverence is not acknowledged by any Orthodox Church in spite of his status as one of the venerated fathers of the Church.  This teaching is still intact in some of the Protestant Churches, especially the Calvinists.

III- Conclusion of the Journey:

Let us consider the picture in which Rebekah is portrayed riding a camel led by Isaac’s slave. She lifts up her eyes in joy and sees Isaac who is waiting for her near Beer-Lahai-roi (well of the revelation), where he had gone out to meditate in the fields in the evening.  What a beautiful picture for the end of our journey in the wilderness of this world, and the coming of our heavenly groom, which we mystically celebrate in every Holy Liturgy.

“The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come’. And let him who hears say, ‘Come’. And let him who is thirsty come, let him who desires take the water of life without price. Amen. Come, Lord Jesus” (Rev. 22:17-20).

Saint Mark’s Orthodox Fellowship urges you to study the Bible and encourage others to do the same. Please feel free to make copies of these notes to distribute them. The Fellowship welcomes any questions, comments or additional references, whether for publication in these “Short Notes” or in private correspond­ence. Write to us:
PO Box 6192, Columbia, MD 21045

Footnotes:
  1. “The Life Giving Spirit”: Father Matta el-Meskeen, issued in 1981 in two volumes (Arabic); embraces the teachings of a large number of the Fathers of the Church, relating to the Holy Spirit and His work in man.

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