Brian Hanrahan, reporting during the Falklands War in 1982, famously said of a sortie by British aircraft “I counted them all out, and I counted them all back.” It is interesting to see how often that thought is conveyed in the Scriptures: for example, the Lord Jesus said to His Father in prayer, “those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost” (Jn 17.12). When Ziklag was smitten by the Amalekites, “David enquired at the Lord, saying, Shall I pursue after this troop? shall I overtake them? And he answered him, Pursue: for thou shalt surely overtake them, and without fail recover all” (1 Sam 30.8). The promised success is recorded simply; “And David recovered all that the Amalekites had carried away … David recovered all” (vv 18-19). As you read the article by our brother Tan Chee Wei on page 11, his first for Believer’s Magazine, take note that the Lord Jesus, after the multitude had been fed miraculously, told His disciples “Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost” (Jn 6.12). In all these examples, that which had been counted out was all counted back.
In reading again the delightful account of the journey to bring Rebekah to Isaac, I was struck by the number of references to camels in Genesis 24. The first of those references describes the departure of the caravan, and we are told “the servant took ten camels of the camels of his master, and departed” (Gen 24.10). Abraham had an abundance of camels, as well as of flocks, herds and asses (v 35), so the servant had acted in a very calculated way when he took ten of them. Evidently, he judged that eleven would be too many, and nine would be insufficient. Viewing the whole account as a beautiful picture of the ministry of the Holy Spirit (the unnamed servant) going forth to find and bring home a bride (the Church) for Isaac (Christ), all under the sovereign instruction of Abraham (the Father), the careful selection of the camels illustrates the care with which divine Persons made provision for the purpose of bringing home a bride for Christ.
Against the backdrop of this precise provision out of an abundant supply, all speaking of the sovereign provision of God for the needs of His people, it is interesting that the servant made it a condition of the prospective bride’s identification that she would say “Drink, and I will give thy camels drink also” (Gen 24.14). According to the experts, a full-grown camel can drink 200 litres (44 imperial gallons) of water in three minutes, and that intake would not satisfy its thirst after a long trek. “Before he had done speaking” (v 15), Rebekah appeared and fulfilled all that the servant had prayed for. She said “Drink, my lord … and when she had done giving him drink, she said, I will draw water for thy camels also, until they have done drinking. And she hasted, and emptied her pitcher into the trough, and ran again unto the well to draw water, and drew for all his camels” (vv 18-20). Note, “until they have done drinking”. While the servant watched her, the girl climbed the steps of that communal well to fetch more than 2,000 litres (440 gallons) of water! A lesson we can draw from the ‘well’ of this chapter is that divine provision for us, spiritually and materially, is totally adequate for our desert journey, but we must be prepared to labour to enjoy it. The camel upon which Rebekah eventually rode was one that she had laboured to sustain.
When the journey was over, and the servant had brought the bride home, Isaac “lifted up his eyes, and saw, and, behold, the camels were coming” (v 63). (He had probably watched every passing caravan, counting the camels. In the shimmering heat of the Negev desert he counted this one: there were ten camels exactly.) “And Rebekah lifted up her eyes, and when she saw Isaac, she lighted off the camel” (v 64). Face to face with each other at last, there was no further need for camels: the careful provision for the journey had been enough.