Day 11

'Lord... Give Me Success Today'

Wisdom Psalm 8:1-9
New Testament Matthew 9:14-38
Old Testament Genesis 24:1-67

Introduction

How to Be a Huge Success is a little book of quotations and tips from a variety of well-known ‘successful’ people. The back cover asks, ‘Are you on a collision course with fame, fortune or greatness?’ This is so often how ‘success’ is perceived in our society.

Perhaps because of some of its negative connotations, sometimes in the church we are a little wary of the word ‘success’. However, ‘success’ is not a dirty word in the Bible. It occurs at least five times in our Old Testament passage for today (Genesis 24:12,21,40,42,56) – each time in a very positive light.

Success is a blessing from the Lord (vv.31,50). Success is a good thing. However, the ministry of Jesus and the message of the Bible redefine success.

Wisdom

Psalm 8:1-9

For the director of music. According to gittith. A psalm of David.

    1 Lord, our Lord,
        how majestic is your name in all the earth!

    You have set your glory
        in the heavens.
    2 Through the praise of children and infants
        you have established a stronghold against your enemies,
        to silence the foe and the avenger.
    3 When I consider your heavens,
        the work of your fingers,
    the moon and the stars,
        which you have set in place,
    4 what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
        human beings that you care for them?

    5 You have made them a little lower than the angels
        and crowned them with glory and honor.
    6 You made them rulers over the works of your hands;
        you put everything under their feet:
    7 all flocks and herds,
        and the animals of the wild,
    8 the birds in the sky,
        and the fish in the sea,
        all that swim the paths of the seas.

    9 Lord, our Lord,
        how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Commentary

Praise God for the success of his creation

In our galaxy there are probably over a hundred-billion stars like our sun. Our galaxy is one of a hundred-billion galaxies. When we consider the vastness of the universe it is easy to feel small and insignificant.

David starts and ends this psalm by worshipping God for the success of his creation (vv.19).

As he stares into the night sky, David says, ‘I look up at your macro-skies, dark and enormous, your handmade sky-jewellery, Moon and stars mounted in their settings. Then I look at my micro-self and wonder, Why do you bother with us? Why take a second look our way?’ (vv.3–4, MSG).

David marvels at the fact that human beings are the pinnacle of God’s creation – a masterpiece – made in his image. Not only does God love you and care about you (v.4), but he has given you extraordinary privileges: ‘You made them a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned them with glory and honour. You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet’ (vv.5–6).

We have been put in charge of everything God has made. Knowing this, Christians should be at the forefront of the protection, preservation and care of God’s amazing creation.

Of course, God’s original plan for our dominion over creation has been distorted. However, in the New Testament, we see these verses are also applied directly to Jesus (Hebrews 2:8). In Christ, creation is restored (Ephesians 1:19–23; 2:5–6), and one day it will be complete and we will see everything under his feet (1 Corinthians 15:24–26).

Prayer

Lord, I see the vastness, beauty and success of your creation and proclaim: ‘O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!’ (Psalm 8:9).

New Testament

Matthew 9:14-38

Jesus Questioned About Fasting

14 Then John’s disciples came and asked him, “How is it that we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?”

15 Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast.

16 “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. 17 Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”

Jesus Raises a Dead Girl and Heals a Sick Woman

18 While he was saying this, a synagogue leader came and knelt before him and said, “My daughter has just died. But come and put your hand on her, and she will live.” 19 Jesus got up and went with him, and so did his disciples.

20 Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. 21 She said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.”

22 Jesus turned and saw her. “Take heart, daughter,” he said, “your faith has healed you.” And the woman was healed at that moment.

23 When Jesus entered the synagogue leader’s house and saw the noisy crowd and people playing pipes, 24 he said, “Go away. The girl is not dead but asleep.” But they laughed at him. 25 After the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took the girl by the hand, and she got up. 26 News of this spread through all that region.

Jesus Heals the Blind and the Mute

27 As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him, calling out, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!”

28 When he had gone indoors, the blind men came to him, and he asked them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?”

“Yes, Lord,” they replied.

29 Then he touched their eyes and said, “According to your faith let it be done to you”; 30 and their sight was restored. Jesus warned them sternly, “See that no one knows about this.” 31 But they went out and spread the news about him all over that region.

32 While they were going out, a man who was demon-possessed and could not talk was brought to Jesus. 33 And when the demon was driven out, the man who had been mute spoke. The crowd was amazed and said, “Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.”

34 But the Pharisees said, “It is by the prince of demons that he drives out demons.”

The Workers Are Few

35 Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and illness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

Commentary

Pursue success modelled on Jesus

Jesus redefines success. If you want to know what true success looks like, study the model of Jesus – his vision, life and teaching. It is the kind of success that is not universally recognised as such.

Jesus was both admired and hated. Success does not necessarily mean popularity. Some admired him: ‘There’s never been anything like this’ (v.33, MSG). Others hated him. The Pharisees said, ‘It’s nothing but hocus-pocus. He’s probably made a pact with the Devil’ (v.34, MSG).

As followers of Jesus, you also may be both admired and hated. For example, because of his campaign to end the slave trade, it was said of William Wilberforce that he was the most admired and the most hated man in England.

In his Gospel, Matthew sets out the success of Jesus’ ministry (ch.5–9). He summarises, ‘Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness’ (9:35).

In word and action Jesus ushered in the kingdom of God, bringing the reality of God’s rule and presence into the lives of those around him. This is what Jesus-style success looks like and this is what you and I are called to emulate.

To achieve Jesus-style success you, like the twelve disciples, need to model your life on Jesus and share his vision:

  1. The need is urgent

    Jesus saw that ‘they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd’ (v.36). Today, we see millions who don’t know Jesus and are spiritually lost. In addition, we see millions who are starving, homeless, suffering from preventable diseases and without even the most basic education.

  2. The motive is love

    Jesus had compassion (v.36). This is the strongest word for love in the Greek language (derived from the Greek word for ‘guts’). It is used only of Jesus. It could be translated ‘he was gutted’ – his heart broke.

    Jesus was unconcerned about worldly categories of importance or success. Here we see him helping two very different classes of people – an important ‘ruler’ (v.18) and a woman whose menstrual bleeding would have made her unclean and left her on the fringes of society (v.20). Yet Jesus had compassion on them both.

  3. The trigger is prayer

    Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field’ (v.38). Pray for more people to be raised up who will follow Jesus and reap the harvest.

  4. The potential is vast

    Jesus said, ‘The harvest is plentiful’ (v.37). Jesus has modelled what success looks like – proclaiming the kingdom and demonstrating its in-breaking into history. Now he calls you to follow his model – to share in his mission, multiplying its reach.

Prayer

Lord, there is so much need in our world yet it seems that the workers are few. I pray that you would raise up and send out more workers to go out into the harvest field and change the world.

Old Testament

Genesis 24:1-67

Isaac and Rebekah

24Abraham was now very old, and the Lord had blessed him in every way. 2 He said to the senior servant in his household, the one in charge of all that he had, “Put your hand under my thigh. 3 I want you to swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and the God of earth, that you will not get a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I am living, 4 but will go to my country and my own relatives and get a wife for my son Isaac. ”

5 The servant asked him, “What if the woman is unwilling to come back with me to this land? Shall I then take your son back to the country you came from? ”

6 “Make sure that you do not take my son back there,” Abraham said. 7 “The Lord, the God of heaven, who brought me out of my father’s household and my native land and who spoke to me and promised me on oath, saying, ‘To your offspring I will give this land’ —he will send his angel before you so that you can get a wife for my son from there. 8 If the woman is unwilling to come back with you, then you will be released from this oath of mine. Only do not take my son back there.” 9 So the servant put his hand under the thigh of his master Abraham and swore an oath to him concerning this matter.

10 Then the servant left, taking with him ten of his master’s camels loaded with all kinds of good things from his master. He set out for Aram Naharaim and made his way to the town of Nahor. 11 He had the camels kneel down near the well outside the town; it was toward evening, the time the women go out to draw water.

12 Then he prayed, “Lord, God of my master Abraham, make me successful today, and show kindness to my master Abraham. 13 See, I am standing beside this spring, and the daughters of the townspeople are coming out to draw water. 14 May it be that when I say to a young woman, ‘Please let down your jar that I may have a drink,’ and she says, ‘Drink, and I’ll water your camels too’ —let her be the one you have chosen for your servant Isaac. By this I will know that you have shown kindness to my master.”

15 Before he had finished praying, Rebekah came out with her jar on her shoulder. She was the daughter of Bethuel son of Milkah, who was the wife of Abraham’s brother Nahor. 16 The woman was very beautiful, a virgin; no man had ever slept with her. She went down to the spring, filled her jar and came up again.

17 The servant hurried to meet her and said, “Please give me a little water from your jar.”

18 “Drink, my lord,” she said, and quickly lowered the jar to her hands and gave him a drink.

19 After she had given him a drink, she said, “I’ll draw water for your camels too, until they have had enough to drink.” 20 So she quickly emptied her jar into the trough, ran back to the well to draw more water, and drew enough for all his camels. 21 Without saying a word, the man watched her closely to learn whether or not the Lord had made his journey successful.

22 When the camels had finished drinking, the man took out a gold nose ring weighing a beka and two gold bracelets weighing ten shekels. 23 Then he asked, “Whose daughter are you? Please tell me, is there room in your father’s house for us to spend the night? ”

24 She answered him, “I am the daughter of Bethuel, the son that Milkah bore to Nahor. ” 25 And she added, “We have plenty of straw and fodder, as well as room for you to spend the night.”

26 Then the man bowed down and worshiped the Lord, 27 saying, “Praise be to the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who has not abandoned his kindness and faithfulness to my master. As for me, the Lord has led me on the journey to the house of my master’s relatives.”

28 The young woman ran and told her mother’s household about these things. 29 Now Rebekah had a brother named Laban, and he hurried out to the man at the spring. 30 As soon as he had seen the nose ring, and the bracelets on his sister’s arms, and had heard Rebekah tell what the man said to her, he went out to the man and found him standing by the camels near the spring. 31 “Come, you who are blessed by the Lord,” he said. “Why are you standing out here? I have prepared the house and a place for the camels.”

32 So the man went to the house, and the camels were unloaded. Straw and fodder were brought for the camels, and water for him and his men to wash their feet. 33 Then food was set before him, but he said, “I will not eat until I have told you what I have to say.”

“Then tell us,” Laban said.

34 So he said, “I am Abraham’s servant. 35 The Lord has blessed my master abundantly, and he has become wealthy. He has given him sheep and cattle, silver and gold, male and female servants, and camels and donkeys. 36 My master’s wife Sarah has borne him a son in her old age, and he has given him everything he owns. 37 And my master made me swear an oath, and said, ‘You must not get a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, in whose land I live, 38 but go to my father’s family and to my own clan, and get a wife for my son.’

39 “Then I asked my master, ‘What if the woman will not come back with me?’

40 “He replied, ‘The Lord, before whom I have walked faithfully, will send his angel with you and make your journey a success, so that you can get a wife for my son from my own clan and from my father’s family. 41 You will be released from my oath if, when you go to my clan, they refuse to give her to you—then you will be released from my oath.’

42 “When I came to the spring today, I said, ‘Lord, God of my master Abraham, if you will, please grant success to the journey on which I have come. 43 See, I am standing beside this spring. If a young woman comes out to draw water and I say to her, “Please let me drink a little water from your jar,” 44 and if she says to me, “Drink, and I’ll draw water for your camels too,” let her be the one the Lord has chosen for my master’s son.’

45 “Before I finished praying in my heart, Rebekah came out, with her jar on her shoulder. She went down to the spring and drew water, and I said to her, ‘Please give me a drink.’

46 “She quickly lowered her jar from her shoulder and said, ‘Drink, and I’ll water your camels too.’ So I drank, and she watered the camels also.

47 “I asked her, ‘Whose daughter are you?’

“She said, ‘The daughter of Bethuel son of Nahor, whom Milkah bore to him.’

“Then I put the ring in her nose and the bracelets on her arms, 48 and I bowed down and worshiped the Lord. I praised the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who had led me on the right road to get the granddaughter of my master’s brother for his son. 49 Now if you will show kindness and faithfulness to my master, tell me; and if not, tell me, so I may know which way to turn.”

50 Laban and Bethuel answered, “This is from the Lord; we can say nothing to you one way or the other. 51 Here is Rebekah; take her and go, and let her become the wife of your master’s son, as the Lord has directed. ”

52 When Abraham’s servant heard what they said, he bowed down to the ground before the Lord. 53 Then the servant brought out gold and silver jewelry and articles of clothing and gave them to Rebekah; he also gave costly gifts to her brother and to her mother. 54 Then he and the men who were with him ate and drank and spent the night there.

When they got up the next morning, he said, “Send me on my way to my master.”

55 But her brother and her mother replied, “Let the young woman remain with us ten days or so; then you may go.”

56 But he said to them, “Do not detain me, now that the Lord has granted success to my journey. Send me on my way so I may go to my master.”

57 Then they said, “Let’s call the young woman and ask her about it.” 58 So they called Rebekah and asked her, “Will you go with this man?”

“I will go,” she said.

59 So they sent their sister Rebekah on her way, along with her nurse and Abraham’s servant and his men. 60 And they blessed Rebekah and said to her,

    “Our sister, may you increase
        to thousands upon thousands;
    may your offspring possess
        the cities of their enemies.”

61 Then Rebekah and her attendants got ready and mounted the camels and went back with the man. So the servant took Rebekah and left.

62 Now Isaac had come from Beer Lahai Roi, for he was living in the Negev. 63 He went out to the field one evening to meditate, and as he looked up, he saw camels approaching. 64 Rebekah also looked up and saw Isaac. She got down from her camel 65 and asked the servant, “Who is that man in the field coming to meet us?”

“He is my master,” the servant answered. So she took her veil and covered herself.

66 Then the servant told Isaac all he had done. 67 Isaac brought her into the tent of his mother Sarah, and he married Rebekah. So she became his wife, and he loved her; and Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.

Commentary

Pray for success in guidance

Abraham’s servant was not embarrassed to pray for success. He prayed a prayer that we can all emulate: ‘Give me success today’ (v.12). It was not a selfish prayer. It was a prayer that God would bless someone else, ‘show kindness to my master Abraham’ (v.12). He asked to be guided by God.

This is one of the most remarkable stories of God’s guidance. On Alpha¹, we talk about five ways in which God guides us, under the heading of ‘the five CSs’. In this passage, we can see an example of all these working together and especially the fifth one, ‘Circumstantial Signs’.

  1. Commanding Scripture

    Obviously, Abraham did not have the Scriptures that we have – but he did have the commands of God that later became part of the Scriptures. God commanded his people to only marry other believers in him. Abraham told his servant he must not get a wife for his son from the Canaanites, but from his own people (vv.3–4).

  2. Compelling Spirit

    The Holy Spirit leads us as we pray. Although the words ‘Holy Spirit’ are not used in this passage, it is clear that all the participants are in a position to be guided by God, listening to him and being led by the Spirit. Abraham’s servant prayed from his heart (vv.12,45), Rebekah appeared ‘before he had finished praying’ (v.15), and when Rebekah appeared, Isaac was out in the field where he had gone to meditate (v.63).

  3. Common Sense

    The choice of Rebekah made sense. She was clearly someone who was appropriate for Isaac. It so happened that she was ‘very beautiful’ (v.16). She was also ‘a virgin; no man had ever lain with her’ (v.16). Most importantly, she was clearly generous, gracious and kind. Her immediate response to the request for water was not only to offer it, but also to say, ‘I’ll draw water for your camels too, until they have finished drinking’ (v.19).

  4. Counsel of the Saints

    One of the ways in which God guides us is through godly advice (‘Saints’ is used here in the New Testament sense to describe all God’s people.) Although Isaac and Rebekah’s marriage was very different from the modern western marriage, in that it involved a large element of arrangement, there was also an element of choice. Rebekah was asked, ‘“Will you go with this man?” “I will go,” she replied’ (v.57). Isaac chose to marry her and ‘loved her’ (v.67). They were following the counsel of the saints in the sense that everyone around, especially their parents, recognised, ‘This is from the Lord’ (v.50).

  5. Circumstantial Signs

    This is one of the clearest cases in the Bible of God guiding through circumstantial signs. The servant asks for a sign and was given exactly what he asked for (vv.12–26). However, as we have seen, the sign was not random. It was a test of Rebekah’s character, which she fulfilled.

As a result of being guided by God, not only was their meeting a great success, but more importantly, so was their marriage.

Prayer

Lord, I pray that you would multiply this wonderful example of successful guidance amongst us. May there be more and more couples coming together and being able to say, ‘This is from the Lord’ (v.50).

Pippa adds

Genesis 24

I have always loved the story of Isaac and Rebekah. It is very romantic. Isaac was heir to great wealth, but he was possibly rather lonely. His half-brother had been sent away. His mother had died. But God provides this brave woman. She leaves her family. She marries someone miles from home whom she has never met. But God answers very specific prayers to guide them to this decision. Isaac goes to a lot of trouble to find a woman who shares his faith, which is so important in marriage. And I love the fact that Isaac loved her at first sight.

Verse of the Day

Genesis 24:7

‘He will send his angel before you’.
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References

The One Year® is a registered trademark of Tyndale House Publishers. Used by permission.

¹Alpha is a series of sessions exploring the Christian faith. Typically run over ten weeks, each session explores a different question of faith that inspires conversation in small groups. To find out more or to find an Alpha near you, visit alpha.org/try, or if you are interested in running Alpha, visit alpha.org/run.

Author anon, How to be a Huge Success, (Lagoon Books, 2003).

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.

Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

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