Deciding vs. Discerning

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Genesis 24:10 Then (the servant of Abraham tasked with finding a wife for Abraham’s son Isaac) took ten of his master’s camels and departed (to Abraham’s native country), taking all kinds of choice gifts from his master; and he set out and went to Aram-naharaim, to the city of Nahor. 11 He made the camels kneel down outside the city by the well of water; it was toward evening, the time when women go out to draw water. 12 And he said, “O Lord, God of my master Abraham, please grant me success today and show steadfast love to my master Abraham. 13 I am standing here by the spring of water, and the daughters of the townspeople are coming out to draw water. 14 Let the girl to whom I shall say, ‘Please offer your jar that I may drink,’ and who shall say, ‘Drink, and I will water your camels’—let her be the one whom you have appointed for your servant Isaac. By this I shall know that you have shown steadfast love to my master.”

In ancient times, arranged marriages were the norm. Abraham, at the end of his years, sent one of his servants to find a wife for his son Isaac in the land of Abraham’s birth. From among his native people. I find the method of finding a wife for Isaac very interesting.

The highest priority was not to find a wife that Isaac would really like, or who came from a family Abraham would approve of. The highest priority was to find a wife for Isaac that the Lord God had chosen. The (correct) assumption was that finding the bride God had chosen for Isaac would invite the blessing and grace of God into their marriage and family.

This is the difference between “deciding” and “discerning”.

When we “decide” something, we consider the positives and negatives of a given choice, our preferences and desires, and come down on one side or the other. The driver in making such a choice – is us. This is how most of us are taught to make choices in life. The bible gives us a different example.

When we “discern” what direction we should go, or what option we should choose, we are looking for signs of God’s grace going ahead of us. What doors do we see God opening for us? Where do we see God removing obstacles in a way we could not in our own strength? Of my options, which one seems to best line up with the ways of God – even if it’s an option I would not normally choose myself?

Discernment requires that we get out of the driver’s seat and let God decide. 

Some questions for you this morning:

(1) What important decisions lie before you?

(2) What would it look like for you to enter the question in a posture of “discernment” rather than “decision”?

(3) Where do you see God’s grace going ahead of you?

Lord, today we ask that you give us grace to look for signs of your will at work in our lives. Not our will, but thy will be done. Amen.

One thought on “Deciding vs. Discerning

  1. Lyn Zastrow

    Loved this lesson. Being a type A personality, discernment is a very difficult thing to come by. The root of the problem has been that I never know how to look for it.

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