Then Abraham said to him, “Beware lest you take my son back there!”
There is always the danger, in walking with God, of people taking us backward. And, in fairness to those folks, there is not always malicious intent or even full understanding of what that backwards movement really means.
In context, Abraham is setting things up so the servant he’s talking to will go back to Abraham’s kinsmen and find a wife for Isaac there. People give lots of reasons and theories about why, but the most obvious is this: God told Abraham that he would be a stranger in the land that God was giving him and you can’t be a stranger if you marry into the family. I mean, we can spiritualize this thing and try to make more out of it and The Bible supports some of those interpretations. But the really obvious one is that we can’t stay different if we’re married into the family. My wife and I have been married for over three and a half years now and I’ve noticed that certain behaviors are starting to take shape that allow me to better get along with my in-laws. I don’t want to give the impression that I have difficult in-laws, I think I’ve got things pretty easy and that I’m blessed in that respect, but there are things my in-laws do that were strange to me when I joined the family which have changed as time has passed (meaning those things are no longer quite as strange to me). What is more, I’ve changed a bit—and will probably continue to change—to accommodate harmony with that part of our family. And, in fairness, I’m sure they’ve made changes to accommodate me and my oddities. But that’s how family works. If Isaac had married a Canaanite woman then Isaac would have made changes in his life to accommodate her and her family and—this is the key part—their beliefs. My in-laws are Catholic, so some of how they worship God seemed odd to me, since I was not raised Catholic or any stripe of Protestant that resembled Catholic. This was—and still is—generally a simple matter to adjust for mentally, but what if my in-laws had been a religion further removed from my experience and understanding? How much alteration to my mental framework would be necessary to maintain peace at family gatherings? Would I and my wife be willing to pay the price of peace or would we rather remain true to our beliefs? See, I can make the changes needed to see things from my in-laws’ POV because they’re still worshiping the same God, just in a different way. And that’s cool. But what would have happened to my beliefs if my in-laws had been, say, Hare Krishna? or Hindu? or Wiccan? What sorts of change would have been necessary to keep peace in the family?
All of that, I think, is a part of where Abraham is coming from. Abraham is a monotheist. The Canaanites are polytheists. Abraham has made covenant with God. The Canaanites made various sacrifice to various gods for various reasons — not so much with the covenant. Abraham had seen Sarah’s influence in his life, both for good and ill. He wanted his son to have a wife who would, in her good and bad influence, encourage him to pursue the promises of God. And, writing as a man who has married a Godly lady, I can state authoritatively that a Godly wife is beyond precious to a man who wants to live Godly.
How to apply this? Well, there is the encouragement that my wife and I have done the right thing in marrying fellow Christians. But I’m going to extend this outward just a bit. Every intimate relationship, including close friendships, has the potential to impact my behavior and beliefs for good or ill. I need to be wise in my choice of who I allow myself to be close to.