Genesis 24 has the account of Abraham’s servant searching for a bride for Isaac. Abraham instructs the servant to go to the “land of my kindred” and makes him swear not to get Isaac’s wife from the Canaanites. The servant gets to the land of Abraham’s extended family and stops by a well outside the city to get some water for his camels. He prays that God would help him identify Isaac’s bride as the one who would not only give him water but also his camels.
Let the young woman to whom I shall say, ‘Please let down 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.” (Genesis 24:14, ESV)
So Rebekah shows up and does what the servant was hoping. Turns out she was also from Abraham’s kindred. He gives her gifts, meets the family, and with everyone’s agreement goes back and presents Isaac with his bride. So this means we should all learn to read omens, right? No. God tells us not to read omens.
“You shall not eat any flesh with the blood in it. You shall not interpret omens or tell fortunes. (Leviticus 19:26, ESV)
But many people (who should know better) do just that. I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard someone say, “If (such and so) happens, then that means God wants me to do (such and so).” This is what we call “reading omens.” We express uncertainty when things happen to impede the direction we want to go, then we wonder if “God is telling me not to do that” (or to do it). First, if God doesn’t want something to happen, it won’t happen. If He does want something to happen, it will. Second, it is the enemy who is ineffective. The deceiver can’t stop you if God is moving you, and can’t get you going if God is saying wait. Satan would be the one to throw all kinds of dumb omens at you to try and get you to stop doing what God wants or start doing what the enemy wants. I think that is one of the reasons God says not to read omens. Just stick with His Word and you can’t go wrong.
Did Abraham’s servant read omens? No. He prayed a specific prayer with a specific qualification. If a girl would not only give him water but also offer to draw water for the camels it would indicate the condition of her heart. She would be a generous person, soft of heart and concerned for others. Drawing water was probably hard, because one would have to dip a container into a hole or spring then pour it out for the camels to drink. And 10 camels drink a lot of water. In addition to the “sign” that the servant was looking for, the family (and the girl) would have to agree. So the servant wasn’t just throwing out a random request just to see if God would miraculously jump through hoops for his gratification.
The servant also had a specific, God given task. He wasn’t just trying to figure out if he should go to the local high school dance. I remember a trip a long time ago where it just seemed everything was going wrong. One thing after another happened to delay us. A strap broke on the car-top carrier (a big container for luggage). We forgot something. A belt broke on the car engine before we left. Things like that. At one point my wife asked me if I thought God was telling us not to go. I thought about it for a minute then said, “No. If God didn’t want us to go, we would not be going. These nagging attacks are from the enemy most likely.” So we went. It was an enjoyable trip.
Believers are not to read omens. God has given us a large amount of guidance through His Word. We strengthen our ability to sense when He is talking to us by reading His Word and doing everything He says. We practice hearing with the small things in His Word which teaches us how to recognize His voice when He speaks directly to us. Abraham’s servant didn’t need omens, and neither do we.
“When you come into the land that the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominable practices of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD. And because of these abominations the LORD your God is driving them out before you. You shall be blameless before the LORD your God, for these nations, which you are about to dispossess, listen to fortune-tellers and to diviners. But as for you, the LORD your God has not allowed you to do this. (Deuteronomy 18:9–14, ESV)