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GEN. 16:1-16 - Messy Situations! - Part 1
Life is messy! None of us like it that way, we don’t want it that way, and, if you're at all like me, I try so hard to keep my life as tidy and organized as I can. But then something happens to make it messy again!
All of us face dilemmas in life, unfortunately they’re unavoidable! And Some of them are pretty extreme and come with no-win scenarios, situations where no matter what choice we make it’s gonna be all bad. In those situations about the only thing we can do is try to figure out which choice is gonna make the smallest mess!
But as believers we also face spiritual challenges! Do we keep on waiting and waiting for the Lord to move? Or, do we embrace the secular adage of: God helps those who help themselves? After all, WE know best how to deal with the situation, and maybe even have come across something like this before and the decision you made then seemed to have worked out pretty well.
But before long, we’re running ahead of God, hoping He’ll approve of what we’re doing, or, at least help us clean up the mess we make of it!
Enter Abram! He certainly wasn’t exempt from dilemmas. In fact, he seems to move very quickly from one dilemma to the next. In the last 3 chapters we’ve covered, we’ve seen Abram at his very best: The man of Faith as Prophet, and king. Now, in chapter 16, we see Abram once again messing up big time. In one sense this should be comforting for us. This great Man of Faith was also a man tempted just as we are.
Yet this is also a challenge to us. If such a great man of the faith can be led astray so easily, so also can we! As Paul put it: “Let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.”
This chapter opens with a restatement of Abrams ongoing problem: Gen. 16:1 - “Now Sari, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children.”
Sarai felt personally responsible for the absence of this son. She assumed that since she had not given birth to a child, and her age seemed to have something to do with it, then she had to do something else to enable Abram to have a child, and her solution was through another woman.
We see her self-talk here in Gen. 16:2 - “Now behold, the Lord has kept me from having children.” She knew Abram could father a child, but assumed she wouldn't be the mother. And here is the sin of presumption. Failing to trust God to provide a son, she forced the situation by pressuring Abram into taking Hagar as his wife.
Many times in Scripture, such as statement is the preliminary to a But God, where God steps in and miraculously fixes the problem.
But here in Gen. 16 there is no But God. There is only But Sari. She thought she had found the solution in the person of her Egyptian maidservant, Hagar. What we have here is our classic human attempt to solve a problem with “mans wisdom,” NOT God’s! And like Adam before him, Abram found temptation in the person of his nearest and dearest - his wife!
I think we all too often forget that temptation can come from anywhere, even from within our own families. We don’t expect the Devil to assault us like a roaring lion. We don’t expect him to come dressed up like an angel of light, speaking in the sweet tones of the ones we love. Yet the Bible warns us that such a thing is easy for the enemy to use. Satan didn’t just confront Jesus head-on in the wilderness, he also tempted Him more quietly through the words of one of His own Disciples, Peter, in Matt. 16:23.
Like Adam, Abram surrendered readily into a temptation that might not have deceived him had it come from a different source. And the parallel between the two experiences is highlighted in the original Hebrew by the use of the same “idiom:” Adam and Abram both “listened to the voice of” their wives. There was an inversion of the proper spiritual leadership structure in the home, and the result in each case was a disaster.
Like we covered in 2 separate messages in Gen. 3 dealing with “Biblical Womanhood and Manhood,” Adam and Abram both relinquished their God-given roles of spiritual headship, and instead of leading their wives toward the path of obedience to God, they followed their wives away from obedience.
Men, listening to our wives is not a “bad thing, especially when we have a woman with a great deal of wisdom, loves the Lord and follows where the Spirit leads. As a matter of fact, in Gen. 21:12, God specifically commands Abraham to listen to his wife because in this instance, she is right! There are many instances when wives can lead their husbands toward the truth, not just away from it, as mine has on many occasions! They are given to their husbands as helpers to complete them, and to bring unique insights where we might lack. But there are times where I know I listen to my wife, not because she’s speaking with wisdom and insight, but because I don’t know how to deal with the fact that she is in pain or even fearful. I sometimes listen to her, not because I think she’s right and wise, but in order to avoid conflict and to keep the peace!
And that’s failure in leadership on my part, and well as a failure truly to love Marsha enough to challenge her ideas and confront her sinful thinking when that is what she needs most from me.
Of course, there are also times when us husbands can lead our wives astray! Wives also need to confront sinful and wrong ideas they see in their husbands. Yet God has given the role of spiritual head in marriage to men, which means it is our responsibility to lead and shepherd our wives. In order to do that well, we need to know the Word and will of God clearly and submit ourselves to it, so that we are able in turn to evaluate wisely our wive’s words to us. Obedience to God must be more precious to us than our idols of peace and harmony in the house and keeping our spouse happy in every situation. “Happy wife, happy life” IS NOT biblical and will get us into trouble with God more often than not!
And this is exactly what Abram failed to do. In Abram’s defense, we might note that the temptation which Abram came up against may have seemed very plausible. (Here comes the “self-talk”).
In taking Hagar as his wife, he wasn’t just motivated by lust, but by a desire to see God’s purposes fulfilled. After all, though the promise had identified him as the father, but Sari had not yet been named as the mother of his descendants. Maybe waiting any longer wouldn’t be wise. If they waited until they were too old, they wouldn’t have the energy to raise a boy. Maybe God expected them to pursue His promise rather than wait for things to happen? What if this is some kind of test to see how much they wanted God’s promise?
To top that off, the taking of a concubine was a socially acceptable custom in that day. The idea seemed reasonable, but Satan’s shortcuts ALWAYS do! (Now doesn’t all this Sound like our own self talk??)
The biggest problem throughout the discussion is that neither of them sought the Lord! Sarai didn’t pray and Abram didn’t sacrifice on one of his altars he’d built.
How much better things might have been if Abram had gone out under the stars and said: “Lord, we’re getting old here, and the wait gets harder with each passing year. Our longing has become almost unbearable. We thought of a way to have a child and we were wondering if You approve?”
Today we have the benefit of knowing how history unfolded, so we can’t fully appreciate Abram’s dilemma.
From our vantage point it’s easy to see what he should have done. But before we start judging Abram and his decision, let’s think back to our last big mess up!
Join us next we as we get into some lessons from this text.
Blessing to you all.