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GEN. 16:1-16 - Messy Situations! - Part 2
After last week’s intro to these verses, let’s now look at some lessons from the text.
THE DIFFICULTY IN WAITING
Gen. 16:3 - So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years,”
Abram was in a hurry to see God’s promises fulfilled. He had been living in the Land of Promise for 10 years already and still waiting for God to do something.
Maybe we have been living with our own frustrated desires for an equally long time, or even longer! It’s very easy in such situations to grow weary waiting for God to act. Yet these attitudes of impatience and distrust are very dangerous. Instead of walking by faith we want to see all the obstacles removed immediately and make rash decisions.
And maybe this is what brought about the wrong choice for Abram. Instead of waiting for God’s time, he listened to his wife and took her maidservant, Hagar, as a concubine.
Gen. 16:3-6 - “...Sari, his wife took her Egyptian slave Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. He slept with Hagar, and she conceived. When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress. Then Sari said to Abram, ‘You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my slave in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the LORD judge between you and me.’
‘Your slave is in your hands,’ Abram said. ‘Do with her whatever you think best.’ Then Sari mistreated Hagar, so she fled from her.”
The Biblical record doesn’t preserve Adam and Sarai’s dinner conversation after Hagar showed signs of being pregnant. But I certainly know from my own life how rationalization can go!
Maybe they said something like: “Honey, isn’t it amazing how the Lord blessed our decision? He never would have allowed Hagar to conceive if He didn’t approve.” (How many times have we heard this, or even said this kind of thing!) It’s easy to find signs of God’s approval when we want something bad enough!
Documents from the ancient Near East show us this was a regular custom in some societies, and some premarital agreements actually stipulated that a barren wife was to provide her husband with offspring in this way. But the same documents also bear witness to the likely costs of these relationships, providing laws to deal with the situation in which the concubine bears children and falls out of favor with her mistress.
In other words, the domestic problems of jealousy, reproaches, and broken relationships that took place in Abram’s family were common occurrences.
The fallout of Abram and Sarai’s decision didn’t take long to kick in. Hagar’s bump hadn’t begun to show before she started treating Sarai with contempt. The Hebrew word for ‘contempt’ means: ‘small, insignificant, trifling, dishonorable.’
And all heck broke loose!! All of a sudden, their once harmonious home had become a combat zone! People who once trusted God and waited on His blessing started using His name to call down curses on one another. Hagar, who used to respect Sarai, began to feel superior and became prideful. Then, with Abram and Sarai at odds, Sarai found herself suddenly expendable.
Hagar couldn’t stand the increasing tension and took off into the wilderness alone. Life was certainly messy in that home! So, Hagar became pregnant and proud, Sari felt despised and proceeded to make Hagar’s life miserable, and Abram quickly sought to wash his hands of the whole thing.
We human being like to excuse ourselves! We are ALWAYS making excuses and blaming others!
Sari blamed Abram for the whole mess! But Abram wanted Sari alone to take full responsibility for what happened to Hagar, and Hagar was caught in the middle and responded by running away. What a mess!! And this is ALWAYS what happens when we follow Satan’s shortcuts! Sin so often seems to offer us freedom and easy solutions, but we always end up worse off than before.
Hagar ran away and headed for her original home in Egypt. The Egyptian option, which initially seems attractive, always leads to disaster in the long run. Her flight to Egypt was not the right option. To abandon Abram meant abandoning the blessing that was to be found in him. Yet she found a friend in the wilderness, and Angel of the LORD!
Apparently no one even noticed she was gone. Or, if someone did notice, no one cared that a pregnant woman faced the dangers of the wilderness alone, subject to predators and exposure.
Fortunately, though, the Lord cared about her.
Gen. 16:7 - “The Angel of the Lord found Hagar near a spring in the desert;”
Like Eve before her, she found that her sin and failure weren’t the end of her story. Abram and Sari might not have cared about her, but the Lord was out there in the wilderness looking for the wanderer. The Lord cares for the weak and the wandering FAR MORE than we do; His eye is looking out for the wanderer, and His ear was listening for the cry of the prodigal.
Gen. 16:8-14 -“And He said, ‘Hagar, slave of Sari, where have you come from and where are you going?’
‘I’m running away from my mistress Sarai,’ she answered.
Then the angel of the LORD told her, ‘Go back to your mistress and submit to her.’ The angel added, ‘I will increase your descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count.’ The angel of the LORD also said to her: ‘You are now pregnant and you will give birth to a son. You shall name him Ishmael, for the LORD has heard of your misery. He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers.’
She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her; ‘You are the God who sees me,’ for she said, ‘I have now seen the One who sees me.’ That is why the well was called Beer Lahai Roi; it is still there, between Kadesh and Bered.
With a few brief words, He convicted Hagar of her sin of rebellion, pointed out the helplessness of her condition apart from Abram and his house, and assured her of both safe passage on her return and future blessing. There, in the wilderness, Hagar saw the one who had first seen her, in the sense of caring for her needs; she was told to name her son Ishmael, a name that means ‘God hears,’ because the Lord had listened to her affliction.
This care and protection for Hagar and Ishmael are all the more remarkable because they would not ultimately be part of God’s people. Yet the Lord’s care for these outsiders should be profoundly encouraging to His own people. If the Lord takes such care of Hagar and Ishmael in their time of need, how much more will He take care of His own people when they are in distress!?
So too for us the path to blessing may also involve submitting to frustrating circumstances for far longer than we think is reasonable. We may have to endure the painful consequences of our own sin, and sometimes even the sin of others. Sin always complicates things and often least to effects that are long lasting.
There is no neat and tidy way of disposing of Abram and Sarai’s sin as if it had never happened. Indeed, the very blessing that is promised to Hagar here would prove to be a continual problem for Israel!
Her son Ishmael, would live in the wilderness ‘close to’ or ‘in hostility to’ his brothers. He would constantly be in his brothers’ face! There would be lasting effects from Abram and Sarai’s sin onward down through many generations!
But even though sin cannot simply be waved away, and may have deep and lasting consequences in our lives, its eternal ramifications have been dealt with.
Sin can’t be buried and forgotten, but it can be atoned for! Sin’s consequences are real, but they cannot separate us from the loving God who sees and hears us in our helplessness.
And, as we saw a couple weeks ago, this is because God alone pays the price for our salvation by passing between the pieces of the sacrificial animals in our place. At the cross, God, who sees us in our hour of need and has an ear that is constantly open to hear our cry, atoned for our sins by turning away His face from His own Son and closing His ears to Jesus’ cry for help. He has provided for us a perfect righteousness in Jesus’ obedience. Jesus steadfastly refused Satan’s shortcuts in the wilderness and never trusted in human wisdom, rebuking Peter and even his own mother when they spoke against God’s wisdom. He bore the cost for our compromise and sin, a pathway that had to lead Him to the cross.
So too, the way home for us, the way to blessing, always leads us to the cross, the place where our redemption was won! The life of blessing to which we are called, is a life that is cross-shaped throughout our time on earth, sharing the reproach and the suffering that goes with being followers of a crucified Messiah.
There was no shortcut around the pathway of suffering for Jesus, and there is none for us.
Gen. 16:15-16 - “So Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram gave the name Ishmael to the son she had borne. Abram was 86 years old when Hagar bore him Ishmael.”
So Ishmael was born. The promised child had not yet come. We have to wait a little longer to see Isaac make his appearance.
Man, by his best efforts, cannot bring about the fulfillment of the promises of God. Abram and Sarai disobeyed God, and their sin would have lasting consequences for their descendants. Yet Abram did not end up a failure. We certainly don’t remember Abraham as t’he man who failed,’ but as the ‘man of faith.’ The reason for that is that God is faithful, even when we are not!
Abram’s righteousness did not come from himself, but from the strength and faithfulness of a God whom his faith laid hold. This is why Abram’s failures never frustrated God’s plan, because that plan does not depend on him, but on Christ!
That’s Good News for Abram the failure and Hagar the wanderer - and it’s also Good News for all of us!
So, the first time we see an angel of the Lord in scripture, He is seeking out a rebellious gentile woman on the run, to reveal Himself and to restore her.
She wasn’t looking for Him! He came and He tracked her down in the wilderness! Tracked her down, found her out and snatched her up.
There might be one or two of ya who didn’t really wanna read this today. And maybe you don’t think the Lord is interested in you because you’ve been running in the opposite direction from Him. And maybe you think the Lord is disgusted with you because you haven’t been in total obedience with the things you know you ought to do. So maybe you're thinking the Lord wouldn’t be interested in you. He’s just interested in ‘spiritual’ people.
But here’s the truth! If that’s you, the people reading this today today who are in the GREATEST need, then those are the people the Lord is the MOST interested in!!
Jesus taught us that He leaves the 99 to go after the ONE! So, if that’s you, then YOU are the one the Lord is the most interested in, DRAWN to! “He is close to those who are brokenhearted, and saves those crushed in Spirit.”
He brought you here to hear His heart on how He feels about you. He brought you here to pursue you and to take your heart back! Or maybe even to just grab it for the first time! So open your heart to the God who sees all, who sees you, who loves you and is pursuing you right now at this very Moment.