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Wednesday in the Word

Second Baptist Church

September 16, 2015

Genesis 16:1-16

  1. Talk about drama. Today's lesson will highlight the drama the people of God take themselves through when they struggle to wait on God and try to run their lives their way. Beloved, I appeal to you, don't try to take things into your own hands. Learn to wait on God. I can't tell you the number of times I have had to counsel people about things that they did simply because they couldn't wait on God. And just because you can do it, doesn’t mean you should do it. There are a lot of things we can do, but that doesn't mean it is a good thing to do. You might have the ability to do it, but not the permission. In today's lesson we will see once again how the strong in faith fail to keep the faith. We must learn from their mistake and hold on even when it seems like it is a long time coming.

  2. Verses 1-4. Up to this point, Sarai has not been able to conceive any children. Sarai is not young and the idea of having children seems like impossibility for her at this point. In their culture, there was a strong pressure to have children, especially sons. Sons guaranteed that your family name would be carried on. Sons showed that you were prosperous and blessed. To be childless was a mark of reproach. This stigma was so strong that if a wife could not produce children, the custom was for her to give one of her servant girls to her husband as a concubine. The children of that union became the children of the wife. Abram was now 85, Sarai was 75, and even with the longer life spans in that day, they were getting close to that age when it becomes physically impossible to reproduce. If God was going to come through, it seemed that it had to be soon. It was in that context that Sarai came up with her plan in accordance with the custom of the day to give Abram her maid (16:2). Perhaps the thought had crossed Abram’s mind before and he had dismissed it, not wanting to threaten Sarai. But now it was coming from her. Besides, Hagar was an attractive, younger woman. We are not sure, but Hagar was most likely part of the dowry which Pharaoh had given Abram for Sarai when they had gone down to Egypt (Gen. 12:16). He yielded to this culturally acceptable custom, slept with Hagar, and she became pregnant with his child. Often times the greatest temptations often come from those who are closest to us. We're most influenced by those we are closest to emotionally. Satan got to Adam when he listened to his wife (Gen. 3:17). The same phrase here (16:2) warns us that we need to be on guard not to be wrongly influenced by those closest to us and not to tempt those closest to us. This is why you have to be careful who is close to you. It appears that both Abram and Sarai had pure motives. They wanted to bring about God's will by producing the heir God had promised. They wanted to help God out. Their motives were right; but their method was wrong. In God's work, methods are often just as important as the results. The ultimate question is not the bottom line, the results. It is rather, how did you get there? Did the result come from dependence upon God or was it produced by the flesh? Is God the source, or is fallen human nature? This is a special problem for us, because Americans are a pragmatic people. If it works, it must be right. After all, look at the results! ”These methods are proven to build your church!" But notice that Abram got the intended results with Hagar. He got a son. But it wasn't from the Lord, and it created all sorts of problems in the short and long run. Right motives must be accompanied by right methods. Right methods involve seeking the Lord, not using culturally acceptable means to escape our problems. Sarai was mad at God. She thought she should have had children by now, and she says the Lord has prevented her, as if the Lord was targeting her for some unfair treatment. We need to be careful with charging God with wrongdoing. God knows exactly what he is doing, why he is doing it, and he is doing it for our good. Instead of praying and seeking God, Abram agrees to do what his wife suggests. As far as he was concerned, why not. Up to this point, God was speaking to Abram and giving him instructions. Now Abram allows his flesh to lead him through his wife. The text says that Abram impregnated Hagar and then the drama starts. Hagar is getting special treatment and she begins to despise Sarai of course. Abram is now stuck between two women.

  3. Verses 5-6. Sarai is beside herself with this mess. She begins to blame Abram for the mess she initiated. Well common sense should have told them that this was a bad idea, but how often have we thrown common sense out of the window to make something happen. Sarai even speaks a conditional curse on her husband “May the Lord judge between me and you." She is hot. She is mad, and Abram is in trouble. Abram tells his wife that she can do whatever she wants with Hagar, he is getting out of it. So Sarai began to mistreat Hagar and Hagar fled. Hagar is the innocent victim of sin. She did not ask for this trouble, but she is the byproduct of two people who decided to help God with his plans. What are we missing from these first 6 verses? God. Nowhere in this part of the text is the counsel of God. Sarai isn't seeking God, and neither is her husband.

  4. Verses 7-8. Hagar took off in the direction of her homeland, out through the desert. It was a dangerous thing for a woman to do. She could have been abused or taken captive by nomadic traders. Being pregnant, she could have lost her baby from the rigors of traveling in that rugged terrain. Having had to escape, probably in the night, she would have had few supplies. But somehow she made it to a spring of water in the desert and sat down exhausted. Hagar knew about Abram's God, the living and true God. She must have wondered if that God knew or cared about her situation. No doubt she was confused. What could a pregnant, single woman do, even if she reached her homeland? If she had family there, they would have been too poor to help her. Her future was uncertain, her past too painful to think about. She felt abandoned by everyone on earth and forgotten by God in heaven. It's in that context that we read, "Now the angel of the Lord found her" (16:7). What a beautiful picture of our compassionate God, who is concerned for this poor, confused servant girl! The Good Shepherd went looking for her. God is a seeking God! We may think that we found Him, but the reality is, He found us. We were lost and confused, wandering away from Him. He came looking and found us! If you know Christ as Savior, you realize that you didn't think, "I need a little help in my life. I’ll decide to let Jesus be my Savior." The Son of Man did not come to seek and to save those who needed a little help. He came to seek and to save those who are lost (Luke 19:10)! It is our sinful pride that keeps us from seeing our true condition: We are lost! We must own up to that fact. But the good news is, no one, is too lost in God's sight. The angel of the Lord found Hagar! Who is this angel of the Lord? There is debate among scholars, but l believe that it is the Lord Jesus Christ in a preincarnate appearance. In verse 13 it is stated that it was the Lord who spoke to Hagar. (See also, Gen. 18:1-2, 17, 22, 27, 33, 19:1; 22:11-12; 24:7; 31:11, 13; 48:15-16.) So Hagar was found by and was speaking to the Lord Jesus Christ! Hagar could flee from the presence of Sarai, but she couldn't flee from the presence of the Lord. You can try to run from difficult circumstances, but you can't hide from the God who put you there. Notice the irony of verse 8: The Lord knows Hagar's name and her station in life, yet He asks her where she has come from and where she is going. Wherever in the Bible you find God asking a question, you can assume that He is not looking for information. He wants the person to think about the situation. The Lord wanted Hagar to think about two things:”Where have you come from?” and, "Where are you going?" She had come from being Sarai's maid. As such, she was not free to flee from her duty. Where was she going? She really didn’t know. But, clearly, she wasn't seeking after the Lord and His will. Those are good questions to ask yourself when you're in a difficult situation: Where have you come from? Did God allow that trial for some reason? Where are you going? Did you seek His permission to run? Our real need in a bad situation is not to escape, but to seek and to submit to the Lord.

  5. Verses 9-16. The Lord has some bad news and some good news for Hagar, and for us, at such times. First, the bad news: Hagar needed to go back and submit to Sarai. The good news: then God would bless her. The Lord was going to give her a son. We say stuff like ”But, Lord, don't you know how I've been mistreated? Don’t you know how bad it is? Give me the blessing first, then I'll submit." But God's way is, submit first; then He blesses. Obedience always comes before blessing. Hagar wouldn't have seen the Lord if it hadn't been for her trial. God often uses trials to open us up to some fresh vision of Him which we would have missed if we hadn’t been in the difficult situation. "Hagar called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, ‘You are a God who sees"' (16:13). God sees! Not only does God see, but even better, God sees me, and in spite of my confusion and rebellion, He lets me get a glimpse of Him. There's an application here for us: God allows U- turns in the desert! Even though we've run from God, if we will turn around and submit to Him in our trials, His blessing will be on us and our descendants. We can be assured that He will work out His sovereign plan for us and for our children if we will make a U-turn and submit to Him. So the first great theme in these verses is that God saw Hagar. But Hagar also saw God. When she realized that God had seen her, she responded by acknowledging that she had seen God and she named both the Lord and the spring after her experience. Then she returned to Abram and Sarai in submission to the Lord. Even so, when we realize that God sees us in our affliction, we will gain a fresh glimpse of God. The angel tells her what to do and then promises that he will multiply her descendants through the child she is carrying. Hagar, encouraged and awed by this experience, gives a new name to God--"El Roi," "the God who sees." She then returns to Abram and Sarai and Ishmael is born.

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