Chaos of Faithlessness & Covenant Faithfulness (Genesis 16)
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Chaos of Faithlessness (verses 1-6)
Abram and Sarai were not growing younger, and patience was not their strong suit. Sarai, still without children, has given up, and even went so far as to blame God for her barrenness (v. 2). But, they have a solution to God’s problem—“Human intervention and ingenuity should fix it!” So, they concoct an alternative plan that seems like a plausible proposal from our perspective—after all, the practice was common in their culture, and from a legal standpoint Sarai was within her rights. But, it was contrary to God’s law and God’s promise! Satan’s shortcuts and plans always seem reasonable and sensible. However, trying to accomplish God’s promises through human means results in disaster.
God’s promise required faith to believe that Sarai’s dead womb would actually bear a child. But instead of looking and listening to God’s promise, Abram listened to the voice of his wife, echoing the events of the Fall in the garden and reminding us of the danger of listening to any voice contrary to God’s. Abram, like Adam, found temptation coming through the near and dear. The devil is a roaring lion, ugly and fierce, but he disguises himself as an “angel of light,” speaking in the sweet tones of those close to us. In this case, Abram and Sarai’s distrust in God’s promise and impatience with regard to HIs timing results in disappointment, dysfunction, difficulty, heartache, and misery for everyone.
Christ is Faithful (verses 7-10)
This is the first appearance of the Angel of the Lord, or God in human form, in the Scriptures. Hagar is fleeing Sarai and headed to her homeland in Egypt. Egypt often represents the world in the Scriptures, and Hagar’s trajectory reminds us of how prone we are to go quickly back to the world for solutions to our problems. Yet, God still pursues her, and lavishes mercy, comfort, grace and love on her.
His method with her is a pattern for us to follow in our own evangelism. He is gentle, and yet firm. He points out her sin of rebellion and takes note of her helplessness. He also promises hope based on her obedience to the call to return and submit. Returning and submitting is hard, even as it applies to us today! But as painful as it might be, there is no other way to receive the blessings of God. Those who obey the divine call to submit to the Son enjoy the comfort of the divine promises (v. 10).
Covenantal Faithfulness (verses 11-16)
God promises blessing, but that blessing in a fallen world also includes a burden—with the promised crown, there is also a cross. God will multiply Hagar’s offspring, but the burden will be in that her son will be “against all.” He will live in hostility toward everyone, even his own kinsman. There will be animosity on every front.
In light of God’s promise, Hagar responds in worship (v. 13). She adored the God who knows her and sees her, and she also worshiped the God she saw. This is communion with God, both being seen by Him through the work of Christ, and also having our eyes fixed on Him in the Person and work of His Son. Is there any greater deterrent from sin than this? Is there a better incentive for duty? Our case is never hopeless. As long as God hears our affliction and sees us in our wilderness, there is hope for the helpless!
- Abram listened to the counsel of his wife, rather than the promises of God. We should be aware that we are most vulnerable regarding those we are closest to. Obedience must be a greater priority than even nearest, dearest human relationships. Is there anything or anyone coming between you and faithfulness to the Lord’s will? Are you believing or acting on any counsel that contradicts the counsel of God’s word?
- Often the issues that require living by faith are chronological concerns: desire for family (infertility), employment issues (open doors), longing for marriage (bleak options), physical pain (how long?), emotional weight (when will this pass?), etc. It’s in the midst of these situations that we must remember that God often does not operate on our timetable, but neither is He slow in fulfilling His promises. He is perfectly wise and merciful in the way that He brings about the events in our life. Are you tempted in anyway to distrust the Lord’s timing and providences? Are you tempted in anyway to take matters into your own hands rather than walk in obedient reliance on the Lord? What is a right response to your circumstances in light of the truths we’ve seen in Genesis 16?