Sunday, March 05, 2006


Genesis 16

SEPTEMBER 11, 2005


Good morning! Before we return to our study of Genesis this morning I would be remiss not to point out that today is the 4th anniversary of the terrorist attack on New York City. You may remember that as I preached on that subject the next Sunday, I talked about my son Shane and how proud I was of his actions that morning and how proud I was of the Americans to sacrificed themselves that day to save people trapped in the World Trade Center. We talked about the brave people who attacked the terrorists on the flight over Pennsylvania. That all seems long ago, yet the war that started that day continues. As we meet here to worship and study God’s word, young soldiers fight on in Iraq and Afghanistan. Today many of them participated as we did in the breaking of bread and the singing of hymns. I hope we will all remember them in our prayers and become prayer warriors interceding for those warriors who represent us and ask for their physical safety and their salvation.

Today we return to the book of Genesis and our study of the life of Abraham, still called by his original name… Abram. Let’s read starting in Chapter 16.

Genesis 16. Read

We may think that we see here the beginnings of a tragedy, one we see being played out on the world stage today. But actually the tragedy began back in chapter 12. When Abram lied to Pharaoh about Sarai being his sister, Pharaoh let him keep the maidservants he had been given. The little servant girl Hagar was a ticking bomb in their household. When Abram turned his back on his sin in Egypt and returned to Bethel, he brought some of the “ill gotten gains” back with him. That seed was about to bear fruit.

Genesis 16:1. Read

The name Hagar means “runaway”. Some commentators take this to mean she had run away from her original mistress in Egypt to be with Abram and Sarai. There is also the possibility she tried to run away and escape back to Egypt on the trip to Canaan and was named that by Sarai. At any rate there she was and Sarai had an idea.

Genesis 16:2. Read

Does the first part of this verse sound familiar? Remember Adam saying to God, “this woman YOU gave me…”? Sarai is blaming God, saying that he was restraining her from becoming pregnant. And now she wants to have a child she can claim as hers. The first part of the verse is sad, but the latter portion is a tragedy, “And Abram hearkened to the voice of Sarai.”

He had just in chapter 15 hearkened to the voice of God, but now, like Adam, he listens to his wife instead of to God. We see another example of this in the New Testament. I quote the author of Gospel Chapel Ministries:

The lesson learned from Abraham, the father of the faithful, is parallel to that which we learn from the apostle Peter in MAT 16:17-19, "And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."
We have been studying Abram in the previous chapter, and in GEN 5:1 we read, "After these things the word of the LORD came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward." Then in verse 6 we see, "And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness."
Their faith was so bright, and this faith was founded upon the Rock. It was a solid, unmoveable faith, but human reasoning enters into the picture. Notice the distinction between this God given faith and Peter's human reasoning in the very verses that immediately follow! MAT 16:20-23 says, "Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ. From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day. Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee. But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men." The Lord Jesus reproved Peter's human reasoning because that is not faith. Look at how quickly Peter fell after Jesus, just moments earlier, had said, "Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven."
Right there in the following verses, Jesus says to Peter, "Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me." This is the same Peter to whom Jesus gave the keys to heaven; it is the same Peter who quickly succumbed to human reasoning. That human reasoning was not born of faith. Therefore, Jesus sharply rebuked Peter. It is an offense unto the Lord when our faith gets caught in human reasoning. It causes us to walk by sight rather than by faith. It is a paradox that does not work. When we exercise such strong faith that we begin using human reasoning to exercise that faith, the Lord says, "Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me."
We must learn to distinguish between faith and human reasoning. Abraham was the father of the faithful; he was a monument of faith, but in his human reasoning, he acted foolishly at times. The same thing happened to Peter. A man with such a strong faith resorts to human reasoning after receiving a tremendous blessing. It is a grievous error. It is an offense unto the Lord. We need to learn this lesson, also.
The Lord told Abram, "...tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be." Then we read in verse 6, "And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness." Yet in the very next breath, we see the distinction between such God-given faith and human reasoning. GEN 15:7-8 says, "And he said unto him, I am the LORD that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees, to give thee this land to inherit it. And he said, Lord GOD, whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it?"
We know from these verses that both Abram and Peter had great faith. Now we need to understand the great difference between unbelief and human reasoning. Neither Abram nor Peter acted in unbelief. When Abram hearkened unto Sarai, his wife, he took Hagar. That was not unbelief, it was human reasoning. It is important to understand the difference between falling into human reasoning and turning from the Lord in disbelief. Unbelief is departing from the Lord. Human reasoning is trying to serve the Lord with a deduction based on logic and emotions. Peter thought he was serving the Lord. Understanding the great difference between unbelief and human reasoning enables us to reconcile the history of Abram and his taking of Hagar.

Genesis 16:3. Read

We need to remember that in Genesis 2:24 God declared Man and Woman were to become one flesh. That means monogamy. God allowed bigamy, but it was not his choice for humanity, though he faithfully records it. I also suspect that not just the sin of falling back on his own reasoning is recorded her. I believe Abram seized on the opportunity to have a young wife in his old age and that the lust of the flesh played a part in this. Solomon, who had no small amount of experience in this area was probably the author of the passage instructing that one should be satisfied with the wife of his youth.

Genesis 16:4. Read

Things had not worked out as Sarai planned. Hagar’s quick conception proved publicly that Sarai was the one who was infertile, not Abram. Hagar sensed this power she held over her mistress and was quick to exploit it. Remember, that marrying Abram did not release her from her bondage as Sarai’s servant, but she obviously tried to use it to change that status. I’m told that the Chinese pictograph for “trouble” shows 2 women under one roof. Abram was about to find that out.

Genesis 16:5. Read

I hope you will forgive a man’s perspective on this, but whose idea was this in the first place? Even the New Bible Commentary says of Sarai here that she was “rather unreasonable.” I wish we could say here that Abram told Sarai to deal fairly with Hagar and instructed Hagar to stop despising Sarai, but he takes the easy way out again:

Genesis 16:6. Read

God’s law, the law of Genesis 2:24 forbid this marriage. But they had followed the code of Hammurabi which allowed it. So Abram fell back on that code instead of God’s law and said she could do as she pleased. Once again he compounded his sin by inserting his own reason as superior to God’s will. And Sarai was as quick to take advantage of her position as Hagar had been to take advantage of her pregnancy. Hagar lived up to her name and ran away.

MacDonald tells us that this illustrates the conflict between law and grace. “They cannot cohabit”. He also states, “While some of the behavior in this section may have been culturally acceptable then, it is certainly irregular from a Christian standpoint.

Genesis 16:7. Read

Shur was a fortress or fortress wall on the way back to Egypt, so that’s where Hagar was headed. One of the reasons I believe she got her name from trying to run back to Egypt when she was younger. I also think that we are seeing the mechanisms of the enemy here. He was, I believe, even then trying to prepare the way of the anti-christ and assuming he knew that one day the Messiah would be called out of Egypt, he was trying to prepare for that eventuality. That is pure speculation on my part, I have no scriptural proof.
This is also the first appearance in scripture of “the angel of the Lord”. Many believe, as do I that this is a “Christophany”. That is, a pre-incarnate appearance of Christ. There are quite a number of these remarkable appearances in the Old Testament. They would make a good subject for a series of sermons some day.

Genesis 16:8. Read

This is a rich passage. Let’s look at it in some detail.

“And he said,” The Lord had searched for her and verse 7 says he found her. We speak of our salvation in terms of “I found the Lord”. Why? He wasn’t lost, WE were. We were the sheep gone astray and he searched and found us, and then he spoke to our hearts.

“Hagar”. He knew her name and called her by it. He reached out to her in intimate terms. He is “the friend who is closer than any brother.”

“Sarai’s maid,”. He reminded her of her status. As he reminds us of ours, sinners ever separated from him, bound for an eternity in torment, yet in love he has found us and reached out.

“Whence camest thou?” He asked her where she came from. He knew. He wanted to hear her say it. As he wants us to admit that we too, were born in sin, came from there and cannot escape the heritage.

“And she said,” Hagar answered his call, she didn’t turn her back and go her on way

“I flee from the face of my mistress Sarai.” Do you remember what Adam and Eve did? They fled from the face of God. Ashamed, naked, fearing his wrath, they fled. Like the father did then and here to Hagar and today to us, he sought them and called for them.

Do we have besetting sin in our hearts to day that is causing us to flee from our loving Father's face? Or are we fleeing from his salvation? Will we be willing to listen and obey as we will see this Egyptian slave girl do?

Genesis 16:9. Read

Returning and submitting are always the steps to restoration and joy and peace. There may be consequences to be paid for our actions, but a blessing always follows as we will see promised here:

Genesis 16:10. Read

This verse is one that shows us that the being described as an angel of the Lord is likely a Christophany. He speaks of God as being himself, not as an other and he makes the promise personally that only God can make. He promises that the child and his seed will become a great nation of huge population and we see that fulfilled in the Arab world today.

Genesis 16:11. Read.

Ishmael means “God shall hear”. God always hears affliction. Sometimes it continues for what seems like ages, but he always hears. When we whisper a cruelty to someone helpless, he hears. When words are spoken to a child that cuts his heart like a knife, God hears. When we repeat gossip or tell lies or off color stories, he hears.

Genesis 16:12. Read.

The King James translators rendered this verse rather mildly. The word translated “wild” is literally “wild horse” or “wild donkey” or “wild ass” of a man. Can you think of a better description of the personality of the Arab world? God uses the wild horse as an example of his power in creation when chastising Job. It illustrates strength and freedom and a desire to wander. The “prophet” Mohammed harnessed just a little of that energy with his development of Islam and created a movement that almost swept the planet.

Look at how the sons of Ishmael today live amongst each other, yet constantly war as much against each other as against the outside world.

Genesis 16:13. Read

This phrase, “Thou God seest me” is in Hebrew, “Thou art El Roi” which means “A God of Seeing” or “A God of Vision”.

According to the New Bible Commentary… “This means not so much a God who sees, but a God ‘who permits Himself to be seen.” The question she asks, “Have I also here looked after him that seeth me?” is a very difficult one to translate also. It may well mean, “have I even seen God and survived?”.

Genesis 16:14. Read

Also quoting: “Word for word this name may be translated ‘well / of the living/seeing’, meaning more freely, ‘Well of continuing to live after seen God’. That a man should be allowed to see God was a mark of especial favour. Note Manoah’s words ‘We shall surely die because we have seen God’ in Judges 13:22.

But where they feared to see God and die, we have the greater hope, to see God and live. Let’s turn again to one of my favorite passages.

Job 19:23-27. Read.

The day is coming for each of us when, resurrected, we will look our Creator in the face. Will we rush to fall at his feet and worship or will we flee from his presence as Hagar fled Sarai?

The choice is ours.
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