< What I Learned Teaching Sunday School: Genesis 16

Saturday, August 02, 2014

Genesis 16

Genesis 16:1-6 Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian slave named Hagar; 2 so she said to Abram, “The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.”
Abram agreed to what Sarai said. 3 So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian slave Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. 4 He slept with Hagar, and she conceived.

When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress. 5 Then Sarai 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.”

6 “Your slave is in your hands,” Abram said. “Do with her whatever you think best.” Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her.

This is really important today because it records the beginning of the strife over the land of Palestine. And it’s also a lesson in attempting on our own to “make” God’s promises happen instead of waiting on Him.

When Abraham first responded to God’s call, his life work was not only to become in every situation the embodiment of a man who lived by faith in God, it also consisted in producing the “seed” which led to Christ through faith in God’s promise and in His power. Abraham has been doing pretty well trusting God up until this point. But now a little unbelief is seeping in.

When people take things into their own hands because they don’t feel like God is doing anything – suffering occurs. And in this case the suffering has been going on for four thousand years.

Sarah’s suggestion wasn’t strange and awful back then like it would be today. It was actually pretty common if a wife wasn’t able to bear children to provide a handmaid to her husband in order to have children by her. But it wasn’t God’s will because he had created man and wife and Abraham (and eventually his heirs) were to live out God’s will, not the current culture’s. All Abraham and Sarah thought about was that it had been 10 years since God’s promise and He hadn’t acted on it yet. They didn’t have the Bible which shows us numerous examples of God waiting on something to show a greater miracle. (Like Jesus waiting 4 days before coming back to bring Lazarus back to life.)

We’re to do all things in the way God tells us to. In this case God said He’d do the work. Even Jesus refused to do anything of His own initiative, but in humble, utter obedience sought the mind of God about every action, every method of God’s work.

If Abraham had brought Sarah’s suggestion to God in prayer, think of how different the world would be today.

Hagar’s name means “flight.”  She was a bit of a victim, but not faultless. Instead of being thankful for the gift of a son she became proud and despised Sarah’s physically unproductive life. Pride and contemptuousness of others are two of the most condemned sins in all Scriptures.

Proverbs 6:16-19 There are six things the Lord hates,
seven that are detestable to him: 17 haughty eyes,
a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood,
18 a heart that devises wicked schemes,
feet that are quick to rush into evil,
19 a false witness who pours out lies
and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.

According to the accepted procedures of that day, the fact that Sarah gave her handmaid to Abraham for the purpose of giving him an heir did not alter Hagar’s status as Sarah’s handmaid. Sarah’s harsh treatment, although wrong, was not unprovoked.

Genesis 16:7-12 7 The angel of the Lord found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur. 8 And he said, “Hagar, slave of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?”

“I’m running away from my mistress Sarai,” she answered.

9 Then the angel of the Lord told her, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her.” 10 The angel added, “I will increase your descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count.”

11 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.
12 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.”
Hagar fled in the direction of Egypt where she was from. (Probably a slave given by Pharaoh to Abraham when he left after living there awhile.) Shur means wall. The Egyptians had erected a line of fortresses on their Eastern boundary to protect their land and this wall, Shur, is mentioned in records dating from 2000- 1775 BC. The land where she was at this time was called the “wilderness of Shur”. The wilderness just outside the wall of Egypt.

This is the first time in the Bible THE Angel of the Lord instead of AN angel of the Lord is used. And we know from other lessons that this was a visible manifestation of Jehovah himself. He speaks and acts with God’s authority.

There are four points to notice in His conversation with Hagar.

1.      Jehovah required Hagar’s open confession of her present state –

From where and to where is this attitude of mind and action of flight leading you?

2.      He gave Hagar two explicit instructions to be obeyed –

      Return to the place you left and submit yourself to Sarah

3.      God’s promises to Hagar related to her descendants –

      A multitude of seed reaching into future ages of history, the birth of Ishmael as a proof of His love and care for her in her unhappiness, and the prophecy that her son would be a wild man against every man. And every man against him.

       4. Her son Ishmael would be appointed a place –

        This would be east of his brothers. So east of Canaan.
Genesis 16:13-14 13 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.” 14 That is why the well was called Beer Lahai Roi; it is still there, between Kadesh and Bered.
Hagar’s faith is seen in her recognition that the voice of “the angel of the Lord” was God Himself speaking to her. She not only knew about Him, but spoke to Him, the living God, who personally involved himself in her situation, cared for her need and would be with her when she returned to her home and to Sarah.

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