I remember as a child growing up one of the greatest experiences that I had with my father was when he would ask me that question. Do you want to go along with me somewhere. The most vivid memories I had was when he would invite me to go along with him as he worked as a truck driver in harvest, but a close second was when he would ask me to go along with him to go hunting. It was on these occassions that I would dress up in all the warm cloths, we got to leave real early and I knew that the rest of the day would be just me and my dad. Well, on one of the occassions that my father asked if I wanted to go along hunting I had a great idea. We were going to be hunting for geese so I thought, why not bring my own gun along and I could shoot my first goose. The only problem was that I was only about 6 years old and my only gun was a cap gun. Although I didn't know the ins and outs of hunting, I thought that if I had my own gun, it could be of great service to my father.
As I thought about that experience, it reminds me of how Abraham and company must have appeared to God. And it must seem like that is the way we treeat God. We head into situations and we are going to help out, but we must always remember that when we try to help God out, it's like taking a cap gun to hunt geese. The gun may look impresive, and we might think we're pretty smart, but when it comes down to it, the cap gun is useless in camparison to a real gun, and our power is useless in comparison to God's power.
That's what Abraham is doing here however. He is bringing his cap gun to God and saying let me help you out here. You would think that Abraham and Sarah would have learned already the power of God, but they have yet to understand in completeness what it's all about. So this morning we want to see Abraham, Sarah's, and Hagar's mistakes so that we can see in a greater way God's power.
MISTAKE #1: THEY THOUGHT THE PROBLEM WAS BIGGER THAN GOD (VV1-4)
The first mistake that they made was that they thought the problem was bigger than God. In other words they decided that it would be a good idea to try and help God out. He thought that the problem was bigger than what God could handle. Looking ahead to what God will say again to Genesis 18:4 listen to God's reassurance again.Genesis 18:14 14 Is anything too hard for the LORD? I will return to you at the appointed time next year and Sarah will have a son." (NIV)Is anything to hard for God? Of course not, but how do we treat God like things are too big for Him. How often do we still do this? How often do we head into projects both personally and as a church without giving proper time to pray about it. It is so easy to use God as a last resort. Last Sunday in Sunday School, we talked about how often it's only when we come to the end of ourselves that we begin to seek God. And if he doesn't start opening doors of opportunity for us we take out the battering ram and bowl the door right over.
i) We can think of God's delay equated with God's weakness We don't know the timing of God. Sarah and Abraham were getting frustrated waiting so they said well if God isn't going to work then we might as well go to plan B. The great New England preacher Phillips Brooks was noted for his poise and quiet manner. At times, however, even he suffered moments of frustration and irritability. One day a friend saw him pacing the floor like a caged lion. "What's the trouble, Dr. Brooks?" asked the friend. "The trouble is that I am in a hurry," said Brooks, "but God isn't." Haven't we often felt the same? Brooks was also quoted as saying "The hardest task in my life is to sit down and wait for God to catch up with me." Yet patience is part of God's strategy for maturing us as Christians. It's a lost skill we all need to cultivate. It's easy to become impatient with God and say why aren't you working the way that I want in my timing. I often think that other cultures who aren't as scheduled and precise enjoy freedoms that we in Western cultures get trapped with. IF you are waiting for God to act and you are wondering what's taking Him so long don't make the mistake that Abraham made and rush ahead of God and miss out on the blessings that he wants for you.
MISTAKE #2: THEY LACKED GODLY FORSIGHT (VV4-6; 10-12)
I think their first mistake so leads into their next mistkae. For we see that it was because they couldn't wait for God that they then in turn struggled with seeing the potential diaster that their mistakes would create. Now maybe you still don't think that looking ahead is important and that disobeying God is no big deal. Maybe you think that your mistakes are your mistakes. Well this morning we see that Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar weren't looking ahead. For there mistakes would have lasting consequences. The first thing they missed was the fact that their mistake would create desention between the ranks.
i) Our sins can have lasting effects.
VERSES 4-6 ARE THE FIRST CONSEQUENCES FACED
Hagar was fighting with Sarah and there was all kinds of jealousy and envy going on. But I want to direct our attention more specifically to verses 10-12. Here Hagar's son, Ishmael is described. Now if you ever wonder the consequences that your actions might have you need to remember these verses. Now it might have seemed like a good idea for Abraham to have a son by Hagar, after all Sarah was too old, but they didn't look ahead. Now I am not sure if any of you have ever heard on the news about conflict between Israeli's and Arabs. It is occassionally on the news ever hear of it? This is where it started!. Ishameal would be the father of a great nation and that would be those Arab nations who are constantly opposing Israel.
It was the end of August and it was a hot day, a good harvest day, and at the time it seemed like a good idea to speed. After all the combine was sitting int he middle of the field and it would sit there until I returned to the field with the neccesary parts. But I wasn't thinking ahead however that theire are consequences to speeding, and that consequence turned into a reality as the RCMP officers pulled me over. I got a speeding ticket even though to me it seemed logical that I should get the parts as quickly as possible. Even though it seemed logical to me however, did not quite go over with the officer. Now I fealt some consolation as I read this week about a young teen ager struggled with the consequences of speeding far greater than I . One teenager in Philadelphia has received 440 of them! He faces possible fines of up to $88,000, 6 years in prison, and a lifetime ban on driving. In just a few years of sitting behind the wheel, this Philadelphia flyer has racked up 143 tickets for driving without a license, 92 for failing to register his car, 72 for not having his auto inspected, 12 for driving without insurance, and more! This guy is in a pothole so deep he can't see daylight.
We might laugh at the speeding tickets and laugh at this young fellow who pays no attention to rules of the road and the consequences of breaking those laws, but yet we are in the same situation with God. We continue to sin make mistakes that have lasting effects on our families and children and people around us. Remember that even though God forgives us when we sin. Even though Abraham was forgiven for this mistake that he made, it doesn't deny the fact that the consequences don't remain with us. The Israeli - Arab conflict should stand as a reminder to us of consequences that just may be around when we choose to disobey God. Next time you watch the News and see the Middle East in the centre of it all, remember that when we sin against God their is forgiveness to each who is willing to accept it, but that consequences don't always go away. (nails in the side of the barn)
MISTAKE #3: THEY THOUGHT BLAMING EACH OTHER WOULD FREE THEM FROM RESPONSIBILITY (VV4B-6)
The third mistake that they made was that they blamed each other thinking it would free them from responsibility. This has to be one of the most difficult struggles to overcome in the midst of conflict. As Hagar is mad at Sarah and vice versa we have Sarah trying to shift blame onto others. The problem with this is that it rarely solves problems. How many times has it been helpful to you when you have been able to say it's his fault or it's her fault and justify or rationalize it in your mind. When arguments set to level of only trying to figure out who is right and who is wrong then probably everyone has lost.
13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such "wisdom" does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. That's what we find here isn't it. WE have disorder and selfish ambition coming out because these individuals are looking out for themselves and we have people trying to pass blame without looking to themselves first. We have people who aren't acting completely wise.
One evening several college students spread limburger cheese on the upper lip of a sleeping fraternity brother. Upon awakening the young man sniffed, looked around, and said, "This room stinks!" He then walked into the hall and said, "This hall stinks!" Leaving the dormitory he exclaimed, "The whole world stinks!" Today in the Word, May, 1990, MBI, p. 8
How easy it is to try and find fault with others to shift the blame completely from yourself. I've heard it said that PEOPLE WHO ARE OUT TO FIND FAULT SELDOM FIND ANYTHING ELSE.
MISTAKE #4: THEY THOUGHT RUNNING AWAY WAS A GOOD IDEA (V6B)
The fourth mistake that Abrham and company made was that they thought running away was a good idea. Sarah has mistreated Hagar and as a result Hagar has skipped town. Now you notice that Abraham doesn't send a search committee out to find Hagar, and Sarah wasn't pleading for Abraham to send out people to find Hagar. NOw it wasn't that Abraham didn't have people around to help. Remember when Lot was in trouble, Abraham got his people together. With Hagar however, Abraham seems to come up with a dead lock roundign people up.
The story is told of two hunters who came across a bear so big that they dropped their rifles and ran for cover. One man climbed a tree while the other hid in a nearby cave. The bear sat down between the tree and the cave. Suddenly, the hunter in the cave came rushing out, almost ran into the waiting bear, hesitated, and dashed back in. The same thing happened a second time. When he emerged the third time, his friend frantically called out, "Woody, are you crazy? Stay in the cave till he leaves!" "Can't," panted Woody. "There's another bear in there."
i) Running away doesn't solve problems
Whenever we run away from problems we must remeber that we will often face very similar problems. People say this today in so many ways. People feel that if situations aren't going great in their lives then to run away from them will help you out. People who say marriages are getting to difficult run away, people who have a disagreement with a friend feel the best way to solve the problem is to just not call the friend or deal with the disagreement. Running away from problems doesn't solve anything.
When the crowd is running the wrong way, it's hard to be the oddball who runs the right way. Most of the participants in the NCAA 10,000-meter cross-country race in Riverside, California, thought Mike Delcavo was heading the wrong way. He kept waving for the other 127 runners to follow him, but only 4 believed he had taken the right turn--the turn that all the other competitors had missed. When he was asked about the reaction to his mid-course decision not to let the crowd determine his direction, Mike responded, "They thought it was funny that I went the right way."
Even if everyone seems to agree with you, if you are running away from problems and conflicts in your life, you are running the wrong way. Even if everyone is running alonside of you, you are wrong.
Again as we come to the end of our account we must remeber that when we make mistakes we must not forget that God is there watching us ready to pick us up. So often when you have heard it described that God is watching you every where you go, it is usually thought of in a negative light. You sort of think of Him as a Hall Monitor always watching for you to do something wrong and ready to hand you a detention. But as Hagar is in the midst of running away she meets what is thought to be the pre-incarnate Christ. He doesn't come to persecute or anything like that. And Hagar quite moved by this encounter understands that God was looking out for her. She saw the one who sees her. Having God see us is a wonderful thing. I heard a story which I found quite miraculous.
A jeep was on collision course with a car. Soem 75 meters down the road when the driver of the jeep finally brought his vehicle under control, he looked back to check on his family. Everyone seemed in pretty good shape - except two year old David, the baby of the family, was missin. They looked everywhere. But it was no use. He had disappeared. Quickly the father jumped out and beagan running down the road toward the scene of impact. The worst went throuigh hsi mind. David could easily have suffered fatal injuries. OR if by some miracle he survived the fall, surely some car would have run over him. This was a busy freeway, and cares were zooming by without a chance of making a sudden stop. The father's pace increased with his fears. Suddenly in the middle of the road he saw a blue bundle - David - picking himself up from the road. He had flown over the top fo the car. and had landed unharmed in the midst of traffic.
As his dad joyfully picked him up, Daid Tee shirt slogan said it all. GOD LOVES ME SO MUCH HE CAN'T TAKE HIS EYES OF ME.
IN essence that is the realization that we can have. When we make mistakes we must always rememeber these words that God spoke to Hagar and that were written on that boys tee shirt will ring true, God loves you and can't take His eyes of you. Learn from these mistakes but realize that God is there to bring you back to the fold when we make mistakes.