Summary: Abraham, Pt. 4
THE GOD WHO REALLY SEES (GENESIS 16:1-16)
Are you suffering, weak, or troubled?
At the lowest point of my ministry, I took a course co-taught by two professors who required all students, mainly pastors, to stay together in a retreat center for two weeks, and every night there was a designated time for singing, fellowship and prayer. A few testimonies stuck in my mind. A Midwest Lutheran pastor was so frustrated, shaken and disgusted at how his ministry was going. He was a popular pastor. People lined up to see him every day in that small rural community and they appeared on his doorstep for something as minor as fixing a toilet seat. On the denominational front, he was exhausted from ugly politics battling feminist groups, gay rights, abortion supporters and other interest groups. He had thought about taking a long break, especially the last few months, when he would get up early Sunday morning before dawn, writing his sermon before the congregation arrived to avert a major embarrassment.
On the last day, another pastor confessed dramatically for the first time in his life that he was sexually abused as a kid. One of the professors talked about how he often reacted angrily and negatively to his wayward son’s up and down battle with drugs, but the turning point in the unhappy father and son relationship was when he felt God turning the question upon him: “What about your anger?”
At the end of the two weeks, the Lutheran pastor echoed the determination of the group when he said, “When I first arrived, I was determined to go home after this class and quit my church. But after these two weeks’ fellowship, prayer and testimonies, I think I’d rather stay in my own church.”
Do you know God understands your misery more than you think? Abram and Sarai had a maid by the name of Hagar; however, all of them were dissatisfied with their conditions. Sarai was the pushy wife who was paranoid for an heir, Abram was the passive husband who blindly followed his wife’s ill-advised instructions and Hagar was the ambitious maid who discovered a way out of her outsider status.
Sarai and Abram were not getting any younger. Abram was eighty five years old (16:16) and Sarai was seventy four (17:17), but Sarai had a plan. How about taking a concubine for her husband so that a baby by her husband and the maid may be considered Sarai’s child (16:1-3)? In the end, no one was happy, especially Hagar. Hagar lived a more miserable life than before because things in the new family worked out quite differently than she expected. She was not as important once she got there.
What happens when we use human solutions to replace God’s way to a better life? How does God want us to live even when the quality of life is not ideal or improving? Why is it better to trust God even at the worst of times?
Living Your Life Through Others is Fooling Yourself and Others
16:1 Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian maidservant named Hagar; 2 so she said to Abram, “The LORD has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my maidservant; 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 maidservant 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 servant in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the LORD judge between you and me.” (Gen 16:1-5)
Sarai’s mistaken notion was that she could live her life through Hagar, that she could build a future on an abnormal relationship and that her husband and the family would be happier and complete with kids at home. Abram and Hagar did not protest the plan. Abram, on the one hand, wanted her wife happy, their marriage to work and a baby to stabilize the family and calm things down. Hagar, on the other hand, thought her status would be upgraded, her fortune would change and motherhood would satisfy her. In the end, all the participants were fooling themselves and others.
A friend knew a young couple who was a perfect match for each other and their home was the picture of an ideal family. The couple knew each other since teenagers. They were married after their careers quickly took off and both had enviable, perfect jobs. She was a capable counselor and he was good in sales. They had two smart and lovely kids - the oldest 10, fast-tracked to the top of their profession and bought a nice home in a middle-class neighborhood. They were compatible, genial and successful. My friend’s respect, admiration and idealization of the romance story were set. One day, it all went wrong. The husband came home, told the wife that he was seeing someone else and wanted a divorce.