– 19 Apr 2015
God had promised Abraham a son.
And here in Gen 16, Abraham was already 85yrs old.
His wife Sarai was already 75.
But this promise had still not been fulfilled.
And so, Sarai asked Abraham to have a child through her maid Hagar.
What followed was a domestic disaster in Abraham’s household.
And it manifested the ugly sinful nature of Abraham & Sarai.
But it also showed us that God’s purposes will not be frustrated by the sins of man.
This morning, we want to ask 3 questions to help us meditate on Gen 16:
1) Why did Sarai give Hagar to Abraham?
2) What was the result of Sarai’s behaviour?
3) What was God’s purpose in this incident that came to pass?
Let’s begin with our first question.
1) Why did Sarai give Hagar to Abraham?
We have seen that Abraham & Sarai were both advanced in age.
Now, why did they not have any children?
V1 tells us that it was because Sarai was barren.
And Sarai knew that it was God who kept her barren – v2.
She knew that life was a gift from God.
So Sarai must turn to God if she wanted to solve this problem isn’t it?
But for some reason, she did not turn to God.
She attempted to solve the problem herself.
And she proposed a “human” solution to Abraham:
“Have a child through my maidservant Hagar.”
“And we will accept the child born through Hagar as ours.”
Now, I find Sarah’s behaviour to be very strange.
Why would a Godly woman give another woman to her husband?
Why did Sarai not seek God to open her womb?
The passage does not tell us the exact reason(s).
And there could be many possibilities.
Let me just highlight 2 possibilities & learn some lessons from them:
1) Sarah could be having the wrong perspective of “opened” or “closed” doors
Sarai knew that God said Abraham would have a son.
She knew that she was way past her child bearing age.
So she concluded that this door was “closed”.
And the only “opened” door was for that son to come from her maid Hagar.
Perhaps Sarai may have felt “That’s what our people did in the land of Ur”.
“That must be God’s will for us”.
“Otherwise, how can God’s promise ever be fulfilled since I can’t have children?”
But she forgot a very important principle.
When God fulfils His promise, He will not contradict His revealed will.
God was the one who created the family unit.
One man & one wife – Gen 2:24.
How then could it ever be that Abraham’s promised son come from outside of his marriage?
My friends, be very careful that you do not fall into Sarai’s folly.
Some of us may be seeking God’s guidance on what to pursue for our studies or careers.
Some of us may be asking – “Is this man or woman God intended for me to marry?”
And we examine what “doors” are so-called “open” or “closed” for us.
As Christians, there is only one path we should take.
And that should be the one aligned with the precepts God has reviewed in the bible.
That is the only path that will result in blessings, peace & the presence of God.
Therefore, “doors” should be considered “opened” only if they are not against God’s laws.
Many of us say we are keen to seek God’s will for our lives.
May I suggest this to you:
Don’t seek God’s will; seek God!
When you have found Him, you will know His will.
And you will find Him only when you diligently study the scriptures.
Only then will you understand His will for your life.
2) The 2nd possibile reason why Sarai gave Hagar to Abraham: she was unhappy that God made her barren
Have you ever met children who deliberately do things against their parents’ wishes?
Do they do so because they are sinful by nature?
Or is it because they are trying to convey some unhappiness in their hearts?
Or is it a combination of these 2 possibilities?
The fact is that a lot of the behaviour that we see are simply symptoms.
And Sarai’s behaviour could well be symptoms of some disgruntled feeling in her heart.
Perhaps she felt inferior for being barren.
And she needed to have a child to camouflage this inferior feeling.
Perhaps she was unhappy that God made her barren.
And so she deliberately went against God’s revealed will.
And she used the excuse that her actions were necessary to help fulfil God’s promise.
I wonder if some of us may be making similar excuses.
I’ve met many young people who say this to me:
Uncle Lye Sum, you don’t understand the challenges that our generation face today.
Others would say, “if God is love, why is there so much suffering in the world?”
“Why would a loving God send sinners to hell?”
Could these questions be just a camouflage so that people don’t see the true state of your heart?
Ask yourself honestly – is there sin which you don’t want to acknowledge?
Are you just making excuses so that you don’t have to face the question of your own sins?
Just like Sarai – unhappy but demonstrating it in actions that camouflage her real feeling.
I want to remind you about what Jesus said in Matt 15:19.
“For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.”
All our actions & excuses could just be symptoms.
And they cloud our minds from the fact that we are sinners.
And many of us will continue to live in denial about this.
Let us be reminded that if we allow that to continue, just like Sarai, the consequence could be disastrous.
Because sin always has its consequences.
Never think a small sin is ok.
Because one sin will always lead to another.
And that leads us to our 2nd question for today
2. What was the result of Sarai’s behaviour?
It triggered a chain of sins, one leading to another.
Abraham sinned by “heeding the voice of Sarai” v2.
He was supposed to lead his household in obeying God.
But he remained passive in the entire incident.
Hagar was not just an innocent victim in this matter.
She became proud when she conceived – v4.
She forgot that God was the one who gave her conception.
This often happens to us as well when we are blessed.
We forget that God is the one who blessed us.
That’s why sometimes we don’t get “bigger blessings” because God knows that we can’t handle it.
Hagar despised Sarai when she conceived – v4.
And when the conflicts started, Sarai blamed everything on Abraham – v5.
But instead of setting things right, Abraham let Sarai take things into her own hands – v6.
And Sarai became cruel to a pregnant Hagar.
Oh, what an ugly situation in an old testament Christian family!
And God was grieved when these things happened.
What was the result of Sarai’s behaviour?
God withdrew Himself from Abraham.
In Gen 15, Abraham was 85 years old when God spoke to him.
God spoke to him again only in Gen 17.
By that time, Abraham was already 99 years old.
There were 13years of silence from God when Abraham sinned against Him!
God withdrew Himself from Abraham – the man of faith!
You may have heard of a man by the name of Samson.
He sinned against God time & time again.
In Judg 16:20, we were told that the Holy Spirit withdrew from him.
The point here is not whether a Christian can lose his salvation.
And we know that God is omni-present – no one can escape from the presence of God.
But the truth that we are reminded of here is that God is holy.
And He withdraws Himself from what is sinful.
When Jesus was nailed on the Cross, the sins of all His people were all laid on Him.
And the bible says that God the Father hid His face from His own Son!
Jesus who knew no sin was made to be sin for us & it inflicted the wrath of our Holy God! – 2 Cor 5:21
So, let us be reminded that God is grieved when we sin against Him.
That is why Eph 4:30 tells us to – “Grieve not the Holy Spirit”.
This morning, God may have withdrawn Himself from some of us.
He could have done so because we are not His children.
He could also have done so if we, His children, are nursing some unconfessed sins in our heart.
Remember, God does not need us.
We are the ones who need Him.
We are the ones who will go spiritually hungry & thirsty if God withdraws His presence from us.
How miserable it would be without the presence of God!
Please examine your hearts this morning to see if God has withdrawn Himself from you.
If He has, seek Him now through Jesus Christ that He may return to you.
For He says in Zech 1:3 “Return to Me….& I will return to you…”
We come now to our final question for today.
3) What was God’s purpose in this incident that came to pass?
Hagar fled from Sarai when she was ill-treated.
And “..the Angel of the LORD found her by the spring in the wilderness..” – v7.
And the Angel told her that she will bear a son – v11.
And this son was to be called Ishmael.
Now, who was this “Angel of the LORD” who spoke to Hagar?
It was Jesus before He came to be born as a Man on earth.
You know this when the scriptures says “the Angel” with a capital A & not “an angel”.
So today, we have the benefit of reading what God had decreed to come to pass before it happened.
Our Lord Jesus told Hagar to return to Sarai.
And He told her to submit to Sarai inspite of her cruelty.
Because God will work out His purposes inspite of Sarai’s sin.
So what was God’s purpose in these things that came to pass?
The new testament explained it to us in Gal 4:24.
The Apostle Paul used the births of Ishmael & Isaac to illustrate 2 ways of salvation:
1. By doing good works.
2. Or by grace through faith in God’s promises
Ishmael’s birth represented salvation by works.
Ishmael was the child of a slave – Hagar.
There was nothing supernatural about his birth.
His birth was a result of Abraham & Sarai’s sins.
It represented man’s attempted & sinful efforts to achieve God’s promise.
In other words, you work your way to get to heaven.
And this is what you hear very often isn’t it?
Behave morally, do good works & you will get to heaven.
Now, be careful that such erroneous views can also happen to Christians.
I’ve met people who are so proud of their repentance & obedience.
To the extend that it was as if their repentance & obedience was what earned them salvation from God.
But the bible tells us that no amount of good works is sufficient to pay for our sins.
And no one by his good works can attain God’s standard of holiness.
Isaac’s birth, on the other hand, represented salvation by grace through faith in God’s promises
Isaac’s birth took place when Abraham was 100 years old in Gen 21.
And Sarai was already 90.
By any human effort, there was no way Sarai could conceive.
Yet, in that humanly impossible situation, God opened Sarai’s womb.
And Abraham & Sarai did nothing to contribute to Isaac’s birth.
If there is anything they did, it was to believe that God will fulfil His promise.
The same is true of salvation by grace through faith.
You can’t contribute anything to earn a place in heaven with God.
It is a work of the Holy Spirit to cause you to be born again spiritually.
And you turn your heart to Him in repentance & faith because He made it possible for you.
You depend totally upon the sacrificial offering of Jesus Christ to bring you to heaven.
And you respond in gratefulness & joy, giving up your sins.
Whatever good works you have are all done in gratefulness & love for God.
Yes, Abraham & Sarai grieved God through their sins.
But in the wisdom of God, what we have here is the gospel in the old testament –
The message of salvation by grace through faith illustrated for our understanding.
God is sovereign & His purposes will not be frustrated by our sins.
And that brings great comfort to us who are absolutely good for nothing.
Some of you may now be having many questions in your minds.
For example, if God decreed all that came to pass, isn’t He the one who caused Sarai to sin?
Isn’t it cruel to let Hagar go through such pains?
If God decreed everything that came to pass, aren’t we just like robots?
These questions are not new & they have been asked throughout history.
And these questions arise mainly because you did not start on the premise that man is totally depraved & deserved nothing.
If you appreciate the fact of your utter sinfulness, the grace & sovereignty of God will overwhelm you.
Let us also be absolutely clear that the bible tells us that God is not the author of sin.
God decreed all things that came to pass for His own glory.
There is nothing that happens outside of His decrees.
Some people say that God “permitted” certain things to happen, eg. He allowed Satan to test Job.
They wanted to be able to explain why “bad things can happen to good people”.
And it sounded as if God had no choice but to let these things happen.
But let me be clear that even these permitted events were decreed by God.
Let me put it to you this way:
If God is not absolutely sovereign in everything decreed, He is not sovereign at all.
And if your God is not absolutely sovereign – you may be having a god of your own imagination.
Because the God spoken of in the Bible is absolutely sovereign & He does what pleases Himself – Psa 115:3.
But we take comfort because He works all things for the good of His people.
Now, this subject of the sovereignty of God cannot be understood in one instance.
You need to read what the bible says about it & to meditate on it.
And if you are His child, you will respond to His call to repent & believe in His Son.
And you will discover great joy in walking & communing with Him.
And you will discover & understand His design for what happens in our lives.
And you will worship Him, submit to Him & give Him all glory, praise & honour.
God willing, we will see more of this doctrine revealed in the next few chapters of Genesis.
I urge you to read ahead & prepare yourself to understand God’s word.
May God help us understand what He has revealed of Himself in His word.