Daily Distinctives, March 14, 2018 – Trust and Wait

And so coming to chapter 16 of Genesis in my daily devotional journey through the Bible we find Abram and Sarai in a bit of a predicament. God had promised Abram that he would be the father of multitudes innumerable but at the ripe old age of 86, some ten years after God had made his promise to Abram, the couple decided that perhaps they should take matters into their own hands.

This leaves me in kind of a quandary. How often do I feel that the LORD is telling me to go one way or another and I accept Him at His WORD? Then later I push forward with my own agenda. Now I am not saying that I have been blatantly self-sufficient in these instances, but at times I felt most sincerely that perhaps this way or that way was the way that God intended to have His will done in my life. For example, many years ago I made a decision to buy a new car. It was a whole lot of car, a muscle car that would no doubt turn some heads. I was in an industry where the look you wore and the kind of car you drove could win and influence people to a large degree. Ahhh, the life of sales. Financially, we were in a position, or at least had the promise of high income, where a couple hundred dollars more for a car payment each month would not stretch us too badly. And so I prayed on the prospect of buying a new car. Our old car worked just fine but it was, for lack of better words, ugly. I did not feel the LORD telling me “NO,” but to be sure I deferred the final decision to my bride. We both serve as a check and balance for each other and so I thought that there was wisdom in this. So the day came and we visited the dealership. We found a choice vehicle that had all the bells and whistles and got it for a steal of a deal. We even threw a fleece out there to see if God would approve it. We decided that if we could get financing on the vehicle that it was as good as if God was saying yes. Of course, now that I had the prospect of owning this beautiful car, we went through three finance companies before getting an approval. I look back at this and shake my head. I was so foolish. Obviously, this is an example of a time where I pushed forward with my own agenda.

Still, other times I trusted in God and waited on Him. When I was called into ministry at a particular church, I prayed earnestly and did not tell my wife until after I had received a confirmation from the LORD. After I felt sure that this was what the LORD had called me to do, I approached my wife and she was on board wholeheartedly. Now, I wish I could say we lived happily ever after, but even this calling took a toll on my life and my marriage. We served well for a season but God used this season to break my wife and me from some issues we were having that would preclude us from serving at our full capacity. This was definitely a case of Romans 8:28 but it was a painful experience, to say the least.

These are just a couple of examples of times where I have had to learn to discern the voice of God in my life. Still, the underlying principle that I gleaned from these and other experiences I have had where I felt the LORD directing me, is trust and wait. Whenever I know the LORD is providing an opportunity, I tend to want to get the show on the road. I like adventure and welcome challenges. The reality is that my ways are not God’s ways and God has a plan that He has formulated that will be so much better than what I ever thought possible. So, today, I wait and trust that the LORD will make straight the path before me and there will be no need for me to meddle in His plans or try to do anything in my own strength. In fact, this devotional is an example of my waiting on the LORD. I am certain beyond any doubt that the LORD has called me to teach His WORD. I had always envisioned that this meant I was supposed to pastor a church. That may be the case at some point. But I am content to just pour myself into His WORD and wait until He calls me out. In doing so, there will be no mistake when it does come to fruition. I will know it is His timing because I will not have had my fingers in the pie so to speak.

And so I share all of this because I can relate to Sarai and Abram with regard to God’s promises and the matter of taking things into my own hands. That said, let’s take a look at our passage for today.

[Gen 16:1 NKJV] Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no [children]. And she had an Egyptian maidservant whose name was Hagar.

Sarai, no doubt, was privy to the promise that God made to Abram. Still, they weren’t getting any younger. This led Sarai to envoke a custom of the day that was much like our own custom of surrogate parenting. It is believed that during this age, servants could be utilized to serve as surrogates for their masters. As fate would have it, Sarai had acquired a servant girl from her time with Abram in Egypt. This maidservant was named Hagar.

[Gen 16:2 NKJV] So Sarai said to Abram, “See now, the LORD has restrained me from bearing [children]. Please, go in to my maid; perhaps I shall obtain children by her.” And Abram heeded the voice of Sarai.

Now, we don’t know for sure if Sarai really believed that it was her issue that perhaps she was barren. During that time to be barren was came with a stigma that would make Sarai a reproach to her husband and her people. No doubt she wondered if Abram was “shooting blanks” so to speak. So she approaches Abram and tells him that since the LORD had restrained her from bearing children, that Abram should take her maidservant as a surrogate and through Hagar, Sarai might have a child.

Again, this custom made it possible through certain rites for a master to bear a child through their servant. Some of the commentaries I have read on this subject include a ritual where the servant would both conceive and give birth on the lap of her master’s wife. Since we don’t have any way of knowing for sure as there is not much documentation on this ancient practice to provide any certainty, what we do know ultimately Hagar would give an heir to Abram and Sarai.

[Gen 16:3 NKJV] Then Sarai, Abram’s wife, took Hagar her maid, the Egyptian, and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan.

If I have learned anything from the Bible it is that one wife is more than enough! Though we are not told in Scripture, this idea of polygamy likely had its origins in a time when it was necessary to populate the earth, still, polygamy is an interesting practice in that most people today view polygamy as immoral yet the Bible nowhere explicitly condemns it. Still, when we go back to the beginning we see that God intended for monogamy to be the way of marriage where the man and the woman join together and become one flesh. There are many supporting passages that lean towards monogamy over polygamy, but I can only say from experience, one woman is enough. Still, Abram, whether in the lust of his flesh or perhaps believing his wife was on to something with regard to the plan the LORD had for them, takes Hagar as his wife.

[Gen 16:4 NKJV] So he went in to Hagar, and she conceived. And when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress became despised in her eyes.

From Hagar’s perspective, you have to think that she was proud. Here was a servant girl who was destined to remain a servant all the days of her life. She get’s a big break and is allowed to become a wife to a very wealthy man. She was probably not a “gold-digger,” but as fortune would have it she was in the right place at the right time. I laugh as I write this because I know that nothing happens outside the sovereign will of God. Not that God makes bad decisions, but He certainly allows them so that ultimately He will receive the most glory. My life is living proof of this principle. And so Hagar conceives, something her master’s wife could not do. As I mentioned earlier, barrenness carried a stigma with it, and this left no doubt as to who could not conceive in the equation. And so Hagar despised Sarai. Hagar’s contempt for Sarai was the result of Hagar thinking that she was somehow better than Sarai. Her haughtiness would cause her a great deal of grief as we shall see moving forward.

[Gen 16:5 NKJV] Then Sarai said to Abram, “My wrong [be] upon you! I gave my maid into your embrace; and when she saw that she had conceived, I became despised in her eyes. The LORD judge between you and me.”

It would seem that this was a case of “buyers remorse” on the part of Sarai. How is it that she blames Abram for something that was her “fault” to begin with. Now, being married, I have come to understand what this really means. At the end of the day, the husband is the authority in his home and is responsible for the decisions he makes. Now, I am not saying that in a chauvinistic way either. If you consider what the whole of Scripture reveals about the dynamic of family you will quickly understand that it is a matter of order and not convenience. Still, we find Sarai blaming Abram for taking her up on her offer. Abram should have acted as the leader of his home and at the very least deferred the matter to God, but instead, he was quick to respond in his flesh.

[Gen 16:7 NKJV] Now the Angel of the LORD found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, by the spring on the way to Shur.
[Gen 16:8 NKJV] And He said, “Hagar, Sarai’s maid, where have you come from, and where are you going?” She said, “I am fleeing from the presence of my mistress Sarai.”

Here is a good hint for you when you are reading the Bible, the term used here, Angel of the LORD, is used to describe a Christophany, that is, a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus. You will notice that in most of your Bibles the A in angel is capitalized indicating that this is a reference to Christ or God. And so Jesus appears to Hagar, Sarai’s maidservant and asks her where she came from and where she is going. Now, I have learned in my own studies that when the LORD asks a question to human beings it is not because He doesn’t know, but rather, He is getting them to recognize the answer for themselves. He wants us to think about where we are and where we are going when He asks. Rightly, Hagar reports that she is fleeing from the presence of her mistress Sarai.

Hagar was in the wilderness, no doubt, heading back to Egypt from where she originally hailed. But that road was long and arduous. There is a good chance that she might not have made it had the LORD not intervened here. Still, the fact that she found herself where she did was the result of her own lack of faith and sinfulness. Had she not been so haughty and despised Sarai she would not have had to fear the threat of reprisal. Her leaving was an indication that she did not trust in the LORD that He would answer her in her time of desperation. But God is so good to each of us that when He gently brings our sin to mind, He gives us the direction we need to get back on the appropriate course. This is exactly what He does with Hagar.

[Gen 16:9 NKJV] The Angel of the LORD said to her, “Return to your mistress, and submit yourself under her hand.”

Jesus tells her that she needs to do the right thing. Go and sin no more (John 8:11). She likely understood now the error of her way by the mere line of questioning that Jesus gave her. In essence, by asking these questions, Jesus pointed out that she was not where she should be and not heading in the right direction. In this verse, He helps her to understand where she should be and that she needs to submit herself to her mistress. We know from the Bible that we are to submit to those in authority over us (Hebrews 13:17; 1 Peter 5:5; Colossians 3:22-24; Romans 13:1-7; Titus 3:1, etc…) trusting that God has placed them in authority for His will and glory.

[Gen 16:10 NKJV] Then the Angel of the LORD said to her, “I will multiply your descendants exceedingly, so that they shall not be counted for multitude.”

As noted in a previous study, where God guides He provides. When we are faithful to submit to our governing authorities we are submitting to the very hand of God and it is God that will plead our case and will exalt us in due season (1 Peter5:6). God promises that Hagar will be blessed for her obedience and that like the promise that Sarai received through Abram, she too would have descendants that will number as great as those who would come from Sarai’s womb.

[Gen 16:11 NKJV] And the Angel of the LORD said to her: “Behold, you [are] with child, And you shall bear a son. You shall call his name Ishmael, Because the LORD has heard your affliction.

Even though Hagar was in sin by her haughtiness, it was not for Sarai to cast such judgment upon Hagar to the point that she felt she must flee for her life. Sarai, as indicated in the verse above was afflicted. Sarai was the source of her affliction. Still, the LORD sees us in our affliction and has pity on us. If anyone could relate to our affliction, no doubt it is Jesus (Psalm 22:24). And so Jesus tells her not to worry about stopping at the pharmacy for a pregnancy test, no He doesn’t, but He does tell her that she is pregnant and that she will have a son. And rather than have to dig through the genalogies to pick a good name like    Arphaxad or Methuselah, Jesus gives her new son-to-be a name. He says, “You shall call his name Ishmael.” In those days names were given to represent a meaning. Today if you name your son Bob, it is not likely that you would choose that name because your baby likes to float. The names of people played an important role in that time. For example, Abram means “exalted father,” but as we will see later, LORD willing, God changes his name to Abraham which means “father of the multitude” just as God promised. It is through Hagar that the Arabic nations would grow in number and greatness.

[Gen 16:12 NKJV] He shall be a wild man; His hand [shall be] against every man, And every man’s hand against him. And he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren.”

We see this throughout history. The descendants of Hagar’s son Ishmael would be in constant battle with the rest of the world. It is no surprise that these two half-brothers, the sons of Abram, Ishmael through Hagar and Isaac through Sarai, are still engaged in battle as we see the Jewish and Arab nations fighting to this day.

[Gen 16:13 NKJV] Then she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, You-Are-the-God-Who-Sees; for she said, “Have I also here seen Him who sees me?”

This was literally a “coming to Jesus” moment in the life of Hagar. Imagine having come from an Egyptian background and being given into servitude to this Hebrew family. She would have had her own religious customs and likely worshipped one of the Egyptian deities. For at least ten years she had been with Abram, Sarai, and company and would no doubt have been introduced to the LORD in some fashion or another. No doubt she questioned the reality of this God that Abram spoke of. But now that she was confronted with Jesus Christ Himself she asks if He is the one true God that Abram likely shared with her and the rest of his family. This was no ordinary encounter. This was an amazing interaction between a woman who had been ostracized by those who were in charge of her and the God of the Universe. And isn’t it so like Jesus to single out the destitute of heart, the afflicted, and the abused to deliver a message of hope and promise?

[Gen 16:14 NKJV] Therefore the well was called Beer Lahai Roi; observe, [it is] between Kadesh and Bered.

And so the well where Jesus met Hagar was named after the encounter that Hagar had with the Angel of the LORD. From that time forward the well would serve as a memorial to the God who sees and sees me. The fact is that God is all-seeing, that is, omniscient but for Hagar, this was an encounter that would change her life forever. No doubt, for the remainder of her life she would trust and wait upon the LORD. While we are not told specifically, we can surmise that Hagar returned to Abram and told him of her encounter. As the LORD said, we see that Hagar delivers the child.

[Gen 16:15 NKJV] So Hagar bore Abram a son; and Abram named his son, whom Hagar bore, Ishmael.

Incidentally, this is the first instance in the Bible of God naming a child before it is ever born. I can think of two others recorded in Scripture: Jesus and John the Baptist. I guess that Ishmael was in good company.

[Gen 16:16 NKJV] Abram [was] eighty-six years old when Hagar bore Ishmael to Abram.

While Abram was up there in age, it might appear to him that the LORD did indeed use this encounter to bring about the fulfillment of His promise to Abram, but as we will see, LORD willing, God had another plan in store. While Ishmael would indeed become a great people, God had reserved for Abram another son through which the Deliverer would be born.

Prayer: LORD, You do see and know me. I am blessed because of You and my life is full. When I walk in Your ways I find joy even in the midst of sorrows. Who but You could give that kind of peace? LORD, I thank You for Your WORD and for giving me the opportunity to search it out and see that You are the center of it all. To know You and know Your will is all I need. Help me to remain faithful to You LORD, to walk in Your ways. Keep me from myself and the folly of my flesh. Let Your WORD abide in me as I abide in You. I love You LORD and give You all the glory and honor for the good things that You do in and through me. It is in Your name I pray. –Amen

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