Genesis 066 – Helping GodGenesis 16:1-6 • Dr. Andy Woods • January 16, 2022 • Genesis
Alright! Well, good morning everybody. Let’s take our Bibles if we could and open them to the book Genesis chapter 16. The title of our message this morning is as follows: “Helping God” and maybe we should put a question mark after that. Helping God? Cause last time I checked God doesn’t need my help, amen? But this is going to come up in our study in the book of Genesis today as we’re actually moving out of chapter 15 into chapter 16, can you believe it? I think we were in chapter 15 for like five weeks. Genesis, 16, so we’re actually moving. This is part of our teaching on the book of Genesis. As you know, the book of Genesis has two basic parts to it.
There’s the beginning of the human race, Genesis, 1 through 11, which features four events that we’ve studied: Creation, fall, flood, national dispersion and a promise is being traced to those chapters of a coming Messiah; and then we move to Genesis, 12 through 50 which is now a focus on the special nation that God is going to use to bring this Messiah to the earth. That of course is the nation of Israel which focuses on four people: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and then how Israel is preserved in the life of Joseph, but God is beginning a nation and He begins this nation through this man Abram. So he is the focus really of chapters 12 through 25 and here’s all the things that we have studied thus far verse by verse in the life of this man Abram who is going to become Abraham. 2:23
Chapter 15 ends on a high note as we’ve looked at it very carefully where Abraham, then Abram, receives a contract from God. He did not make a contract to God, God made a contract to him and God bound Himself to act in fulfillment of that contract that we call the Abrahamic Covenant and so what could possibly go wrong? Well, what goes wrong is chapter 16 where Abram and Sarai take their eyes off the promises of God which we just got finished singing about, amen? In that last song; and they sort of took matters into their own hands.
When they took matters into their own hands, it created long term consequences that they never contemplated, many of which are plaguing the nation of Israel even to the present hour, but here is our breakdown of chapter 16, we have the story of Sarai and Hagar verses 1 through 6 (Gen 16:1-6), we’ll try to get through that today and then what will happen is the ministry of the angel of the Lord to Hagar verses 7 through 14 (Gen 16:7–14) and then you’ll see the birth of Ishmael verses 15 and 16 (Gen 16:15-16), the child of works, the child wrought by works rather than standing on the promises of God. 4:08
So as we look at today, verses 1 through 6, here’s sort of a breakdown that we’re going to follow as we look at the things that happened here.
Notice if you will Genesis chapter 16, notice if you will verse 1 (Gen 16:1), it says: Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children… So we have right out of the gate here some circumstances. The circumstances is Sarai is still barren and this of course goes against what God promised because you remember at the beginning of chapter 15, they basically thought that, Gosh, Eliezer of Damascus in their own household, a common servant, would be the one through who the seed, this promise of innumerable seed would come and God was very clear and He said to them back in chapter 15 (Gen 15:4-5): Then behold, the word of the LORD came to him, saying, This man… Eliezer of Damascus… will not be your heir; but one who will come forth from your own body… keep in mind their advanced age… he shall be your heir; And He took him outside and said, look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them; And He said to him, So shall your descendants be… So there’s coming one from your own body Abram, that will fulfill this promise. It’s interesting that God never said here, Genesis, 15, verses 4 and 5 (Gen 15:4-5) that Sarai was to be the mother but she probably should have figured that out given the fact that she was married to Abram, the one the promise was made. So I think both of them were on notice in Genesis, 15, exactly how God was going to work, but when you go to the second part of verse 1 (Gen 16:1) you start to see a human plan concocted. It says in the second part of verse 1: …and she had an Egyptian maid whose name was Hagar… So we have a handmaiden named Hagar from Egypt and you might ask yourself where did this handmaiden from Egypt come from? Well, you’ll recall in chapter 12, Abram through unbelief went down and sojourned in the land of Egypt and God dealt with him there, and as he was sojourning in the land of Egypt, we read the following in Genesis, 12, verse 16 (Gen 12:16): Therefore he… that’s Pharaoh… treated Abram well for her sake; and gave him sheep and oxen and donkeys and male and female servants and female donkeys and camels… And so we believe that’s where Hagar probably came from. She was part of that joining of Abram’s group there, during his time of disobedience when he went down into Egypt. Hagar’s name actually means fugitive, flight or flee and the name actually is not an Egyptian name, it’s a Hebrew name and it’s probably a name that Abram and Sarai gave to Hagar, describing their own experience when they went and fled and God dealt with them there and they came out of Egypt back into the land of Canaan. 8:04
So that’s where Hagar comes from and these are the circumstances in which Abram and Sarai find themselves and those circumstances moves into a proposal. You’ll see the proposal in verse 2 (Gen 16:2): So Sarai told Abram, Now behold, the LORD has prevented me from bearing children. Please go into my maid; perhaps I will obtain children through her… So Sarai is barren, how in the world is God going to fulfill His promise through a barren woman. The barrenness of Sarai by the way, is not… this is not new to us. That was announced all the way back in Genesis, 11, verse 30 as God was dealing with Abram all the way back then, it says in Genesis, 11, verse 30 (Gen 11:30): Sarai was barren and she had no child… So essentially what happens is human logic starts to take over, we’re not getting any younger sweety, the promise is the heir is going to come from your body and I’ll tell you what we’re going to do, we’re just going to get God a little help. He doesn’t have to fulfill the promise through my body, it can be through Hagar’s body, so why don’t you go in and impregnate Hagar. It’s interesting to me that Abram doesn’t sit here and argue with her too much, says: Hey! Sounds… Sounds swell (laughs) and one of the things that’s very interesting as you get into the subject is the ancient Near East background literature because this actually was a normal practice in the ancient Near East when these circumstances arose. 9:58
“This offer was in keeping with the Nuzi Tablets and with the Code of Hammurabi in that if a wife proved to be barren, she was obligated to provide to her husband a handmaid through whom he could have children so that his seed does not die out. Therefore, what Sarai proposed was in keeping with the laws of that day…Hagar was being used to produce children because of the legal wife’s inability to do so. Again, this was quite in keeping with the laws of that day.” “The Code of Hammurabi, which dates from the second millennium b.c., not that distant from Abraham’s own time, states: ‘When the freemen marries a priestess and she gave a female slave to her husband and she has then born children, if later that female slave has claimed equality with her mistress because she bore children, her mistress may not sell her; she may mark her with the slave mark and count her among the slaves.’ A second example is the Nuzi Tablets, also from the second millennium b.c.: ‘If Gilimninu, [the bride] will not bear children, Gilimninu shall take a woman of Lullo land as a wife for Shennima [the groom].’…Therefore, what Sarai was doing was in keeping with the laws of that day.”
Arnold Fruchtenbaum writes: This offer was in keeping with the Nuzi Tablets and with the Code of Hammurabi in that if a wife proved to be barren, she was obligated to provide to her husband a handmaiden through whom she could have children so that his seed does not die out. Therefore, what Sarai proposed was in keeping with the laws of that day… This… In other words, this made sense from a human perspective… Hagar was being used to produce children because of the legal wife’s inability to do so. Again, this was quite in keeping with the laws of that day… He quotes here the Code of Hammurabi, which is a code that actually predates the law of Moses where this was actually a standard practice and then he says at the bottom of this paragraph: A second example is the Nuzi Tablets, also from the second millennium… Here’s a quote… If Gilimninu, the bride, will not bear children, Gilimninu shall take a woman of Lullo land as a wife of the groom. Therefore… Fruchtenbaum says… what Sarai was doing was in keeping with the laws of the day… What you have with Abram and Sarai is they’re thinking the way the world thinks and don’t dogpile on them too much because we’re the exact same way. Just because you get saved, you trust in Christ for salvation and you’re justified before a holy God, does not mean that the mind, in many ways, doesn’t think the way it used to think before salvation. 11:52
This is called “Worldliness”. Colossians, 2, verse 8 (Col 2:8) warns us of worldliness, it says: See to it that no one takes you captive… this is written to Christians now… See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ… In other words, when we continue on with worldly thinking, not allowing the word of God to transform the way we think as believers, we’re returning to elementary principles. Elementary is like A, B, C, D, the alphabet. Whereas when you to move into Christ, you move away from the elementary things, and you move into sentence structure and paragraphs. In other words, you go back to kindergarten when you return to the principles of the world. All of us, because we’re born into the world with a nature that’s at war with God and we think the way the world thinks. Just because we’re Christians doesn’t mean the mind is aligned correctly. Certainly, we have the mind of Christ and we have the resources of Christ and so through the process of progressive sanctification, which is very different than justification… Justification is birth, sanctification is growth. We have to… as Maps Go says when we get lost, we have to recalibrate. I mean, that’s how I know that I’m really lost cause the voice keeps saying recalibrating, recalibrating. We need a lot of mental recalibration. How does that happen? It happens through a perpetual intake of God’s word. 13:46
Romans, 12 and verse 2 (Rom 12:2) says: …do not be conformed to this world… one of the English translations, I like it says: Don’t let the world squeeze you into its mold… This is written to Christians and I like that particular rendering… Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect… People spend a lot of time trying to figure out, what is God’s will for my life as a Christian? Well, here it is. The will of God is that you would allow the word of God to change the way you think and you would no longer think according to the elementary principles of the world but you would learn to think the way God thinks by way of faith. This is a process that doesn’t happen in a nanosecond like justification, it’s a process that is life long and it will not happen independent of the word of God. Jesus said in John, 17, I think it’s around verse 17 (John 17:17): Sanctify them by thy word, thy word is truth… Why is it that Sugar Land Bible Church keeps teaching the Bible? Well, one hint is we’re called Sugar Land Bible Church but another hint is, unless you’re under the word of God, you can’t think the right way and also don’t think that this little thimbleful of milk that we give, we teach here three times a week, is enough either, you have to be in the word of God yourself. If you’re not in the word of God and under the word of God you cannot reach full stature in Christ, not in terms of birth but in terms of development. There are many people in the world that have been born but there’s some kind of developmental issue, sometimes it’s health, sometimes it’s some other issue and when you understand that, you start to see how God looks at the body of Christ. People have been born, some are growing, some are not and they need to be under the word of God and not just hearing the word of God but the book of James says: Not just to be heroes of the word but to be… what?… doers. That’s where growth takes place. One of my ministry friends Bruce Baker, defines Christian maturity as the amount of time spent in the word of God and obeying it. That’s maturity, not just hearing, hearing, hearing, reading, reading, reading but actually seeking to apply under God’s resources the principles of God’s word that you are receiving. That’s how you define maturity. 16:44
We’re getting ready to do elder and deacon selection here at Sugar Land Bible Church as some of our terms for elders and deacons are ending, we’re asking the congregation for prospects and that’s what you look for. You look for people that are in the word and it’s obvious from the way that they live, they spend time not just in the word and under the word but seeking to apply the word of God. Abram and Sarai apparently were thinking still the way the world thinks. I think what’s happening here with both of them is they are experiencing a lapse of faith. It’s taking God a long time, we’re going to see the figure ten years in a little bit, verse 3 you’ll see it, it’s taking God a long time to do what He said He would do, so we’re going to have to help God.
The Bible warns over and over again of us trying to help God. Galatians, 3, verse 3 (Gal 3:3) concerning the walk of sanctification, God through Paul says to the Galatians: Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?… In other words, the Galatians went under a legalistic code to try to achieve growth in Christ and Paul says, you grow in Christ the same way you were justified. How were you justified? By faith alone, under the resources of the Holy Spirit alone, that’s how you grow. You don’t grow by putting the flesh under more will power, by putting the flesh under a legalistic code. You grow by appropriating moment by moment, decision by decision the resources that God has given you and when you have a choice to make in life, one spiritual, one carnal, you ask the Lord to help you with that because He’s given the resources to do it. God doesn’t need help, what He needs is us to surrender by volition to the resources He’s given us. I believe this, that hell itself is filled with people that tried to help God, because the world of religion, in terms of justification, I got this chart from Thomas Stegall as you can see at the bottom.
The world of religion basically says Jesus did the 90%. Jesus bought lunch, you need to leave the tip. How much of a tip do I have to leave? Well, it doesn’t say in religion. Religion is used to keep people under a treadmill by way of control. You have to pay, pray and obey, that’s your 10%. In other words, Jesus did His part now you need to help God with your part. What is that? Is nothing more than salvation by works. Whereas the truth to the matter is God needs no help, God says, Jesus did 100%, Jesus did it all. If He didn’t do it all, it doesn’t make any sense that He would say in His final words in the cross, it is what? It is finished. What He wants us to do by way of justification is to trust or rest in what He’s done on our behalf and so if a person thinks they need to help God to be justified before God, that’s a one way ticket into the lake of fire. If a Christian wants to help God in terms of justification by going into legalism, and trying to manufacture in the flesh what only the resources of the Holy Spirit can do, that is a one way ticket to frustration and burn out in the Christian life. God needs no help in sanctification nor justification. He is simply asking us to rest upon the resources that He has provided. Helping God will bring tremendous consequences as we’re going to see right here, the consequences start unfolding and as I mentioned before, later on in the chapter, many of those consequences are lingering for the nation of Israel right down to the present hour. 21:36
So we have the circumstances, we have the proposal and then we have the acceptance and you see the acceptance there, second part of verse 2 (Gen 16:2) says: …And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai… So, along with Abram’s flight to Egypt which happened in Genesis, 12, I would think that this is the second example of Abram’s faith failing. It failed in chapter 12, God never told them to leave and go to Egypt. He did it anyway and God never told them to take matters into their own hands and to impregnate Hagar. They took matters into their own hands and so we have a lapse of faith. You’ll notice what it says here in verse 2: And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai… Arnold Fruchtenbaum of that verse says:
“The same wording was used in Genesis 3:17, when Adam ‘obeyed’ his wife, and both of these ended up with negative consequences.”
The same wording was used in Genesis, 3, verse 17 (Gen 3:17), when Adam disobeyed his wife, and both of these ended up with negative consequences… I think I misspoke there, let me say that again: The same wording was used in Genesis 3:17, when Adam “obeyed” his wife… there we go… and both of these ended up with negative consequences…You might remember Genesis, 3 verse 17 when we were in that chapter about I don’t know, thirty years ago (laughs) it says: Then to Adam He said, Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I have commanded you, saying, You shall not eat from it, Cursed is the ground because of you; With hard labor you shall eat from it All the days of your life… That tremendous consequence called “the fall of man” happened there when Abram, in this case Adam, took the voice of his wife and placed it over the voice of God, the fall of man. A tremendous consequence is going to follow here when Abram essentially is doing the exact same thing. The truth to the matter is there are many voices for you to listen to and sometimes it gets confusing because the people that are closest to you that you believe have been providentially put there by God to help you, can be a wonderful blessing in your life but if your discernment antenna is not up, these same voices many times will tell you to do something that’s the opposite of what God wants you to do. 24:31
I remember when I first started here at Sugar Land Bible Church, there was a lot of people around me, most of whom were a complete and total blessing and some of the people that were a blessing, I can specifically remember them telling me to do something the exact opposite of what I thought God was telling me. We had an individual here and I raised the issue that maybe we ought to teach the book of Revelation and right out of his mouth, it’s almost like before I got the words out of his mouth, he says, no, don’t do that. Whereas I thought God wanted me to teach the book of Revelation and so fortunately in that case, I didn’t listen to him, I listened to what I thought God was calling me to do and our verse by verse teaching through the book of Revelation has been one of the series that God has used, in some circumstances with online ministry all over the world. There will be, in your Christian life, voices that you hear and it will confuse you because these are the people that sometimes love you the most, that are closest to you, they will tell you the exact opposite thing that you’re supposed to do and this is the kind of thing that Abram is doing here. He isn’t listening to God. He is not, as we were saying before, standing on the promises. He is not thinking about Genesis, 15, verses 4 and 5 (Gen 15:4-5) He is listening to the voice of expediency and it makes sense because it’s coming to him through his own spouse. Jesus Himself dealt with this kind of thing. In Matthew, 16, verses 21 through 23 (Matt 16:21-23) one of His best friends, a man named Peter, tried to talk Jesus out of dying on the cross, which was His purpose for coming to the earth. Peter said, this will…. actually Peter took Jesus aside if you can imagine this, up north in Caesarea Philippi, I believe it is and he began to rebuke Jesus. That’s a stunning thing to me. Come here Son of God, I have some I want to tell you and he starts to rebuke Jesus and correct Jesus and Jesus, of course, you know how that story ended, said, get behind me Satan; and this happens right after Peter’s mouth was used to declare the correct identity of Jesus when Jesus says, Who do men say that I am? Peter gave the right answer; and then that same mouth was used to try to talk Jesus out of His mission and it wasn’t coming from a pagan, it wasn’t coming from way outside, it was coming from the inner circle, because the inner circle was Peter, James and John and a member of the inner circle was telling Jesus to do something contrary to what Jesus was called to do and what says the Scripture? It says a servant is not greater than his master. In other words, if this kind of thing happened to Jesus, this is the kind of thing that will happen to you, even if you’re a spiritual leader and you’re surrounded by wonderful people. They will in many cases, hopefully not many, oftentimes tell you something that is completely and totally wrong and when you hear it, you suddenly think to yourself, I must be out of God’s will because my team is telling me something different than what I think God wants me to do and you’ll have to make a decision as you grow in Christ. What voice are you going to listen to? Sadly many people listen to the wrong voice because pleasing people is more important to them than pleasing God. 28:38
I, for one, am particularly vulnerable to that because I like everybody to like me. I mean, I would love it if everybody just loved everything I did, and agreed with everything I did, and yet there are specific times in my life where I can think of that the closest people to me were telling me to do something the exact opposite of the direction I felt God wanted me to move in and sometimes I listen to the wrong voices because I was trying to make people happy but when you try to make people happy, you end up not pleasing God and your decision that you just made is not going to have a lot of fruit in it because God is not in the business of blessing my program. You know, a lot of people are trying to fit God into their plans, that’s not the way it works. Gee, I’m trying to cram God into my plan, here’s what I want to do, God why aren’t you blessing? Because God doesn’t bless our plans. In fact, I had a youth pastor years ago that put it this way: If you want to make God laugh, show him your plans. We don’t want to fit God in our plans, we want God to fit us into his plans. Now, when you start to walk with God in his plans, there’s always discomfort because it involves things like waiting on God, which goes against what the sin nature wants to do and so many times the people that are closest to you will try to talk you out of what you’re wanting to do and it’s really just their sin natures talking and so these are the circumstances that Abram is up against, a lapse of faith; but pastor, you’ve got at some point teach the doctrines of Calvinism. I mean, don’t you know that all of the hip and cool theologians and podcasts today are all Calvinistic? Don’t you know that the biggest conferences in the world today are Calvinistic? Don’t you know that the biggest churches in the world today are Calvinistic? The problem is there are parts of the Bible that do not fit with Calvinism. One of the doctrines that Calvinism teaches is the perseverance of the saints.
What does that mean? It basically means that if you’re truly justified before God as one of the elect, then you will persevere in good works as a Christian. One of the boldest statements of this comes from the Calvinistic book by A. W. Pink and he makes this statement in his book “The Sovereignty of God”, he says: Readers, if there is any reserve in your obedience, you are on your way to hell… (close quote) In other words, if you’re vacillating, if you’re disobedient, then I guess you were never given the gift of faith, you were never regenerated first so that you can believe, you’re not one of the elect and so in the Calvinistic system, the Christian is sort of always with very few exceptions on this sort of upward ascent in terms of obedience and you hear that and then you read Genesis, 16. Abram and Sarai were justified before God, how to we know that? Because Genesis, 15 comes before chapter 16, amen? And Genesis, 15 and verse 6 (Gen 15:6) says: Then he… that’s Abram… believed in the LORD; and the LORD credited it to him as righteousness… Abram was completely and totally justified before a holy God and Abram could have done the right thing here and he would have been just as justified before God as he was in chapter 15. Abram, as we’ll see, could and did do the wrong thing and he was still justified. 32:58
So in the Christian life there can be plateaus, mountain top experiences in terms of obedience and just guess what? If you are on the mountain top and your Christian life is sort of on an upward trajectory, you’re justified before God. But what if you’ve just fallen flat on your face? What if 2021 was really not the life of spirituality that it could have been? You’re still justified before God, because we are not justified before God by way of works on the front end. Most people understand that, here’s the point of division though. We’re not justified before God because of works on the back end, or else you would have to say that Abram and Sarai, if they died at this point because that’s what the Calvinistic system says, you basically have to die in an upward ascent, you have to die while believing. If Abram and Sarai died right here, under the Calvinistic System, they did not persevere and they went to hell and yet Genesis, 15, verse 6 very clearly says, Abram was justified before God. Rather than following the doctrines of Calvinism, rather than following the doctrines of Arminianism, I think it’s better that we just follow the Bible. The more you become a student of the verse by verse teaching of the word of God, the more you start to see through these simplistic philosophical theological constructs developed by philosophers from the outside and imposed on the biblical text. I’m not here arguing for, Hey! let’s go out live like licentiously, because there are temporal consequences involved in that as we’ll see that have nothing to do with your ultimate arrival in heaven. You are saved and kept by God’s grace as a Christian. Grace means “favor that is unmerited”. Good works did not get you in the door, and if good works did not get you in the door, good works are not going to keep you in the door. The grace of God is going to keep you in the door. Should you do good works? Oh, there’s tremendous benefits with that, but they have nothing to do with your… the safe keeping of your soul, your ultimate arrival in heaven. 35:44
So, we have here circumstances of proposal and acceptance and then you have a consummation of this unholy union, you see it there in verse 3 (Gen 16:3),
it says: After Abram had lived ten years in the land of Canaan, Abram’s wife Sarai took Hagar the Egyptian, her maid, and gave her to her husband Abram as his wife… What was the lapse of faith for? Why did their faith fail? It’s that number right there verse 3, ten years. They came into the land in Genesis, 12, and so apparently ten years had elapsed where God had not done what He said He would do. They are not spring chickens these two. The age of Abram at the end, at the birth of Ishmael is given at the end of the chapter so we think their age here would be Abram’s age 85 years old. Sarai is exactly ten years younger, we know that from Genesis, 17, verse 17 (Gen 17:17) and their thought process was we’re not getting any younger, we’ve got to do something, we’ve got to help God. A lapse of faith. A lapse of faith that had consequences as we’ll see but it had nothing to do of their justified status and it has to do with this idea of waiting on God. I hate waiting on God. I hate it, because it’s contrary to the way God has wired me, which is kind of type A workaholism mindset, you know, go until you drop. If it’s going to be, it’s up to me is the mindset right? I mean, this is what America is about anyway. You’ve got to get out there and you got to make it happen and suddenly God put you on a circumstance where you have no choice, maybe it’s a job, maybe it’s a relational issue, maybe it’s something in your marriage where you have no choice but to wait on God and in that time of waiting you will absolutely hate it as much as I hate it and when you’re waiting on God, that’s when we’re tempted to try to help God. I need to take matters into my own hands cause it’s been ten years. Proverbs, 13, verse 12 (Prov 13:12) says: Hope deferred makes the heart sick… Are you in a place right now where there’s not a lot of options, whatever the occasion is. There’s just not a lot of options, this door is closed, this door is closed, this door is closed. Gee, I must have missed God’s will for my life, we think. No, God put you there by design because He wants to teach you a lot of things there, such as patience. Lord, give me patience and give it to me right now. Well, it doesn’t work that way. The Spirit is available to help us with patience but we have to learn to trust the Spirit and sometimes we don’t really want to trust the Spirit when we’ve got everything figured out and under control. Well God says, here is the circumstance that you can’t figure out and it’s outside your control and I think I’ll just leave you there until you learn to trust in me and the Spirit’s resources which will give you the fruit of the spirit which is long suffering. 39:38
One of my favorite movies is the movie “Chariots of Fire” and they don’t make movies like that anymore. I guess it’s too pro-Christian to make a movie like that but one of the verses that comes up in the life of Eric Liddell, an Olympic runner, etc… A devout Christian historically, is Isaiah chapter 40, verse 31 (Isa 40:31) which says: Yet those who wait for the LORD Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary… Why? Because of the discipline of learning to wait on the Lord. Something Abram and Sarai are not doing by taking matters into their own hands and yet, that ten years was a blessing to them and the subsequent years. Do you realize that from this point in time it’s going to take beyond those ten years another fourteen years for God to fulfill His word through the birth of Isaac? I mean they are in the waiting game here and yet that’s the place of blessing according to Isaiah chapter 40, verse 31 (Isa 40:31) It’s not fun for us because of our sinful impulses but it’s the design of God in your life, it’s the pattern of God in your life. 41:27
So what comes out of this is a conception, you see the conception there in verse 4 (Gen 16:4): He went into Hagar, and she conceived… Now this is the birth of Ishmael, who’s going to be named later. Ishmael is the child born of works. He is the child born through man trying to take matters into his own hands. He is used that way by way of allegory and typology in the book of Galatians chapter 4. Now this is very important to understand. God still loved Ishmael. In fact, Hagar, as we’ll see next week, is going to flee and the angel of the Lord, who I think is Jesus, a preincarnate appearance of Jesus we’ll explain next time, is going to bless Hagar and give her incredible promises as a woman. You mean, God loves women? I thought the Bible was misogynistic. Well, that’s very much defeated in verses 7 and following, where not only does God love the non-Israeli line leading to the Messiah, but He actually blesses women and He will actually give a woman there promises that are on par in terms of the number of descendants with that of the male patriarchs. More on that to come. So God loves Ishmael. Don’t get this idea in your mind that God hates Ishmael, but Ishmael is the product of Abram and Sarai trying to do their own thing. That’s why he is used as a sort of a type, if you will, of works and legalism and religiosity, later on in the Scripture; and this conception leads to a changed attitude. Look at verse 4, and here the changed attitude is in Hagar. Genesis chapter 16, verse 4 (Gen 16:4): He went into Hagar, and she conceived; and when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised in her sight… The word despised here is interesting. It’s the same word used back in Genesis, 12, verse 3 of a curse. God said concerning the nation of Israel, all the way back to Genesis, 12 verse 3 (Gen 12:3): And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse… that first word “curse”, if I remember right, is the same word that’s being used for despising. When Hagar became pregnant with Abram’s child, Hagar began to despise Sarai. Why is that?
“This led to Hagar’s new attitude: When she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised in her eyes. In biblical days, few women were more despised than barren women were. Therefore, when Hagar conceived, she began to display this negative attitude toward barren women.”
Arnold Fruchtenbaum says: This led to Hagar’s new attitude: When she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised in her eyes. In biblical days, few women were more despised than barren women were… Hagar’s like, I’m not barren anymore, but you still are… Therefore, when Hagar conceived, she began to display this negative attitude toward barren women… And this leads to a complaint which was precipitated by a conflict and I guarantee you, when Abram and Sarai came up with this plan, the last thing they were thinking about was this consequence, because that’s the nature of sin. Sin brings consequences and a price tag that are completely and totally uncontemplated at the time the sin is entered into. I mean, is not the biblical record filled with this? David probably thought with Bathsheba that it was going to be a one night stand. Everything that followed was completely and totally outside of David’s fore view at the time the adultery was entered into; and Satan is the master of this. He gets you thinking about the short term pleasure and sin does bring pleasure for a season. The book of Hebrews tells us that, it gets us thinking about the benefit and there must be some kind of benefit or else we wouldn’t sin and your eyes are so focused on that carrot that you just don’t think about what’s coming in through the back door, because the book of Galatians tells us a man reaps what he sows. Those who sow to the sin nature, from the sin nature will reap consequences and here comes a conflict that I don’t think was in Abram or Sarai’s mind at the time they came up with this plan of theirs. 46:50
So we have a conflict leading to a complaint and the conflict and the complaint there are described in verse 5 (Gen 16:5): And Sarai said to Abram, May the wrong done me be upon you.. So she’s talking to her husband. It’s your fault. I’m glad that never happens today (laughs)… I gave my maid into your arms, but when she saw that she had conceived, I was despised in her sight. May the LORD judge between you and me… Now we have a conflict, not just between Hagar and Sarai but we have a conflict between Abram and Sarai and this of course is the nature of sin. It’s really interesting how Sarai blames Abram and yet she’s the one if I’m reading this right that puts the idea into Abram’s head. Boy, that’s convenient. This is another outworking of the sin nature. The sin nature does not want to take responsibility for its own actions. This is as old as Genesis, 3. It’s interesting how all of the problems that happened in Genesis, 3, you’re seeing repeated here. Genesis, 3, verse 11 through 13 (Gen 3:11-13) when God confronted Adam and Eve for their transgression: He… that’s God… said, Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat? The man said, The woman that You gave me… See what he just did? It’s not my fault, it’s the woman’s fault (laughs) and you actually gave me the woman, so it’s your fault. Boy, talk about deflection… The man said to the woman that you gave to be with me, she gave from the tree, and I ate… So God says Ok, I’ll play the game here and then the Lord God said to the woman, What is this you have done? And the woman said, the serpent deceived me and I ate. Nobody wants to take any responsibility for their actions. Adam blames Eve, Eve blames the serpent and as the saying goes the serpent, you know, didn’t have a leg to stand on (laughs) so to speak; but is this not part of who we are as rebels? I mean, we are like this. I’ve used this story before but I remember years ago when I was a substitute teacher there was a situation where a kid took a frisbee and we were at like, you know, what do you call this today? A field trip, there we go. A field trip; and he took this frisbee and he just… we were on a lake and he just threw it into the lake and I could see him doing it. So I went up to the kid, I confronted the kid, I said, where’s the frisbee? This is honest to God what this little tiny kid said to me. He said, the lake took it. That’s what he told me (laughs) and I was like, Wow, that’s exactly what the Bible is talking about when it reveals these kinds of issues to us. 50:19
So, there’s a complaint and now we have Abrams’ response, I mean, he’s got to do something, he’s the head of the home. Verse 6 (Gen 16:6), it says: But Abram said to Sarai, Behold, your maid is in your power; do to her what is good in your sight… Now, again this is an outworking of the way the world at that time worked according to ancient Near Eastern literature.
“Hagar is still officially, legally, and technically Sarai’s possession. Returning Hagar to slave status was in keeping with the laws of that day. The Code of Hammurabi reads: ‘If she gave a female slave to her husband, and she has then born [sic] children; if that female slave has claimed equality with her mistress because she had born [sic] children, her mistress may not sell her, she may put her among the slaves.’ While Hagar could not be sold to someone else now that she has conceived, she could be returned to slave status, and that is essentially what happened.”
Arnold Fruchtenbaum writes: Hagar is still officially, legally, and technically Sarai’s possession. Returning Hagar to slave status was in keeping with the laws of that day. The Code of Hammurabi reads: If she gave a female slave to her husband, and she has then born children; if that female slave has claimed equality with her mistress because she had born children, her mistress may not sell her, she may put her among the other slaves… (close quote) Fruchtenbaum goes on: While Hagar could not be sold to someone else now that she has conceived, she could be returned to slave status, and that is essentially what happened… Why can’t we go to a normal church, you might be thinking? (laughs) I mean, why keep quoting the Nuzi Tablets? Why keep quoting the Code of Hammurabi? Because here is why we keep quoting these things. We keep quoting these things because the world system will tell you that everything written in this book is a fiction, it’s no different than Veggietales, Jack and the Beanstalk. In fact, your children, whether it’s through the educational system or whether it’s through what they see on tv and you know, we’re living in a time period where what your kidsyou’re your grandkids are learning from this device right here has more power than what you many times can speak into their lives as parents and grandparents. I don’t think this kind of scenario has ever existed in human history, where there’s this device that they carry around over and over again and they get their values from that. What this system, what education, what so called Christian television sometimes, what so called Mysteries of the Bible, the History Channel, A&E, what they are telling these kids is that the Bible is just fictional. I mean, the true science is in the science classroom. The true history is in the history classroom. The true archeology is in the archeological presentation. It’s not this stuff in the Bible, and most people are under teaching that never brings up these archeological issues. So when their children come to them and say to them, Hey! Here’s what the history teacher said… Here’s what the History Channel said. By understanding a little bit about the background of how these things happened and how what Abram and Sarai are doing in here is in accordance with the setting of that time period, now you have an answer. No, no, this is not fables, this is not Veggietales, this is not Jack and the Beanstalk, because what Abram and Sarai are doing here is consistent with patterns in the Code of Hammurabi and in the Nuzi Tablets; and suddenly now you’re in a position to give an answer as 1st Peter, 3, verse 15 (1 Pet 3:15) tells you. For the hope that lies within you, with gentleness and respect. We are not dealing here with stories. We are dealing here with history that actually meets the standards of history when you study the ancient Near Eastern codes and so forth of the day. That’s why you’re not in a normal church and that’s why we bring these things up to you, because somebody… they’re going to have to get an answer from somebody, these kids and you need to be in a position where you can answer these things and you can’t answer these things unless you are really under a pastor teacher that wants to emphasize this things and so my job as a pastor teacher is not to get as many people in the door as I can possibly do, it’s to equip you, because when you go out, you’re going to have access to people that I will never know, or never see, or will never come to Sugar Land Bible Church and yet I can multiply the ministry God has given me, simply by equipping you. I mean, what did Jesus actually do for three years? Was it all about crowds and getting people in the door? No, He’s pouring Himself into twelve people and twelve actually went down to eleven towards the end there, as you know, with Judas and his betrayal; and it’s those men, Acts, 17, that went out and turn the world upside down; and they wouldn’t have turned the world upside down unless Jesus had poured into their lives for a three year time period. The purpose of church is not an evangelistic rally. We do give the Gospel here cause an unbeliever might be present, but it’s really to equip you because you’re… whether where you work, the family situation you’re in, who you’re married to, you have a ministry and you have to be in a church that’s equipping you for that ministry and the pastor has to get away from always looking at how many people we can get in here? To why don’t to be a blessing to those that God actually brought? I mean, instead of always worrying about who’s not here? Why don’t you be a blessing to the people that are actually here? Why don’t to build into their lives, understanding that they’re going to reach people that you can’t reach? And part of your ministry is your own household and in your own household, your kids are listening to devices that are giving them an alternative world view to what you want to impart and you have to be able to get down on their level and explain these things to them. 57:17
This is history and we move away from the response and that moves into the harsh treatment verse 6 (Gen 16:6): But Abram said to Sarai, Behold, your maid is in your power; do to her what is good in your sight… And from there, it moves on into the harsh treatment, verse 6: So Abram… excuse me… So Sarai treated her harshly, and she fled from her presence… So, now Sarai’s who’s resentful of Hagar who has conceived, does what she has the freedom to do under the legal situation of that day and actually treats her very, very harshly.
“Genesis 16:6b records Hagar’s flight. The cause was: Sarai dealt harshly with her. This is the same word that is used of the Egyptian affliction of Israel in Exodus 1:11–12. The irony here is that the Jewish woman is afflicting the Egyptian. The result was: She [Hagar] fled from her face.”
Arnold Fruchtenbaum writes: Genesis 16:6b records Hagar’s flight. The cause was: Sarai dealt harshly with her. This is the same word that is used of the Egyptian affliction of Israel in Exodus 1:11–12. The irony here is that the Jewish woman is afflicting the Egyptian. The result was: She, Hagar fled from her face… See, in the book of Exodus is going to be the exact opposite, it’s going to be the Egyptians afflicting the nation of Israel. Here it’s the exact opposite, where Sarai is afflicting the Egyptian Hagar and so Hagar flees, end of verse 6 (Gen 16:6): So Sarai treated her harshly, and she… that’s Hagar… fled from her presence… Well, where did she go? She went back to what she knew. She went back to Egypt and in fact, she’s going to be on her way to Egypt when she’s going to get a visitation from the angel of the Lord, who was a preincarnate appearance of Jesus Christ beginning in verse 7, but this is what many times happens to people in the Bible when they’re under oppression and things don’t make sense to them. They go back to what they know. What was Peter doing exactly after he denied the Lord three times? I mean, where did he go after that failure? He went back to fishing. He went back to what he knew. I mean, that was his career, that was his vocation, that was his occupation and like in the case of Hagar, the Lord shows up there on the shore and begins to minister to Peter. Like the case with Peter, is the case here with Hagar, she’s fleeing, she’s been treated poorly, she might have brought some of it on herself through a kind of a flippant attitude but she goes back to what she knows. She’s actually on a highway that’s described later on as the way of Shur, which is a highway that’s well known in the Bible connecting Canaan, later to be called the land of Israel to Egypt and she’s in a place of despair. Just like Peter was in a place of despair when he denied the Lord three times and went back to what he knew; and I’m here to tell you that it’s in your place of despair you can expect the ministry of the Lord, if you’re open to it. A lot of people are too busy for it; but if you’re in a place of a valley, if you’re in a place of despair, if you’re in a place where life circumstances are unpleasant and you can’t figure things out, that’s kind of where God wants you, because once He begins to minister to you, you are in a place where you can receive what He wants to give you and how He wants to direct you. You’re not in that place at the mountain top because when you’re at the mountain top you think you’ve got everything figured out. God, I’ll check in when I need you, a mindset; but the valley is such a more advantageous place to be because that’s where you realize that your resources have run out and when God ministers to you, you have nowhere to turn other than God, which is a wonderful place to be in. That’s why there’s so much teaching in the Bible, you hear Jesus saying this, you know, he talks about how is hard for the rich to enter and He makes these kinds of statements like the first will be last and the last will be first and He says, you know, different things to the Pharisees who were rich and powerful and on top of the world. He says… you know the harlots and the tax gatherers are entering before you; and it’s not so much that God doesn’t love the rich, it’s just the rich have a difficult time loving God because their life is too full with their own success. 1:03:24
The truth to the matter is Hagar is in a beautiful position here to receive something from the Lord and Boy, does she receive it on this highway connecting Egypt and Canaan. She actually receives some promises here that are on par with the patriarchs themselves and yet part of those prophecies deal with lingering consequences that Abram and Sarai brought upon themselves and the nation of Israel to this day and we’ll take a look at verses 7 and following next Lord’s day and so I invite you this week to read through the rest there of Genesis, 16.
The reality of the situation is sin and its consequences is something Jesus came into the world to resolve. There is only one resolution to this and that’s the death, burial, resurrection and ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ who stepped out of eternity into time and in his body bore all of the consequences for the human race related to sin. There are temporal consequences and there are eternal consequences and Jesus came into the world to fix that. His final words on the cross were It is finished, which is an English translation of the Greek word “tetelestai” which means paid in full, meaning there’s nothing else for you to do as a lost sinner but to receive what He’s done as a gift and according to the book of Romans chapter 4 verses 4 and 5 (Rom 4:4-5), there’s only one way to receive a gift from God and that’s by faith. Faith means to trust, to rely upon what Jesus did for us two thousand years ago. The crowd came to Jesus there in John, 6, and they said what must we do to do the works of God? Sounds like a religious bunch, doesn’t it? Jesus said, John 6:28-29, This is the work, that you believe in the one He has sent. Jesus ask us to trust in what He has done and the moment the lost sinner coming under the conviction of the Spirit through volition will place their faith, which means reliance, confidence, dependance into the completed transaction of Jesus, that’s the moment the eternal consequences of their sin are removed as far as the east is from the west. It doesn’t mean that after you get saved there aren’t temporal problems you still experience because of sin. What this is dealing with is the eternal consequence which is separation from God in the lake of fire forever. That problem is fixed. The other problems will be fixed when God brings in the new heavens and the new earth, but the biggest problem has being fixed and all you have to do is receive it as a gift, trust in it, rely upon it and so our exhortation to people that are listening here in the building or maybe listening online or maybe listening via archive after the fact, as the Spirit places them under conviction, to respond to that convicting ministry of the Holy Spirit by placing their faith in what Jesus has done and the biggest problem that you have in life in a nanosecond is fixed, and so, we would invite people to do that even as I’m speaking. It’s not a matter of walking an aisle, joining a church, it’s not even so much a matter of praying a prayer, giving money. It’s a matter of privacy between them and the Lord where they respond to that conviction and trust in the person of Jesus Christ. We call this, the Gospel… if it’s something that you need a greater explanation on, I’m available after the service to talk. 1:07:54
Shall we pray? Father we’re grateful for these works of history that real people went through and what they teach us. Help us to be teachable in this new year, learning the eternal truths of your word through the ancient historical account of this very vital figure named Abraham. We’ll be careful to give you all the praise and the glory. We ask these things in Jesus’ name and God’s people said, Amen.