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God Knows You

Date: May. 6, 2018

Author: Bob Henkins

Genesis 16:1-16

Key Verse: Genesis 16:13

She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.”

Recently I heard that Six Flags has a new roller coaster opening this summer, called “The Joker”.  It has many ups and downs and twists and turns   and loops as other rides. But this one is a new type of coaster which is called a free flying coaster. And what that means is, riders are   suspended out from the rail and the seats they are strapped in spin freely as the car moves along the track. It looks really intense and I hope to ride it sometime this summer.   And as I was preparing this message, Abram’s life of faith kind of reminded me of a roller coaster as he’ had so many personal highs and lows. To give you a quick example, remember when God called Abram in chapter 12 and how Abram responded to God’s call and left his father’s house and country going to a place he didn’t know. That was a high point in Abram’s life of faith. But then Abram goes to Egypt out of fear of the famine and ends up giving his wife away to another man. That was a low point in Abram’s life of faith. Then Abram and his nephew Lot separate and Lot ends up getting taken as a hostage. Abram springs into action and makes a daring night rescue attempt and brings Lot home safe and sound. This was another high point in Abram’s life of faith. And then from last week’s passage, we heard how Abram believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness. This pushed Abram’s life of faith to new heights but then we come to this week’s passage and Abram’s faith plummets like the initial fall of a roller coaster and Abram finds himself and his family almost free-falling zooming into the unknown as he is trying to figure out what’s going on with his family. At this point in Abram’s life, he doesn’t look anything like the great patriarch of faith that so many people know him to be. But that’s one of the reasons why I love Abram so much, because he has many ups and downs just like the rest of us. And if there is hope for him, then there is hope for all of us.

At the beginning of this chapter we find that Sarai is about 75 years old. This is the first time we get some in-depth knowledge about who she is. All this time Sarai has never really said a word, not when they left their family to head out into the unknown, not when Abram left to fight a war he could never win, and not even when she was given to be Pharaoh’s wife number 20. But suddenly out of the blue, she not only talks but takes action. Why now? Before we answer that let’s take a look at  verses 1-2a. “Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian slave named Hagar; so she said to Abram, “The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.”” During that time period, it was a woman’s duty to give her husband children so that they could have an heir and the family line would continue. All this time, maybe the last 40 years, Sarai and Abram kept hoping for a child, but every month nothing happened. I believe the reason Sarai reacts the way she does in this chapter, now, is because all the pressure that has been put on her is starting to get to her. Maybe Abram kept coming to her asking, “Well, any news?” and her answer was always the same, “For the 100thtime, no”. It was getting frustrating. That alone would be enough but throw in the special blessing Abram received that “all nations will be blessed through you,” pointing to God’s promise of the Messiah coming through Abram it was getting more intense. She had to live with that extra pressure for the past ten years and now it was just too much. And back in chapter 11, we are told in kind of matter-of-factly way, that Sarai was barren and old, so she probably had given up on the idea of having kids but now with God’s promise, this problem was stirred up again. It’s hard to wait on God especially when we are going through a difficult time and after ten long years there still was no sign of the blessing. This was more than Sarai could handle. She had to do something, at least for Abram’s sake.

At first Abram tried to solve his problem through his nephew Lot, but that didn’t work out because Lot left him. Then Abram tried to adopt his servant to be his heir, but God told Abram that his heir would be his own flesh and blood. Sarai thought then she must be the problem. Therefore, if they could take her out of the equation maybe they could reach a conclusion. So, Sarai’s solution was to have Abram sleep with Hagar, her Egyptian slave girl. Most likely they picked up Hagar during their period in Egypt. Little did Abram know that this was a ripple effect from Abram’s sin coming back to haunt him. He probably thought he was done with that period in his life, but not so fast Abram, for our sin sometimes has unintended consequences. It’s interesting to see that Sarai seems to be blaming God for not having children. In a sense, this was true but the problem was that she was looking at it incorrectly, doubting God’s love for her and this allowed Satan to get a foothold into her heart and drive a wedge between her and God. This was a foolish thing for her to do but she was blinded by this huge problem in her life. And it caused her judgment to be cloudy. One of their problems was that they put all their hope into the blessing of having a child, and they couldn’t see just how much blessing they had already received. Since they left Ur of the Chaldeans, they had been blessed so much by God already. They were blessed materially and became wealthy, they were blessed by God’s protection from Pharaoh, and they had become a blessing to others, they saved Lot, they returned all the people to Sodom and the other cities, the were a blessing to Melchizedek. They forgot all the other blessing their received when they were hyper focused on the only they wanted.

So, Sarai told Abram, “Go, sleep with my slave,” surely this must have been like a roller coaster for Abram as it threw him for a loop. To us, Sarai’s solution sounds insane, but it wasn’t as crazy as we might think. It was an acceptable solution to a common problem that existed in many cultures throughout history. I read how many cultures have even set up marriage contracts that when a couple got married, there was an expectation the wife would provide children for the husband and if she didn’t either the marriage was annulled or there was a provision to bring another woman to be surrogate mother. In fact, this still occurs today in our time. I saw adds, on the web, looking for “amazing women” to become surrogate mothers, where they would pay $42-75K to complete the process.

So, what happens next? Let’s take a look at verses 2b-4a, “Abram agreed to what Sarai said. So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian slave Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. He slept with Hagar, and she conceived.” I imagine after they completed the act and they found that it was successful, they must have thought, “Praise God! This is it, we finally have what we wanted.” But was it really what God had wanted? I don’t think so. One of the things we notice here is that Abram never sought God to see if this was what he should do. He simply followed his wife’s direction without consulting God. Abram didn’t want to deal with this sensitive problem, so he solves it passively and this scene kind of reminds me of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, when Adam sinned and didn’t step up when he should have. Abram abdicated his God given authority in the family. He should have stepped up and held on to God’s promise and reassured Sarai that God would work though BOTH of them not just him. Instead he left her hanging… “Yeah, maybe you’re right Sarai. It’s all you. Maybe God only want to use me and not you, so I will go sleep with another woman.” This was another loop on that roller coaster that he was riding. But in the end, even though this was Sarai’s idea, Abram is held responsible because he took action.

Let’s take a look at verses 4b-5. “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 slave in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the Lord judge between you and me.”” Once again Abram’s roller coaster life took an unexpected plunge…  followed by a barrel roll throwing him from side to side like the Demon at Great America ….  all he could do was hold on for dear life…. Screaming whoaaaaa.  What we find out here is even though they were successful in carrying out their plan, that didn’t mean that it was what God wanted.  There were unintended hidden consequences to their sin that they didn’t know would happen. Pride began to grow in Hagar after she got pregnant. She began to look down on Sarai and thought that she was more important in the family because she could bear children. This took its toll on Sarai. She already felt bad enough not being able to have children, now her slave was talking trash and threatening her place in the family. Maybe Sarai pictured Hagar in Abram’s arms and the intimacy they shared and it disturbed her. Sarai may have doubted Abram’s love for her or wanted his reassurance so she went to Abram and expressed her frustrations.

We can imagine Sarai’s words are filled with all kinds of emotion, anger, fear, frustration, insecurity. And in some ways, I don’t think she knows what she’s saying, she’s just reacting and expression her feelings in very raw exposed way. I think that Sarai was looking for some love from her husband. She wanted his affirmation and affection and confirmation of his love. She wanted to know that he still loved her and that she was his wife. I think of it as if this was Sarai’s “love ping” to Abram, like with sonar there is this ping and you listen for a response. She is pinging Abram looking for his response because Sarai feels threatened by Hagar and worries about losing her place in the family. Hagar is everything Sarai is not, she is a young fertile slave woman while Sarai is an old barren, free woman. And so how does Abram respond?   Look at verse 6. “Your slave is in your hands,” Abram said. “Do with her whatever you think best.” What did he just say??? Abram didn’t reply to Sarai’s “love ping” the way she hoped. He didn’t reassure his love to her, basically, he left her hanging and her love was unresolved. However, he did confirm her place in the family by saying, “Hagar’s your property, you do whatever you want.” But in reality, I think Abram just wanted to get out of the middle of that situation as fast as he could.

 Let’s take a look at verses 6b-8. “Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her. 7 The angel of the Lord found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur. 8 And he said, “Hagar, slave of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?” “I’m running away from my mistress Sarai,” she answered.” Sarai’s feelings were hurt and she was wounded and unfortunately, she took out her anger on Hagar. I find this interesting, Abram and Sarai were God fearing and believers (The ancestors of 3 worldwide faiths) and yet they used and abused another person for their own interests. This reveals how cruel God’s people can be at times. Things like gossip among Christians and devastate people’s lives.

Hagar was powerless against her master. She was in a foreign country, alone with no resources. She did what she could and ran away. She took their heir away. God went looking for Hagar, until he found her. God is always seeking the lost. Immanuel God. God loved Hagar. She was his child too. 

The precise relationship between the “angel of the LORD” and God is puzzling. The angel is equated with the Lord in some texts and yet appears distinctive in others (e.g., 22:15–16; Exod 3:2–4 with Acts 7:30–32; Num 22:22, 31, 35, 38; Judg 6:11–18; 13:21–22; Zech 3:1, 5–7; 12:8) Traditionally, Christian interpreters ascribed to the appearance of the angel a Christophany, the preincarnate divine Son of God.

 Let’s take a look at verses 9-12. “Then the angel of the Lord told her, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her.” 10 The angel added, “I will increase your descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count.” 11 The angel of the Lord also said to her: “You are now pregnant and you will give birth to a son. You shall name him Ishmael, for the Lord has heard of your misery. 12 He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers.” The angel told her to go back home and to submit to Sarai. God would protect her. The motivation for her return is the grand future that Abram’s family will provide. The promise of innumerable offspring both elevates Hagar’s place and also ensures her future provision (17:20).

The evidence that she accepted God’s promise to her is that she gave him the name of her son, to remember that God hears her cries. It is striking that Hagar is the first woman to receive a promise from the Lord. Ishmael receives a blessing because of his relationship to Abram. Verse 12 seems like a tough one. But reveals that although his life will be tough, Ishmail will be able to hold his own. This passage even foreshadows when Joseph is sold into slavery by the Ishmailites (39:1-2), or when Egypt will take the Jews into slavery.

We can see more of Hagar’s response in verses 13-16.  “She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.”14 That is why the well was called Beer Lahai Roi; it is still there, between Kadesh and Bered. 15 So Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram gave the name Ishmael to the son she had borne. 16 Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore him Ishmael.” I find it interesting that Hagar is the only person to give God a name. She named him, “You are the God who sees me,” because she felt loved by God. She felt God understood her and He could see her for who she was. Often people will say, “you don’t understand me,” or “You don’t know what it’s like to be in my shoes,” but Hagar’s words reveal that she didn’t feel like that. Quite the opposite. God knew her because he created her. When she obeyed and went back home, this was a sign of her faith in God and her acceptance of God’s promise to her.

So, in conclusion, what are some things we should take away from this passage. For one, we learn how Abram and Sarai’s impatience really complicated their lives. And because of their impatience, they didn’t wait for God’s solution to their problem. They tried to solve their problem with their own wisdom, which was inadequate and far inferior to God’s (God has a full 360 degree view and we don’t). They had a do it yourself mentality, but they couldn’t foresee all the problems that might come up.  God however can see them all. As a result, they had to live with their mistakes. There we should learn from their mistake and not repeat it. We should learn patience and wait on God.

However, this doesn’t mean that we should do nothing and sit around all day saying, “God will take care of everything”. We have to learn how to strike a balance. What Abram should have done was first, seek God in prayer and bring their problem to him. Then they could have brought their idea to him and asked for a sign of confirmation and then do their best to follow God’s direction. And actually, to his credit, this what Abram finally does learn as we will see in a couple of chapters when Abram prays to God for king Abimelech (20:17) family to have children. Abram also teaches this to his son Isaac. (Gen 25:21 “Isaac prayed to the Lord on behalf of his wife, because she was childless. The Lord answered his prayer, and his wife Rebekah became pregnant.”)

I believe that, in Hagar, we find the message God wants us to hear. I don’t think this passage is about not being able to have a child, this just happened to be Abram’s biggest problem in life, one that he couldn’t solve himself. And I think that’s the point God wants us to realize, for us it can be whatever we are going through, whatever problem you are struggling with, whatever you are longing for, God wants you to realize that he knows, and he understands because God sees you like he saw Hagar. God sees your suffering, he sees your situation and he wants to help, just like a father wants to help his children. God wants us to realize that all we have to do is cry out to him and trust him. We see this time and time again in the Bible, every time the Israelites cried out to God, he heard their cry and he responded. Unfortunately, this because a repeating pattern in their lives. Abram and Sarai should have known this but they were too blinded by their problem. They were too close to it and that was all they could see. As the ancestors of faith, they should have been the ones to give us this lesson, but it was Hagar, the lonely abused slave girl, who has the privilege to teach us God’s message. This shows how God can work in and through whomever he wishes.

Abram’s life of faith went up and down and had many twists and turns like a roller coaster, and it would continue that way until he was able to fully trust in the Lord and give his life over to God. It was then that his life would finally stabilize. So, if you find yourself on the roller coaster of faith, you must take a closer look at where your faith is, because it’s quite possible that like Abram, you too have not fully trusted in God. We should learn to depend upon God’s grace, he demonstrates it over and over, as he remembered his promise to Abram and was kind to Ishmail and took care of him.

If we take a closer look at what the name Ishmail means and the name Hagar gave the well, we can gain some more insight as to what Hagar was experiencing. Ishmail means “God hears” and “Beer Lahai Roi” means “well of the living one who sees me”. Putting them together we get the meaning, “God is alive and he sees and hears me.” That is a powerful statement for it means that God is active in our lives and he knows what’s going on and he has the power to act and change our lives if we follow him. However, it requires obedience to God and Hagar still had to go back and submit to Sarai. But by remaining submissive in Abram’s household, she and her son would enjoy the benefit of the God’s blessing (12:3; 17:20).

Another thing we can take away from this passage, is how it connects to the gospel. The whole reason Jesus came into the world was to reveal God to us. Also, Jesus would go through what we go through, he would experience what we experience so that he could understand and identify with us, so that he would know us. This reminds me of a time when Jesus met the disciple Nathanael. “47 When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.” 48 “How do you know me?” Nathanael asked. Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.” 49 Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.””(Jn 1). Jesus saw Nathanael, he knew Nathanael, Jesus understood him and when Nathanael experienced that deep personal connection, Nathanael realized that Jesus was God, the one who created him and knew his inmost being. It was a deeper connection that he has ever felt before. All of us have fallen prey to sin, and that leads to death, but thank God for Jesus who came to save us from our sins, restore us and give us eternal life through his death and resurrection. He is our creator and who would know us better?

So the next time you feel like your life has turned into a roller coaster ride and you are shaken and tossed around, you can take comfort in the fact that God knows your situation, he what you need, he knows what you long for and if you can just hold on and put your trust in him, he will be there for you.

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