By Kenny Bruce
Pastor emeritus, Leawood East Baptist Church, Cordova
Focal Passage: Genesis 16:1-5; 17:1-9
I. UNDESERVED PAIN (16:1-5) The Bible records the first biblical instance of domestic strife. The story involves Abram, Sarai, and Hagar who were real people, like we are, and succumbed to the temptation to solve their situation their way instead of waiting on God. Sarai suggested to Abram that he produce an heir from his own body by having a child by her Egyptian servant Hagar. She had a right to do that under the laws and customs of the time.
However, God had established marriage and the mandate for monogamy within the marriage so, though culturally acceptable, uniting Hagar to Abram was wrong. Sarai blamed God for her barrenness (v. 2). She also blamed Abram for her suffering after Hagar became pregnant.
When we stop trusting God, we too blame God or others, and often both, for our difficulties when our suffering may be caused by our own carnal choices. Hagar’s mistreatment by Sarai was undeserved. She’d had no choice but to submit when Sarai gave her to Abram. When we make decisions outside of God’s will, not only are we adversely affected, but innocent people often get hurt, too.
II. UNBREAKABLE COVENANT (17:1-9) God was silent for thirteen years. When he finally spoke, He revealed Himself to Abram as El Shaddai, meaning “God Almighty.” He possesses unlimited power. No one can know truth about God apart from what He discloses about Himself.
Abram fell facedown before God (v. 3), denoting his attitude of complete surrender. If we are going to hear God speak to us, like Abram, we must maintain an attitude of absolute subjection. God changed Abram’s name to Abraham (v. 6).
“Abram” literally means “exalted father.” “Abraham” expands that meaning to “father of a multitude.” The covenant God made with Abraham was an unbreakable, unconditional and permanent covenant. This promise was for Abraham’s seed (v. 7): the Jewish race, Jesus Christ and all Christians. It also included a place: the land of Canaan which is a permanent possession. God has established a new covenant with us through Jesus Christ (Luke 22:20). The covenant God made with Abraham was under law; the new covenant is under grace. Abram’s trouble was that he could not wait for God to fulfill His promise. He decided to help God out by marrying Hagar. A naturalist once watched the cocoon of an emperor moth as the moth struggled to get out.
Thinking he would help things along, he snipped the threads of the opening with his scissors. The moth crawled out, but could not expand its wings. The struggle would have forced the fluids of the moth’s body into its wings. The moth had a brief life two days. It should have spent its life of two weeks flying through the air on rainbow wings. It’s always a mistake to try to hasten the work of God like Abram did.
God’s renewing His covenant with Abram gives us confidence in God after we fail Him because of impatience. Through repentance and faith, He empowers us to walk blamelessly before Him (Genesis 17:1) and gives us the patience to wait on His promises while carrying us on His wings (Deuteronomy 32:11). B&R