Eternity Daily Bible Study
The Life Of Abraham
Verses: Genesis 16:1-3
Date: 15th December 2005
Genesis 16:1-3 MKJV Now Sarai, Abram's wife, did not bear. And she had a female slave, an Egyptian, and her name was Hagar. (2) And Sarai said to Abram, Behold now, Jehovah has kept me from bearing. I pray you, go in to my slave woman. It may be that I may be built by her. And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai. (3) And Sarai, Abram's wife, took Hagar her slave woman, the Egyptian, and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife (after Abram had lived ten years in the land of Canaan).
After ten years of waiting Sarai grows impatient with the promises of God and asks Abram to have sex with her Egyptian maid Hagar. The phrase “that I may be built by her” indicates that she saw Hagar as her property and thus any child of Hagar's as her property also. In Sarai's eyes Hagar was not much more than a surrogate mother. Sarai initiates the whole thing and “takes” Hagar and gives her to Abram to be his wife – albeit a second and inferior wife.
“And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai.” This is peculiar. It is reminiscent of Adam's sin:
Genesis 3:17 MKJV And to Adam He said, Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree, of which I commanded you, saying, You shall not eat of it! The ground is cursed for your sake. In pain shall you eat of it all the days of your life.
Abram, the wise and aged patriarch was supposed to know better, but he too may have been desperate for a son, and maybe Hagar was attractive also. Abram certainly loved and blessed Ishmael and took responsibility for him later (Genesis 17:18-20).
There certainly seem to be strong cultural precedents for remarrying if one's wife was barren. Yet monogamy was the patriarchal ideal (even though Jacob was tricked into marrying Leah) and none of them accumulated numerous wives for themselves despite their wealth and their power in the land. They knew God's love and on the basis of this entered into deep faithful covenant relationships with those around them e.g. Isaac and Rebekah. We see Abram being highly committed to Lot, Eliezer, to his close friends (Mamre, Eshcol and Aner) as well as to Sarah, Hagar, Isaac and Ishmael. Abram seems to be a very relational and hospitable person who would never break faith with anyone. So why did he take Hagar as a second wife?
Abram was now 85 years old. Sarah was not much younger, time was running out. God had said “one from your own body” but had not mentioned Sarah explicitly. It was culturally acceptable. And it seemed “the only way,” though I think they knew it was not God's way. And God let the marriage go ahead.
A lot of culturally acceptable but yet unethical behavior gets indulged in by some Christians: sex before marriage, gambling, travel sex, mild (and not so mild) pornography – these are legal behaviors but they are none the less ungodly ones. And in the long run, they all spell trouble.
The flip side of the marriage to Hagar is that God was not thrown off by it. God did not stop loving Abram, or change His covenant promises, or reduce His blessings, or stop answering Abram's prayers. God in fact made Ishmael into a mighty nation and his descendants are with us today in the Arab world.
God's loving purposes were not changed in the least by Abram's foolish behavior. God did not “go to plan B” or swap from Abram to someone else in His redemptive strategy. God just moved around the problem and blessed Abram anyway. Abram could not “get out of God's will” no matter what. His destiny still came true because his destiny did not depend on the performance of a man, but on the faithfulness and power of God.
It seems that after the great high points when God appears to Abram, he then hits a low point soon after. After his call, he has the incident with Sarah and Pharaoh, after the covenant of the pieces he marries Hagar, and after his becoming a friend of God and a prophet and interceding for Lot and for Sodom and Gomorrah he has the incident with Abimelech. It is up and down all the way. And it teaches us that spiritual highs do not make us invulnerable to sin. In fact, sexual misbehavior often accompanies revivals and with their high spiritual emotions. It is on Monday morning after I preach that I often feel the worst spiritual attacks - and I believe this is common for preachers.
God does not need perfect copybooks to accomplish His purposes. Let's do a short exercise to prove this. Think of “the perfect Christian” of modern evangelical culture. Nice guy, beautiful wife, great marriage, good job, big house, two perfect kids who do well at school and play the piano and have straight teeth, deacon at church, tithes, sits in the front row, attends prayer meeting and bible study, has no discernible faults, and is totally organized. Now compare this with the heroes of faith:
Noah – drunk with wine
Abraham – two wives, numerous mistakes
Isaac – kids feuding and out of control, Esau is a redneck who marries an unbeliever.
Jacob – two wives, twelve difficult kids, they sell the youngest into slavery.
Joseph – does prison time and practices divination with a cup
Moses – murders an Egyptian, divorces Zipporah and marries a black Ethiopian woman.
Rahab – a harlot
Samson – numerous sexual escapades
Gideon – makes an ephod that becomes an idol
Jepthah- sacrifices his daughter
Job – goes bankrupt, complains against God, nearly loses his faith from suffering, not a triumphant witness.
Eli and later Samuel – sons out of control
Saul – goes insane, rebels against God.
David – fourteen wives, commits adultery and murder and orders a census out of pride, sons kill each other and rape one of his daughters (Tamar)
Solomon – a dictator who imposes heavy taxation, has 300 wives and introduces idolatry to Israel.
Isaiah – goes naked and barefoot for three years (Isaiah 20)
Jeremiah – single, does prison time, overly emotional, tries to leave the ministry
Daniel – a vegetarian dream interpreter who is in charge of the
astrologers of Babylon
John the Baptist - single and strange, vagrant, does prison time, politically incorrect
Mary – pregnant out of wedlock
Peter – impulsive, foot-in-mouth disease, denies Christ
Paul – persecutes the Church, spends time in prison, not a family
man, possibly divorced
Timothy – probably single, timid, needed stirring up.
John Mark – a mission field drop-out
John – goes into hiding for nearly sixty years after his brother is beheaded
Of the major biblical heroes with substantial biographical information, there is not a single one that I can find, who would be easily accepted for ministry by most modern evangelical/charismatic/Pentecostal denominations or missions agencies. There is not one who exactly fits the modern evangelical model and who would pass the ordination requirements and cultural, psychological, theological and lifestyle expectations.
From start to finish God's heroes are sinners saved by grace in whom He works by faith to fulfill His purposes. God draws straight lines with bent sticks.
John Edmiston (email@example.com)
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