************ Sermon on Genesis 16:11,13 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on July 15, 2012
"The God Who Hears and Sees"
The last time we looked at Genesis 16 I mentioned Abraham's covenant disobedience. In having a child with Hagar, Abraham failed to follow God's intention for marriage of one man and one woman. Abraham also failed to trust in God to keep His promise of a child.
How did Abraham get into such a mess? Temptation came to him – as with Adam before him – in the person of his wife. We often forget that temptation can come from any direction, even from within our own family, even from those nearest and dearest to us. We expect Satan to attack us like a roaring lion. Yet, the Bible warns us that the devil often disguises himself as an angel of light (2 Cor 11:4). Thus, Satan directly tempted Jesus in the wilderness (Mt 4:1-11); and, he also tempted Jesus through the words of Peter, one of His closest disciples (Mt 16:23). We need to be aware that the very person intended to be a blessing to us may also be the one through whom we are led astray. The best protection we have against this is to be fully armed with the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God (Eph 6:17); when we know and love God's Word we are able to recognize and resist temptation whenever it comes knocking. Jesus tells us and warns us that obedience must be more precious than even the closest of family relationships:
(Mt 10:37) Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me ...
Like Adam, Abraham capitulated to a temptation that he might not have fallen for if it came from another source. This parallel between Adam and Abraham is not so obvious in our English Bibles; however, the original Hebrew uses the exact same language: Abraham "listened to the voice of" his wife just as Adam "listened to the voice of" his wife (Gen 3:17; 16:2). What is more, in both cases the woman "took" and "gave" to her husband (Gen 3:6; 16:3).
Permit me another observation here. Do you notice what Sarah, and Eve, did? They both intruded upon their husband's spiritual leadership. They both violated the creation ordinance God established when the first man and first woman were created – that the husband is to be the spiritual leader of the home. And the result, in each case, was disaster. We would be wrong if we conclude from this that husbands should never listen to their wives; in Genesis 21:12, for instance, God specifically commands Abraham to listen to his wife.
I Hagar the Egyptian
A Instead of waiting for God's time and instead of trusting in God, Abraham listened to his wife and took her maidservant, Hagar, as a concubine. Documents from the ancient Near East indicate this was a regular custom in some societies. But the same documents also bear witness to the cost of such relationships, specifying laws that provide for the concubine if she bears children and falls out of favor with her mistress. In other words, the domestic problems of jealousy, reproach, and broken relationships that we see in Abraham's family were common occurrences. Therefore, we are not surprised that the two women were soon attacking each other when Hagar became proud about her pregnancy and Sarah felt despised and did whatever she could to make Hagar's life miserable.
Sarah blamed Abraham for the whole mess. Did you hear what she said?
(Gen 16:5) "You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my servant in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the LORD judge between you and me."Abraham, for his part, made Sarah take full responsibility:
(Gen 16:6) "Your servant is in your hands," Abram said. "Do with her whatever you think best."Hagar was caught in the middle and responded by running away.
Whose fault was it? Sarah blamed Abraham. And Abraham refused to take responsibility. Doesn't this sound familiar – both to us and to Moses' original audience? Remember how Adam blamed Eve and Eve blamed the serpent? We sinful human beings just love playing the blame game. Everyone is responsible but me. I am a victim. So don't blame me. This is a characteristic that is peculiar to humans alone. No other creature plays the blame game.
Right now we are puppy-dog-sitting for David & Linda. The other day we were eating on the patio. Ruth went into the house for something. Lola, the puppy-dog, saw the steak on Ruth's plate and couldn't resist. She got her nose to Ruth's plate and one tooth on Ruth's steak before I yelled. Immediately she cowered. She literally came crawling towards me on her stomach looking for my forgiveness. Even after I patted her she hid under my chair with a look of absolute guilt and shame on her face.Lola knew she had done something wrong. Never once did she point a paw at someone else and say, "It was his fault. He made me do it."
What a mess. Do you see what happens when we fall for Satan's snares and traps and entanglements?
B Two times Scripture tells us an important detail about Hagar – a detail that is often overlooked:
(Gen 16:1) Now Sarai, Abram's wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian maidservant named Hagar;What is emphasized by our Bible reading is that Hagar is an Egyptian.
(Gen 16:3-4) So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian maidservant Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. (4) He slept with Hagar, and she conceived.
And, do you notice where Hagar is going when she runs away from Sarah? Scripture tells us,
(Gen 16:7) The angel of the LORD found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur.Hagar left Canaan – where Abraham "had been living ... ten years" (Gen 16:3) – and the angel found her in the wilderness of Shur, on Egypt's northeast frontier.
Do you see the picture Scripture is presenting? We are to see Hagar the fertile Egyptian. We are to see Hagar going back to the comforts and attractions of Egypt.
To us, Egypt might seem like an insignificant geographical detail. But Hagar highlights a continual theme not just of Genesis but of Exodus and the entire Old Testament. Hagar highlights the conflict between the attractions of Egypt on the one hand and the seeming barrenness of Canaan on the other hand.
What happened when Abraham first came to the Promised Land? As soon as Abraham entered Canaan he found the land was unable to support him because "there was a famine in the land" (Gen 12:10). What did Abraham do? Where did Abraham go? Abraham went to Egypt (Gen 12:10) because there was food in Egypt. Egypt appeared fruitful; the Promised Land appeared barren.
Remember why Lot chose the Jordan plain? Because it was well watered, "like the land of Egypt" (Gen 13:10). Again, do you hear the message: Egypt is fruitful; the land promised to Abraham appeared barren.
And now we meet Hagar from Egypt. Not surprisingly, she is fruitful, while Sarah was barren. And, when life with Abraham and his family turned ugly, Hagar headed away from the Promised Land and to Egypt.
I want you to note the common theme that runs through all of these stories or incidents. In each instance, choosing the fertility of Egypt over faithfulness to God's promises led to disastrous consequences. Abraham's journey to Egypt nearly wrecked his marriage and could have ended the covenant line. Lot's choice of fertile land like Egypt nearly ended in his destruction, first when the kings of the East attacked (Gen 14), and later when God's judgment fell upon Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen 19). Hagar's son, Ishmael, was not just a continual problem for Abraham and Sarah; his descendants would also be a perpetual thorn for Israel. As for Hagar, her flight to Egypt left her on her own in the wilderness. Egypt may look attractive but it always leads to disaster in the long run.
Now, imagine you are one of the children of Israel listening to Moses as he told them the story of Abrham. You are traveling through the wilderness in the opposite direction of Hagar as you go from Egypt to Canaan. You are one of those people who were tempted, again and again, to return to Egypt.
You know the stories. In the wilderness, these people tired so quickly of manna and wanted to return to the diet of fish, cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic that they enjoyed in Egypt (Num 11:5). When the spies returned from their exploration of the Promised Land with stories of giants and walled cities, the people's first response was, "Wouldn't it be better for us to go back to Egypt?" (Num 14:3). When there was no water to drink, they said,
(Num 20:5) "Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to this terrible place? It has no grain or figs, grapevines or pomegranates. And there is no water to drink!"To these people the prosperity and fertility of Egypt was a constant magnet as they faced the difficulties of taking possession of the Promised Land.
So, what was Moses saying? What was God saying to them? The people were being warned about Egypt. To use a New Testament phrase, the people were being warned about seeking treasure on earth rather than treasure in heaven (Mt 6:19-21).
C A last, sad point about Hagar the Egyptian. When she fled to Egypt, she was leaving the blessing of the covenant. Yet, tragically, it was the behavior of Abraham and Sarah that led her to flee. Yes, Hagar was not blameless. But if Abraham and Sarah had acted differently none of this would have happened.
That raises a number of questions for you and I to consider: How many times do we drive people away from the blessings of the covenant? Do we draw people toward Jesus Christ or do we repel them? Are we an open door to the gospel or a barbed wire fence? Don't ever forget, my brothers and sisters, that often the biggest obstacle to Christianity is Christians. Pray that this doesn't describe you or me or this church!
II Hagar's Better Friend
A Hagar presents a sad sight. She is pregnant. Her lover has abandoned her and her mistress despised her. She is all alone on the Egyptian frontier. Things look bleak. But her sin and failure and their sin and failure is not the end of the story. Not at all. Because the Lord was out there in the wilderness, looking for a lost sheep like Hagar.
We are told "the angel of the Lord found Hagar" (Gen 16:7). The Angel of the Lord is an interesting and intriguing figure. Because many times he speaks as the Lord Himself. No created angel has the authority to speak as God. So this was no created angel, but what Isaiah describes as the Angel of His Presence (Is 63:9). This can only be Jesus Christ, the only One in the Scriptures Who can speak as God. In the Old Testament, Jesus took the form of an Angel on several occasions (Gen 22:11, Ex 3:2, etc), and revealed Himself to His people. Here we see Him as the Good Shepherd searching for one of His lost sheep.
In the person of the Angel of the Lord we see the grace of God reaching even to Hagar so she was not left without comfort and hope in her sad condition.
I want you to notice four things.
B First, I want you to notice that God made the first move. He came to Hagar. What we see here is in perfect harmony with the Gospel. If we love God, it is because He first loved us. If we come to God, it is because He first came to us. If we see God, it is because He first saw us. If we hear God, it is because He has first heard us.
Second, like Israel in Egypt, Hagar cried out in her misery and was heard by the Lord. That's why she named her son Ishmael, meaning "God hears."
Third, Hagar also gave a name to God: "You are the God who sees me." It is no accident that our call to worship this morning comes from Psalm 11. Listen carefully to the last four verses of this psalm:
(Ps 11:4-7) The LORD is in his holy temple; the LORD is on his heavenly throne. He observes the sons of men; his eyes examine them. (5) The LORD examines the righteous, but the wicked and those who love violence his soul hates. (6) On the wicked he will rain fiery coals and burning sulfur; a scorching wind will be their lot. (7) For the LORD is righteous, he loves justice; upright men will see his face.Why is God able to do this? He is "the God Who sees me."
In this light, consider – again – the angel of the Lord. Why was He able to "find" Hagar (Gen 16:7)? Why did He know her name and the name of her mistress? Why did He ask, "where have you come from, and where are you going" (Gen 16:8)? He knows her name before she says it to Him. He knows the answers to His questions before He asks them. In fact, He was waiting for her at the well; He was waiting to reveal Himself to her before she even got there. He is the God Who sees.
Fourth, a name was given to that place: Beer Lahoi Roi meaning "well of the Living One who sees me" (Gen 16:14).
C Think about what the story of Hagar teaches us about God. He is the God Who, like a shepherd, always makes the first move. If He can find a lost sheep like Hagar, He can also find you and save you and make you an heir of the covenant blessings.
He is the God Who hears and sees.
So many times God's people pray without hearing an answer. They pray for healing. They pray for a lost family member to be saved. They pray for an end to conflict. They pray that a marriage may be saved. Let me assure you that God hears your prayers and sees your concerns.
There are times when we don't even know how or what to pray. Our thoughts are a jumble. The tears roll down our cheeks. A sigh escapes from our lips. But God hears and sees.
The God who hears and sees me. Many times God's people are filled with doubt, anxiety, fear, and despair. But don't give up. God hears and sees. And, out of grace, He will relieve you even as He relieved Hagar and gave her comfort and consolation.
The God Who hears me and sees me. Maybe you have been cruelly hurt by someone. Maybe rumors and gossip and lies are being said about you. God hears and sees and He knows the truth.
D The God Who hears me and sees me. This may give comfort to God's children but it should also strike fear into the hearts of the ungodly (cf Psalm 11). If you do not yet know Christ, let me tell you that God knows and sees all your sin. Let me tell you that you need to repent. Let me tell you God would be more than justified in condemning you to the eternal fires of hell.
But if you come to God in Christ, if you repent of your sins and ask for Jesus to fill your heart, then the God Who hears and sees will forgive.
The God Who hears and sees. He hears and sees me. He hears and sees you. Out of grace this God makes the first move. Out of grace He keeps His eye on me and you. Out of grace He keeps His ear tuned to me and to you.
The God Who hears and sees. What a great and awesome God!
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