This sermon is based on Genesis 16:1-16. Click here to read the text.
In Genesis 15:4, God promised Abram that his very own son would be his heir. No doubt Abram shared that good news with his wife, Sarai. Yet, Sarai’s barrenness persisted and with it the promise of a son remained unfulfilled. So Sarai came up with a human solution to fulfill God’s promise. Sarai had a female servant named Hagar from Egypt. She would give this woman to Abram to take as a wife, and the offspring from their union would be the means by which Sarai would “obtain children” (literally, “be built up”). The wording of Genesis 16:3 is reminiscent of Eve’s offer of forbidden fruit to Adam. In this case, Sarai took hold of her servant and gave her to Abram that he might know her as wife. Sarai, and Abram by his obedience of Sarai, did not wait on the Lord to give them His promise according to His will. Rather, they took matters into their own hands. The Scripture tells us that “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Despite that, some of us still try to impress God with our good works and thereby earn His favor. Still others hear the promise that we are saved by grace through faith in Christ, yet the voice of their guilt is so strong that they self-inflict psychological or even physical wounds, unable to believe that God has and will forgive them their sins. The Gospel tells us that true peace, comfort, hope, and joy are ours already and will be ours eternally in Jesus but we still grasp tightly the dreams, comforts, and pleasures of the here and now to fill the void that only Christ can.
When we put ourselves in the place of God, as fulfiller of promises, we complicate matters at best and at worst bring disaster of varying degrees, for ourselves and others. Sarai’s efforts to do God’s work brought significant consequences into play for herself, for Abram, for Hagar and Ishmael, for her own future son – Isaac, and for future generations as well. When Hagar started showing contempt towards Sarai, her own insecurities flared up and she lashed out at Abram, who abdicated any responsibility thus opening the door for Sarai to deal harshly with Hagar, which led to her flight into the wilderness. Such a series of events is not uncommon. Sin compounds sin and breeds mistrust, contempt, fear, etc.
Thanks be to God, He is gracious and merciful, abounding in steadfast love. He intervenes by His Spirit, His Word, and His people to call us to repentance and to bring about restoration. Often times, in this life, the restoration is less than ideal, as it was for Abram, Sarai, Hagar, and Ishmael. At the Lord’s leading, Hagar returned to her mistress. Abram named his son by Hagar, Ishmael. Life continued in this way for the next fourteen years. No doubt there were continued tensions but by grace they were given opportunity to make the best of the situation. Even better, is the news that God’s will was not thwarted by Sarai’s, Abram’s, and Hagar’s faithless acts. God would still fulfill His promise to Abram (and Sarai!) according to His plan and in His time with the birth of Isaac (Genesis 21).
Discuss and Pray – Genesis 16
- What are some ways in which you personally have sought to meet a divine promise with a human solution?
- What are some examples of ways in which “the world” commonly puts faith in human solutions for problems that can only be resolved by Christ?
- What are some examples of how a church/congregation might attempt human solutions in the place of God’s promises?
- What complications or consequences are you currently facing because of a human solution – either your own or that of another – that was attempted in place of trusting God?
- What are the opportunities for Christ to work in and through you as a means of grace in bringing redemption, reconciliation, and restoration to that situation?
- Christ is Lord and Savior still and He is working all things for the good of those who love Him. What hope do you find in knowing that such episodes in our lives and the lives of others do not thwart God’s eternal purposes?