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Great People Make Great Blunders

June 9th, 2014

So Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram gave the name Ishmael to the son she had borne.

Genesis 16:15

We can hardly read chapter sixteen of Genesis without wincing. As often happens in the Bible, the curtain of private lives is pulled back and we see Abram and Sarai for the imperfect people that they were. Yet in spite of their failure, God is faithful to His promises, and gracious in His treatment of all. Perhaps you have failures from your past that you are still embarrassed about or even ashamed of. Perhaps some of your past decisions have caused others harm, and you need this message of the overarching watchcare and grace of God. We have all made our shares of mistakes and committed our share of sins. Not a single one of us can say that our hands are completely clean – “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23) – but God, just as He did for Abram and Sarai, still blesses and redeems our failures.

Trying to accomplish God’s plans by human means: God promised to make Abram a great nation, but Sarai in her weakness, thought they should use a common custom of that day to accomplish God’s great plan. God’s plans should be done God’s way, and this was the first mistake we see. Faith waned in the waiting time between the promise and the fulfillment. Sarai suggested it and Abram agreed to it, that he would have children through her slave, Hagar, and since Hagar was her slave Sarai would claim the children for herself.

How often have we acted in a similar way? Rather than trust God to do things His way and in His timing, we get ahead of God and in an absence of faith forge ahead as Sarai did, trying to achieve God’s goals with worldly methods. To follow Christ we must learn to wait on God. Today is the Monday after Pentecost Sunday, and there was a moment in the history of the church where the disciples obeyed the command of Christ to wait in Jerusalem before they did anything to fulfill His Commission. They needed the power and presence of the Spirit of God, but can you imagine how futile it would have been if they had decided not to wait, to launch out in their own power and strength. They would have failed utterly, but in God’s timing and in His way they succeeded beyond what they would have ever imagined.

Failing to accept responsibility: Another negative trait of Sarai’s personality shows up, that though the idea was hers, she blamed Abram for the problem. Even worse, when Hagar became proud and petulant, Sarai severely punished her, with beatings to shame and debase her. Jealousy, anger, and a spirit entirely beneath her calling by God and her status in life poured out from Sarai. This is Sarai at her ugliest. She had her great moments, but here this great woman made great blunders. In fear of her life, Hagar makes a desperate attempt to escape.

But, again, haven’t we also done the same? Haven’t we each blamed our failures on someone else, in part or in whole. We can, sadly, relate to her sin. Haven’t we in jealousy and anger lashed out at others, fearing that their success threatened us? Thank God the pattern of slavery does not exist today like it did then (though there is still modern day slavery through human trafficking), or else we all would be tempted to act in the same way.

The God Who Sees Me: Into this ugly situation Christ came – yes, I said Christ. This character in the Old Testament called “The Angel of the LORD” I believe, as many students of Scripture do, to have been the pre-incarnate Lord Jesus. In this passage, He is called the LORD, that unique name of God, that an angel alone could never claim (Rev. 19:10). This Angel of the Lord promised what only God would promise, “I will … increase your descendants” (Gen 16:10), and He is called God by Hagar, El in Hebrew. She gave Him a name that only God could claim: “The God Who Sees Me.” The Angel of the Lord also appeared to Abraham when he sacrificed Isaac (Genesis 22:11).

God promised protection to Hagar and told her to return to Sarai and He would deal with her. And He gave a prophetic word about Ishmael, Hagar’s son, whose name means “God hears.” He would become the father of a great nation, too numerous to count, but that it would be an unruly people, living in hostility to those around him. Many have noted the fulfillment of these words, that no one has ever successfully conquered the ruled the Arab nomads in all of history.

This passage should encourage us all who have suffered at the hands of others, who have felt first hand the sting of someone else’s sin, like Hagar had. Our situation is not hopeless. And when we see those times that we have not acted the right way, when we got ahead of God, or refused to go where He was leading, or sought to do His work in a worldly way, God has not abandoned us His people. He is our Redeemer and He redeems situations that seem so filled with sin and failure that they could never be fixed. He mends our hearts, our families, our relationships, our lives, and often in life we will look back and see what a mess we have made of things, but we should also see in those moments the amazing grace and love of our Redeemer. Give your failures to God, and trust Him to redeem them according to His will and in His wisdom.  

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