Hagar and Ishmael, Genesis 16

Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian maidservant named Hagar; so she said to Abram, ‘The LORD has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my maidservant; perhaps I can build a family through her.’ Abram agreed to do what Sarai said.” –Genesis 16:1-2

Genesis 16 is bittersweet.

Bitter from the consequences of Abram and Sarai’s efforts to “help God by helping themselves”, which have snowballed into the Israeli-Arab conflict we see today. (The Arabs descended from Ishmael.)

But this chapter is not without some sweet spots. In compassion, God reaches out to Hagar—who is forced into an ugly situation—and graciously promises that her son, Ishmael, will also have many descendants.

You may read Genesis 16 here: Bible Gateway.

The Back Story 

“So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised.” – Hebrews 10:35-36

Abram and Sarai, now 85 and 75 respectively, have demonstrated great faith in God’s promise of many descendants. But after years without conceiving—not to mention the human impossibility to birth babies in their old age—the thin scraps of their faith finally snap.

Unwilling to forfeit the possibility of having a family, Sarai proposes a last-ditch effort that aligns with the common practice of their day.

Go, sleep with my maidservant; perhaps I can build a family through her.”

Since Hagar is their own personal property, any children she might bear to Abram would belong to Sarai (according to customs).

Abram concedes. And Hagar conceives.

Naturally, sparks begin to fly between Sarai and Hagar with this newly arranged marital affair. As tension builds, Sarai—who instigated this plan—blames Abram. So Abram allows Sarai to handle Hagar however she pleases.

The result? Sarai’s burning anger and frustration—against Abram, herself, and Hagar—boil into harsh mistreatment. In desperation, Hagar runs away.

El Roi: The God Who Sees

As the journey through the wilderness (probably towards her home in Egypt) would be tough, the “angel of the Lord” meets Hagar and tells her to go back to Abram.

This is the first use of the “angel of the Lord” in the Bible. The context (vs. 13) implies that this “angel” was God Himself, another preincarnate appearance of the Messiah.

I love that God addresses Hagar by name. Although He gave special promises to Abram, His love and concern for individuals are shown here. And though it wasn’t God’s will for Abram and Hagar’s union, He promised Hagar a son who would also have many descendants. God gave him the name, Ishmael, which means “God hears”. Hagar would likely remember how God met her need. She also named the well where God spoke to her “the well of the Living One who seeth me” (Beer-lahai-roi), and called God El Roi: “the God who sees”.

God also reveals Ishmael’s future disposition to Hagar: “a wild donkey of a man” who will live in hostility toward all his brothers (vs. 12).

Hagar Returns

Encouraged from her encounter with God, Hagar returns to Abram. She must have told Abram her experience because when their baby is born, Abram (86 yrs.) names him Ishmael.

Reflect

  • Sometimes our biggest test is waiting for God to act. The temptation to fix things is strong, but even our best intentions—apart from God—interfere with His plans. Although our motives may begin with a pure heart, God never justifies sinful means.
  • Anger, if left unchecked, can be dangerous. . . . Instead of blaming others, do we need to fess’ up and ask forgiveness in an area?
  • God often wants us to face our problems head-on instead of running away (even though it may be justified) . . . . Do we need an attitude adjustment? Which promise(s) of God do we need to stand on?

Trials and Triumphs

Simplicity was a popular trend in 2013, ranging from simplifying gadgets to simple and clean architectural lines. We desire to simplify and understand the why’s in our complex world. For life is anything but simple.

Complexity

How can a person press on despite crippling illness, abusive relationships, the loss of a child, or even the confusion of homosexuality? Does God sometimes forget us, leaving us to maneuver through a muddled painful maze? Or is He near, guiding and supporting us in the middle of the mess?

Trials and Triumphs Trials_&_Triumphs_Final_Cover

I’ve been blessed to be a part of FaithWriters online community. I’m also honored to have my testimony included in their new book, Trials and Triumphs, along with 39 other people facing daily challenges.

In the “Coming to Faith” section, there are stories about discovering the need for a personal Savior. In the “Faith Under Fire” section, you will discover how God helped many people—including me—through various problems.

Trials and Triumphs will be released soon in book format. I will let you know when it’s available for purchase. For information about contributors, author links can be found here: Trials and Triumphs.

Come and journey with us through our challenges, victories, and intimate God-realizing moments. There is hope for the confused, abused, downtrodden, and for those who are suffering.

I hope you have a great week!

K.D.

Training—Our Goal as Believers

“No pain, no gain!” This familiar motto echoes from many coaches’ lips. As the discipline of training is required to excel in athletics, so we must also discipline ourselves in the Christian life. Such training takes time, vision, dedication, effort, and persistence.

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Training for the Christian Life

The Bible lists three metaphors to describe believers spiritual training:

1. A race (1 Corinthians 9:24-27; Philippians 3:13-14; 2 Timothy 4:7-8)

  • We are told to go into strict training in order to get the prize by focusing all of our energy toward winning the race. Our focal point—Jesus Christ. We can forget the past by confessing our sins to Jesus, our High Priest and advocate (Hebrews 4:14), and repent (turn away from sin, turn toward Christ). Like an athlete pressing toward the finish line, we too can persevere because we know our outcome at the finish line is worth any discomfort: spending eternity with God—sin free, pain free.

2. Exercise (1 Timothy 4:7-10)

  • Repeated exercise tones the body. Repeated spiritual exercise also tones our spiritual muscles, shaping our faith and character. The results? We will live according to God’s will and attract others to Christ. This benefits us now and for eternity.

3. A fight (2 Timothy 4:7-8)

  • That’s right, a fight! We’re called to be soldiers—fighting against real evil forces from without (Ephesians 6:10-18) and temptation from within (1 Corinthians 10:13).

As commitment is needed to succeed in athletics, the same holds true in the Christian arena. As an athlete must learn the rules to compete, believers also must learn God’s rules in His Word (2 Timothy 2:5).

Bible Reading Plans 3765fcc6f0a2d02b1b119d198bd27653

I’ve found Bible reading plans helpful to keep me on track. If you don’t currently have a plan, the following links provide a variety:        Ligonier Ministries
Bible Gateway

I hope you had a wonderful New Year! Let’s train to win this year!

Related Article: Training or Trying?

Press On

I wonder when Jesus first realized He was God’s Son, and His purpose for living on earth. Growing up under the care of a carpenter, he likely hammered hundreds of nails. Did He ever cringe―knowing His earthly fate would end with sharp spikes piercing His own hands and feet?

Luke 2:40-52 gives an account of Jesus at the age of twelve. Jesus―strong and full of God’s wisdom and grace―remained behind in Jerusalem when his parents began journeying home from their yearly Passover Festival. Mary and Joseph were concerned. Where is Jesus?

After three days they found Him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard Him was amazed at His understanding and His answers.”   – (vs. 46-47)

Joseph and Mary:  Relief … astonishment … parental anger

Jesus:  “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” (vs. 49) “Or be about my Father’s business,” (NIV Bible’s footnote)

Joseph and Mary:  Fear … misunderstanding

Was this Jesus’ first experience of His identity and mission being misunderstood? It wouldn’t be His last. The gospels―Matthew, Mark, Luke and John―detail Jesus’ suffering. His blood brothers ridiculed Him. Many disciples turned away. Even those in His inner circle misunderstood many of His teachings, and then scattered upon Jesus’ arrest. His home town shunned Him. The Pharisees bombarded Him with false accusations…

But Jesus pressed on.

In ministry, Jesus didn’t have home comforts, but instead dwelt among throngs of people―many pursuing Him with selfish motives.

But He persevered.

Satan―knowing Jesus’ true identity and mission from the get-go―assaulted Him with temptations, seeking to steal Jesus’ worship, kingdom and glory.

But Jesus overcame (Matthew 4).

So what prompted Jesus’ strong resolve amid such opposition? He prayed often, plugging into His Father’s power source. Also, Jesus declared:

My food is to do the will of Him who sent me and to finish His work.”  – John 4:34

God’s grace to us led Christ to His death. Jesus―fully God and fully man―did not come to gain political power or status, but to suffer and die so we could have eternal life (Hebrews 2:9-10).

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Our sinless Christ sympathizes with our weaknesses (Hebrews 2:18). He is the answer to all our dilemmas and temptations. Through Christ, we too can press on (Philippians 4:13).