We’ll continue going through the daily Bible reading by looking at a chapter at a time.
In which Abram follows in the footsteps of his forefather Adam by following unwise and sinful council from his wife while disregarding the word of God and His promises:
- Adam’s wife Eve convinced him (I’m not sure it took much convincing) to disobey God and eat of the tree in the Garden that God specifically warned them against – despite the numerous other trees with delectable fruit.
- Abram’s wife Sarai convinced him to break their marriage covenant, to sleep with her Egyptian servant Hagar, to produce an heir for Abram, by literally taking God’s promise of an heir in Genesis 15 into their own hands. If there had not been Hagar, Sarai and Abram would likely have chosen a different servant girl. If they had no servants, Abram may have taken a second (or third, or fourth) wife – it seems. Basically, they tried to take matters into their own hands to produce a male heir for Abram on their own time schedule. They were fearful and didn’t trust that God would make good on his promise to produce a legitimate male heir through Abram’s own line.
The result of Sarai’s sin (leading her husband into temptation):
- Abram sins (against his wife, against Hagar, and against God) by breaking the marriage covenant with his wife.
- Hagar is sinned against and feels resentful.
- Hagar despises her mistress Sarai (who began the mess).
- Sarai gets indignant against her husband (who listened to her advice in the first place).
- Abram throws up his hands in frustration and says, “Whatever, just do whatever you want then!” to Sarai.
- Sarai beats the girl who hates her for letting the one’s husband rape the other (the Bible doesn’t say that Abram and Hagar’s union was a consensual union – likely, it was forced upon Hagar as servant, who couldn’t refuse her masters’. And even though it was a “marriage” there are still cases of spousal rape within marriages, when the husband wants sex and the wife doesn’t, but the husband forces himself on her).
- Hagar runs away.
Basically, we see that one temptation entered into (becoming sin) leads to a whole mess of problems, and cause-and-effect sins. A few things to note about men and women here (from Mark Driscoll):
- Sarai was trying to be helpful. She thought she was loving her husband and being helpful by offering Hagar. The problem was that she led her husband into sin and didn’t trust God through her “helpfulness.” Driscoll said that this is often the case. Wives want to be helpful to their husbands – which is a great thing – it’s what they were designed to do. The problem comes, however, when a wife’s “helpfulness” leads her husband into sin.
So, a warning for wives: Do not tempt someone else to sin when you are trying to be “helpful.” But also, do not neglect being helpful. God designed wives to be a great help to their husbands. Trust God and His promises and “help” your husband do the same.
- Abram followed Adam’s mistake of listening more closely to his wife’s sinful council than God’s. This is not to say that a husband should neglect his wife’s council – but, if he knows that it is sinful council, or that it neglects the promises and providence of God, then he should reject such unwise council. The husband, as head of the home, has a responsibility before God to 1) trust God and his promises, 2) avoid sinning against God, 3) keep his family from sinning against God, 4) keep his family from sinning against each other. Now, we are all sinners, and will all still sin – but a husband should strive to grow in holiness and godliness and lead his own family in that direction as well.
So, a warning for husbands: Do not listen to unwise or sinful council from your wife or anyone else. Do not entertain sinful desires or thoughts – banish them from your mind. And remember that you have ultimate responsibility before God for the spiritual wellbeing of your whole family and household (including any Hagars that may be part of your household).
However, the second half of chapter 16 shows God’s redemption.
- Hagar is running away from Abram and Sarai.
- An angel meets her on the road and sends her back – with a blessing – that her descendants will be innumerable – a similar blessing to the one Abraham has already received.
- There still remain consequences for sin – spelled out in verse 12 – that Ishmael will “live in hostility toward all his brothers.”
- But, Hagar returns to Abram, has the son, relationships are restored, and Abram takes the boy Ishmael as his son.
As we can see from this story, there are always consequences for sin – often immediate (causes-and-effects), and also prolonged (the fate of Ishmael’s nations in the future). However, God is also a God of second chances and redemption. He is a God of the broken and beaten. He restores relationships, forgives sin, and heals previous hurts.
He restored the servant girl Hagar to the household that had once abused her, he restored the household itself to be non-abusive and and elevated her position in that same household through the birth of her son (Abram’s son), and he blessed her through the promise to her son.
It is interesting that the covenant of circumcision is the next mentioned story in the Bible – especially considering the problems that part of the man had caused everyone in the previous chapter.
Abram was 86 when he had Ishmael, and 99 when the covenant of circumcision was established (and I’ve read he was around 75 when he first received God’s promise for an heir), so the guy has been waiting on God for a really long time. It’s been 13 years since his first son was born, and 24 years since the first promise had been given. But before God fulfills that promise, he wants Abram to enter in to a covenant relationship with Him. And God changed Abram’s name to Abraham during this time as well (throughout the Bible, God often does a name change when He’s about to do something big, or when He’s going to use the name-changed person in a big way).
There are a few interesting things to note about circumcision (from Driscoll):
- It’s an interesting part of the man that God tells them to cut off (another of Driscoll’s proofs that the Bible was God-inspired and not written by man).
- It is that part of the man that caused so many problems in the previous chapter.
- It is also that part of the man that generally has caused the biggest problems throughout history.
- It is that part of the man through which God’s promises will be realized.
- It is also that part of the man that has caused the greatest good throughout history (by giving birth to the greatest human beings).
- Generally, if that part of the man is devoted to the Lord, then the whole man is devoted to the Lord.
- If that part of the man is sinful and deviant, then the whole man will wander away from the Lord.
- Additionally, it is that part of the man that culture wants the most freedom with and that the most temptation abounds about. But, as Pastor Heo mentioned in Sunday’s sermon (January 22, 2012), “freedom” is an oxymoron. If something is truly “free”, would it not be independent (disconnected) from the body? If something is truly “free”, would it not at least have independent thought (disobey the commands of its head)? But both kinds of “freedom” lead to death – the first: literal, physical death; the second: spiritual, or social death (through committing rape, incest, etc – by disobeying the commands of its head).
- Additionally, this is only something a man can do – further emphasizing the fact that God intends man to be the spiritual head and leader of his household.
So, basically it seems that God is saying to Abram – “Look, you’ve committed a sin with this part of yourself that caused big problems previously. Now, I want to know that you’ll commit your whole self to me – and that starts with giving me this part of you.”
And Abraham and his 13-year-old son Ishmael, and everyone else were circumcised on the same day. This further emphasizes the fact that Ishmael is not seen as Abram’s “second-best” son, or a second-class citizen. Ishmael and his mother Hagar are definitely, firmly, members of Abram’s family – and Abram treats Ishmael as his own son. This is more evidence of God’s redemptive nature.
We will look at this chapter tomorrow with the rest of the Sodom and Gomorrah story.