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12. Sarai’s Problem

June 23, 2009

Text:   Genesis 16:1-16

Key Verse:   Genesis 16:8

Outline:             I. The Problem Sprouts       Gen. 16:1-4

                            II. The Problem Blooms      Gen. 16:5-6

                            III. The Problem Rests        Gen. 16:7-16

Context/Discussion/Comments:

     This incident happens less than 5 years after Abram’s assurance of an heir in Chapter 15 and most likely within one year according to Reese’s Chronological Bible. Abram and Sarai’s faith in God is wavering. They feel the need to “help God along” in fulfilling His promise. They live in a culture of multiple wives so why can’t Abram have his heir by Sarai’s maid? After all, that is a better solution than turning their estate over to Abram’s hired hand [Chapter 15]. So Sarai gives her maid, Hagar, to Abram. He sleeps with her and she conceives. Now the trouble begins. Hagar sees herself as the wife and not the maid, making life miserable for Sarai. Hagar believes she is not just equal to Sarai but better than Sarai.

     Sarai blames Abram for her troubles and seems to be asking if they have a future together. She asks the Lord to judge between Abram and her. She wants to know if God believes she is the true wife of Abram or does Abram have a new wife in Hagar. She wants to know from God just who is to blame for her marital troubles, Abram or her.

     Abram assures Sarai that she is his true wife and that she should solve her problem with Hagar. Sarai puts Hagar back in her place as her maid, making life so miserable for Hagar that she decides to leave and return to Egypt.

     The angel of the Lord comes to Hagar and asks where she is coming from and where she is going. I’ve used this verse as the Key Verse because it is such an important question. God asks that of each one of us in hope of directing us into His Will, to be a member of His Kingdom, His chosen people. This is an example of God’s unconditional love being expressed to a person He created for good. Hagar was created to be the maid of Sarai so the angel instructs her to return to her position and submit to Sarai. She is not to worry because God has chosen to bless her and Ishmael with many descendents just like Abram was promised. But Ishmael is born into hostility and will live in hostility all his days. Thus, the Arab-Israeli conflict is born.

     Note that this story of Hagar and the angel parallels that of Adam and Eve and God after they ate the forbidden fruit. There are consequences for sin but God offers to forgive and bless those who obey Him.

Lessons/Applications:

     1. Do not place your faith in the Lord below that of your culture. Doing so will sprout problems that will divert your attention from God’s Will.

     2. God is patient with us so let us be patient with Him.

     3. Attempting to “help” God solve one problem usually causes another problem. When we question God we usually end up questioning what has happened and even why.

     4. God reassures the “broken” and gives them a reason [promise] for living. He restores them to their rightful place.

     5. God teaches and trains us to be faithful by allowing us to make decisions contrary to His Will and suffer the resulting consequences. Seek the Lord before you make decisions, especially those with life-changing implications.

     6. A wavering faith causes problems now and in the future.

A steadfast Faith will keep the seed of discontent from sprouting.

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