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Tuesday: Abraham, Sarah and Hagar — 14 Comments

  1. Was Abraham’s *marriage* to Hagar really “a lapse of faith”? God first told Abraham to leave his country and move to a foreign land where he would become “a great nation” Gen 12:2; and later “to your seed I will give this land” Gen 12:7. Then after Lot separated from Abraham God said to him, “All the land which you see, I will give it to you and your seed forever. I will make your seed as the dust of the earth…” Gen 13:15,16. God spoke with Abraham again after he had delivered Lot from the kings. Abraham proposed that Eliezer, his servant born in his house, be his heir. Only then was god specific saying, “This man will not be your heir; but one who will come from your own body, he shall be your heir.” Gen 15:4,5 . God didn't condemn his overture.
    When God is working on His children every action on His part is toward their wellbeing (Phil 1:6), strengthening and increasing the fatih that He has gifted them. It’s His work. He is casting off and getting rid of dross and encumbrances to our faith, hope, and love. He is not testing us to see if His work is up to par. He knows His work and it’s progress. Abraham was being prepared for the ultimate proving, Mt Moriah.
    So Abraham’s son is going to come from “his body”. God has not told him that his child would be born of the Spirit. At this time he thinks that his son would be born naturally, like everybody else. Sarah says, “Now behold, the Lord has prevented me from bearing. Please go in to my maid…” Gen 16:2. Abraham now has a son “from his body”. It’s because he “believed” that he was going to have a son according to what God said. Fourteen years later God appears to Abraham and says, “… walk before Me, and be blameless… and I will multiply you exceedingly… and you will be a father of a multitude of nations.” Gen 17:1-4.
    Then God said to Abraham: “… Sarah shall be her name. I will bless her, and indeed I will GIVE YOU A SON BY HER. Then I will bless her and she shall be nations…” Gen 17:15,16. This is the first time Abraham learns that Sarah would have his son. To him Sarah cannot have a baby and he says, “Oh that Ishmael might live before you.” Gen 17:18. God says, “No, but Sarah your wife will bear you a son, Isaac… whom Sarah will bear to you at this season next year Gen 17:19.
    Scripture says Abraham believed God and received his son, Isaac, exactly one year later. Rom 4:17-22; Heb 11:11,12.

    • "Was Abrahams 'marriage' to Hagar a lapse of faith?" Yes! Was this incident wrong? Yes! Did God forgive Abraham? Yes! Am I a legalist? No! Why did God tell Abraham that his heir would come out of Isaac? Because Abraham lost faith in God, his sin, and did it his way. God forgave, but said, it must be done My way. What does walk before me blameless mean? Confess, ask for forgiveness, repent, and consecrate yourself to God(the whole heart yielding to God)? Mary Magdalene walked before Christ and was blameless, what did Christ say? Go and sin no more, being interpreted: confess, ask for forgiveness, repent, and concecrate yourself to Christ(the whole heart yielding to Christ). John 8:11. One Bible version puts it this way. After they sinned, it says, "they turned to God".

      Sampson turned to God, Abraham turned to God, David turned to God and many others. An example to us. It is no work to turn to God. In fact the turning is the work of the Holy Spirit. If we turn to God, we are not working to be saved, rather He is working in us. A Miracle. The Gospel of Galatians. It was a miracle too that the Galatians turned to God. Some not all, but enough to allow Paul to say, after the reproof, I was able to be among them as a friend.

    • This is a potentially ambiguous issue, as we have the "Readers Digest condensed version". But you are correct Kenny that only AFTER Ishmael was born it anything recorded that specifically names Sarah as the mother. One can easily argue that Abraham "tried to help God out" rather than patiently waiting for Him. But we have no record of Abraham doing anything against what God had actually told him. Nor, looking at the context do we find his actions culturally inappropriate. While they fall short of God's ideal, don't forget that the 12 tribes came from four women. Polygamy was never God's ideal, but it is only denounced in the New testament.

    • The promise of the son was made to Abram in his current situation, that is, as he was married to his wife Sarai. If Abram had actually believed that Ishmael was the promised son, he would not have asked, “Oh that Ishmael might live before You!” That Abram laughed and said in his heart, “Shall a child be born to him that is a hundred years old? And shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear?” speaks to his unbelief that God could accomplish what was humanly impossible. This unbelief would adversely impact all the other promises that God made to Abram and would result in human devising to obtain the promises (that is, salvation by the works of man). God wanted to make it crystal clear to Abram and us that the promise of the inheritance was just as impossible as the promise of the son. It would thus be completely clear that salvation can never be the work of man—the onus is all on God in spite of man, not because of man.

      The name Ishmael (God hears) is more an expression of Abram's hope that man’s will would be God’s will, but God is very clear, “Sarah your wife shall bear you a son indeed.” The promises of God are supernatural, that is, beyond man’s capability. To underline that point, God commands the institution of circumcision (Genesis 17) as a visible object lesson: The power of man is “cut off” symbolically in the ritual of circumcision so that it can never be the means by which the promise of God is fulfilled.

      And that is why we must leave the accomplishment of the promise to God and pray in humility that our will be aligned with God’s. We must place our will in his hands. Then (and only then) will God make us in his image. This was a hard lesson for Abram, and frankly, it is one that I continue to struggle with in the decisions I make every moment of every day. But it is the reason to be thankful that our salvation is in the hands of almighty God, and he cannot fail as long as we are continually willing to let him do his work in our hearts. This Abram learned by faith over the decades of his life and so too can we.

  2. There is so much meat in the passage (Gal 4:21-31) for this lesson, that I am quite surprised that the author skims the surface, and fails to address the substantive issues outlined in the chapter. (I quickly glanced at the other lessons for the remaining days of the week, and he is silent on the substantive matters.)

    Paul has been dealing with the contrast of living under the law and living and walking by faith for three chapters. He has been using various language techniques such as idioms, metaphors, similes and the like, all to reach everyone in Galatia (and even us today) with the seriousness and significance of the message being presented. He has been saying the same basic message in numerous phrases and statements throughout the chapters.

    Firstly, Paul seems to be saying to the Galatians in effect; you who want to be under the law and make the law your guide, do you not hear what it the law is really saying? Obviously, Paul is seeking to wake up his readers to the possibility that there is something better than, greater than, law-driven living!

    Then he unabashedly compares the very covenant from Sinai with the bond woman Hagar. This relates back to his characterization of bondage under the law Gal 4:1-5, Gal 3:23-25, Gal 2:19. We have already seen that what he is talking about is the covenant given at Sinai, which is the entire body of instructions from Exodus through Deuteronomy, including the Decalogue. He contrasts this with the New Covenant and essentially urges us to “cast out the bondwoman… so then, … we are not children of the bondwoman but of the free.” Gal 4:30, 31. That is awesome news! He is saying that we cannot be children born of the Spirit and be living under the law at the same time. Remember, Jesus was born under to law to redeem us - Gal 4:4,5. Only with that freedom can we be free to walk in the Spirit. Gal 5:1,18.

    This does not throw out the moral instructive aspects of the Covenant – these had existed from eternity, and were inserted into the Covenant, but really are eternal principles which cannot be abrogated. These principles are written in the heart under the New Covenant by the Holy Spirit – Jer 31:33, and not on parchment, stone, or prescriptive writing. 2 Cor 3:6.

  3. There is no substitute for salvation by grace through in Christ. All our do-it-your-self efforts for salvation are as futile as that of the Hagar/Ishmael fiasco.

  4. What choices can I make that can help strengthen my ability to trust God’s promises?
    I have to trust Him everyday! Every morning I have to commit myself to God, thus not my plans but His are fulfilled in my life! That's how I learn to trust Him...

  5. I still do not understand... In this generation we are in, would love someone to help me to know. Because we find that Abraham and Sarai were told that they would have their own child but we discovered on their way they failed to hold on to what God told them..should we do same or not?? help

    • Yes, we should hold onto God's promises. They didn't do the right thing yet God still loved them & worked with them.

    • We must always seek God's will and clarity in every situation and isolate it from human wisdom or custom or expected social norms which tend to drive our thought processes in disobedience to God. When Abraham and Sarah had Ismael,to all people including themselves they had their own child. 'The child' and knew nothing was wrong until God interposed and clarified. Even Hagar thought that was 'The child'. The error was deeply embedded in their culture.

  6. I've always admired the relationship between God and Abraham recorded in Gen 18. I admire God's desire to enlighten (Gen 18:17) His "friend" (Isaiah 41:8), and the resulting candor (Gen 18:23,25) that revelation evoked in Abraham. God's kind handling of His friend's gap in knowledge (Gen 18:24,26-32), should be of encouragement to everyone blessed with a desire to become a "friend" of God, like Abraham (Gal 3:9,26,29)

    Keeping in mind that THE Gospel (Gal 3:8; Lk 4:18) was also being preached in Abraham's day (Jn 8:56), Scripture's record of this man's life--the daily unfolding of their relationship--should fertilize the lives of all of his true descendants (again Gal 3:26). While we, like the lesson's author, may understandably view Abraham as "a great man of God", the truth is that he was just your average pagan until God chose to establish a friendship with him. Abram, as he was introduced, is a descendant of persons who looked to themselves for their establishment after the flood (Gen 11:4,9). Whether he liked it or not, Abram was a product of his culture and times--that is until God intervened in his life, and by means of their intimate relationship (Gen 18:19), significantly alters that pagan's destined dead-end life (Eph 2:12). Now, that's a blessing ALL Jews and Gentiles could actually use (Gen 12:3; Mt 1:23; Lk 2:10-11,14)--God's "Christmas" gift, every second of every day!!

    Scripture does not record God as giving this pagan his entire life's instructions at their initial meeting (Gen 12:1-3), but he responds nevertheless (Heb 11:8). His journey from Ur of the Chaldeans to Canaan, which started because he believed and acted on God's promise, can't be described as detailed. It is God's design that unlike his self-determined ancestors (Gen 11:4), Abraham and his true descendant's journey would be a faith relationship with unfolding daily details (Mt 6:9-11). Like Jesus' teaching in Mt 5:39, our inherent nature multiplied by our cultural environment (Mt 5:38) equals resistance to our Creator (Jer 6:10; Rm 6:19). Scripture's record of Abraham's journey to his Friend's destination shows his progression from a man still willing to employ his own solutions (Gen 12:12-13; 17:18-19) as well as that of his culture (Gen 15:2-3; 16:2) to achieve God's goal. We see him struggle with his old personal and cultural concepts within the context of his new relationship, but his Friend continuously "updates his operating system" (Gen 17:19; 18:14). True to His Character, the promise of Abraham's Friend would one day be realized (Gen 21:1-3; Gal 3:16; 4:4-6), with an equally truthful family struggle that continues to our day (Gal 4:29,25; Jn 15:20; Gal 1:13; Act 13: 44-46; Act 7:51-52).


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