June 21, 2011

And the angel of the Lord said to her, “Now you have conceived and
shall bear a son; you shall call him Ishmael, for the Lord has given heed to
your affliction.”

Genesis 16:11

 

June 21, 2011

Today’s passage comes from the story of Abram, Sarai and
Hagar. Sarai is aged and barren and she wants a child, so she gives her slave
to Abram to get pregnant so she can give him a child. Since Hagar is Sarai’s
slave the baby she has will belong to Sarai and in this way the couple will not
be childless. The problem with that is once Hagar does get pregnant she looks
upon Sarai with contempt (Genesis 16:4). I am sure Hagar hated being used by
Sarai in this way. Sarai then deals so harshly with her that Hagar finally runs
away (Genesis 16:6).

Sarai is the wife of Abram and very wealthy. There was a
time in my life when I would read the story of Abram and Sarai and my heart
would go out to her. A couple of times Abram told Sarai to lie and say she was
his sister in order for him to remain safe. She went along with him and for
that reason my heart had pity on this woman. Then I had an opportunity to study
this passage in Seminary this year and I see Sarai in a different light. I see
her how she is. Sarai is a wealthy woman but despite all the possessions that
are hers, the one thing she really desires is a child, an heir for Abram. She
is aged and beyond the years of bearing a child, so she takes her young slave
girl and gives her to her husband so he could have sex with her and get her
pregnant. What did Sarai expect from Hagar? Did she really think Hagar would be
happy with the way she was used? When Hagar responds with contempt Sarai
mistreats her. This makes Sarai a spoiled, rich and bitter older woman, in my
eyes. Hagar runs away from Sarai and it is while she is drawing water from a
spring that the angel of the Lord appears to her. Why does the angel of the
Lord appear to her? Because the Lord has
given heed to her affliction
.

There is a valuable lesson tucked in this story for all of
us today. Abram is about to be blessed by God as the father of the nations. It
is through Abram, who later becomes Abraham, that all of us know of God. Sarai,
his wife, who will become Sarah, will be the mother of their child, a son named
Isaac. Here is the lesson. You can be a child of God and know Him and still be
such a stinker in life that God will have to rescue those whom you deal with
harshly.

Like Sarai, we can fall into the “what about me” trap. We
are blessed with much, but that much is not enough. We want more because we
believe we deserve it. On our way to get more we manipulate people and in that
process we use, abuse and oppress them. This is a part of our sinful selfish
human nature. Oftentimes we don’t even recognize when we are behaving badly
because a lot of what we do is acceptable in our society. Sarai didn’t start
out to do wrong. She wanted her husband to have an heir because she knew he had
great wealth. God told Abram that he would have an heir (Genesis 15:4-6) and
Abram believed Him. God told Abram He would give him an heir, but Sarai played
god and tried to give him an heir her way. When we think more highly of
ourselves, when we rush to do God’s work, we fail just as Sarai did.

What really stood out about all of this is the one sentence
that just keeps repeating in my heart: the
Lord has given heed to her affliction.
God sees and He knows what Sarai did
and He sees and He hears Hagar crying out. God hears, listens and responds to
the cry of the suffering, oppressed, used and abused slave woman and He appears
to her. Take note, child of God, that when you mistreat another person and you
think that it does not matter because they are not godly, think again. God
hears and responds to their cry for help. In the next few weeks I am going to
bring once again to our attention those who are oppressed at the hands of
Christians and I want you to prepare your hearts to hear this truth. Each week
it is my prayer that we begin to behave corporately and individually just as Jesus commanded, and we just can’t do that if we
insist on being our own god and getting our own way.

 

In His Love

Michele Beck

 

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