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5. Genesis 16, 17

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Did you get a chance to see the Nicole Kidman story in People magazine? She and her husband just went public about their new baby born Dec 28, 2010 by a surrogate mother. Article said very excited, love their new baby. Nicole, at 43 and having had several miscarriages, chose to have another woman carry her child for nine months, give birth to her baby. In our culture, with choices of invitro and adoption, surrogates are somewhat rare and expensive I’m sure. 20+ years ago Baby M made national news. As it became medically possible for one woman to carry another woman’s baby we entered into all kinds of new legal dilemmas. For baby M there followed numerous court battles to determine who should have custody and what were the surrogate’s rights? Heartache over infertility and the consequential choices we make are as old as Abram’s day. I told you when we started this study, we get to look in on Abram’s dysfunctional family which looks a lot like our families, this week snapshot of reality in his household. This week we get to see Sarai, brokenhearted, wanting a child so badly she resorts to second-best surrogate mother Hagar. Abram, longing for an heir, agrees. The trouble that resulted from this poor decision could only be worked out by an intervention from God. We’ll see too that God desires the people of the Promise to be set apart from others, they are to be covenant keepers, and they must be circumcised.


I. Sorrows result from Sarai’s suggestion Gen 16:1-6

II. Submission to God brings birth of Ishmael Gen 16:7-16

III. Sign of the Covenant is circumcision Gen 17:1-27

Sorrows result Gen 16:1-6

A. Situation READ Gen 16:1. Sarai was childless, must have bothered her greatly. She knew the promises that God had made-Abram must have told her. This latest revelation from God =Abram would be the biological father-set her mind spinning. He’s father, but who’s the mother? Sarai became focused on finding a way this prophecy could be fulfilled. So she makes a suggestion to Abram READ Gen 16:2.

B. Suggestion Common custom as you read in the Code of Hammurabi. When a wife was barren she could provided her husband w/a concubine or slave or servant that belonged to her-for the purpose of childbearing. Surrogate mother. When the child was born, legally the child would belong to the wife and an heir of the husband. Jacob, Sarai’s grandson had 4 of his 12 children born to concubines. But however common it was, it was not God’s way, not God’s plan. Gen 2:24 =a man will leave his mother/father, united to his wife, they will become one flesh. Sarai’s motives may have been really good (to provide an heir of the promise for her husband) but it’s not enough to have good motives, our methods must be right too. Age old lesson: the end never justifies the means. Sarai had grown impatient of waiting (does that describe you?) Instead of praying, seeking God’s counsel, she decided she would help Go out but she was WRONG. 1. wrong against God-we will see it was not His will or His timing. 2. wrong against Abram- leading him away from trusting God for this provision. 3. wrong against Hagar-Sarai saw her as a way to solve their problems, she was used without any regard for her feelings. 4. wronged herself- she was to be robbed of the great privilege of giving Abram his first born son. 5. wrong against the child- he could never be the heir, born of a “bondswoman”.

Warning: Never promote the cause of God by manipulation. We bring upon ourselves complications, heartaches, and sorrows God never intended us to have.

Application: Who among us hasn’t tried? Who among us hasn’t tried to help God out in some way? We have loved ones, our children, husbands, parents we want “saved”, want them to get right w/ God. So we think if they just “hear” the right preacher, go to the “right” counselor, attend the “perfect” conference, then they’ll change, we use every little method we can think of to get them there. The right school for your child- nothing you wouldn’t do to make sure they’re with the perfect teacher, best classroom. These are great motives but watch out for the wrong methods. When we try to manipulate open doors that God has shut we’re really saying God, I can’t trust You to make the best happen here, so I’m going to help You out. Sounds ridiculous doesn’t it and yet it’s a temptation we all face.

C. Abram agreed READ Gen 16:2b and he never should have. Why? He had just made a covenant with all powerful God, he had a vision and a dream of his future. Why didn’t he seek God’s counsel? Why didn’t he go to his altar and ask God?

“No perfect feet walk the path of faith” W.H.Griffith Thomas

This walk of faith is like being a toddler, take a few steps, fall down, few more, slip again. No matter how spiritually mature we are, we can always slip.

D. Success READ Gen 16:3,4a Hagar probably was brought from Pharaoh’s court when they went to Egypt during the famine (Gen 12). She’s pregnant, imagine Abram’s excitement at last he would have a child.

E. Struggle READ Gen 16:4b Lived in close quarters, everyone knew Hagar was pregnant with Abram’s child. Maybe this pregnancy made Hagar think she was now equal w/Sarai, no longer her servant, perhaps even superior, Abram might love her because h the child. Result was inevitable: conflict in the house. When I really need to understand a biblical passage=go to the Children’s bible. One children’s version of story= “One day Hagar did not behave toward Sarah like she was supposed to. She disobeyed God-she stopped being loving and kind to Sarah, began to make fun of Sarah for being old. She “Ha,ha, I’m going to have a baby and you can’t. You’re too old.” Sarah said “be quiet Hagar, you’re just a servant” READ Proverbs 30:21-23Pretty easy to understand the mess this household had become. Sarah’s pride, jealousy, hurt caused her to turn against Abram, she blamed him for everything. READ Gen 16:5. Abram is in a bad spot, Hagar did belong to Sarah, so he takes the passive way out- seems indifferent to the conflict, says you handle it, she’s your servant, surrenders to her his position as head of the household. Sarah takes advantage – treats Hagar so harshly that she fled, she ran away.

Truth: Conflict always results from manipulation.

Whether it’s conflict among different people, or inner conflict, when we try to make things happen, work things out our way, stop waiting on God start manipulating our lives, we are headed for problems. And then when things go wrong, things don’t turn out the way we hoped, we often blame God or someone else. Sarah got what she suggested, she’s the one who offered Hagar to Abram for a baby, she got what she had wanted, but it turned out awful- how did this good idea turn out so bad? Somehow it must Abram’s fault.

I don’t think there’s a woman alive who doesn’t understand Sarai or relate to her in some way. My husband laughingly says the secret to our 42 yr old marriage is he gets up each day and says “I’m sorry”… he doesn’t necessarily know why he’s saying it, but he does. I own there is something in my sin nature that wants to blame others, he’s the closest, for my own behavior.

Application: is there conflict in your life right now because you have tried to run ahead of God? Is there a prayer God hasn’t answered and you’re losing your patience in waiting for something to happen?

I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD Psalms 27:13,14

Submission to God brings about the birth of Ishmael Gen 16:7-16

A. Hagar fled Gen 16:7 traveled quite far, wilderness of Shur (Northern part of Sinai Peninsula) probably on her way back to Egypt. No telling how this story might have ended if God hadn’t intervened.

B. Angel of the LORD found her. Many people believe this was a:

Theophany=visible manifestation of God

why? 1. Gen 16:10 “I will so increase your descendants” First person, speaking w/attributes of divinity. Hagar says Gen 16:13 “You are the God who sees me” This is a characteristic of the God of the scriptures who identifies w/outcasts, victims of sin, mistreated. In John 9 story of the blind man who no one seemed to care that he was healed, could see, he testified that Jesus must have been from God to be able to work that miracle, the religious rulers, threw him out. Just like God, just like Jesus, to show up when everyone else leaves Ps 27:10 “Though my father and my mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me” Hagar is found by God not because she is looking but because she is in need.

God never fails to see what is going on and He is vitally interested in everything that touches one of His creatures. We may attempt to run away from things that happen to us, but we cannot get beyond God. Our God seeks to save the lost. Donald G. Barnhouse

C. Question Gen 16:8 Where have you come from and where are you going? Interesting that Hagar’s name=stranger or flight. Isn’t that what want to do when things get tough? We want to flee, leave. We live in a world that encourages it. Marriages= if this doesn’t work out, don’t worry, there’s someone else for you, in fact let’s sign a pre-nuptial agreement to split our stuff when we divorce even before we marry. Parents= if it gets too much, one of you could leave too. Life is full of demanding positions, sometimes it’s God’s will we move on from a job that is too tough for our physical and mental health, but we need to make sure God is leading. In our story, God leads by giving her a command and a prophecy

D. Command Gen 16:9=Go back and submit to her mistress, return not as Abram’s concubine but as Sarai’s servant. How hard that must have been. When we run away, we never want to go back. That’s how we start over, returning to the point where we’ve gone wrong, make things right.

Prophecy READ Gen 16:10-12= Ishmael name means “God hears” God was telling Hagar He hears the cry of the afflicted, the needy, the lonely, He heard her as she cried at night.

Prediction has come true: 1. “Wild donkey” in that culture not a derogatory term, free nomad, Bedouin Arabs who wanted to dwell in the wilderness, loved the freedom of living in tents, hated settled communities, adventuresome spirit, Ishmael became the father of these nomadic people of the desert.

2. “strife” We know there has been much “in-fighting” among this people group, it’s one of the reasons why there has been such challenges to truly unifying the Arab nations, history of strife.’

E. Hagar’s belief Gen 16:13,14. This young Egyptian girl realized it is God Himself, the God of Abram who has been speaking to her, believes because she has had a personal encounter with the True God. Not only did you hear me, you saw me. EL ROI- You saw my struggle my pain, rebellion, yet you still loved me and cared for me.

Application: You and I need to hear this too, that God loves us, He knows the hurts we’ve had, disappointments, mistakes we’ve made, He hears, He sees, He cares, He loves us too.

F. Hagar’s obedience Gen 16:15,16 Hagar goes home a changed woman. How do we know? Accepted back into the family. Abram allows the child to be named by her as God had instructed. Her behavior revealed that she had seen God and trusted the God of Abram.

Application: Can you trust God to make something good out of the turmoil of your life? When Hagar stopped running, started submitting, God was able to bless her. Are you willing to use God’s way to solve your problems-even if it means wait, trust, submit, obey?

Sign of the Covenant is Circumcision 17:1-27

A. 13 YEARS pass, Ishmael is growing up, Abram is loving him, perhaps pouring his life into him for surely he is the son of the promise. Must be, at 99 Abram’s body (Romans 4:19)is as “good as dead” as far as fathering a child. Lord has reasons for all his delays.

Truth: God not only does right, He does right in the right time, and His delays are not His denials.

God has allowed Abram to get too old for it to seem possible to father a child so He can show Himself as El-Shaddai, God Almighty is a new name in Genesis for God, already had Elohim, Jehovah, Adoni (LORD), El Roi, now El Shaddai= All sufficient Power.

B. Walk before Me and be blameless Gen 17:1,2. Blameless, “perfect” = Hebrew word “tamin” 44x =w/o blemish, complete, full, sincerely sound, upright, whole. We will never be sinless as long as we are human, but we can be blameless, that kind of life is assured by a close walk with God, a walk of faith.

C. Two new aspects of the Covenant in 1. Name changes. Your name Abram from “Exalted Father” to “Father of a multitude. Sarai’s name from my princess to “princess”. 2. You’re going to have a baby by Sarah, call him Isaac. When God said that Abraham fell on the floor laughing, 100 yrs old, Sarah is 90. Then it hit him, what about Ishmael, oh I love him so much-can’t he be the one, can’t he be the son of the promise? God says Ishmael is not the heir, but there is a blessing for him too, he will be fruitful Gen 17:20. Make no mistake this covenant will go through Isaac, not Ishmael.

D. Sign of this covenant for you and all your descendants will be circumcision= circum=around, cise= cutting, Cutting around the male foreskin.

Surrounding Canaanites did not practice this ritual, but other people groups did circumcise. Egyptians circumcised young males as they entered the priesthood and other groups circumcised as a rite into adulthood, but no community administered it to all males at birth. This everlasting Gen 17:13 rite would be a sign to all peoples that the community of Hebrews were to cut away from the things of the world that would hinder them from their allegiance to God, sign of commitment and surrender, it had no saving merit, but it was an act of obedience that signified an internal faith.

Homework questions are available in the student study guide which may be downloaded from the "Related Media" box on the series home page:

D. Abraham Gen 17:23-27 “On that very day”, Abraham had his whole household circumcised. He obeyed w/o hesitation what God commanded.

Example to us. We learn from his mistakes and his successes. Not perfect, but he is blameless and obedient. Promise believer.

Related Topics: Curriculum

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