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7. How to Protect Our Family (Genesis 16)

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Now Sarai, Abram's wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian maidservant named Hagar; so she said to Abram, “The LORD has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my maidservant; perhaps I can build a family through her.” Abram agreed to what Sarai said. So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian maidservant Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. He slept with Hagar, and she conceived. When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress. Then Sarai said to Abram, “You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my servant in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the LORD judge between you and me.” “Your servant is in your hands,” Abram said. “Do with her whatever you think best.” Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her. The angel of the LORD found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur. And he said, “Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?” “I'm running away from my mistress Sarai,” she answered. Then the angel of the LORD told her, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her.” The angel added, “I will so increase your descendants that they will be too numerous to count.” The angel of the LORD also said to her: “You are now with child and you will have a son. You shall name him Ishmael, for the LORD has heard of your misery. He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone's hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers.” She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.” That is why the well was called Beer Lahai Roi; it is still there, between Kadesh and Bered. So Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram gave the name Ishmael to the son she had borne. Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore him Ishmael. (Genesis 16)

How do we protect our family from spiritual attack and the severe consequences of sin?

This narrative in many ways resembles Satan’s attack on the first family in the garden with Adam and Eve. The consequences of that failure were drastic, affecting every child of Adam with sin. Similarly, the consequences of David’s family failure were drastic as well. David slept with Bathsheba and murdered her husband, which led to the sword never departing from his home. We also see a grave consequence here with Abraham’s failure of taking another wife and having a child named Ishmael by her. This resulted in two competing seeds whose descendants are still battling thousands of years later. We see this in the current Arab-Israeli conflict.

How can we protect ourselves and our family from the attacks of the enemy and the severe consequences of sin?

In this narrative, Abraham was about eighty-five years old and his wife, Sarah, was about seventy-five. Even though the patriarchs had a long-life span, Abraham and Sarah were both approaching post-childbearing years. This was a problem since God promised to make Abraham a great nation, and he didn’t yet have a child. It was about ten years since the first promise and maybe Abraham and Sarah struggled with doubts (cf. Gen 12). Therefore, Sarah sought to take matters into her own hands. She encourages Abraham to marry Hagar, Sarah’s maidservant, to have a seed.

God promised Abraham a seed but never clearly said that it would come from Sarah; therefore, she probably rationalized that this might be God’s provision. However, this plan backfires, because after Hagar became pregnant, she despised Sarah. Hagar probably saw herself as possessing a higher status because she now had a child. Women without children in those days were often looked down upon in society. Bearing children, especially sons, provided protection for the family, allowed them to gain more wealth, and continued the family name. Having children was the major role of women in that society, and now that Hagar was pregnant with Abraham’s child, she probably saw herself as superior to Sarah.

This caused a conflict in the home which would have tremendous future ramifications. Ishmael, the son of Hagar, would, similarly, despise Isaac, the future son of Sarah (Gen 21:9). Ishmael is the father of the Arab nations and Isaac is the father of Israel. These nations have been in conflict for thousands of years.

How do we protect our family from attack and the consequences of sin? God always forgives when we repent, but sometimes the consequences of our sins last for generations. Here we learn from Abraham’s and Sarah’s failure. In this study, we will consider eight principles about how to protect our family from attack and the consequences of sin.

Big Question: From this narrative, what can we learn about protecting our family from attack and the consequences of sin?

To Protect Our Family, We Must Be Careful of the Influence of Culture

Now Sarai, Abram's wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian maidservant named Hagar; so she said to Abram, “The LORD has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my maidservant; perhaps I can build a family through her.” Abram agreed to what Sarai said. So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian maidservant Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. (Genesis 16:1–3)

God promised Abraham that his seed would be like the stars in the sky; however, there was a problem. He had no children. Therefore, Sarah approaches Abraham and says, “The LORD has kept me from having children. Go sleep with my maidservant; perhaps I can build a family through her” (v. 2). Sarah’s intentions probably were not bad. God never directly said the seed would come through her, and so she decides to take action.

Asking her husband to marry her maidservant was a common cultural practice in those days. It was her job as the wife to provide her husband a child. In the case of barrenness, a wife would often give her maidservant to her husband to produce a child. When this happened, the child would be considered the seed of the first wife.1

However, there is a problem with this idea. In this text, we don’t see Abraham or Sarah pray or seek the Lord. As in the narrative when they left Canaan and traveled to Egypt (cf. Gen 12:10–20), the altar is absent. At this point, no Scripture is written to explicitly forbid this practice. It seems that during this period of time, God spoke to people directly: sometimes through prophets and also through the conscience—the natural law in man (cf. Jude 1:14–15, Rom 2:14–15). Marrying another woman was clearly outside God’s original design of a man and a woman becoming one flesh (Gen 2:24). As mentioned, this caused great problems in their family and with their descendants throughout history.

However, this danger is common to all families. There is a tendency to build our family according to the culture and traditions of this world, instead of according to God’s revelation. Romans 12:2 says: “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

When it says, “Do not conform any longer,” it has the connotation that Roman believers were already conforming to the world and that they needed to stop. Each of us has been saved out of the world system which is empowered and ruled by the devil. Scripture calls Satan the ruler of this world (cf. John 12:31). His imprint is on every culture. It is on government, education, business, and entertainment, and Christians must be aware of this.

The very fact that many Christians are not aware often causes dangerous consequences in their lives and in their families. There are similar trends in modern day cultures destroying families.

Application Question: What cultural trends are dangerous to families, and in what ways do we see these aspects reflected in Abraham’s and Sarah’s unfortunate decision?

1. Culture many times promotes an unbiblical understanding of gender roles in the marriage union.

Scripture clearly teaches the leadership of the man in the home. Paul said this,

Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, (Ephesians 5:22–26)

Paul taught that wives should submit to their husbands as unto the Lord and that husbands should love their wives as Christ loved the church. However, culture teaches anything but a biblical view of gender roles in the home. It will teach that there is no headship in the home, even though, this conflicts with practical reason. In every company or business there is authority, and without authority, chaos ensues. Headship does not mean inequality. A captain and a corporal are equal; however, the corporal must submit to the captain to have order in the military. It is the same in the home. But since most homes don’t follow biblical order, there is chaos.

Some cultures teach that there is no authority in the home, and others wrongly emphasize either the male’s authority (patriarchal) or the female’s (matriarchal). Neither are biblical models. The wife is not to be a doormat and neither is the husband. They both are designed by God with wonderful and unique gifts that should be exercised in the context of love and authority. Husbands must love their wives and wives must submit to their husbands. Sadly, even many Christian marriages have been affected by culture and no longer practice a biblical view of gender roles. Therefore, like Abraham and Sarah, they suffer the consequences of rebellion against God’s design.

2. Culture many times promotes the children over the marriage union.

In many cultures, children are the focus of the family, instead of the marriage itself. Families spend all their time and energy making sure the children go to the best schools and get the best training, which is fine. However, they commonly do this to the detriment of the marriage.

This is part of what happened with Abraham and Sarah. In the ancient culture, tremendous focus was placed on having children for their obvious benefits: they were the retirement plan, the defense plan, and the plan to achieve social status. Because of this, they often were the focus of the marriage. We not only saw this with Abraham and Sarah, but also with Hannah and, her husband, Elkanah, in 1 Samuel. The husband cries out to her, “Am I not better than ten sons?” (1:8). The focus on bearing a child was suffocating the marriage.

It is the same today. The highest rate of divorce is in the first year of marriage, as people come in with unrealistic expectations. But the second highest is around year twenty. Why are so many people getting divorced after twenty years of marriage? They don’t know each other anymore. They don’t know each other because the focus of the marriage was the children. When they had a baby, the wife basically moved into the room with the baby and intimacy with the husband stopped. From infanthood till adulthood the parents’ focus was the child’s education and extracurricular activities and somewhere in the midst of that the marriage was lost.

When God started the human race with a man and a woman, he meant for that to be the center of the family and society. We see this even in Paul’s command in Ephesians 5. The woman is called to submit to the husband as unto Christ. The husband is to love the wife as Christ loved the church. For the husband and wife, the focus should be God, their marriage, and then their children. Children benefit when parents model these priorities. Children need to see a biblical model of marriage at home; otherwise, they become self-centered and prideful because the home revolves around them. This actually cripples them for the rest of their life, since the world does not revolve around them. Ultimately, they repeat the sins of the parents with their own children.

This was common in ancient cultures, and it still happens today to the detriment of the family. The marriage should be the priority relationship in the home.

3. Culture many times promotes promiscuity as acceptable in the marriage union.

Sadly, in many cultures promiscuity is acceptable, especially for men, as seen with Abraham. In these cultures, the man is the patriarch of the home—the unquestioned leader—and with that comes a certain amount of freedom to enjoy the comforts of women. In the ancient culture, this was seen in the role of concubines. The man would marry a woman to bear him children and to increase his social status by uniting with her family; but he would secure concubines to fulfill his lust. Solomon married the princess of Egypt to strengthen his alliances, but, in order to fulfill his lust, he had a harem of concubines. This was socially acceptable. Sadly, in Judges 19, we even see a Levite (essentially a pastor) with a concubine.

This is growing in our culture as well. For some, it is acceptable to invite others into the marriage (an open marriage). For others, as with Abraham, it is acceptable for the man to have many wives or mistresses. There is a growing cultural trend called “hooking up,” which has made monogamy almost archaic, even in marriage. The church must be aware of this trend and condemn it, as Scripture does.

4. Culture many times promotes prosperity over the marriage union.

Again, this may have been part of Abraham’s and Sarah’s thinking. Having many children was part of being prosperous and having status in society. Therefore, they were willing to go out of their marriage covenant to gain a child.

Sadly, the pursuit of prosperity often destroys many families. Paul said this,

People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. (1 Timothy 6:9–10)

How do we see families piercing themselves with many griefs as they pursue money?

The husband, and sometimes the wife as well, are never home to disciple and train their children because of work—their attempt to gain prosperity. This creates anger in their children because they really don’t know their parents and, at times, doubt if they really care. Parents send their children to the best K-12 schools, sometimes in other countries, and miss out on the role of discipling and loving their children. They give the role of parenting over to someone else. Again, this creates an unresolved anger in the hearts of children.

Scripture says: “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Eph 6:4). The word “Fathers” can also be translated “Parents.” It is the parents’ role to train their children in the instruction of the Lord. Sadly, many parents, by seeking the prosperity of the world, give up their God-given mandate to parent.

This again destroys the home. Instead of training the children, it creates a deep-seated anger in them that many never get over. Unfortunately, most children repeat the sins of the parents, and they raise up neglected children who are angry at them as well.

Abraham and Sarah, who notably were relatively young believers, still bore the remnants of the world culture on their lives, which brought drastic consequences on their marriage and their descendants.

Application Question: How do we protect our marriage and children from the influence of world culture?

Again, Paul said, “Do not be conformed any longer to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of our minds.” If we are going to protect our marriage and families, we must develop a different thinking. We must saturate ourselves with a biblical worldview through studying Scripture, and we must test what we already believe. We must ask ourselves, “What does the Bible say about marriage, parenting, work, retirement, etc.?” This is crucial if we are going to build homes that stand against the wind and waves of culture. The home built on God’s Word will stand; however, the home built on the sand of culture will not last (cf. Matt 7:26–27).

Application Question: In what ways have you seen or experienced how the unbiblical priorities of culture negatively affect families, even Christian families?

To Protect Our Family, We Must Be Careful of the Enemy’s Common Attack through Intimate Relationships

Now Sarai, Abram's wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian maidservant named Hagar; so she said to Abram, “The LORD has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my maidservant; perhaps I can build a family through her.” Abram agreed to what Sarai said. So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian maidservant Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. (Genesis 16:1–3)

The next thing we must notice is that Sarah is the one who asked Abraham to take another wife. Often, the enemy attacks our families from within or through other close relationships. In fact, in Genesis 12, it was Abraham who asked Sarah to lie about their marriage when they went down to Egypt. Often the enemy attacks from within the family. He did this with Adam and Eve. Scripture says that Eve was deceived but it never says that Adam was (cf. 1 Tim 2:14). He sinned with eyes wide open, as a result of his wife’s influence.

We can be sure that happened here with Abraham. If Mamre, Abraham’s neighbor, approached him about taking another wife, it probably would have fallen on deaf ears. The enemy wisely attacked through someone close and trusted. Satan even attacked Christ through his chief disciple, Peter (cf. Matt 16:22–23).

Commonly, this happens to us as well. The enemy attacks through a spouse, children, parents, cousins, or close friends. We are more prone to be influenced by people close to us, than those we don’t know, which is why Satan uses this tactic.

Application Question: How do we commonly see this attack on families?

Sadly, this often happens through the influence of parents on children. Many times parents teach their children primarily from a cultural standpoint, instead of a biblical one. I do not mean to say that all culture is bad; however, much of it conflicts with Scripture, as Satan is the ruler of this world, which includes culture. Many youth pastors and Sunday school teachers feel like they spend most of their time trying to retrain the children from their parents’ teaching.

The attack of the enemy through parents often continues in marriage. One of the top reasons for divorce is struggles with in-laws. In Genesis 2:24, when God brought Adam and Eve together, he said that a man should leave his father’s house and cleave to his wife. This means that the husband and the wife are called to make a separate family unit. Yes, they are still called to honor their mother and father, but first, they must honor God by prioritizing their spouse.

Unfortunately, many marriages are pulled in multiple directions by in-laws—causing great conflict in the home. The wife still wants to submit to her father and mother over her husband. And the husband is still trying to please mommy before his wife. Wise couples are aware of this reality.

However, Satan doesn’t just influence through family; he uses any number of close relationships. Again, these people are the most prone to influence us. Some marriages are torn up by the influence of friends. The wife has her girlfriends and the husband has his buddies, who many times are poor marriage counselors.

If we are going to protect our families, we must be aware of the enemy’s attacks through family and close relationships, and we must test everything through Scripture. This will protect our homes.

Application Question: In what ways have you seen or experienced homes being attacked through family or close friendships?

To Protect Our Family, We Must Be Careful of Spiritual Blindness from Unconfessed Sin

He slept with Hagar, and she conceived. When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress. Then Sarai said to Abram, “You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my servant in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the LORD judge between you and me.” (Genesis 16:4–5)

After Abraham took Hagar as his wife and she conceived, she began to despise Sarah. Sarah then accused Abraham for the wrong done to her. She says, “You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my servant in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the LORD judge between you and me.”’

Now, this doesn’t make sense. Sarah is the one who told Abraham to take Hagar as a wife, and, after he did it, she blames him for the wrong done to her. This is not uncommon in the home or our individual lives. As soon as sin came into the world, people started blaming one another. Adam indirectly blamed God for his sin. He said, “The woman YOU gave me, gave the fruit to me and I did eat.” He implicitly accused God for his failure and explicitly blamed Eve. Eve then blamed the serpent.

One of sin’s effects is the tendency to misevaluate our own sin. We tend to blame others and not see our own culpability, and that is exactly what happened with Sarah. No doubt, her own sin affected her ability to properly attribute blame. Was Abraham to blame? Certainly, he was the leader of the home. However, she persuaded him to take this course.

This also happens to us. Consider what Christ said about the ministry of correcting others in sin:

How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye. (Matthew 7:4–5)

Christ described a brother with unconfessed sin, as someone with a plank in his eye. The implication is that sin affects one’s ability to see clearly and thus correctly evaluate sin. Unconfessed sin makes our spiritual sight blurry. This is what probably happened with Sarah. Because of her own sin, she could no longer properly evaluate Abraham’s sin or her own. Abraham’s sin looked really big because of the plank in her eye.

We get another great picture of this in the story of David after his adultery with Bathsheba. Nathan approached David to challenge him. He tells an elaborate story about a rich man with many sheep and a poor man with one lamb that he loved dearly. The rich man had visitors and instead of preparing one of his own sheep for dinner, he took the poor man’s lamb. David was so mad he said, “This man shall surely die.” Nathan replied, “You are the man!” (2 Sam 12:1–5).

Do you see the spiritual blindness? David is willing to kill a man for taking a poor man’s lamb, when he took a man’s wife and killed her husband. He could no longer properly evaluate because of his own sin. He had a plank in his eye—affecting his moral thermometer.

This happens many times in marriages and in our relationships in general. We are angry; we feel disrespected (and maybe we have been). However, we cannot properly evaluate the sin of others, without first confessing and repenting of our own. Therefore, we misjudge—sometimes even making mountains out of mole hills.

Christ said if we are going to perform spiritual surgery. If we are going to help others or restore a relationship in conflict, we must first get rid of our own sin, so we can see clearly to help others.

Marriages and relationships in general struggle through many misunderstandings because of spiritual blindness resulting from sin.

Application Question: How do we get rid of spiritual blindness so we can better minister to others or resolve a conflict?

1. We must continually confess and repent of our sins before God.

This is the only way to take the plank out of our eye, so we can help others. First John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” To “confess” means “to say the same thing.” We must not soften our sin; we must see it as God does and turn away from it. When we do this, God cleanses us from not only confessed sin but also sin we are unaware of—he purifies us from “all unrighteousness.” This purification removes our spiritual blindness and gives us new clarity.

2. We must minister to others with humility because of our awareness of sin’s effects.

The reality is that we will never be fully free from sin until we get to heaven or Christ returns, whichever comes first. We are full of sin—prone to wrong thoughts and actions. This always affects our ability to properly evaluate others and ourselves. Therefore, our spiritual perception is never crystal clear. I think this should cause us to be humble when responding to someone’s accusations or when trying to help others. It is very possible that like Sarah, we have misevaluated the failure of others and our own.

Application Question: In what ways have you seen or experienced spiritual blindness from sin which affected one’s ability to morally evaluate?

To Protect Our Family, We Must Be Careful of Male Passivity

“Your servant is in your hands,” Abram said. “Do with her whatever you think best.” Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her. (Genesis 16:6)

Sadly, the person most responsible for this debacle is Abraham. God called him to be the leader of his home—to shepherd and love Sarah. When she approaches him with this sinful idea, he never says, “No” or “Let’s pray and seek God.” He just passively goes along with her plan. In fact, in Genesis 16:2b, when it says “Abram listened to the voice of Sarai,” it is very reminiscent of what God said about Adam in Genesis 3:17:

Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat of it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life.

Not only is Abraham passive when his wife tells him to marry Hagar, but he is also passive when she complains about the decision’s consequences. He simply says, “Your servant is in your hands… Do with her whatever you think best.” He essentially says, “It’s your problem. Deal with it!” Sarah abuses Hagar—leading her to run away. Abraham doesn’t repent. He doesn’t protect Hagar and his unborn baby. Throughout the narrative, he is passive.

Sadly, male passivity has plagued the family since the beginning of time. Commonly, the wife is more spiritual than the husband. She is the spiritual engine of the family—promoting church attendance, Scripture reading, and prayer. However, God called the husband to be like Christ in the family, to wash his wife and children with the Word of God. Yet, many husbands refuse to stand up and lead, not only spiritually, but with everything.

God called the husband to lead the home, and when he doesn’t lead, everything begins to fall apart.

Application Question: How should a wife respond to a passive husband?

The wife should not nag the husband. Nagging will only make the passive husband more passive and even resentful. She must pray for him, gently encourage him, and respectfully, submit to him, even when he doesn’t merit it. Ultimately, she must be patient, because God changes hearts, not man (cf. 2 Tim 2:24–26). Consider what Peter said to wives with non-believing husbands:

Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. (1 Peter 3:1–2)

The wife’s greatest strategy to change her husband is her submissive, pure, and reverent behavior in the home. This can change the most hardened heart.

Application Question: How should the husband respond to a wife that will not follow?

The husband must actively seek to lead the home, especially spiritually. He must pray for his wife and serve her. Though Christ was the disciples’ leader, he still did the ministry of a servant. He humbled himself by washing their feet (John 13). The husband, though the leader, must do the same. He must be meek and gentle like our Savior (Matt 11:28–30). He must pray for his wife, serve her, lead her, and when needed, forgive her.

If the wife will not follow, he must continue to be gentle and patient. The husband, like the wife, must remember that God changes the heart. He should humbly love and serve her regardless of how she responds. He must entrust his wife to God, as he faithfully obeys God.

Application Question: What about singles? How should they apply this reality?

Single women should not compromise in their dating/courting relationships. It is wise to understand that the pickings will often be slim, but even in that situation, they should not compromise. They should patiently wait for God to bring a man that is willing and prepared to be a spiritual leader. And in their waiting, they must prepare to be a godly wife by humbly serving God, the church, and others.

Single men must prepare themselves to be spiritual leaders. They do this by growing in the knowledge of the Lord and Scripture. By knowing Christ, a man begins to know what true leadership looks like, which will prepare him to lead a family. And also by knowing Scripture, he prepares to wash his family with it and to make decisions guided by it throughout life.

One of the ways we protect the family is by being careful of male passivity. It seems that at the fall Adam was right next to his wife when Satan tempted her. He didn’t step on the serpent’s head like he was supposed to, he just listens, and then submits to his wife. Christ, the model husband, is the seed that steps on the serpent’s head (cf. Gen 3:15), and husbands must do the same, as they imitate Christ.

Application Question: In what ways have you seen or experienced male passivity in the home? How should we protect our families from that?

To Protect Our Family, We Must Be Careful of Negative Responses to Trials

The angel of the LORD found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur. (Genesis 16:7)

After Hagar is mistreated, she runs to a spring beside the road to Shur (v. 7). Shur was near the border of Egypt (cf. Gen 25:18; 1 Sam 15:7).2 Hagar was running back home. That is the tendency for most when they encounter family problems. Most have a negative response instead of a positive one.

Application Question: What are some negative responses to trials in our family?

  1. Some shut down. They bottle up their emotions and never express them.
  2. Some lash out. They become harsh and vindictive; therefore, hurting and pushing others away.
  3. Some become critical. They complain all the time. Solomon said a nagging wife is like a slow drip (Prov 27:15).
  4. Some simply quit and runaway. Sadly, this is one of the more common responses in families. Divorce and separation have become acceptable responses to family conflict, and many children no longer talk to their parents. This is actually our normal response to trials. We just quit or try to remove the trial.

Application Question: What are some positive responses to trials that we should practice in our family?

1. We must persevere through difficulty.

James 1:4 says this about our response to trials: “Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (NIV 2011). Scripture says that we should let trials do their perfect work in our lives. God wants to make us stronger through trials, and I believe this is true not only individually but also corporately. Families that go through pain, hardship, and discord without giving up, often become very strong families. Many times, God uses these families to help in the mentoring and healing of others.

2. We must overcome evil with good.

Roman 12:21 says, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Instead of responding negatively, we must bless those we are in conflict with: pray for them, serve them, and forgive them.

When going through family problems, we must avoid negative responses by persevering and overcoming evil with good. As we consider the rest of the narrative, we will see other positive responses we must practice.

Application Question: What is your common response to trials and conflict, especially with family?

To Protect Our Family, We Must Confess Our Problems to the Lord

And he said, “Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?” “I'm running away from my mistress Sarai,” she answered. (Genesis 16:8)

While Hagar is at the spring, the Angel of the Lord shows up and begins to speak to her. It is clear that this angel was God, since Hagar addresses him as such. Many scholars believe the Angel of the Lord was a pre-incarnate appearance of Christ. We cannot be sure of this. This conclusion is a form of biblical reasoning. Christ is the image of the invisible God (Col 1:15), and it is logical that Christ would be involved with earth’s affairs before the incarnation, just as the Holy Spirit and God the Father. Therefore, it is a logical conclusion that the Angel of the Lord was a pre-incarnate appearance of Christ.

The Angel of the Lord showed up and asked Hagar a few questions. He says in verse 8, “Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?”

When God asked these questions, clearly, since he is omniscient, he already knew the answers. He asks so that Hagar would confess the situation to him. God did the same with Adam in Genesis 3:11. He said, “Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”’ God already knew the answer. He just wanted Adam to confess, even as he wanted Hagar to confess. God did the same thing with Cain, when he asked where his brother, Abel, was.

This is one of the ways that we protect our families. We must be open and transparent with God. We must continually confess our problems to him. No doubt, God approaches us regularly and says, “Where have you come from and where are you going?” “What have you done?” He does this so we can confess and receive his forgiveness.

First Peter 5:7 says, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” First John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

God cares, and he wants to forgive and help us. Let us confess our anxieties, wrong heart motives, and unforgiveness to him. Let us freely share our family issues. When we do this, we invite the Divine into our lives and our families’ lives.

Sadly, many people are not transparent with God and, consequently, aren’t transparent with others. Those who aren’t open with God typically aren’t open with others. Our vertical relationship always reflects our horizontal relationships, and vice versa. First John 4:20 says, “How can a person love God who he has not seen, if he does not love his brother who he has seen.” If a man doesn’t love his brother, how can he love God? Our horizontal always reflects our vertical. You can be sure that families that hide their problems and never confess or ask for prayer from others, will not faithfully do so with God.

Are you confessing your problems and that of your family to the Lord? This is one of the ways we protect our family.

Application Question: What are major hindrances to confessing and bringing our problems to God and others?

To Protect Our Family, We Must Submit to the Lord, Understanding that It Leads to Blessing

Then the angel of the LORD told her, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her.” The angel added, “I will so increase your descendants that they will be too numerous to count.” The angel of the LORD also said to her: “You are now with child and you will have a son. You shall name him Ishmael, for the LORD has heard of your misery. He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone's hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers.” (Genesis 16:9–12)

After Hagar told God that she ran away from Sarah, the Lord commands her to go back and submit to her mistress. Often people don’t confess their problems, sins, or discord to God because they don’t want to submit to God’s guidance.

Yes, Hagar had been abused and the home was unhealthy, but God still calls her to go back and submit. God then tells her that she will have descendants too numerous to count, and that she will have a son, named Ishmael, who would be a wild donkey of a man. This metaphor pictures his free spirit and his rebellion, as his hand would be against everyone.

This is true for us as well. One of the ways we protect our family and also receive God’s blessing is by submitting to his will for our lives. We learn what his will is through the study of Scripture, prayer, the counsel of the saints, and God’s providence over events. And when we know, we must submit to it.

Application Question: In what ways does God often call us to submit to him in the midst of a family conflict or difficulty?

1. Submitting to God’s will could mean forgiving a family member who hurt us.

Many miss God’s best because of unforgiveness. They don’t want to forgive, which hinders God’s blessings including spiritual growth and healing in their family. In order for Hagar to go home and receive God’s best, she had to forgive.

2. Submitting to God’s will could mean submitting to family members, even when they are wrong or unjust.

Even though God established the husband as the family’s authority, we all are to submit to one another in love. Right before calling wives to submit to their husbands, Paul says, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Eph 5:21). Even an authority can humbly submit to someone under them. I think that’s what Christ did when he washed his disciples’ feet. He was serving them.

Many times God will call you submit to another to resolve family conflict or problems. We must humble ourselves before one another in obedience to God.

3. Submitting to God’s will could mean faithfully enduring a difficult situation or relationship.

Hagar doesn’t have any assurance that things will get better with Sarah, even though God promised to bless her descendants. However, she was still called to go back and submit. Many times that is God’s will for us. He calls us to persevere while understanding perseverance leads to his blessing. Consider the following Scriptures:

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:9)

Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:4)

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. (1 Peter 5:6)

Submitting to God will ultimately lead to blessing, if we do not give up.

Application Question: In what ways has God called you to submit to his will in a family discord or a difficulty? How have you seen submission with perseverance lead to blessing?

To Protect Our Family, We Must Remember that God Sees and Cares

She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.” That is why the well was called Beer Lahai Roi; it is still there, between Kadesh and Bered. So Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram gave the name Ishmael to the son she had borne. Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore him Ishmael. (Genesis 16:13–16)

After God speaks to Hagar and calls her to return, Hagar gave God a name. She said, “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me” (v. 13). She then names a well, Beer Lahai Roi, after him.

The reason she names the well is so that she will always remember her encounter with the Angel of the Lord. When she calls him, “the God who sees me,” she is reflecting on more than God’s omniscience. God sees and knows everybody. She is reflecting on God’s care for her.

And this is something we must do as well. While in family conflict and difficulties, we must remember that God sees and cares; he has good plans for his children. If we don’t realize this, we will be prone to get angry at God or others and quit. Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

Our God cares so much that he works all things for our good, including family conflict. We never leave his protecting eyes. We must remember this, even as Hagar sought to remember it. God knows the number of hairs on our head (Luke 12:7), and he puts our tears in a bottle (Ps 56:8, ESV). He sees us and is involved, even when we are unaware. We must take comfort in this.

Application Question: In what ways does the love and omniscience of God comfort and encourage you? How can we practice remembering his faithfulness in the midst of difficulties?

Conclusion

How do we protect our family from spiritual attack and the severe consequences of sin?

  1. To Protect Our Family, We Must Be Careful of the Influence of Culture
  2. To Protect Our Family, We Must Be Careful of the Enemy’s Common Attack through Intimate Relationships
  3. To Protect Our Family, We Must Be Careful of Spiritual Blindness from Unconfessed Sin
  4. To Protect Our Family, We Must Be Careful of Male Passivity
  5. To Protect Our Family, We Must Be Careful of Negative Responses to Trials
  6. To Protect Our Family, We Must Confess Our Problems to the Lord
  7. To Protect Our Family, We Must Submit to the Lord, Understanding that It Leads to Blessing
  8. To Protect Our Family, We Must Remember that God Sees and Cares

Copyright © 2017 Gregory Brown

The primary Scriptures used are New International Version (1984) unless otherwise noted. Other versions include English Standard Version, New Living Translation, New American Standard Bible, and King James Version.

Holy Bible, New International Version ®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®) Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, Copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NASB) are taken from the New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, and 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Scripture quotations marked (KJV) are from the King James Version of the Bible.

All emphases in Scripture quotations have been added.


1 Swindoll, Charles R. (2014-07-16). Abraham: One Nomad's Amazing Journey of Faith (Kindle Locations 1113–1116). Tyndale

House Publishers, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

2 Hughes, R. K. (2004). Genesis: Beginning and Blessing (p. 241). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

Related Topics: Relationships

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