Chapter Eight

Nearer to God

Sarai had never had a baby, never become pregnant. She was 75 when she said to her husband, “The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my maidservant; perhaps I can build a family through her.” (Gen 16:1, 2) Abram agreed to her suggestion.

Genesis 16:1-3
1. Now Sarai Abram’s wife bare him no children: and she had an handmaid, an Egyptian, whose name was Hagar. 2. And Sarai said unto Abram, Behold now, the LORD hath restrained me from bearing: I pray thee, go in unto my maid; it may be that I may obtain children by her. And Abram hearkened to the voice of Sarai. 3. And Sarai Abram’s wife took Hagar her maid the Egyptian, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan, and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife.

It is not required of intercessors that they fall far short of the Lord’s perfect will and plan for their lives, but it helps. People who have fallen steeply, sinning greatly against God despite the merciful restorations experienced from previous falls, will likely become more compassionate toward the backslidden and rebellious ones who need their prayers.

That is probably the only positive comment to be made with regard to Sarai and Abram’s treatment of Hagar, the Egyptian. Yet, we may look into the story more deeply for other insights on becoming an intercessor.

The one who would be the Lord’s close companion must learn to discern the voice of Satan. Undoubtedly he put the idea about Hagar into Sarai’s mind. Like Eve, she succumbed to the temptation and then influenced her husband to stop waiting on the Lord. Like Adam, Abraham was more guilty than she as he was the assigned leader, the head of the home.

Neither of them had any confidence in God’s kind intention toward their union. They did not view their marriage as having any eternal import nor even much temporal significance. The long years of barrenness seemed to have negated its value and purpose. The promises were forgotten.

Nevertheless, the Lord can turn dry ground into streams of living water. Yes, just as he rejoices over the one lost sheep who is found, he also glories in bringing his precious servants into periods of intense distress that he might show them his power to deliver and to triumph against all odds. Thus is their faith made sure, that they might walk with him.

Abram failed many tests of faith: first by giving Sarai over to Pharaoh, then by becoming as a Pharaoh to Hagar, and again by giving Sarai to another king, Abimilech. (Gen 20) Time and again he shrank back, until at last on Mt. Moriah he was tried and found to be faithful. (Gen 22) We, too, must continue to press into the Lord for grace and help until we come forth as gold, tested and shining.

4. And he went in unto Hagar, and she conceived: and when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised in her eyes. 5. And Sarai said unto Abram, My wrong be upon thee: I have given my maid into thy bosom; and when she saw that she had conceived, I was despised in her eyes: the LORD judge between me and thee. 6. But Abram said unto Sarai, Behold, thy maid is in thine hand; do to her as it pleaseth thee. And when Sarai dealt hardly with her, she fled from her face.

When Hagar knew she was pregnant she began to despise Sarai. Her expression of this hatred caused Sarai to complain to Abram who put the problem back into her hands: “Do with her whatever you think best.” Sarai then mistreated Hagar so badly that she ran away. But the Lord will not allow us to so easily discard our sin. No, Sarai and Abram would be required to live with Hagar and the child as one family, at least for a term. And it was not a bad thing for Hagar. She needed help.

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The LORD entreated her to return:

7. And the angel of the LORD found her by a fountain of water in the wilderness, by the fountain in the way to Shur. 8. And he said, Hagar, Sarai’s maid, whence camest thou? and whither wilt thou go? And she said, I flee from the face of my mistress Sarai. 9. And the angel of the LORD said unto her, Return to thy mistress, and submit thyself under her hands. 10. And the angel of the LORD said unto her, I will multiply thy seed exceedingly, that it shall not be numbered for multitude. 11. And the angel of the LORD said unto her, Behold, thou art with child and shalt bear a son, and shalt call his name Ishmael; because the LORD hath heard thy affliction. 12. And he will be a wild man; his hand will be against every man, and every man’s hand against him; and he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren. 13. And she called the name of the LORD that spake unto her, Thou God seest me: for she said, Have I also here looked after him that seeth me? 14. Wherefore the well was called Beerlahairoi; behold, it is between Kadesh and Bered. 15. And Hagar bare Abram a son: and Abram called his son’s name, which Hagar bare, Ishmael. 16. And Abram was fourscore and six years old, when Hagar bare Ishmael to Abram.

The angel instructed Hagar to return to Sarai and to submit to her. God did not intend to destroy Sarai’s morale by this turn of events, but to teach her how to be an overcomer despite her sin, even in the face of her sin. She was to learn grace— as well as the consequences of faithlessness.

Neither did he intend to harm Hagar’s spirit. The angel who was an epiphany of the Lord promised Hagar, “I will so increase your descendants that they will be too numerous to count” (vs 10) and prophesied to her.

Prophecy accomplishes many marvelous purposes. That is why Paul in I Corinthians 14 encourages true believers to earnestly desire to prophesy. Great is the ministry of prophetic words. In them we see God as the Alpha and Omega who knows the end from the beginning. In Hagar’s life they settled her heart and gave her all she needed to live and to obey God.

Her response to the Prophet was, “You are the God who sees me… I have now seen the One who sees me.” (vs 13) Was this special word to her not a greater treasure than a life among her own people in Egypt? In this revelation was the comfort and assurance desired by all peoples, and the startling realization that there is a God who knows us personally: an omniscient King of the universe who stoops to our need and loves us.

Not all would be well; Ishmael would be a wild donkey of a man. His hand would be against every man, and every man’s hand against him. Nevertheless, all things work together for good for those who love God, and Hagar did. She obeyed and returned home, and bore the son whom Abram named Ishmael, in obedience to the prophetic words of God. Ishmael means “God hears.”

And so the family continued on together, and Sarai and Abram were built up in character for the sins committed, because the Lord caused them to confront the results. He would not allow them to hide from them. Hagar was better off because she obeyed God. She could not have walked all the way back to Egypt. And, from our perspective, if God had not watched over her and entreated her to return to her mistress, what might we today conclude about the Lord’s view of unwanted pregnancy and babies of ungodly origin?

Nevertheless, from the turn of events brought about by Sarai’s and Abram’s sinful error in judgment, a long time of divisiveness was born between the descendants of Ishmael and those of Isaac, the Jews. Even though in both lines there are many relatives and blood lines now included that do not directly descend from either man, generally speaking we still have the Arabs and Jews and the conflict between them. Think twice before you give up on any of God’s promises!


Many Bible scholars say that the first mention of a word in the Bible is significant because its context illuminates successive occurrences. The first mention of the word “angel” is in Genesis 16, “And the angel of the LORD found her by a fountain of water in the wilderness…” (Gen 16:7) The Hebrew root word for angel, “malak,” most commonly means “messenger,” and is also used for the spies or “messengers” hid by Rahab (Joshua 6:25) and for the men sent by David to fetch Bathsheba (II Samuel 11:4) (among many other uses), so being an angel is not synonymous with being–– an angel, as we would think of one. The same word describes evil spirits, so it is not the word “angel” but the phrase “angel of the LORD” that has a significance to ponder here.

This angel of the LORD must have been an appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ for he spoke for God, prophesying in the first person. Significantly, Hagar—a mere handmaid and an Egyptian— was the first woman to behold this wonderful being. His description as an angel tells us that he appeared as a man to her, for angels are beheld as men with superior powers by those who encounter them in the Bible.

The LORD’s one appearance to Abram in Genesis 12 was to confirm that he had arrived in the Promised Land: “And the LORD appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land: and there builded he an altar unto the LORD, who appeared unto him.” (Gen 12:7) Did the LORD then appear as an angel? We do not know, however, we may garner that only Abram at this time in the world could have discerned a visitation of the LORD.

Hagar marveled, “Have I also here looked after him that seeth me?” (Gen 16:13) To her, God promised, “I will multiply thy seed exceedingly, that it shall not be numbered for multitude.” (Gen 16:10) Though it is far more common in the Bible to associate the word “seed” with the descendants of men, here, a woman is in view, and she is promised the same honor as Abraham would enjoy: the multiplication of her progeny.

Finally, Hagar was the first in the Bible to hear the voice of the “angel of God” (Gen 21:17) when she was cast out by Sarah and was in the wilderness of Beersheba, after Ishmael grew up and mocked Isaac.

“Angel of the LORD” and “angel of God” are interchangeable phrases in Scripture. However, the word “LORD” is the “I am that I am,” covenant-keeping God. “For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed” (Mal. 3:6); whereas the word “God” is a plural noun and is the first name for God found in the Bible.

It is well to mark that the Lord, our covenant God, our heavenly Father, our Redeemer and Savior, stooped to the need of Hagar, a lowly handmaid, on two occasions in her life when she was suffering terribly. He prophesied to her and regarded her seed as precious. He provided for her needs. Let us take confidence in his gracious intentions toward us.

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"Won Over without Words"

Life is lived a day at a time, moment by moment, and there are continual opportunities to return evil for evil, or instead to bless those who curse us. We choose each hour whether we will be the rivals of our rivals or an example of Christ to them. The Christian knows he cannot meet life’s challenges by virtue of his own strength and goodness. We will not choose to be an example of Christ to those who provoke us without the empowerment of the helper, the Holy Spirit.

This was how it was with Mandy. As she daily opened her heart to God, praying and reading his Word, she was enabled by his Spirit to love Jack despite his disagreeable ways, and when she fell, she was restored. She was a true woman of God.

Guidance, love, assistance and renewal as needed are promised to the one who will follow Jesus, but what will become of the one who walks the other way?

Pressures were building on Jack from many directions. The real estate market was volatile, and his boss had hired too many salesmen and women for anyone to get enough bites, much less contracts, and they were all acting like sharks. An office with too many salespeople is a place of tension and attacks.

Jack always saddled himself with a weight of payments on investment properties and vehicles which forced him to make sales, but the sales did not always come through, leaving him to juggle commitments and make uncomfortable choices.

He had begun to be friends with some men who moved in the fast lane—literally. One was a well-known race car driver. Jack had been a stock car racer himself. He liked sports that raised his adrenaline level, and he enjoyed flying with his friends to various tracks and being associated with the winning team.

Once, the men took their wives on a week-long skiing trip paid for by one of the racing sponsors. There were good memories from these friendships, but running with "high rollers" takes money, and with so many other commitments, that presented another stress.

All these pressures exacted a toll from Mandy and the girls. His customers and friends received his best attentions. And of course, once a person has established a pattern of being a tyrant, turning over a new leaf requires repentance and apologies, and Jack was not ready to make any confessions. Like most people, his pride came before other considerations.

Mandy was in a dilemma. Should she stay married to this hard-hearted, hot-headed husband, or call it quits and make a peaceful home for her children? She did not want her children to be marred by the emotional trauma that was commonplace in their experience. And to be a marriage partner when you feel unloved and unimportant is next to impossible.

As with most dilemmas faced by Christians, God did not take her out of the circumstances, but instead gave her grace to stay in them. Some of this grace came by way of his Word, helping to steer her in the right direction. She felt certain I Corinthians 7:13 was not possible to overlook: “And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife…Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.” The girls had a lot of upsets, yet they belonged to the Lord, and divorce might bring about a far worse effect than the emotional battering.

There was one more hopeful idea in the passage, “How do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband?” (ibid., vs 16) We liked to quote that verse and believed it could come true. The Word also makes clear how that might come about: “Wives, in the same manner 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.” (I Peter 3:1, 2) This makes clear that introducing an unbelieving husband to God will come about by example, not through verbal presentation or constant invitations to church.

The Bible gives specific instructions on handling our lives, and God himself will impart a special word to sustain and guide us through deep waters. His special word to Mandy was that she should love Jack with “agape” or divine love. This kind of love is devoid of expectation for self, and it has a healing effect on recipient and giver alike.

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“I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go."

- Abraham Lincoln (16th President of the United States)

Comment on the Westminster Confession

Repentance: A gift, a work of God, a response of the heart.

Westminster Confession Chapter 15
Of Repentance unto Life
1. Repentance unto life is an evangelical grace, the doctrine whereof is to be preached by every minister of the Gospel, as well as that of faith in Christ.
2. By it, a sinner, out of the sight and sense not only of the danger, but also of the filthiness and odiousness of his sins, as contrary to the holy nature, and righteous law of God; and upon the apprehension of His mercy in Christ to such as are penitent, so grieves for, and hates his sins, as to turn from them all unto God, purposing and endeavouring to walk with Him in all the ways of His commandments.
3. Although repentance is not to be rested in, as any satisfaction for sin, or any cause of the pardon thereof, which is the act of God’s free grace in Christ, yet it is of such necessity to all sinners, that none may expect pardon without it.
4. As there is no sin so small, but it deserves damnation; so there is no sin so great, that it can bring damnation upon those who truly repent.
5. Men ought not to content themselves with a general repentance, but it is every man’s duty to endeavor to repent of his particular sins, particularly.
6. As every man is bound to make private confession of his sins to God, praying for the pardon thereof; upon which, and the forsaking of them, he shall find mercy; so he that scandelizeth his brother, or the Church of Christ, ought to be willing, by a private or public confession and sorrow for his sin, to declare his repentance to those that are offended; who are thereupon to be reconciled to him, and in love to receive him.

For further study and contemplation, go here.

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Sarah offers Hagar to Abraham
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Sarah offers Hagar to Abraham

KEY VERSE: Genesis 19:29 "So when God destroyed the cities of the plain, he remembered Abraham, and he brought Lot out of the catastrophe that overthrew the cities where Lot had lived."

Introduction

About

Chapter One

What About Lot?
Further Study

Chapter Two

A Type of Christian
Further Study

Chapter Three

Westward Ho!
Further Study

Chapter Four

Time for Worship
Further Study

Chapter Five

Severing Ties
Further Study

Chapter Six

The Rescue
Further Study

Chapter Seven

The Promise Sealed
Further Study

Chapter Eight

Nearer to God
Further Study

Chapter Nine

The Covenant
Further Study

Chapter Ten

To Whom Much Is Given
Further Study

Chapter Eleven

God Remembered Abraham
Further Study

Chapter Twelve

A Good Ending
Further Study

Afterword

He Draws the Unwilling