Ishmael: Sins Unintended Consequences. Genesis 16
The basic doctrinal lesson in Genesis chapter 16 has to do with waiting. What happens as we go from one test to another is that we are being trained in the arena of discernment. As we go through these various tests sometimes we pass and sometimes we fail but we gradually grow and are trained in the category of discernment. This means that we are able to more accurately understand and interpret the situation around us so that we can see what the issues are from the divine viewpoint perspective and apply scripture. It takes time and it only happens if we make the study of doctrine a priority in our life.
At age 86 Abraham comes to another test and it is related to the promise of the seed. Having gone through the magnificent covenant ceremony in chapter fifteen Abraham and Sarah immediately succumb to human viewpoint and the temptation that we all fall prey to more often than we would want to admit, and that is impatience. We get an opportunity to bring about what we think God wants and rather than taking the time to wait on the Lord we immediately jump into some sort of expedient solution that we think will resolve the problem and help God out in fulfilling His promise. The results are always negative, they are not what we expect, and they compound the problem.
I am God. Today I will be handling all of your problems.
Please remember that I do not need your help
If the devil happens to deliver a situation to you that you cannot handle, do not attempt to resolve it.
Kindly put it in the SFJTD file (Something For Jesus To Do).
It will be addressed in My time, not yours.
Once the matter is placed into the box, do not hold on to it or attempt to remove it.
Holding on or removing will delay the resolution of your problem.
If it is a situation you think you are capable of handling,
Please consult Me in prayer to be sure that it is the proper resolution.
Because I do not sleep, nor do I slumber, there is no need for you to lose any sleep.
Rest, my child.
If you need to contact Me I am only a prayer away.
It is clear that the issue here doctrinally is the importance of waiting on the Lord because when we try to solve our problems our own way on the basis of the human solution, what we do is compound the problem. So the issue here is waiting on the Lord, learning how to utilize the faith-rest drill. One thing that indicates that is that at end of this particular chapter we learn that Abraham was 86 years old. Chapter 17 is thirteen years later. The Lord was just sort of reinforcing to Abraham that he needs to wait on Him and was silent for thirteen years to make sure he understood the point.
Verse 1 of chapter 16 forms the background for the passage: "Now Sarai Abram's wife bare him no children: and she had an handmaid, an Egyptian, whose name was Hagar." What we see in the chapter is that human solutions always look good on the surface. They are in many cases culturally acceptable. We can find many ways to rationalize hurrying along God's plan or helping Him. But what we learn here is that man cannot assist God without destroying the basic principle of grace. That is the whole idea in salvation: God's saving grace is sufficient. It is without works and we don't do anything, Jesus Christ did everything. Faith means exclusive, absolute reliance upon God and His Word. The essence of legalism and religion is that man tries to help God and this is the case with Sarah.
Sarah's solution begins in verse 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." She has an active perception of the problem. Now here is an important thing to remember. Whether we are talking about theology, church life, or politics, all kinds of people can accurately analyze what the problem is. But just because a person can see what the problem is doesn't mean that he even has a clue what the solution is. Always be careful of the solution. It is not identifying the problem that is most important, it is identifying the solution. Sarah's proposal was an idea that was fully acceptable in that culture but in this case it was a violation of God's promise. It is trying to figure out some way to help out God in solving the problem and producing the seed. It is trying to circumvent waiting on the Lord. So as believers we always have to be careful that we are not helping God out when trying to resolve a problem.
This was a situation that was employed by Jacob. Leah and Rachel had two handmaids, but at no time did the slave girls ever have the same rights and privileges as the wife. In the case of Abraham and Sarah they let their culture determine what the absolutes were, rather than the Word of God.
Principle: Under the pressure of adversity we often rationalize an expedient way to help God. But waiting on the Lord is foundational to the operation of the third spiritual skill which is the faith-rest drill. We have to understand the importance of waiting on the Lord and waiting on the Lord's timing. We always have trouble with that timing test.
Promises: Isaiah 30:18, "And therefore will the LORD wait, that he may be gracious unto you, and therefore will he be exalted, that he may have mercy upon you: for the LORD is a God of judgment: blessed are all they that wait for him." If we look at the context of Isaiah 30, Isaiah is just scolding the Jews for their failure to wait on the Lord and for going into apostasy and idolatry. So rather than being able to bless them right now the Lord has to wait to bless them, because right now they are in apostasy and out of fellowship. The Hebrew word for wait here is a word which means to wait for the right timing, to be patient, and it means simply to wait for something. The point was that is sarcasm Isaiah was saying to the Jews, "Now because you haven't waited on the Lord, the Lord is going to wait and postpone His blessing for you and the time of His being gracious to you, until He is exalted." The Lord is a God of judgment, and what was going to happen was the Lord was going to have to kick them in the seat of the pants and discipline them as a nation because they had forgotten the principle which is the last line: "blessed are all they that wait for him." That is the principle that they forgot and they had been trying to solve the problems of their nation on their own rather than waiting on the Lord. The principle we learn from this verse is that failure to wait on the Lord results in God's giving us a little discipline before He can finally bless us once we learn to wait on Him.
Isaiah 40:31, "But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint." The Hebrew word translated "wait" in that verse is the verb qavah. It means to be hopeful, to have a confident expectation, or to look forward with eager anticipation to something. It is equivalent to the concept of ELPIS [e)lpij] in the Greek, which is confident expectation. It looks forward to the fulfillment of a promise. The contrast there is, of course, to those who are weak and unable to help themselves. Those who wait on the Lord are strengthened. The concluding thought is that in contrast to those who try to solve a problem on their own the ones with real strength are those who wait upon the Lord.
This verb qavah is used a number of times in the Psalms in similar passages. Palm 37:34, "Wait on the LORD, and keep his way, and he shall exalt you to inherit the land: when the wicked are cut off, you shall see it." Psalm 62:5, "My soul, wait only upon God; for my expectation is from him." God often kicks all the crutches out from under us before He demonstrates that He is sufficient. The word translated "wait" in this verse is damam, which means to be silent or still. One word for "wait" indicates that confident expectation with the focus on future fulfillment, whereas the word for "wait" here indicates being silent, still, not doing anything. The word often occurs in the context of extreme adversity, catastrophe or death, times when we most easily panic and succumb to emotion. Just settle down, claim some preomises, let those promises stabilize your emotion, and wait until you are relaxed in the Lord and then move forward.
Jeremiah 14:22, "Are there any among the vanities of the Gentiles that can cause rain? or can the heavens give showers? art not thou he, O LORD our God? therefore we will wait upon thee: for thou hast made all these things." Jeremiah is just not concerned about the sensibilities of the unbeliever. Yet people today often get that way, and that just shows that despite their defensiveness to the contrary we all get affected by this politically correct nonsense that just inhabits the air we breathe. We have to make sure that the truth is what offends people but we shouldn't be concerned when the truth does offend people. None of the other systems—sociology, psychology, self-help techniques, positive mental attitude—can do anything for anybody. For the believer we have the conclusion: "…therefore we will wait upon thee: for thou hast made all these things." We always have to go back to the character of God, that He is the creator and He has made everything. Again, the word here is qavah, hopeful expectation. And when is Jeremiah writing? In the context of the invasion of Nebuchanezzar. It is anticipated that the Babylonians are going to come and destroy the southern kingdom of Judah and they are going to go out under the fifth cycle of discipline. So in the midst of all of this horror that is about to come he says, We are just going to relax and wait on the Lord.
Psalm 25:5, "Lead me in thy truth [Doctrine], and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day." The same principle: wait on the Lord continually.
Psalm 25:21, 22, "Let integrity and uprightness preserve me; for I wait on thee. Redeem Israel, O God, out of all his troubles." The reason we can wait on God is because God has integrity. He backs up His promises and He is reliable.
Psalm 27:14, "Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart: wait, I say, on the LORD."
Psalm 33:20, "Our soul waits for the LORD: he is our help and our shield." That is what results from the faith-rest drill. God is the strength of our soul and He is the one who surrounds us and protects us.
But there are times when we are trusting God and are following Him, and we are doing everything right, and it seems like everything goes wrong and the unbeliever and the carnal believer seems to just rack up all of the success, appear to have all of the material prosperity, and that God is somehow blessing them. This is one of those psalms that is refreshingly honest about how most of us feel some of the time: Psalm 37:7, "Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for him: fret not yourself because of him who prospers in his way, because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass." The context is adversity, and here the believer is going through adversity but the unbeliever or the carnal believer seems to be blessed and in prosperity. Notice: Don't be anxious, don't be concerned, don't get up tight over the fact that there are some unbelievers or carnal believers who appear to be prosperous. The man who brings wicked schemes to pass is the person whose modus operandi is doing (in some cases) a right thing in a wrong way. The 37th Psalm is a great psalm to work through sometime; it is a wisdom psalm. In the Hebrew it is an acrostic, which means it follows a pattern of the alphabet so that the first word in each stanza begins with the successive letters of the alphabet. That was used as a means of memorizing Scripture in the Old Testament. Psalm 37 is teaching that we are to rest in the Lord and not to be distracted by the unbeliever or the carnal believer who seems to be successful with his plans. The word translated "rest" is the word we saw in Psalm 62:5, damam, meaning to be silent or still in the presence of adversity, and then to "wait patiently" [qavah] with hopeful expectations—both concepts are combined in this one promise. Verse 8, "Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not thyself in any wise to do evil." Don't let his success cause you to get out of fellowship, to get angry and frustrated, and all the other mental attitude sins that go with it, it only leads to evil doing. Verse 9, "For evildoers shall be cut off [there will be justice eventually]: but those that wait upon the LORD, they shall inherit the earth." This is the background for Jesus' teaching in the sermon on the mount that the meek shall inherit the earth. This is where it comes from. It is just simple humility. Those who are humble and patent and waiting upon the Lord shall inherit the earth. This happens when the Messiah is given the nations for His inheritance, when He takes the kingdom, as we se in Psalm 2:8. Verse 34, "Wait on the LORD, and keep his way, and he shall exalt you to inherit the land: when the wicked are cut off, you shall see it." We can just relax now and leave things at the Supreme Court of heaven and the Lord will straighten everything out eventually.
So we are warned in passages like this, and others, not to be like the Exodus generation [Psalm 106:13] which quickly forgot His works, and they did not wait for His counsel. We have to make the Word of God a priority. This is the function and operation of the faith-rest drill.
Just for review, how does the faith-rest drill work? The first step is to remember the Word—some promise, some portion of a promise, some phrase, some principle, or some policy set forth in the Word of God. Then you grab hold of that with your mind, you concentrate on that, think about it, and for the second step you mix it with faith. This is the idea of claiming a promise. That means to hold God to His Word, to remind Him of His promise, to rehearse what He has said to us and hold Him to it. So to do so we have to make sure that we properly understood the promise. The next step is to rest in the conclusion.
So this is the issue that Abraham fails. He is not waiting on the Lord. He is not waiting on the Lord to do exactly what He said, he is going to come up with some alternative solution, and so he acquiesces to Sarah's solution. So in verse two we read: "And Abram heeded the voice of Sarai."
Genesis 16:3, "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." That phrase doesn't mean that Hagar became the same kind of wife that Sarai was, she is consistently referred to as the handmaid. This is merely a euphemism for sexual intimacy. They had waited ten years, but guess what: they have another thirteen years to go! They have to learn to wait on the Lord. Because they kept trying to hurry it up it just took longer and longer before there was a solution.
Hagar becomes pregnant and now there is reaction. Sarah is operating on arrogance: I am going to come up with my own solution. Arrogance always produces an equal and opposite reaction that is just as negative. Verse 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." The Hebrew word for "despised" means to belittle; she is diminished. Verse 5, Sarah complains about her own solution: "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." She blames Abraham. Then the sanctimonious cry of the out-of-fellowship believer: "the Lord will judge between us as to who is actually right."
Genesis 16:6, "But Abram said to Sarai, Behold, your maid is in your hand; do to her as it pleases you. And when Sarai dealt hardly with her, she fled from her face." Notice, it is "your maid," it is not his wife. What we have now is this abused, pregnant runaway who is now trying to put her life back together, and God is going to show up in her life. This is a tremendous demonstration of the grace of God to this slave.