The Angel of the Lord; Grace Orientation. Genesis 16:7-16
What underlies this chapter, even though the issue is a failure to trust God, and what is basic to it is a breakdown of Abraham's grace orientation. The fourth problem-solving device is grace orientation, and grace orientation precedes doctrinal orientation because the place that we learn grace is at salvation. If you don't understand grace enough to be saved then everything else is irrelevant. You have to start at the cross with a correct understanding of grace. Otherwise you can't get anywhere because you don't have a spiritual life.
1) Grace means unmerited favor or undeserved or unconditional merit. Those are two terms that we often bandy about a lot but often don't take enough time to really think through what they mean. Grace is a gift.
2) God's grace is freely given without condition and apart from any merit in the beneficiary. That means that God gives it to you and me as sinners without any thought to some merit in us. This means that when God is the giver man doesn't have to fulfill any condition or to do anything to merit what He gives. Furthermore, man doesn't have to become "savable." The process isn't started by Christ and finished by you; we don't help out at all. When we get involved in the process at all it destroys grace and the whole principle of faith.
3) Grace operates through the non-meritorious operation of faith. What is faith? Faith means to believe that something is true.
4) Grace is generous beyond measure. It is not qualified. God doesn't give us a part of the package of salvation, He gives us everything and more than everything that we need.
5) Grace is free to man. There is not a single thing we do to earn it or deserve it.
6) It is not free, it had to be purchased. Jesus Christ purchased it with His substitutionary atonement on the cross. Grace is not free but it is free to us. Someone has to pay.
7) Grace operates through the non-meritorious operation of faith. That means there is no credit for believing. It is the object of faith which gets all the credit, which is the work of Christ on the cross. Grace means that God did all the work. God does all the work and man trusts exclusively in God's provision. Legalism, on the other hand, comes along—and this involves all human viewpoint systems of philosophy and religion—and man does something (ritual, works) and then God has to approve it or accept it, or He blesses it. Legalism says that man does something and then God approves, accepts or blesses it. The principle that we have to remember is that when grace is violated—which is exclusive reliance on God's provision—problems multiply and unintended consequences will reverberate through our lives. This is what happens with Abraham's failure to be grace oriented in chapter sixteen. Grace orientation means to align our thinking to God's policies and live that out in our thinking, behavior, and habits. Orientation means to align something to reality, and the reality in God's universe is grace. If we are not aligned to grace in our thinking then we are going to consistently have problems in our spiritual life in relationships to God, and consequently relationships to man.
8) First of all, this starts with thinking. If we don't change our thinking and just change our behavior, what do we call that? Legalism. It is just an overt, superficial facade; there is no real grace orientation in the soul, we are just acting like it. The difficulty about that for Christians is that we live in a works-oriented world. We don't live in a grace-oriented world. So we have to change our thinking. That, in turn, changes our behavior, but it is not just behavior here and there, it needs to be consistent and that is a habit pattern. That is when divine integrity starts to be built in our own souls. That is when the grace orientation changes our character. The whole idea is to change our character so that we imitate Jesus Christ, and that the character of Jesus Christ is formed in us so that God is seen through us and works through us. This is the process of spiritual growth and spiritual maturity.
9) Grace is giving-oriented, it is not just receiving-oriented. It has that generosity of spirit towards others—in all manners, not just financial but in terms of forgiveness, in terms of helping people, and of every dimension of life. Grace orientation can be measured in gratitude. There is a direct correlation between grace orientation and attitude toward God and others. If you are not a grateful person then you don't understand grace. The more grace-oriented you become the more grateful you become because you realize that everything you have is from God.
10) Abraham fails the grace test in Genesis 16 because he failed to trust in the divine solution instead of the human solution. There is a connection between the faith-rest drill and grace orientation. He has to trust in God's provisions, but God's provisions are grace provisions so we see that these different spiritual skills don't operate in isolation form each other. Ultimately they are all connected with each other, they have a logical flow but in the dynamic of our own life they all get mixed in together as we grow. As Abraham fails to demonstrate grace in this chapter what we see at the end of the chapter is that God demonstrates grace orientation towards Hagar.
Genesis 16:4, Hagar's reaction. "And he went in unto Hagar, and she conceived: and when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised in her eyes." Sarah was despised in Hagar's eyes. Hagar had no respect for Sarah because Sarah couldn't produce an heir and she could. So she became arrogant.
Genesis 16:5, Sarah reacts. "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." Notice how she tried to solve a problem on her own and now is blaming God, just like Adam and Eve did back in the garden. Moses, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, is specifically showing these parallels so that we get the point of what a negative event this is in history. It is almost as negative an event in history as the fall. We see that today with all of the battles between the Arabs and the Jews.
Genesis 16:6, "But Abram said unto Sarai, Behold, thy maid is in thy hand; do to her as it pleaseth thee. And when Sarai dealt hardly with her, she fled from her face." So Sarah is now not going to demonstrate grace orientation. Now Hagar solves the problem on her own by fleeing.
Genesis 16:7, this is where God meets Hagar in grace. "And the angel of the LORD found her by a fountain of water in the wilderness, by the fountain in the way to Shur." This is another demonstration of the grace of God. God always takes the initiative. Grace always takes the initiative, it doesn't wait for something else to take the initiative and then respond. What we see here is a very important principle: God meets us where we are. As fallen creatures he doesn't tell us the straighten things up and then maybe something can be done. God always meets us where we are no matter how terrible our condition may be. He doesn't put a condition on us and tell us to get out of the pig pen before He does something. This is one of the more unusual situations in Genesis because it involves God's grace to someone who is not in the direct line of Abraham, it is directed toward this runaway slave girl. It is a tremendous picture of God's grace. Peter says that God does not want anyone to perish but for everyone to come to a knowledge of the gospel. So Abraham and Sarah are going to learn something about the grace of God as God deals with Hagar in grace, and this is exemplified through the angel of the Lord. The angel of the Lord is the pre-incarnate Lord Jesus Christ. How do we know that?
Genesis 16:9, "And the angel of the LORD said unto her, Return to thy mistress, and submit thyself under her hands." This is a recognition that Hagar is out of line and in a position of rebellion against a legitimate authority and the angel is saying she has to be back under authority. It is a command from the angel of the Lord indicating that the angel has a certain amount of authority. Where is that authority derived? In verse 10 there are promises made that only God could make.
Genesis 16:10, "…I will multiply thy seed exceedingly, that it shall not be numbered for multitude." Only God can do that, so the angel is ascribed actions that only God can perform. Then in verse 11 we have a prophecy.
Genesis 16:11, "Behold, thou art with child, and shalt bear a son, and shalt call his name Ishmael; because the LORD hath heard thy affliction." Then there are certain things said about his character and future descendants in verse 12. All of this indicates a certain authority on the part of the angel who makes certain promises to Hagar that only God can fulfill and makes certain prophecies to Hagar that only God can fulfill.
Genesis 16:12, "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." First of all, Ishmael is not the father of the Arabs. The Arabs are fathered—see Genesis 10:26-29. Ishmael is the father of the Ishmaelites. Also called Midianites, because he blended in (and can't be identified today) with all of the surrounding Middle Eastern people: "…he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren." "A wild man" refers to a wild donkey that lived in the wilderness in the southern part of Israel known as the Honager. It doesn't mean that he is a wild undisciplined person but it indicates that he is not going to be confined. There is going to be a certain lack of external constraints upon him, just as there are upon any wild donkey.
Genesis 16:13, we see that she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her. "And she called the name of the LORD who spoke unto her…" So the text itself recognizes the angel of the Lord is the LORD. The word "LORD" is a translation of the Hebrew Yahweh, the sacred tetragrammaton for the personal name of God. So it is clear that the angel of the Lord isn't an angel but is identified as the Lord. Cf. Genesis 22:11-18 and 48:15-16 where the angel of the Lord appears, it will be seen that the angel of the Lord is also referred to as "the Lord."
So the second person of the Trinity has appeared to Hagar. This is remarkable. She is in great company here. It is a remarkable event demonstrating the grace of God toward Hagar, and He is demonstrating principles of grace to her in that her son is also going to be blessed and many descendants are going to come from him. This is going to be a humbling event for Abraham. Hagar calls on the name of the Lord and this is an indication of her salvation. She calls Him, "You are the God who sees"—in the Hebrew this is literally, "He who sees." "…for she said, Have I also here seen him who sees me?" The point here is that God is the one who also sees and hears everything in relation to our lives. He is completely aware of all of our problems, every situation we are going to face, and He has made the perfect provision in His grace.
Genesis 16:14, she marks the well. "Wherefore the well was called Beerlahairoi; behold, it is between Kadesh and Bered." Moses locates the position of the well so that this is historically relevant to the people of the time.
Genesis 16:15, "And Hagar bare Abram a son: and Abram called his son's name, which Hagar bare, Ishmael." Ishmael means "God hears." Remember, Hagar is an Egyptian and Ishmael is going to marry an Egyptian. So the descendants of Ishmael are going to be about half Egyptian.