How is God Faithful Even When We are Faithless? Part 1

Genesis 16:11-12 – “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.’”

Throughout God’s dealings with Adam, Noah, and Abraham, we have witnessed a pattern of God speaking to them, calling them into covenant, establishing them as the head of a new humanity, promising to bless them, and inviting the men to respond to Him in faith. We then see each man falter in faith and sin against the Lord, despite His patient kindness to them.

In Genesis 16, we see this pattern repeated in yet another mini-Fall of sorts as, instead of two trees, one of which is forbidden, we now have two women, one of which is forbidden. After the establishment of God’s covenant in Genesis 15, Abram sought to take matters into his own hands by bearing a son with his Egyptian maidservant, Hagar. The faithless plot was conceived by Abram’s wife, Sarai, who, like her first mother Eve, failed to trust the simple words of God and at least inferred that God had not kept His promise to her (Genesis 16:2). Their actions were likely motivated at least in part by the fact that the elderly Sarai had been waiting 10-plus years since God had promised them a child.

Abram married Hagar in addition to Sarai and the pattern of polygamy is here introduced among believers for the first time in Scripture. The results of this polygamy are truly tragic, as is the case with other instances of adultery and polygamy in Scripture. God’s intention is that each man would have one wife (Genesis 2:18; Matthew 19:4-6). The first man to take more than one wife was the godless man Lamech (FOOTNOTE: Genesis 4:19-24). When practiced, polygamy is wrought with favoritism, fighting, jealousy, and mistreatment (e.g. Genesis 25:28, 27:1-45, 35:22, 38:18-28; II Samuel 3:2-5, 13:1-29, 15:1-18:33; I Kings 11:1-4). This also helps to explain why, in the New Testament, church leaders who serve as the pattern for Christian families are to be one-woman men (1 Timothy 3:2,12). Also, the Lord Jesus has one bride, the Church, and serves as the perfect example of fidelity to the covenant of marriage.

Abram slept with Hagar, and she bore him a son. And, in bitter irony, Sarai blamed Abram for the rift in their family because he slept with Hagar as Sarai wanted him to. Much like Adam, Abram then allowed Sarai to lead their family and do as she pleased to Hagar rather than leading his family and caring for his son. Sarai mistreated Hagar, which caused Hagar to flee from her. Moses carefully paints this picture in very sad terms, showing the mistreated Hagar sitting alone and heartbroken near a spring in the desert.

Thankfully, God intervenes as the hero of both this chapter of Genesis and all the rest of Scripture. Tomorrow, we will continue to look more at this story of how Abraham and Sarah tried to take matters into their own hands, creating and furthering chaos for their family and generations of people since.

Note the numerous times the word “I” or “me” is used. How does this reveal their selfishness which leads to sin?

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