“Hagar, Where Are You Going?”

7The angel of the LORD found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur. 8And he said, “Hagar, slave of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going? “I’m running away from my mistress Sarai,” she answered. 9Then the angel of the LORD told her, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her.” 10The angel added, “I will increase your descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count.” 11The angel of the LORD also said to her: “You are now pregnant and you will give birth to a son. You shall name him Ishmael, for the LORD has heard of your misery. 12He 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.” 13She 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” (Genesis 16:7-13).

It is in the desert place that the Angel of the Lord speaks to Hagar. This angel is One who has been watching and listening to all that was going on in Abraham’s household. He speaks kindly to her and asks two very pertinent questions which is good for all of us to hear, “Where have you come from, and where are you going?” (Verse 8).

Every now and then as we go through life it is good to sit down and assess where you have come from and where you are going. If you are aiming for nothing, you are bound to hit it! Did you ever experience a time in your life when you felt aimless and really did not know which way to go? Was God’s direction sought?

This angel is no normal angel, but most scholars believe this to be an appearance of God in human form. John the apostle in his gospel reminds us that the Lord Jesus preexisted before His taking on human form. He wrote that Jesus was with God in the beginning, and that through Him all things were made, and that without Him nothing was made that has been made (John 1:2-3). This angel does not speak for God, but as God. He says, “I will surely multiply your offspring so that they cannot be numbered for multitude” (Verse 10). This kind of language is not, “this is what the Lord says, but this is what I say!” This is God Himself speaking. Hagar knows who it is that is speaking to her, for she names God, “You are a God of seeing,” and names the well where she encounters the Lord, “Well of the Living One who sees me” (Verse 13). Hagar is given vision and direction for her future. She is told to humble herself and submit herself to her mistress, Sarai, and raise Ishmael in Abram’s home. I’m sure her heart was encouraged to learn that she would be mother to many descendants too numerous to count (Verse 10). These descendants today are the Arabic people.

Hagar was brought into a new revelation of the Lord on that day. First of all, she found out that God (Yehovah, not Allah) hears the cry of distress, and just to remind her, she was told to name her son by the name of Ishmael, which means God hears. She was also given the revelation that the God who was watching over her sees all that is going on in her life—it is a good lesson for each of us.

We all have challenging times of waiting when our faith is tested. Even though Abram had many tests to his faith, and although he did not pass all the tests, he is still referred to as a man of faith in scripture. We do not remember him for his mistakes, but rather for his decision to follow God’s direction and go to a new place he did not know. The legacy he leaves is one of faith. This is a reminder to us of the great grace God has toward us. He does not hold up our mistakes. He takes our damaged lives and leads us home from wherever we find ourselves. Even from a place that is a desert of our own making.

Maybe you can relate to one of the characters in this part of the story. Are you like Abram, being worn down and weary in the waiting process? Are you like Hagar, finding that you are at a point where you need God’s assurance and His direction? Wherever you are in your journey of faith today, and whatever difficulties you are facing, God has a next step for you. Even if that step is to continue to wait. He has a plan and direction for you, to lead you on from the place that you find yourself right now. Keith Thomas

The God Who Sees and Hears Us

4He slept with Hagar, and she conceived. When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress. 5Then Sarai said to Abram, “You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my slave in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the LORD judge between you and me.” 6“Your slave is in your hands,” Abram said. “Do with her whatever you think best.” Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her. 7The angel of the LORD found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur.

When Hagar, Sarai’s slave girl, becomes pregnant, there were changes in the household and relationships. Things got messy! Hagar becomes proud and begins to look down upon her mistress. We don’t know what is said or the behavior of Hagar, but whatever the attitude of the younger Hagar to the seventy-five-year-old Sarai, it is one of suffering for Sarai:

5Then Sarai said to Abram, “You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my slave in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the LORD judge between you and me” (Verse 5).

Sarai now blames Abram for his lack of leadership in allowing this shortcut to go ahead, and she is right. Abram was the leader of the home, the one who gets direction from God and leads the family accordingly, yet his leadership is reactionary to go with the flow, rather than seeking God for His direction as to the strife that he has now brought upon his family and into his home. When Sarai brings the situation up with Abram, he should have been the one to sort it out, but instead he throws it all back into Sarai’s lap:

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

Abram should have dealt kindly to Hagar and counseled Sarai to do the same. After all, they were the ones who came up with the plan in the first place! Unfortunately, Abram does not bear responsibility for Hagar. Notice that in his response to Sarai, he does not even call Hagar by her name, but calls her ‘Sarai’s slave’ (Verse 6). It is as if he is distancing himself from the whole situation, and from Hagar herself, along with the child he is responsible for. It is complete abdication. Hagar is not asked how she feels about all that is going on, and Abram takes little care for her soul. Having been used as a commodity, she is now cast aside. Surely she must be, at this point, a visible reminder of the failure of Abram and Sarai in trying to take a shortcut to God’s purposes. How many unwanted feelings did this situation breed for all three involved? I’m sure Hagar was left feeling that this baby she is carrying will be unwanted by the family she has been a part of. Hagar must have felt very insecure at a time in life that a woman needs even more security with a baby on the way. Can you imagine her grief and state of mind as she ran away from home? We are told that she went to a deserted place where she sat down by a spring. A deserted place tells us that she wanted to be alone. It is possible she did not feel safe, having been badly treated by Sarai and not sure of their intentions toward her and the child she was carrying. She is retreating, licking her emotional wounds, so to speak, and seeking solitude when the Angel of the Lord comes to her. Thank God that whenever we are in a dry and desert place, there is always a well of salvation, and our God is always watching over us.

If you have not yet entrusted your life to the God of all comfort, it is time to cast your soul upon Him, for He cares for you. Keith Thomas

 

Sarai and Abram’s Shortcut

1Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian slave named Hagar; 2so she said to Abram, “The LORD has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.” Abram agreed to what Sarai said. 3So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian slave Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. 4He slept with Hagar, and she conceived. When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress (Genesis 16:1-4).

Have you ever been tempted to take a shortcut to what you believe to be God’s will? Abraham had been promised by the Lord that he would be the father of a multitude, but there was a problem, Sarah (at this point she is still called Sarai) was way past the age of having children. But how does one get to have many descendants if his wife cannot bear children? It was now impossible for it to happen through Abraham’s wife, Sarah. Sometimes we get desperate and look for a logical way around a situation. Sarah thought about her handmaid—Abraham could have a child through Hagar, their maid, and it could be called Sarah’s. The shortcut was at the initiation of Sarai. Maybe God’s way was for their family to be built around Hagar, their servant girl, who had been added to their household while in Egypt.

Sarai’s motive was probably a good one, but a good motive does not make a bad decision right. Sarai loved her husband and trusted him implicitly and was willing to sacrifice even their special intimacy with one another for the sake of his vision and dream to be fulfilled. This says a lot for Sarai’s commitment and character that she would do this for Abram, but there was no evidence that Abram and Sarai stopped to think about the consequences of what they were about to do. This was a life-changing decision and one wonders if they stopped to ask God about it. Certainly there is nothing in scripture that tells us that they did. This seems to be a low point in Abram’s faith walk. For him to go ahead with this shortcut even when he knew in his heart that this was not God’s way was resorting to man’s way of doing things.

Abram is not a picture of a godly husband at this time, ready to protect the intimacy of his marriage. His first response to Sarai’s idea should have been a courageous, “absolutely not!” There was also no seeking after permission of Hagar’s father in Egypt, that we are told about.  We are not even told if Hagar herself had any say in the matter. I’m sure she was asked, but she would have thought to herself that if she didn’t go ahead, it would have meant her job, and another of the slave girls would have been chosen over her. Hagar became a second wife to Abram and, as far as we know, God was not brought into the picture (Verse 3). Of course, God had already revealed His will that a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh (Genesis 2:24). The Lord had not changed His mind and allowed for a threesome!

Things are about to get complicated for Abram and Sarai. It does not take a lot of imagination to see how this could have affected their relationship, their home life, and even their faith. Culture and traditions may change, but there are at least two things that do not, the Word of God, and basic human nature. When we try to do short cuts to our faith walk, it never works out. It honors the worldly way of doing things rather than the ways of honoring the Lord and walking by faith. There are no short cuts to faith and walking in the ways of the Lord. Live your life by being completely devoted to God and His ways, not the ways of this world. Keith Thomas

Abraham Believes the Lord

It is a possibility that Abram’s vision of the stars and the dust of the earth represent the heavenly seed as well as the earthly seed. The dust of the earth could be a picture of the earthly seed of Abraham, the Jewish people, and the vision of the stars of the sky represented the heavenly seed, those who were born again of the Holy Spirit, the church of the Living God. In this sense, we see an earthly and a heavenly seed. God often speaks to us in a natural and spiritual sense, as He calls out a spiritual truth and illustrates a truth, which is mirrored in a natural way.

Something happens within Abram’s heart when he sees the awesome vision of the stars of the sky. He is told that his offspring would be like the stars in number. Notice Abram’s response: “Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness” (Verse 6). This was before circumcision, and more than four hundred years before the Law and the Ten Commandments were given. The Lord sees that inside Abram’s heart, there is a deep-seated trust and inner rest of belief that had come to him. On account of his faith, the Lord imparted to Abram the gift of righteousness—it was credited to his spiritual bank account. W.H. Griffith Thomas, in his commentary on Genesis, writes:

“The original Hebrew for ‘believed’ comes from a root whence we derive our ‘Amen,’ and we might paraphrase it by saying that ‘Abraham said Amen to the Lord.’ ‘Amen’ in Scripture never means a petition (‘May it be so’), but is always a strong assertion of faith (‘It shall be so,’ or ‘It is so’).[1]

This is how God still operates today in the world we live in. When we hear the gospel of the finished work of Christ in paying our debt of sin upon the cross, and we believe in our heart that God raised Christ from the dead, the gift of righteousness is credited to our spiritual bank account. No longer do we work at trying to please God by empty works, but we rest our souls on the finished work of God at the cross. The gospel (the good news) is that Christ has completely restored relationship between God and man through His substitutionary work in dying for us and as us on the cross. If you will place your life into His hands and simply believe (trust), just as Abram did, then you too will have credited to your spiritual bank account the righteousness of God. God gives us faith to reach out to Him and receive the gift of eternal life in Christ.

There is a gift of righteousness from God that is given to Abram upon his trust and belief in God’s Word to his heart. This righteousness comes as a gift apart from anything Abram or we can do to earn it. It is given to us apart from any obedience to a set of laws.

20Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin. 21But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe (Romans 3:20-22).

There is nothing that you can do to earn this gift, otherwise it would not be a gift! A gift is so easy to receive—God has made it so. It is man’s way to try to complicate things. Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it” (Luke 18:17). Go to your Father today and ask Him for the gift of righteousness. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and what He accomplished for you on the cross and you shall receive the gift of eternal life.  If you have not yet prayed this prayer, do not put it off. Do it today! Keith Thomas.

[1] W.H. Griffith Thomas, Genesis (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1946) p. 138.

What is a Vision?

“Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 6Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness (Genesis 15:6).

Abram was given a vision of what the future would look like. When God calls a man or a woman, often He will give them a vision. Any leader worth his salt has been given a vision in his mind’s eye of what the future will look like. After getting a vision one must prayerfully plan how he or she is to bring the vision into reality. I am reminded of the things God used to envision me for my future. It is not the same method for every person. Stay open to God and be alert to His promptings.

God used various things in my life. Shortly after my fishing career ended, I worked for a while as a window cleaner, and as a painter and decorator. During this time, I was also involved in starting small groups and leading a small group in our home, along with my wife, Sandy. At one point, I worked in a print shop for a Christian printing organization called Cornerstone Print and Design. This small printing company served missionary agencies as well as other churches and Christian organizations in England by printing all kinds of literature that would help them to reach the world for Christ. I remember they had a sign on the wall that said: “A drop of ink will make a million think!” At that time, I really didn’t see myself as a Bible teacher, I was more of an evangelist that would share the message of Christ whenever I had the opportunity. But the sign on the wall grabbed my attention. God used my time at that printing agency for me to get a vision for spreading His Word to others, even in other countries. I could see the need for Christian literature that would help people understand the gospel of God’s love. It was good to be a part of printing tracts for Christians to use in other countries. These tracts explained the Gospel in their own language. God began to show me His vision to reach the world, and that is what I am still seeking to do today.

What is vision? I have heard it described as “foresight with insight based on hindsight.”  We ought to look into the future and begin to see with the eyes of faith what God wants us to do. Vision also focuses on one’s present circumstances and asks the question: “how do I get to there from here?” Also, vision takes into account the learning that one has accumulated from the past. Vision is a clear mental image of a preferable future that is given to a man or woman of God, to enable him or her to work toward that particular goal that he or she has seen. When a person has obtained a clear vision of what God wants to do, then the man or woman of God goes to the Lord in prayer for practical steps to reach that goal or vision. Without practical steps toward the preferable future, there is difficulty in stretching beyond the present reality. Abram is shown a picture in his mind’s eye of the future that he is waiting for and holding onto in faith.

What methods does He use today? How can you tell if a vision is from God?

God will often use His Word, or a message through a dream, through song, encouragement from another, a mentor, or someone who inspires us to do what they are doing. It can also be a need which we want to meet, or a strong desire to do something. It can be as simple as a natural God-given talent mixed with a strong desire. If a vision is from God, it will always be in line with scripture. Test your vision to see if it matches up with the Word of God. Ask Him to give you the first step in seeing your vision come to pass. Be ready to take a step of faith. Often, there is an excitement that comes when we see what God has for us to do… 13for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose (Philippians 2:13). What vision sustains you while you wait for God’s promises to be fulfilled? If you do not have one, ask Him for a vision for your life. Keith Thomas