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Covenant Father 6: The Son of the Slave - Genesis 16

In Genesis 16, as Abram and Sarai wait for God’s promise of an heir and an inheritance to be fulfilled, they live through their own version of the story of Adam and Eve in the garden. In Genesis 3, Eve fails to trust, Adam fails to lead, they both refuse to submit to God, and they get a world of trouble as the result.

We see that same story play out here: Sarai struggles to trust God and pursues fruitfulness her own way instead of waiting in faith. Abram listens to the voice of his wife and follows her into faithlessness which causes much trouble for his family. Hagar refuses to submit to her mistress, and almost misses out on the blessings God has for the world. It’s the same story, but here is a wonderful difference: even though the long-awaited Son hasn’t come yet, the blessings of the covenant overcome the curse against sin. God’s covenant grace cannot be stopped by our failures to keep the covenant.

As we look at those failures in Gen. 16, we must not get distracted by Abram’s second marriage. While bigamy is not God’s pattern, and while it causes huge problems all over the Bible, it wasn’t actually forbidden by God in the Old Testament. So let’s focus instead on the deeper sin issues that are far more pressing for us today. And what are those sins? Impatience, passivity, and insubordination. God’s plan for us is to become people marked instead by the virtues of patience, leadership, and humble submission, so let’s consider those three pairs of opposites as they play out in the Genesis 16.

We see impatience most clearly in Sarai, even though she had already been waiting for a very long time. But that doesn’t excuse her for elbowing God out of the way and grabbing the wheel of the promises, which is what she does by giving Hagar to Abram as a wife. Instead of continuing to wait for God, Sarai tried to engineer God’s blessings herself.

And we do the same thing whenever we try to “help” God fulfill His promises instead of waiting for God. When God has us wait, He calls us to trust and pray, and sometimes nothing more. Sarai’s story shows us the sad consequences of impatience when pregnant Hagar began to show contempt towards her mistress. When Sarai tried to bring about the blessing for herself, she ended up with a curse instead. And God wants to remind you today that this is what impatience always does: it promises a quicker road to blessing, but it always delivers a curse instead. The only way to receive the blessing of God is by patient faith.

So what about Abram? Like Adam in the garden, Abram listened to his wife’s voice when he should have been listening to God’s. At the moment of testing, Abram loved Sarai more than God. He had a responsibility to lead Sarai away from sin, but instead, he joined her in it. God places husbands in the position of leadership because leadership in a fallen world always involves taking the consequences of your decisions. But when Abram abdicates and lets Sarai lead them into trouble, Sarai is the one who suffers, because of Abram’s failure to lead her and protect her. The lesson for us is that a “yes, dear” husband is a sorry excuse for real husband. Husbands, your wife needs your involvement, she needs your protection, she needs you to lead.

What about Hagar’s sin? Hagar commits the sin of pride, which leads her into insubordination and rebellion. Because Hagar despises her mistress and refuses to submit to her authority, the angel of the Lord orders Hagar to go back and submit. But this is also good for Hagar: remember, God is blessing the world through Abram, and this means that by leaving Abram, Hagar is fleeing from God’s blessings. But if she submits to God and returns, God will give Hagar a share in Abram’s blessing of multiplied offspring. He listens to Hagar’s affliction, gives her unborn son the name “God hears”, and assures her that her son will not be a slave, but will be strong and free instead.

This is the miracle of grace that overcomes all the sin we see here in this chapter: instead of sin undoing the covenant, God expands the scope of the covenant blessings. Where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more. Our covenant failures cannot cause the covenant to fail. God’s fulfillment in spite of our failures makes the covenant even more glorious.

So when you find impatience in your heart, repent, and trust in God’s timing. If you’ve abdicated your responsibilities to lead your wife and your home, start leading by leading in repentance. If you find it hard to submit to your husband, your boss, or your government, submit to God who tells you to submit to them, and put your trust in the God who sees and looks after you. All of these virtues depend on faith, and it is that same faith that trusts in God to cover your sins and keep His covenant promises through His Son Jesus Christ.

Posted on Wednesday, May 03, 2017 by CJ Bowen