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Abraham, Part 6: The Surrogate Son

Scripture: Genesis 16:1-16, Galatians 4:22-23
Date: 03/13/2004 
This is the sixth in a 12 part series on the life of Abraham. This sermon focuses on Hagar and Ishmael and Genesis 16. God permits us to pursue answers to our problems in order to teach us our need of the Lord.
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Note: This is a verbatim transcript of the live broadcast. It is presented as spoken.

For our visitors we are going through a series on the subject of the ultimate patriarch Abraham and we are on the sixth study installment on the series Abraham. And the message today is dealing with the surrogate son. And as I have been doing, I haven’t been planning it this way. It just happens that whoever divided the chapters and verses it seemed to work well in Genesis. We’ll be in one chapter today. And again you may be thinking, “Doug, how long are we going to be studying Abraham?” I don’t know yet, but we’re not done yet. Chapter 16 will be the focus of our study today and there is more than enough for one message just in this one chapter.

Genesis chapter sixteen and to give you the background of course God has promised Abram, that’s still his name at this point, that through Abram and his descendants all of the world would be blessed, the messiah would come, a great nation would spring from him. He complained a little to the Lord and said, “Lord, I go childless. Everywhere I go I’ve got all these servants and this wealth, but I don’t have that promised child” that the Lord had said he would have. Now one of the things that separates humans from maybe other creatures that God has made is that we are built with this, we are predisposed, wired, programmed with this desire to procreate in our own image. Matter of fact, one of the ways in which God made man in his own image, and I think this is one reason that the devil hates humans, is that man not only was given dominion of the planet, man was given the ability through an act of love to procreate in his own image. You know typically children resemble one or both of the parents. And Abram now, who God said, “I would bless you.”

The most prominent blessing that they thought of back in those early days, and keep in mind we are still not far from the day when God had told all humans to be fruitful and multiply, Abram and Sarah are childless. And Abram is now about eighty-five years old, Sarah is seventy-five and their hopes are beginning to wane. Now I want to remind you because you may have missed an earlier study back around the time of Abraham humans did not age at the same speed that we age today. It was not until you get down to the time of King David that he said three score and ten is the average, about seventy years but with the improvements in health and medicine and things that may be prolonged. Now I know that there is an increasing number of people that are getting beyond a hundred. Matter of fact I have a former church member from a church I pastored that’s about a hundred and six now in Napa Valley and she still has all of her wits. She’ll remind you she has none of her teeth, but she has all of her wits. But the Lord is blessing. But typically the age at which a woman goes through menopause now it’s I don’t even want to say but I guess it’s fifty neighborhood somewhere. It was later then, but Sarah now is getting past that point even though she’s seventy-five. You all still with me?

Remember when she was still seventy the Pharaoh and Abram thought she was so beautiful he was afraid for his life when he went to Egypt so they aged a little more slowly and I’ve shown you from the scriptures. But it’s now starting to look even hopeless for her. Abram is moping around. You know everyone always blames all this on Sarah but I think she did some of it because she saw her husband moping around and so she thought that she’d come up with a scheme to help God out and I’ll talk more about that later. Verse one, chapter sixteen, “Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. And she had an Egyptian maidservant whose name was Hagar.” Alright, well, let’s take this point by point. “So Sarai said to Abram, ‘See now, the Lord has restrained me from bearing children.’” The name Sarai means princess.

The name Hagar means stranger or sojourner. Now evidently and we don’t know for sure but it’s possible Hagar was one of the gift servants that the Pharaoh of Egypt had given Abram and one reason we believe that is that when Abram came out of Ur and went through Mesopotamia he brought his servants from there. Now all of a sudden he has an Egyptian servant and she evidently had a high station in Abram’s family because I’ve been thinking of some delicate way to say this, but Sarah is thinking, God has promised my husband that he’s going to be the father of a nation. He has been a loyal husband but it doesn’t look like it’s ever going to happen through me. It was not uncommon for wealthy men to have more than one wife. You may be surprised to learn it still happens in North America. I remember when I pastored on the Navajo reservation. I had a little conundrum because here I had this man who had married two sisters and had a whole litter of children and after he became a Christian he didn’t know what to do. Which sister does he divorce and her children? It really is a problem.

We were in Africa last year. Very common there. Matter of fact, they have great debates in the church about how to grapple with this when a man with several wives and a whole tribe of children accepts the truth and becomes a Christian which wife does he divorce? What if the first wife… Sometimes they say you keep the first wife and get rid of the rest. What if the first wife did not have children but the others have children? Do you send them away penniless without support? It’s a terrible problem. But it wasn’t uncommon in Bible times for a wealthy man if he could support them to have additional wives. Sometimes they had a principal wife and then a concubine. I remember one time one of my kids said, “Dad, I know Solomon had a hundred wives and three hundred porcupines and I don’t understand.” And that may have been prophetic.

But a concubine was sort of, it was basically a surrogate wife. They were not treated like slaves but they didn’t hold the same station as regular wives. It’s been surmised that Sarah, looking over her handmaids, she wanted to pick one who would be, forgive the crude word, but breeding with her husband and producing an offspring that would be a father of multitudes. She no doubt looked for one that would be intelligent, probably young, high likelihood of fertility and probably good looking. And it is probable that among the servants that the king of Egypt had given to Abraham was this one known as Hagar who was a prime specimen. One Jewish legend is that she was the daughter of one of Pharaoh’s concubines meaning that she had royalty. Now this is embraced by the Arab nation this idea that Hagar was a daughter of Pharaoh because that means they sprang from royalty and so they like but it can’t be proven from the Bible. Just some things for you to think about. And so Sarah then takes Hagar and she says to Abram, “Please, go in to my maid.”

That’s self-explanatory I hope for everybody. “‘Perhaps I shall obtain children by her.’ And Abram heeded the voice of Sarai. Then Sarai, Abram’s wife, took Hagar her maid, the Egyptian, after Abraham had dwelt in the land of Canaan ten years, and gave her to her husband to be his wife.” Now what it means when it says “she took her” Abram lives in a clan with hundreds of people. We know he’s got three hundred soldiers. It’s the only time in Genesis it numbers his household. Three hundred soldiers. He’s got maybe fifteen hundred people in his family. He’s the head. They all know him. They know which tent he lives in. It was going to look awful suspicious if he came over one morning out of his tent yawning with a smirk on his face and Hagar comes slinking out without some explanation to the rest of the camp. Can you understand? So there was something done publicly where Sarah in the presence of the family takes Hagar and places Hagar’s hand in the hand of her husband and everyone understood what this meant. Now you know, unless she was devoid of all natural affection and we learn later she was not that must have been a difficult thing to do. Can any of the ladies say amen? Her desire for children and her desire to placate her husband’s yearning led her to go against her natural possessiveness.

Is it a shock if I were to tell you that women are territorial about their husbands? And I hope, well, we’ll get to this later in the story. One of the things I want to deal with is who is Hagar. And we’ve explained a little bit that she was a servant, probably of high station. She may have been Sarah’s chief handmaiden. One reason we know that is who does Jacob end up marrying remember when Rachel and Leah married Jacob both of them as part of the dowry got their primary handmaid to go with them which was Bilhah and Zilpah. They end up marrying Jacob also. And so it is very likely that Hagar was the highest of Sarah’s handmaids. Intelligent, efficient, trusted and so she had these other capabilities. The point of the story also I want to have you think about is Sarah is in essence asking Hagar to be a surrogate mother.

Now I went online in preparation for this sermon. I sometimes do a little research and you would be surprised, I don’t recommend you do this, but if you type in the word “surrogate” there are website after website of places that you can go today where there are services online where… and they’ll have portfolios and thumbnail pictures. In many cases there are women who cannot for whatever reason conceive children but they still want to have a family and so they’ve got a variety of ways, in-vitro, and insemination. I won’t even go into it. They’re having… it’s a whole new field of law that’s developed in the last ten years over this whole reproduction process and it springs from this natural craving of people to have children. And I was surprised, I was a little disappointed not totally surprised but several of these websites specifically target gay couples. Why? Well, that ought to be obvious. And they said, “We don’t discriminate.” And more and more gay couples to validate their “marriages” are adopting children or having them through surrogate parents. And that doesn’t really fit into the sermon, but I just thought that was very interesting, a sign of the times. You know what’s happening here? Sarah is basically saying maybe I can have children through her.

Later when something similar happens with Rachel, when she ends up giving her handmaid to Jacob she says, “She can bear on my knees. I will be the midwife and I will be the first to lay hands on and touch that baby and that will make it mine,” but you know it didn’t really work. It created a lot of disunion in that family. What they were saying is I will have a baby vicariously. I will not have it myself. I’ll have it through someone else. That’s where I want to go. We’re living in an age where people are wanting to live vicariously instead of victoriously. We try to experience things by watching others experience it. Instead of having our own relationship with the Lord we think we’re going to be saved by the relationship of our spouse or our parents or somebody else. You know some people are yearning so much for excitement in their lives they spend all their time watching TV so they can enjoy it vicariously through somebody else, extreme living. “I would never do that, but I’ll watch other people do it. I would never have an affair but it sounds tantalizing so I’ll watch soap-operas.

I will enjoy other people’s affairs. I’m so mad at that person I’d like to kill them. I’d never do it but I’ll watch other people kill each other. Maybe I’ll find some relief vicariously by experiencing this through someone else.” Well, I’ll submit to you, while God does not want you to experience murder he does want you to experience a miraculous birth yourself and not through somebody else. God had planned for Sarah a miracle birth within, a miraculous, internal conception. What happened to Mary? It’s a little different with Mary. I know that, but it was still a miracle nonetheless. God wants us to have a miracle birth for ourselves and not have it through somebody else. So they decided to do what we often do before we get into trouble. They decided to help God out. Now at first everybody thought they’d be better off through this. Yeah, I’ve been wanting to share that with you. I thought here the donkey is going to help carry the burden and this is like us carrying our sins and we’re going to help God out. In our story everybody at first thinks, logically things will be better.

They begin to rationalize using human reason. Abram thinks this will solve my problems. He goes along with it because I have no children and I can at least have children. Now keep in mind the problem sometimes when couples are struggling to have children it might be the husband or the wife, sometimes both, in our story Abram never was the problem with virility and one reason we know that is even after Sarah dies Abram marries another concubine wife by the name of Keturah and he has a whole litter of children with her. So that was never the problem. The problem was with Sarah conceiving. Abram says, “At least I can have children.” Sarah says, “My husband won’t be moping around and then I’ll enjoy children that bear his name in the family and everything will be better.” Hagar, she doesn’t argue because what’s this going to do with her station in life?

It’s an instant promotion for her. She goes from the station of being the servant to being, “Hey! I am bearing the children of the head of the family.” And so it sounds good to her too. So everyone thinks they’re going to help God out and make things better but it backfires. Any of you parents ever had your children help you out without letting you know first? Now I think it’s good to have your children help you out but it’s always good for you to understand what the plan is? I remember one day I told the boys. I said, “You’re getting ready for a haircut.” I forget Stephen may have been five years old at the time, maybe even four. And you know sometimes you think about giving them a haircut a few days before you actually do it. It sort of has to grow on you if you know what I mean. The next day or two I looked at Stephen and all of a sudden I don’t know what happened.

It looked like overnight he had come down with a case of mange. You know how a dog with mange they lose patches of their hair and it just all of a sudden their coat becomes all uneven and I thought, What? And on closer examination he had decided to help Dad out and he gave himself a haircut. I just want to see a show of hands. How many of you either did that as a kid or had a kid that did that? Let me see your hands. I knew you could relate. I knew this was something you could relate to. Or I remember one day Nathan showed up and he’s just got this big crop of hair. He’s got a reverse Mohawk. Just right there and I said, “What happened?” He said, “Stephen cut my hair.” Any of you relate to these stories? The other way that kids end up like that is just let them chew bubblegum before they go to sleep and the next day they’ll have one of those haircuts. But usually when we decide to help our Heavenly Father out we don’t do it better, we make it worse. And this is what happened. Everything got worse. God wanted to bless them, but God… here’s something I want you to remember.

God never wants us to use the devil’s tools to do his work. Sometimes we try to rush God along and we think, You know I could make this happen. And I have to watch myself because I’m very creative and I’m always conniving of ways to achieve what I think the ultimate good would be, but then I have to back up and say what? This is not God doing it. This is me doing it and sometimes I’m trying to make happen through forced means and sometimes questionable methods, I’m admitting it, things to do God’s work. And I hear a little voice saying, “Doug, you’re trying to do my work using the devil’s tools. Or you’re trying to rush me in producing a masterpiece. Let me do it my way, my schedule.” Sometimes we just have to wait on the Lord. You know we’ve all heard it said, “God helps those that help themselves.” Maybe Sarah was quoting Benjamin Franklin at that point because it’s not in the Bible. They got into trouble because they lost patience. God said, and you know what God often makes us wait beyond what we think is reasonable to do his best work. God often brings you to the borders of the Red Sea with, you know, ten thousand armed, enraged Egyptians charging down your neck on one end and an ocean in front of you and when you think, “We’ve got to do something.” That’s when the Lord says, “Stand still.

Just wait on me. Be patient.” Many of you in your lives there are things that you’re wondering if it’s ever going to get better. It might mean a promotion, it might mean an improvement in your relationship with your spouse, it might mean a passing grade, it could mean all kinds of things. And God is saying, “Endure. Don’t give up. Don’t stop trusting me.” Luke 21:19 Jesus said, “In your patience possess your souls.” You know I think sometimes we become possessed because we lose patience. Matthew 24:13 our Lord said, “He that endures to the end will be saved.” God is calling on us to be patient. If Abraham had just waited how much better things would have been in his family. Someone else one time said, “A delay is better than a disaster.” And I think Abraham if he were here today he would say, “Amen.” Because he lost patience and stopped waiting on God it brought all kinds of unhappiness into his family. God often permits perplexity so we can learn patience. Somebody said in rhyme, “Patience is a virtue/possess it if you can/found seldom in a woman/never in a man.” I like that.

Back to the scriptures. “Then Sarah, Abram’s wife, took Hagar,” verse three, “her maid, the Egyptian, and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan. So he went in to Hagar, and she conceived.” Sounds like it happened almost instantly. “And when she saw,” Hagar, when Hagar “saw that she had conceived, her mistress became despised in her eyes.” Something happened to their relationship and as Hagar’s little tummy began to swell her pride began to swell and she, instead of wanting to be Sarah’s servant anymore she began to strut around the camp probably with her shoulders back and her belly out. I mean that was something to be proud of back then that here she was going to bear Abram’s child. And that really brought a lot of disharmony into the family and Sarah didn’t like that one bit and they all began to complain to Abram and his peace was gone and people started dividing all over the camp. You know the Bible tells us that when Hannah could not have children but Peninnah had many children Peninnah, I’m talking about Hannah the mother of Samuel before she had any children. Elkanah had two wives Peninnah and Hannah. Peninnah, who had many children, taunted and tormented Hannah, who was barren. And I know that seems like a mean thing to do, don’t you agree? But you know what did it? Peninnah saw that Elkanah loved Hannah more and I think it bothered Hagar that she was not the real wife and Abram loved Sarah more. And it became… women don’t like sharing the affection of a man.

I knew I’d get at least one amen on that! It’s just I think that’s why it said” it’s not good that man should be alone” and “God made a woman” for man. He didn’t make a pair of women or a herd of women. He made a woman for man and I think that’s God’s original plan and whenever you interrupt that things go wrong. God designed that one man, one woman. One man cannot handle more than one woman. Somebody asked Ben Franklin one time, “Show me one scripture that says a man cannot have more than one wife.” And he said, “That’s easy. ‘No man can serve two masters.’” And so her mistress became despised in her eyes. She had contempt now for Sarah, this old woman bossing me around. “And Sarai said to Abram, ‘My wrong be upon you!’” Well, we’ve all heard that before. Now it’s your turn, men. No amen’s, huh? Must not be alone today. She tells you to do it, you do it, and she says, “My wrong on you. It’s your fault. Why did you listen to me? I don’t know what I was thinking. You should have known I didn’t know what I was thinking.” I’m serious. Do you know there is a law in the Bible, you take this up with the Lord, not with me, that if a man makes a vow he has to pay his vow, if a woman makes a vow the husband can listen to it and say, “Erase that or make it serious.” It could be impulsive.

I’m just stating it. I’m not drawing any conclusions. You draw your own. But here she says, “I did this and you let me do it. My wrong be upon you!” She’s probably, like I said I’ll give her credit. She may have been trying to make him happy. Very few pastors would dare to preach on this subject. “My wrong be upon you! I gave my maid into your embrace; and when she saw that she had conceived, I became despised in her eyes. The Lord judge between you and me.” It’s your fault! You know one of the Bible commentators said, “It is often true that temptation is brought to us through those that are closest to us.” “And Abram said to Sarai, ‘Indeed your maid is in your hand; do to her as you please.’” She’s your maid. If she’s giving you a hard time you still have authority. You’re the primary wife. And according to the laws of the day she did. And the Bible says, “When Sarai dealt harshly with her, she fled from her presence.” Now I’ve tried to figure out what that means and as near as I can tell she didn’t lift a hand to her and whip her and beat her publicly or anything like that.

For one thing she’s pregnant with Abram’s baby so it’s not likely it involved physical abuse. The word harsh can mean verbal abuse. It could mean she added to her workload to try to put her back in her place or something to that aspect, but whatever it is their relationship changed and Sarah began to lord her authority over Hagar. Maybe she embarrassed her publicly to remind everybody that she was the primary wife and it was so humiliating that Hagar felt that she could not live under that persecution any longer. And the Bible says, “She fled from her presence.” Verse seven, “Now the angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the wilderness.” Now evidently from where they were camped to where the angel found her Hagar is making her way back to Egypt. She’s heading back to Egypt. And it’s often true that when God’s people become discouraged where do they go? Even later when Mary had a baby and they were being persecuted by King Herod where did they go? Back to Egypt. When the children of Israel got discouraged, where did they want to go? Back to Egypt. And Hagar is now heading back to Egypt and she finds herself by a spring of water. This is the first time in the Bible, for those of you that do counting, that it says the angel of the Lord appears to anybody. That’s interesting. He appears by a fountain of water. Waters in the Bible often are places of testing. And waters are often places in the Bible where you find wives. Think about it for a moment. Where is it that Jacob met Rachel? By a well.

Where did Moses meet Zipporah? By a well. Where was it that a wife was found for Isaac? Rebecca was found, she was tested by the waters. Remember when Jesus met that woman at the well and she became a symbol for the Gentile church. She’d had six men and none of them made her happy and Jesus became the only one that gave her rest so to speak. And for those of you who are single, you need to hang out by the water cooler. You never know what might happen. So it was at the well that God speaks. A woman at the well. So here Hagar is at the well and God is speaking to her and he asks an important question in verse eight and verse nine. And this angel of the Lord says to Hagar, notice how he addresses her. “Hagar,” which her name means sojourner and that’s exactly what she’s doing, “Sarai’s maid…” Now, that’s not very nice. After all, the Lord believes in independence and individuality. Why would he identify Hagar as Sarah’s handmaiden, as Sarah’s servant? Why do you think the angel said, “Hagar, Sarah’s servant, what are you doing here?” We thought that Jesus came to save us from service. No, that’s a mistake. Jesus does not save us from service. He saves us to serve. And God had placed her, maybe she had been a slave of some tyrant in Egypt and now she’s placed a slave in the service of Abram, someone who is serving God. God did not save the children of Israel from the slavery of Egypt to set them free. He saved them from the service of Pharaoh to serve him. That’s what he said. God saves us to serve.

It’s a different minister, but everybody serves. Jesus said, “No man can serve two masters,” but he never said no man serves any master. Hagar, Sarah’s servant, what are you doing here? And he says, “Where did you come from, and where are you going?” Everybody ought to be able to ask themselves those two questions. Where did you come from? Do you know? It may seem like a simple thing for you. Some of you who have been raised with Christianity and understanding that we have a creator may not fully appreciate how precious it is to understand that we are created by God. For me, and thousands of others who are raised believing in evolution, not knowing where you came from has a terrible effect on you. Really when you think growing up and going through life that you are all the result of just a series of biological mishaps and there is no purpose to life I am still convinced that the reason that the largest group who commit suicide are the teenagers I think there is a correlation and you know there are a lot more in public school per ratio than in Christian school, a lot more.

Did you know that? I think it’s because in those schools they’re telling them that you really have no grand purpose. Instead of being told they’re made in the image of God they’re told you’ve evolved from low forms of life, from invertebrates and jellyfish and slugs. And they feel like you know we’re just going to die and turn back into fertilizer. Life has no purpose. Where did you come from? And the next big question, the angel basically says, “Where did you come from, what are you doing here, and where are you going?” You can’t really be happy unless you know the answer to those questions. Do you know where you came from? For those of you who are Christians you need to be able to say, “I was lost, and I’m now found and I’m going to Heaven. I serve God and I’m going to Heaven.” A Christian has the answer to those big questions. You need to know where you came from. Do you know that you’ve been saved? Do you know where you came from? Do you have a testimony? Do you know what you’re doing here and do you know where you’re going? Do you notice in the answer Hagar can’t answer where she’s going? All she can answer is where she came from. Some people are running away from something. They have no idea; they don’t have the foggiest notion of where they’re going.

She said, “I’m fleeing from my mistress,” but she didn’t know where she was going. Where are you going to? Here she is hovering around a well of water out in the wilderness because you’re going to need water, but how long can you last there? And then the angel… and she says, “I flee from the face of my mistress Sarai.” You notice? The angel says, “Hagar, Sarah’s servant.” Hagar says, “My mistress.” That’s the feminine for my master. “And the angel of the Lord said to her, ‘Return to your mistress.’” Well, that’s really hard to do. Why would the Lord say that? Return and submit? I believe until you learn to submit and surrender you can’t really be saved. It may be one of the hardest things that we’ve ever had to do but it is very much a part of the Christian experience. Everybody submits to somebody. I mean, even the President of the United States is accountable. The King of, oh, I was going to say the King of England. We don’t have one. The Queen of England is accountable. Everybody has accountability and as soon as you show me a person who has no accountability I’ll show you a person who is out of control. We all must submit. In our story you’ll find several things. Sarah is submitting to Abram, Abram is submitting to the Lord, Abram is also submitting to his wife, isn’t he in this story? And Hagar is submitting to Sarah and you’ve got everybody is in submission. “It is the continual assertion of individuality that hinders our spiritual development more than anything else.” I want to read it again.

Oswald Chambers said this. “It is the continual assertion of individuality that hinders our spiritual development more than anything else.” It’s really hard for me to submit. It involves humbling yourself. Titus 2:9-10, “Exhort bondservants to be obedient to their masters, to be well pleasing in all things.” James 4:7-8, “Therefore submit (yourself) to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” You can’t have victory until you submit to God. Here she’s being told to also submit to her mistress. You know I understand the department of transportation has spent $200 million researching an automated highway system. I saw a documentary on this. This is very interesting. You know traffic is becoming a real problem in certain metropolitan areas. Years ago Sacramento would have been so much better off if they had put a loop around our city before it started growing like they have around Dallas and so many big cities I’ve been to. You go to Washington, D.C. they’ve got a loop that goes around the city. It just helps to diffuse all the traffic and for whatever reason this was pushed in Sacramento and years ago they fought it and now we’re really paying for it because there’s nowhere to develop new roads for the traffic.

They’ve come up with a program where they have automated traffic. They will install in the cars sensors and magnets in the road every four feet and these sensors along the road and what happens is when you enter a high traffic area in these places like San Diego and the bay area and Los Angeles you let go of your wheel and these automatic sensors will then control your car’s speed, maintain the distance between the car in front of you and it keeps everybody flowing so it’s not the stop and go. It doesn’t get sluggish. Until you reach, when you get to the off ramp control is returned to you. And they’ve been able to work out about every contingency of problem that might develop except one thing. They can’t get the humans to let go of the wheel. The people refuse to release control of the car and they’ve just about, after spending two hundred million dollars they’ve pretty much abandoned the idea because no one wants to let go of the wheel and let somebody else tell them what to do. “Return and submit.” You know it’s ironic that Hagar is persecuted by Sarah and years later the Egyptians are persecuting the descendants of Sarah. That war hasn’t ceased. Now in spite of this the angel tells us that God is going to bless. In chapter sixteen I want to return. The angel says to her, “‘Return to your mistress, and submit yourself under her hand.’ Then the angel of the Lord said to her, ‘I will multiply your descendants.’” Wait, wait, wait. Verse ten. The angel said, “I will multiply”? Does an angel have the power to multiply descendants? Who is the angel of the Lord that said this? You know, sometimes the Lord himself in his pre-existent form appeared to Abram and it may have been the Lord himself who appeared to Hagar.

They use the term angel not because Jesus is a cherubim or seraphim. I don’t believe that. I believe Jesus is the eternal God, but sometimes the term angel of the Lord was used speaking of Christ. Because here he is the one now making this promise. He says, “I” not the Lord. He says, “I will.” “The angel of the Lord said to her, ‘Behold, you are with child.’” “I will multiply your descendants exceedingly, so they shall not be counted for multitude.” Now was it God’s perfect will for Abram to have a surrogate son? Was that God’s plan? You know what this tells me? That God will often bless in spite of our blunders. Was it God’s plan for David to take Bathsheba and to have Uriah killed? Was that God’s plan? But who is later born as a result of that union that ends up becoming the next king and a type of Christ? Solomon. In spite of our blunders the Lord has his black-belt in working all things together for good. He is an expert. When we mess things up and we think the situation is hopeless we can say, “Lord, I have really made a mess of things. Can you even work this out for good? Can you bless my mess?” I don’t know about you, how many of you have ever had to pray that the Lord will save your children in spite of your influence? And I pray, “Lord, overrule as far as possible the dumb things I have said and done and save my children. Bless my blunders.” And God can do that. And so here he says, “I’m going to bless this child even though this was not in my original plan.

It wasn’t my perfect plan. It was my permissive plan.” He says, “You are with child, and you will bear a son. And you will call his name Ishmael, because the Lord has heard your affliction. He will be a wild man.” That’s interesting. “His hand will be against every man, and every man’s hand against him. And he will dwell in the presence of all of his brethren.” Now his brethren would be the descendants of Abraham through Isaac. The Arabs of the world are the descendants of Ishmael. And you know for four thousand years now this prophesy has been dramatically fulfilled. And I was reading, I think it was Adam Clark said in his commentary, “If nothing else a person would read that prophesy and look at the history of the world and say, ‘The Bible is true.’” Because they became a nation of people that… and when it says a “wild man” that word can also be translated “a wandering man.” They became a nation of nomads that dispersed all through the Middle East region because of their wanderings and they dwelt in the midst of the people of Israel which is the situation that we see in the world today. Now, I want to talk a little bit about what the significance of this is. If you go back with me to our scripture reading in Galatians 4:22 Paul writes about this.

And he says, “For it is written that Abraham had two sons.” This is Galatians 4:22-23. “For it is written that Abraham had two sons.” Now how many sons did Abraham have? Abraham had dozens. He had two primary sons. Remember I told you he married Keturah and he had a whole bunch of other children. “Abraham had two sons: one by the bondwoman, the other by the freewoman.” Who is the bondwoman? Hagar. Who is the freewoman? Princess. One is called stranger, one is called princess. “He who was born of the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and he of the freewoman according to the promise.” Now I will submit to you that Hagar… there are two kinds of people in the church. Hagar is a symbol of the flesh and Isaac and Sarah are a symbol of the spirit. Ishmael became a wild man, a wandering man, did his own thing, out of control whereas Isaac submitted to his father.

He was the son of promise. Every one of us inside of us you’ve got an Isaac and you’ve got an Ishmael. You’ve got the carnal side of you, the flesh that wants to do its own thing take charge and just be an individual, wild wandering. And then you’ve got the Isaac, the submissive son of promise, the miracle, the Spirit. There is a war going on between the carnal and the spirit, between the flesh and the divine and all of us decide which one is going to be in control. They both cannot receive the father’s inheritance. Who ends up getting the inheritance of Abraham? The son of promise. He wasn’t even the firstborn. Isaac ends up getting the blessing, not Ishmael because for us to receive the blessing of being spiritual children of Abraham everlasting life you cannot be controlled by the flesh but by the spirit. Was the plain? I want to make this plain to everybody. Two sons of Abraham. Remember what I told you? There’s two kinds of seed of Abraham. Abraham looked up and God said, “Your seed will be like the stars.” And he looked down and he said, “Your seed will be like the dust.”

There’s an Isaac, there’s an Ishmael. You’ve got the spirit, you’ve got the flesh. You all have both inside. Abraham had both inside. He had the seed of Isaac and the seed of Ishmael inside. You’ve got the capacity of both. You and I must choose which one will inherit the throne, which one’s in control. Isaac submitted to his father and we’re going to get to that in another story. Ishmael means, his name means “God will hear.” While we are in the flesh struggling we pray for deliverance and God will hear. And he heard this prayer of Hagar. Now I want to finish off the chapter here. Let’s go back to Genesis chapter sixteen. “He’ll be a wild man…” I’ll read verse twelve again. “‘…his hand will be against every man, and every man’s hand against him. And he will dwell in the presence of all of his brethren.’ Then she called the name of the Lord who spoke with her, You-Are-the-God-Who-Sees; for she said, ‘I have here seen Him who sees me.’” Now who was that angel that talked to her? Who was it that sees her? She says, “The Lord sees me.”

Who did she say she saw? “I see the One who sees me.” She wasn’t just talking about an angel. I think this is the time where it first says an angel appeared to her and that first angel that appears is the first most important messenger in the Bible. The word angel means messenger and that was the Lord who appeared to her there. Jesus said, “Before Abraham was, I am. Abraham longed to see my day and he saw it.” “I have seen him who sees me.” Jesus said, “I am with you wherever you go.” “Therefore the well is called Beer Lahai Roi; and observe, it is between Kadesh and Bered. So Hagar bore a son; and Abram named his son, who Hagar bore, Ishmael.” Where do you think Abram got that name? The Lord had given that name divinely to Hagar and she related that to Abram that God had appeared to her. Do you think when Hagar went back to Sarai that her attitude was different? What do you think? After seeing the Lord and the Lord said go back and submit was it easier for her to submit? I think it was. I think that that changed the relationship.

That doesn’t mean that the Lord condones polygamy or having multiple wives, but because he appeared to her she was able then to submit and it brought a little more harmony in. “So Hagar bore… a son; and Abram named” her son, who she “bore, Ishmael.” God has heard me. “Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore Ishmael to Abram.” Now in closing I want you to think about something. We are all faced almost on a daily basis with the options of doing things by the spirit of doing things by the flesh. We’re also almost always faced with the options of helping God out, doing things our way or doing things his way. Are you aware that so much of the bloodshed and misery in the Middle East that we see today, the whole mess in the Middle East can be traced back to this imprudent decision to run ahead of the Lord and try to make God’s will come true? When Sarai said, “I’m going to do it through someone else instead of doing it myself. I’m going to let the Lord do it through someone else instead of doing it in me.” When Abram said, “Yeah, I’m going to listen to my wife instead of listening to the Lord.” When Hagar said, “Hey, this will work things out better. I’ll get promoted. It may not be God’s plan, but what’s the difference as long as I get ahead?”

Did anyone end up happier in the end by doing it their way? We were talking in our pastoral staff meeting yesterday. You know the pastoral staff gathers a couple times a week. We gather on Friday. We all drive together to the church and you know what we do? We specifically pray for you, and we pray for the service the following day. And I tell the pastors what I was preaching. I say, “You got any ideas?” And Harold said, “You know, you can even think about it. Think about it, 9/11 could be traced back to Sarah and Abram’s indiscrete decision.” Sometimes I don’t think we fully appreciate the long-lasting ramifications of doing things our way. Look at all the misery and the fighting and the bloodshed in the Middle East, and when you look at that what you’ve got there is you’ve got a war that started back in Abram’s tent! And it’s still playing itself out today. And I’ll predict that politicians are not going to find the solution for those deeply ingrained, I want to be an optimist, but I’ve been there and I’ll tell you there are some deeply ingrained problems.

It may be the beast power will concoct some illusion of peace. I don’t know, but I don’t think you’re going to see it coming from the politicians. It is a spiritual issue and it dates a long way back. How much better it would have been for Abram to wait on the Lord, to let the Lord vindicate him, to let the Lord fulfill his promise and let God do it in a miraculous way instead of forcing it in a carnal way. I’ll bet that if you think about it the Holy Spirit can help you recognize some times in your life where you said, “I’m going to run ahead of the Lord. I’m going to make this happen. I’m going to force God to act.” Doesn’t it backfire? How much better when we submit to the Lord and say, “Lord, you do it in your timing, you do it your way and God will bless.” And the good news is God can even bless our blunders. Amen? If you find yourself in some circumstances and tangled situation of your making then say, “Lord, please bless my blunders.” And he can do that. But for future reference wait on the Lord and do it his way. If that’s your prayer take your hymnal, we’ll sing our closing hymn “Have Thine Own Way” and that is 567 and I’ll invite you to stand as we sing.

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way! Thou art the Potter; I am the clay. Mold me and make me After Thy will, While I am waiting, Yielded and still.

This would be a good time to give you an opportunity to respond to what you’ve heard this morning. There may, be first of all, some of you here you may have been coming for years, you may be visitors, but you have never made a decision to surrender your life to Jesus and say, “Lord, I want that miracle birth within me. I want to do it your way.” You’ve been living by the flesh and you want to be led by the Spirit. Would you like to come and express that to the Lord? Come now. Some of you may have been struggling with wanting to do things your own way and you’ve found yourself in some very tangled circumstances that you regret and you want God to bless your blunders. Maybe you’d like special prayer. Why don’t you come as we sing verse two?

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way! Search me and try me, Master, today! Whiter than snow, Lord, Wash me just now, As in Thy presence Humbly I bow.

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way! Wounded and weary Help me, I pray! Power—all power—Surely is Thine! Touch me and heal me, Savior divine!

Before we sing the last verse and have our closing prayer I just want to extend the appeal a little deeper. There may be some of you here who have been trying to live vicariously finding happiness through someone else’s experience. You’re thinking that something else is what’s going to really bring you happiness. The only thing that really is going to ever bring you lasting happiness is to wait on the God and the life that he gives you inside. It’s nothing external. You can’t make it happen. It comes by trusting him and waiting on him. You’ve heard it said, “Good things come to those that wait.” Genius is often found in patience, in waiting on God. You’ve been struggling for that patience here is patience of the saints. Would you like to come? We’ll sing the last verse together.

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way! Hold o’er my being Absolute sway! Fill with Thy Spirit Till all shall see Christ only, always, Living in me!

Following our prayer if there are some of you here who have made a decision today to accept Jesus then we have pastors available who would be happy to visit with you and pray with you. Let’s pray.

Father in Heaven, we are thankful for the relevant messages we find even in this story that is four thousand years old. We all have the same emotions and strivings and struggles and we’re thankful to know that you do see and you do still bless. You meet us when we’re wandering and you can bless our blunders. Lord, I pray that you will help us to experience that child of promise, Jesus, born miraculously in our hearts and minds, and find relief and satisfaction in that. Be with each of these people, Lord, we run ahead of you, we try to help you out and we mess things up. Give us patience and, Lord, as far as possible reverse the curse and bless our blunders, untangle the mistakes that we have made and work things together for good. We believe you can do this and we ask it in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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God Cares: The Message of Daniel by Mervyn Maxwell

God Cares: The Message of Daniel by Mervyn Maxwell
God's Promises




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