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Sunday, November 24, 2019

posted Nov 24, 2019, 8:37 PM by Site Administrator



Genesis 16:1-16

Key Verse 16:13


She 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.”


First, “You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering” (1-6). Look at verses 1 and 2. Sarai suggested that Abram take Hagar, her maidservant as his second wife. Abram accepted it and slept with her. 10 years had passed since God had called Abram and given him His promise of a son. Yet he still had no son, even though he had followed God faithfully for 10 years. During this long time, they sometimes prayed for a son and were confident, laughing and smiling and thanking God. Other times, they were depressed and sad. Then they comforted one another and were encouraged again, and again depressed. They went through this cycle for so long! Indeed, they had struggled hard with this matter. Then, finally they had run out of patience. Sarai felt so sorry that because of her, Abram had no child. Then she thought about some tangible way to solve the problem – Abram taking Hagar as a second wife. That’s something that no wife wants, but she was so distressed and serious about this matter that she came up with such a painful idea. She decided to make such a great sacrifice, swallowing the sense of humiliation, sorrow, and pain. Who could understand her agony that drove her to make this suggestion?


Abram accepted it. It sounded like a good solution. Anyway, the son would be from Abram’s own body, as God had promised. They rationalized that maybe this was what God meant. But what was the basis of their rationale?  Sarai said, “The Lord has kept me from having children.” This was Sarai’s view of God, God’s will, and her life – so fatalistic, bitter and negative. Since God kept her from having children, what could humans do? Nothing! This rationale came from Sarai’s fatalistic way of thinking.  


We must be very careful about this. Any direction or decision we make must not come from unbelief or a sense of defeat or from fear. Many people make decisions based on fear for their future. For example, some people are scared about making real commitment to God, thinking that if they pursue God wholeheartedly, their life will be ruined. Some people, due to their failures in fishing and disciple-making, suggest that we should use some other methods. Our decisions or directions must not come from the sense of failure or sense of defeatism. Instead, whenever we have a certain decision, it must come from our absolute faith in God’s goodness and love for us. The Bible says, “The righteous will live by faith from first to last.” Also, the Bible says, “Everything that does not come from faith is sin.” (Rm 14:23) People’s suggestions might sound reasonable, but if it’s based on fear or a sense of defeat, it’s sin! We must never make a decision based on that, but based on our absolute faith in God. That’s how Christians should live, instead of being defeated by the challenging reality.


               Look at verse 4. It reads: “He slept with Hagar, and she conceived. When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress.” Hagar began to despise her mistress! That’s totally unexpected. That’s not acceptable at all! Hagar was a slave girl. Even though she was pregnant, she was not supposed to despise her mistress. How old was Sarai? 75 years old! Hagar was maybe 18 years old! Or maybe 25, or maybe 30. And she was a servant! It was really not right. She had to remember and keep her place. But she became proud, thinking of herself so highly. Groundless pride.


Why did she become so proud like this? Because she did what Sarai could not do. This is the danger of seeing ourselves based on what we do, comparing ourselves to others. What we do must never be the grounds for us to think of ourselves highly. If we allow this line of thinking, it only proves that we are not so great at all, so shallow, controlled by our sinful nature. Such praise comes from God alone, not from ourselves. Later, God says, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Take charge of ten cities.” At that time, our greatness is real. If we evaluate ourselves so highly first, it means nothing. Instead, what will happen? Jesus says, “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled.” Never evaluate yourself based on what you do. Instead, see yourselves before God alone, and struggle to do what you are asked to do.


Look at verses 5 and 6. Sarai said to Abram, “You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my servant in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the LORD judge between you and me.” Then, Abram said, “Your servant is in your hands. Do with her whatever you think best.” Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her.


In this situation, we see three people – Sarai, Abram, and Hagar. Sarai was really upset! Think about her pain, embarrassment, frustration, anger – she had made such a great sacrifice, and then this little slave girl acted like this. She was really angry. When you are in her shoes, how would you respond? Maybe, so angry that you would punish her terribly, or do some crazy things against her. Yet, what did she do? She went to Abram. Instead of dealing with it on her own, she first talked to Abram, because he was the head of the family.


How did Abram respond? Usually when there are conflicts like this, the husband might try to protect the newer wife against the old wife. What would have happened, if Abram stood on Hagar’s side? Perhaps, Sarai might be really hurt, and the unity in the family broken. But at that time, Abram respected the authority of Sarai as the mistress in the household. He kept the order in the family. As a result, God’s covenant family stood firm. In this way, when a conflicting situation arose, Sarai and Abram showed respected to each other.


What about Hagar? She was not behaving in a proper way at all – despising her mistress was unthinkable! And when it backfired, she ran away. What kind of woman was she? Immature, thoughtless, and rebellious, just a little young girl.


Thus, everyone suffered – Sarai, Abram, and Hagar. At first, this whole idea had looked like a good and quick solution, but it turned out to be the wrong way. In this precious covenant family, there had been peace and thanks and respect, but now there was bitterness, strife, mistreatment, anger, deep anxiety, sorrows. Human solution is never the right solution. Only God’s way is the real solution. People think God’s way is slow, but it is actually the fastest way. Instead of just jumping into the situation with a quick human solution, pray and wait for God’s help. God’s way is the best way.


               Second, “Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from?” (7-10). They had messed up – things had turned out terrible and everyone was suffering. They were helpless, nothing they could do. Then God intervened into the situation and took care of the mess. The angel of the LORD found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur. Look at verses 8 and 9. Let’s read these verses together:


And he said, “Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?” “I'm running away from my mistress Sarai,” she answered. Then the angel of the LORD told her, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her.” 


How was Hagar in the desert? She was sorrowful, lonely, and scared. It was all because of her fault! Her immaturity! She despised her mistress, she ran away. But she did not see it that way. Instead, she was just genuinely broken, crying, “Why does my life go this way? How come no one understands me?” Her future was unknown. Most likely, she would perish in the desert. It seemed that she was all alone. Then God visited her and talked with her. This must have been a big thing to her.


God called Hagar a servant of Sarai, reminding her of her position, that she was Sarai’s servant. As Sarai’s servant, she was not supposed to despise her mistress. She was not supposed to flee from her, either. It was her fault. Based on this, God gave her the direction to go back to Sarai and submit to her.


Here we learn God’s way of helping people, that is, to help them clarify their position and keep it. Let’s say you have some conflict with others. If God visits you, what would He say? Keep your position. That’s how God helps people. This is God’s way. So many problems occur and many people suffer because they do not keep their position. They say or do what they are not supposed to say or do. That’s what Satan did. That’s how Adam and Eve fell. That’s how today, so many people become Satan’s instruments at home, at work, and even in the church.


We need to remember who we are and what our position is. At that time, everything goes wonderfully. Those who fear God keep their position, instead of going by their feelings, emotions such as anger or the sense of injustice. Such people are really great. When people go beyond their positions and cause troubles with others, they have some reasons, maybe bitterness or anger, and thereby, they want revenge; they want to bring harm to the other person. Or they experience some injustice and they are angry. That’s how people fall into Satan’s hands. But no such things can justify their action of going beyond their position in God’s eyes. Think about how Judas Iscariot became Satan’s instrument: at the last supper, when Jesus exposed his betrayal openly with a piece of bread, his response was not good at all; he grabbed it and left, showing that he was really angry at Jesus, and he wanted to revenge. About that, the Bible describes, “Satan entered into him.” (Jn 13:27) Know your position and keep it – such people are really humble and great in God’s eyes.


In verse 10, God promised Hagar that He would increase her descendants that they would be too numerous to count. In Genesis 25, we see that her son, Ishmael had 12 sons, and they all became leaders, forming kingdoms. The descendants of the first son, Nebaioth, and the second son, Kedar are mentioned in the Bible several times. These Nabateans and the Kedarites fought against the Assyrian empire, and later, they teamed up with the Babylonian empire, playing a certain role in the rise of the Babylonian empire. The Nabateans were the very ones who occupied Petra after the Edomites, and soon, it was developed into a big city with about 200,000 population – it was the Nabateans’ capital city. The Nabateans supported the Hasmonean dynasty in their fight against the Seleucid kingdom in Syria; they also fought against Herod the Great, and later, as an ally of the Roman Empire, flourished throughout the 1st century. Its power extended far into Arabia along the Red Sea to Yemen, including Syria, Jordan, Sinai Peninsula, and about 1/3 of Saudi Arabia. As time went by, under Pax Romana, the Nabateans lost their warlike and nomadic habits, and became a sober, acquisitive and orderly people wholly intent on trade and agriculture. By the 5th century they had converted to Christianity. Later, in the 6th century, their lands were divided among new Arab invaders such as the new Qahtanite Arab tribal kingdoms of the Byzantine vassals, the Ghassanid Arabs, and the Himyarite vassals, the Kindah Arab Kingdom in North Arabia. Some of these Arab invaders later became Christians, while majority of them, as Islam was introduced in the 7th century (610 A.D) and spread in the Middle East, became Islamic countries. That’s just the first and second sons of Ishmael’s 12 sons. Indeed, as God promised, the descendants of Ishmael were numerous, and they played significant role in the history of the Middle East.


Third, “You are the God who sees me” (11-16). Look at verse 11. Let’s read this verse together:


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. 


“You shall name him Ishmael, for the Lord has heard of your misery.” Ishmael means “God hears.” How amazing this was! God heard her misery! She was crying and crying in the desert, wondering why her life was so hard, saying that no one understood her. Actually, it was due to all her fault that she had such misery. She was promoted from a slave girl to her master’s wife, only because of her mistress Sarai’s marvelous favor; yet, instead of thanking her for such great favor, she despised her mistress, then, when backfired, she ran away. It was all her fault! It seemed she deserved such misery. Yet, when she was crying and crying in misery, God heard her misery and had pity on her. God did not see her based on what she had done, but when she was crying out of misery, his heart went to her, and he wanted to help her. God is such an amazing Person.


When we think about how God heard her misery, we realize that that’s actually how He treated us as well. We were in deep agony, sorrows, meaninglessness, bitterness, emptiness. We were perishing and we could not go on any longer. Why were we in such misery? It was all because of our fault! We gave into sin, we were rebellious, we didn’t care. But when we were broken, when we were in misery, when we shed tears, God heard our misery and had pity on us. He wanted to help us. Our God is such a Person that when He sees someone crying, His heart goes to that person. Even if we commit serious sins, even if we deserve death penalty, but when we cry, his heart goes to us. Indeed, our God does not despise a broken and contrite heart. Our God is that kind of Person. He is so tender and compassionate, slow to anger, willing to forgive. He is love.  Because of God’s compassionate heart for us, today we live this new life. Because of God’s love, today we know Him and we now love Him. Because of his love, we have this chance to love Him back, doing what He wants us to do; today, our life has meaning and purpose, all because, when we were broken, God heard our misery.


God asked her to name her son, “Ishmael,” which means,
“God hears.” God wanted her to make history of this fact – God heard her misery. God heard your misery. Now don’t forget God’s amazing grace upon your life. Make a history of it.


Look at verse 12. Let’s read this verse together:


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.


Here, God foretold Hagar what kind of people her descendants would be – people like wild donkey, violent, hostile and rebellious, fighting against everyone around them. While studying this passage, I was embarrassed. I didn’t know whether verse 11 was God’s blessing or God’s curse. Then, during Bible study, God’s help came to me. It seems that this was God’s rebuke for her being proud and rebellious against her mistress. She was in a difficult situation, in great misery. So, God didn’t openly rebuke her, yet, still what she had done was really wrong, and now God was showing her the consequences of her proud and rebellious attitude – her descendants would be wild donkeys of men, hostile, and fighting against everyone around them. Long time ago, I read a news article about study of the comparison between the Puritans’ descendants and the criminals’ descendants. About two hundred years had passed since the pilgrim fathers came to America. When they checked out, they found that among the criminals’ descendants were a lot of criminals, doing all kinds of felony; and among the descendants of the pilgrims, a lot of influential leaders came out such as the professors and deans of the prominent universities. Similar studies have been conducted, and they show the same results consistently, and their conclusion was that the bad environment must change so that children may not grow in that kind of evil, violent and sinful environment. This is a warning for all of us. Do you want your children and grandchildren to be donkeys of men? Then, don’t be rebellious. Do you want your children and grandchildren to be hostile against everyone around them? Then, don’t live a sinful life. Do you want your children and grandchildren to be so cute, obedient, and be leaders of the society? Then, be obedient; be faithful to God; be submissive, and your children will learn from you how to live their life.


Look at verses 13 and 14. Let’s read these verses together:  


She 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.” That is why the well was called Beer Lahai Roi; it is still there, between Kadesh and Bered.


She experienced God personally and she could see what kind of a person God was. Till then, she thought of God as the God of her masters, too great for her to relate to; but now she was amazed to see that God was concerned about her! God sees me! Her eyes were opened to God’s tender love for her. So she gave this name to God, “You are the God who sees me.” “Attah El Roiy.” And her testimony was, “I have seen the one who sees me.” God was no longer far away; now she would believe in God and worship God. This is actually our testimony too. We thought God was far away, only for great people like Billy Graham to have relationship with Him. We thought that lowly people like us should just come to the church and sit there as an obligation. We never thought about having real relationship with God. But God saw us. God came to help us. As a result, we came into the real fellowship with God, spending time with him in prayer, wrestling with him through his words, and working together for his kingdom purpose as his business partners. God saw us and revealed Himself to us! That’s amazing. Sometimes we take it for granted, but it’s a really big thing. God heard your misery; God saw you. That’s how you have this new life with Him. Give this name to God, saying, “You are the God who sees me.” “Attah El Roiy.” Let’s remember this grace of God. Let’s give thanks to Him and struggle to please Him. God sees us.


Now she would return home. Usually, fleeing from the house and then, coming back home on her own would be humiliating; many people, in this kind of situation, refuse to go back home only because they are too ashamed. But once she experienced God's love personally, nothing was the matter. She was healed of her wounds and scars, and thereby, she had enough room and strength in her heart to swallow any sense of humiliation. Also, now being content with God's love, she had no reason to fight with her mistress. So, she returned to Abram’s house and submitted herself to Sarai. She gave birth to a son, and Abram named him, “Ishmael.” Abram was eighty-six years old.


Here, we see how one person is healed and becomes sound by experiencing God’s love personally. When we check out the two expressions, “You are the God who sees me,” and “I have seen the one who sees me,” we can notice that the emphasis is on “sees me.” God sees me! That was really a big thing to Hagar, an eye-opening moment. Before, she was not sound at all; she even could not appreciate such great favor from her mistress that she chose her to be her husband’s wife, to be on the same level with her; instead, she paid evil for good, by despising her, causing such turmoil in the family. She was not sound, and she had no room even to appreciate such great favor. Instead, when she had something valuable such as bearing Abram’s child, she was completely puffed up, saying and doing things really unreasonable. She had no real content in her, no real substance. At that time, she was a trouble both when she was not shown favor, and when she was shown favor – without favor, she would live as an empty person without content in herself, and with favor, she would be proud and evil, causing everyone around her to suffer. We can call this, “the Hagar syndrome.” So many people suffer from this “Hagar syndrome,” feeling miserable without favor, and being miserable with favor as well. Think about someone who is given really slight authority, becoming authoritative, and behaving arrogantly. During school, very humble-looking, but after getting a good job, suddenly being proud in words and actions, instead of being thankful and praising. I saw one person changing his attitude completely because his business goes successfully and he makes some money. I was shocked, and still have difficulty to understand his mindset. But when we think about this a little more deeply, we can see that fundamentally, we all have this problem, even if its severity may vary. Just with slight authority of becoming Fellowship leader, we sometimes try to reveal ourselves, using somewhat low Baritone voice, saying, “God bless you.” That’s why the Bible shows that ingratitude is one of the two fundamental sin problems of mankind. Fundamentally, this matter comes because our heart is not really occupied yet; that’s why our hearts are swayed away very easily by anything that looks good. Hagar was healed of this matter when she met God personally and experienced God’s love for her. She became thankful; she appreciated God’s love for her! Then, she could see things with God in mind, and there were so many things she could be thankful for. She could thank Sarai; she could thank Abram; she could thank everyone. That’s what happened to her when she met God personally, because God came to occupy her heart. Today, do you have the Hagar syndrome? Do you want to be healed? Have God in your heart! Give thanks to God for his love for you, and you will see things differently. You will be a source of thanks and encouragement to many people.


One Word:              You Are The God Who Sees Me