When Disaster Strikes (Genesis 16)


When someone commits a murder or gets arrested or otherwise acts out in a shocking and unexpected way, suddenly we all turn into psychoanalysts. We always knew that so-and-so was crazy or we could always see that something was off about them. It becomes so important to us to pinpoint how different we are from those who do terrible things, because otherwise, couldn’t the same thing happen to us? Thank God we’re not like that!
But it’s not always that simple. Innocent beginnings can quickly spiral into catastrophe. Like us, Abram may not have thought it was possible. After his close call with Egypt and his successful campaign against all those kings, he may have felt invincible! So when Sarai came to him with a plan for how to start building that family God had promised them, Abram agreed quickly. It wasn’t exactly what God had said, but what could it hurt? Maybe God would be pleased in the end.
So Abram went along with the plan and slept with Hagar, his wife’s handmaid. Hagar got pregnant and soon began to look down on her mistress. Getting pregnant so soon was something to gloat about, after all. And what was wrong with Sarai that she couldn’t get pregnant by this man after so many years? This got to Sarai, and soon she was pissed. Rather than regret her idea and do her best to improve the situation, she turned around and yelled at Abram. It was all his fault, obviously. How dare he do this to her? How dare he force her to submit to the disdain of a slave?
Abram didn’t seem to have much to say to Sarai. He decided to let the feuding women work it out themselves, basically telling Sarai to do whatever she wanted with Hagar. So she did. Maybe she attacked her verbally. Maybe she overworked her, threatening her life and the baby’s. Maybe she withheld food from the girl. The Bible doesn’t give us details (verse 6), but whatever it was, Hagar couldn’t take it and ran away.
But then God found her. He listened to her. He promised Hagar that she would have many descendants. He told her that her son should be called Ishmael and that he’d be wild and strong, if disliked (verse 12). And then He told her to go back (verse 9). Imagine how difficult that was! But she obeyed, out of awe and gratitude to the God who saw her (verse 13). Even though it was hard, and even though she didn’t know why, Hagar returned to her angry mistress and her eighty-six year old baby daddy and gave birth to her son, Ishmael.

The Treasures Within:

A Recipe For Disaster

Talk about a perfect storm. This situation went from bad to worse. You would think that at least one person would have had more sense than to agree to Sarai’s plan. And why didn’t Abram do more to calm Sarai down once things got bad? There were several points in this story where someone could have done something to turn things around, but no one did. Maybe if it had been us, events wouldn’t have turned out so badly. But chances are good they would have anyway.

Abram, Sarai and Hagar did have issues, but they weren’t uncommon ones. It doesn’t necessarily take a wildly desperate woman to plan what Sarai did, just one who is impatient with God and distrustful of His promises. It doesn’t necessarily take a clueless, lazy man to go along with everything the way Abram did; just one who would rather take matters into his own hands than wait on God. And it doesn’t necessarily take a power-hungry, cold-hearted woman to mistreat a barren woman like Hagar did, just one who has an average amount of pride.

We could all be Sarai or Hagar or Abram. Those small sins, slightly impure thoughts, and somewhat negative emotions that are so easy to ignore are within all of us. Selfishness, jealousy, impatience, anger, pride – we like to think that these are sins we can never really overcome. As long as we stop the big stuff, like drinking, watching porn, lying, or eating bad food, then we assume that we’ve done enough to please God. We tell each other that it’s only when Jesus comes back that we’ll be victorious over all sin. So while we wait, we ignore the small stuff. But letting these issues sit, grow, and fester unchecked will lead us into disasters of our own.

God knows this. He can foresee what catastrophic decisions we are capable of as a result of these small sins, and that’s why He doesn’t want us to give in to them. Here, now, today, and on this earth, God can give us victory over all of those small heart sins. They seem impossible to overcome. They even seem integral to who we are as humans. But if we allow them, they will destroy us. We have to let God come into our lives and avert the disaster heading our way. He promised to give us a new heart if we come to Him, and He will keep His promise.

God’s Message To Us:

“I see you. I understand you.” Hagar was a proud woman who was partially responsible for what happened, but when God found her in the wilderness, that wasn’t what He focused on. He didn’t say, “Hagar, you need to purge this sinful pride from your heart right now!” He said, “The Lord has heard of your misery.” He knew Hagar was absolutely miserable as a slave and thus had begun to act out as soon as she had something viable to hold over her mistress. Mere humans can only see our outward actions, but God sees our hearts. He sees the root of our evil. He understands our trauma, our complicated pasts, and the strange and convoluted ways our minds work. He gets us. That’s why Hagar named Him “the God who sees me”. She was so amazed at how deeply this Man knew her.

But God doesn’t stop there. Love is more than just strong affection towards someone. Love is willing to do the dirty work. Love is wanting the best for someone, and earnestly working toward it. God does not just care for us in spite of everything wrong with us – He rolls us His sleeves and plunges into our lives, aiming to fix us. An Egyptian slave was not too insignificant to be seen, understood, and cleansed by God. And neither are we.

What do you think? What were you thinking as you read this chapter? What did God want to tell you when He wrote this chapter of the Bible?

2 thoughts on “When Disaster Strikes (Genesis 16)

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