The person who prays for God to take away his problems may be asking for a sickly spiritual life. Abraham and Sarah are both commended for their great faith in Scripture, but their failures are recorded for our instruction and encouragement. The first attack came shortly after they entered Canaan.
There was a famine in the land and Abraham decided to leave the place which God had promised him and flee into Egypt Gen. Had he consulted Sarah, she might have pointed out the foolishness of his decision, but like many men he moved ahead with his plans without considering the hardships he could cause her. Too many men refuse to ask advice from their wives.
They think headship gives them the prerogative of doing whatever they please without talking it over with their wives and coming to a mutually acceptable agreement. They are afraid their wives might find cracks in their logic or expose their narrow-minded selfishness. So they barge ahead with their plans and the whole family suffers for it. While Abraham thought the Egyptians might murder him to get his wife, he was sure they would treat him as an honored guest if they thought he were her brother. And he turned out to be right.
They gave him many animals and servants for her sake Gen. Such marriages were not unusual in that day. He cannot honor sin. Why did Sarah go along with his sinful scheme? I think it is. A wife has no obligation to obey her husband when obedience compromises the clearly revealed will of God cf. Acts Sarah could have justly refused. But it does show how deep her faith and submission really were.
Since there were no children as yet, she was expendable, but Abraham had to live and have children even if it should be by another woman. She may also have believed that God would intervene and deliver her before immorality became necessary. And because she believed, she submitted. It is hard to imagine a man sinking much lower than Abraham did on this occasion. Even the pagan king rebuked him for what he did Gen.
He failed Sarah sadly, but God was faithful to her. He honored her faith and delivered her. He never forsakes those who trust him. But he did. About twenty years later he did exactly the same thing with Abimelech, king of Gerar Gen. This shows how weak and faithless the faithful can be. There are probably some sins we think we will never commit again, but we must ever be watchful, for that is exactly where Satan will attack us.
She offered her Egyptian slave girl, Hagar, so that Abraham might have a son by her.
We must admit that her suggestion revealed her belief that God would keep His word and give Abraham a son. It was obviously motivated by her love for Abraham and her desire for him to have that son. And sharing her husband with another woman would have been one of the most sacrificial things she could do.
It was another fleshly solution. Too often we time-conscious earthlings resent His long delays and take matters into our own hands, usually to our great distress. If we could learn to keep trusting Him when our situation looks the bleakest, we would save ourselves much grief. This impulsive sin had its effect on the relationship between Abraham and Sarah.
Hagar got pregnant and eventually became proud and unmanageable. Sarah blamed Abraham for the whole problem when it was actually her own idea.
Then she dealt harshly with Hagar, and her unkindness exposed the bitterness and resentment in her soul. Meanwhile, Abraham shirked his duty. But now he told her to handle the problem herself, to do whatever she wanted to do, but to stop badgering him about it Gen. There is nothing to submit to, no leadership to follow. Even great men and women of faith have their moments of faithlessness. And no such moment was worse for Abraham and Sarah than when they laughed at God. They both did it. God told Abraham he would bless Sarah and make her a mother of nations. Kings of peoples would come from her.
And will Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child? The struggles of faith are real and we all experience them.
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But thank God for the final triumph of faith. I believe the turning point in their struggling faith occurred during that last encounter with the Lord. That poignant challenge pierced their faltering hearts, and faith was rekindled, strong and steadfast. There was that brief setback in Gerar Gen. But basically things were different from that moment on. Her laugh of doubt had turned to a laugh of triumphant joy, and we can share her joy with her.
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There would still be problems for Abraham and Sarah. The life of faith is never free from obstacles. Hagar and Ishmael were still around to poke fun at Isaac. And Sarah got upset about that. When she saw Ishmael mocking her little Isaac she seemed to lose control of herself. Could this be the same woman who is extolled in the New Testament for her submissiveness and obedience? Yes, it is. She is an object to be used as a surrogate for the child Sarah is unable to conceive.
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An angel of God calls Hagar by name in direct opposition to her previous experiences Gen They reflect her past and her future. Hagar answers truthfully but not completely. She states where she has come from but does not say where she is going. By focusing only on the past, Hagar confesses that she envisions no future. To some this command is insensitive and oppressive.
She will return with strong promises received directly and personally from God. Hagar, not a man, husband, or patriarch, also receives a covenant blessing Gen She is one of four people to hear the covenant directly from God. Here, scholars often shift the focus of their commentaries from Hagar to her son. The dialogue that began with a command to return and submit concludes with the disclosure of the identity of Ishmael, whose name acknowledges the cruelty Hagar has endured and provides a prophecy for mother and son that is anything but meek and dutiful.
Gen is an extraordinary moment in Scripture. There is no standard translation for the remaining section of Gen Though the text is difficult, it must be stressed that the sentence references a mutual seeing for both God and Hagar. When Hagar is removed physically from those who control every aspect of her life, a personal identity and relationship materializes. As a socially marginalized woman, her most intimate relationship, it turns out, is with God.
Elizabeth Tracy Independent Scholar.
Elizabeth Tracy is an independent scholar with a Ph. In the Hebrew Bible, the covenant Hebrew: berit is the formal agreement between Yhwh and the people of Israel and Judah, in which each agrees to a set of obligations toward the other.
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Hagar, the African mother of many nations, who saw and named God, was enslaved, impregnated, abandoned, and liberated by Sarah and Abraham.