COLLATERAL DAMAGE: A Study of Hagar, Part 2

In the last study, we looked at Hagar and how her life was impacted by Abram and Sarai taking matters into their own hands instead of waiting on the Lord.  There are more dynamics to this story than can be addressed in two studies, but we will look at a few.  God had given a promise to Abram and Sarai that He would give them descendants.  But many years had passed since that initial promise, so Abram and Sarai decided they would help the Lord out.  How many times do we do this?  And the result is other people get hurt.  Sarai came up with the idea that she would give her slave girl to Abram to have a child by her.  Perhaps when Hagar conceived, that confirmed to Sarai her fear that she was the problem. But another dynamic of this story is that Hagar, in her flesh, despised Sarai after she became pregnant. When we find ourselves hurt by others, our tendency is to act in the flesh, to nurse our wounds, to feel sorry for ourselves.  Hagar found herself pregnant, in bondage, in seeming hopelessness, so she fled to the wilderness.  There she met the Angel of the LORD, a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus.  Throughout the Old Testament we see Jesus, on special occasions, appearing  as a man before His incarnation.  We know this is Jesus because He told Hagar, "I will multiply your descendants exceedingly, so that they shall not be counted for multitude," and after this appearance Hagar "then called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, You-Are-the-God-Who-Sees; for she said, 'Have I also here seen Him who sees me?'" Genesis 16:10 & 13 NKJV.  We saw that the Lord told Hagar to go back to Sarai and submit herself, something that would be difficult to do.  It's always difficult to submit ourselves, but an unsubmissive heart is a hard heart.  Apparently she returned with a submitted heart and shared with Abram and Sarai what the Lord had said.  She bore Abram a son when he was eighty-six years old and called him Ishmael, just as the Lord had instructed.

The next we see in Genesis is a fast forward to Abram at ninety-nine years old.   Hagar has been there for 13 more years.  To get the full impact of the story let's continue in Genesis 17:1-8: "When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, 'I am Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless.  And I will make My covenant between Me and you, and will multiply you exceedingly.' Then Abram fell on his face, and God talked with him, saying: 'As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, and you shall be a father of many nations.  No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you a father of many nations.  I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you. And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you.  Also I give to you and your descendants after you the land in which you are a stranger, all of the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.'"

Genesis 17:9-11: "And God said to Abraham: 'As for you, you shall keep My covenant, you and your descendants after you throughout their generations. This is My covenant which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: Every male child among you shall be circumcised; and you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and you.'"

Genesis 17:15-21: "Then God said to Abraham, 'As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name.  And I will bless her and also give you a son by her; then I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples shall be from her.'  Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said in his heart, 'Shall a child be born to a man who is one hundred years old?  And shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?'  And Abraham said to God, 'Oh, that Ishmael might live before You!'  Then God said: 'No, Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his descendants after him.  And as for Ishmael, I have heard you.  Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly.  He shall beget twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation.  But My covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you at this set time next year.'"

Has the Lord given you a promise of something, but is was several years ago, and it seems like it will never happen?  Do you think, well, I must have misunderstood or made it up?  Or, God must have forgotten?  Can you imagine how it will feel when the promise comes to fruition?  I think I would be like Abraham and fall on my face and laugh.  Usually, the reason the Lord gives us promises in the first place is because of a difficult circumstance we face.  Then in the passage of time while He works in us, growing us, refining us, we experience all kinds of emotions.  Many times, there isn't much occasion for a whole lot of laughter.  When the promise finally does come true, or in this case, was confirmed, all those emotions, from despair, doubt, growing trust, determination to glee, and everything in between would culminate in sheer laughter.

We know that Sarah laughed, too.  In Genesis 18 we see the LORD appeared to Abraham by the terebinth trees at Mamre, in the heat of the day.  The context of this passage is when the LORD tells Abraham that He is going to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, where Lot lives.  What ensues is the dialogue between Abraham and the LORD about how many righteous people would be found for the LORD to not destroy.  But before that we see beginning in verse 9 the part where Sarah laughs.  Genesis 18:9-12:  "Then they said to him, 'Where is Sarah your wife?'  So he said, 'Here, in the tent.'  And He said, 'I will certainly return to you according to the time of life, and behold, Sarah your wife shall have a son.'  (Sarah was listening in the tent door which was behind him.)  Now Abraham and Sarah were old, well advanced in age; and Sarah had passed the age of childbearing.  Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, 'After I have grown old, shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?'  And the LORD said to Abraham, 'Why did Sarah laugh, saying, "Shall I surely bear a child, since I am old?"  Is anything too hard for the LORD?  At the appointed time I will return to you, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son.'  But Sarah denied it saying, 'I did not laugh,'  for she was afraid.  And He said, 'No, but you did laugh!'"

Wow, this is packed with things to study, so we will have to limit it to a few things for now.  First, notice there is nothing hidden before the Lord.  If we could just remember that God knows and hears everything, we might live differently.  I'm reminded of Hebrews 4:13: "Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in His sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do."

Second, when the LORD asks is anything too hard, the Hebrew word for hard is pala' and means "to be marvelous, be wonderful, be surpassing, be extraordinary, separate by distinguishing action."  It is the root word for pele' which is the word used for wonderful in Isaiah 9:6: "For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder.  And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."

Third, notice that there was an appointed time, according to the time of life.  Our God is sovereign.  He has an appointed time for every detail of His plan.  You can rest in Him and in His perfect timing.  He is a God of precision!  If He has given you a promise, it will happen at the appointed time.

Our story of Hagar picks up again in Genesis 21:5-13: "Now Abraham was one hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.  And Sarah said, 'God has made me laugh, and all who hear will laugh with me.'  She also said, 'Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? For I have borne him a son in his old age.'  So the child grew and was weaned.  And Abraham made a great feast on the same day that Isaac was weaned.  And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, scoffing.  Therefore she said to Abraham, 'Cast out this bondwoman and her son; for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, namely with Isaac.'  And the matter was very displeasing in Abraham's sight because of his son.  But God said to Abraham, 'Do not let it be displeasing in your sight because of the lad or because of your bondwoman.  Whatever Sarah has said to you, listen to her voice for in Isaac your seed shall be called.  Yet I will also make a nation of the son of the bondwoman, because he is your seed.'"

Genesis 21:14-16: "So Abraham rose early in the morning, and took bread and a skin of water and putting it on her shoulder, he gave it and the boy to Hagar, and sent her away.  Then she departed and wandered in the Wilderness of Beersheba.  And the water in the skin was used up, and she placed the boy under one of the shrubs.  Then she went and sat down across from him at a distance of about a bowshot; for she said to herself, 'Let me not see the death of the boy.'  So she sat opposite him, and lifted her voice and wept."

The greater study here is about flesh vs. spirit, which is a study unto itself.  Abraham was to get rid of the son of the flesh.  The son of the flesh and the son of promise could not peacefully exist. It is the same with our own battle between trusting our flesh and trusting the Holy Spirit... between walking after the flesh or walking in the Spirit.  Abraham was obedient.  He gave Hagar bread and water and put it on her shoulder.   The burden was now hers.  We can't manage our collateral damage.  We have to let everyone find the Lord for themselves. He could have given her far more provision, but she had to find her provision where we all have to find it... in the LORD.  And of course, the provisions from Abraham dried up.  As do our own provisions.  We all need to come to a point where we realize our flesh doesn't work for us anymore.  It's in that realization where we can find that He is our Provision.  He is the only One that can supply our needs.  He is the only One who fits in that God-sized hole.

Hagar placed the boy under one of the shrubs.  The word for placed is shalak and means "to throw, cast, throw away, cast off, shed, cast down."  She lifted her voice and wept.  The word is bakah and means "to weep (in grief, humiliation, or joy), to weep bitterly, to bewail, to make lamentation."  The first mention of this word is here in this verse.  This was the time of her greatest need.  This is how her life had turned out.  She had used up all her resources.  What else was there to do but to lift up her voice and weep?

But praise the Lord!  Genesis 21:17- 21: "And God heard the voice of the lad.  Then the angel of God called to Hagar out of heaven, and said to her, 'What ails you, Hagar?  Fear not, for God has heard the voice of the lad where he is. Arise, lift up the lad and hold him with your hand, for I will make him a great nation.'  Then God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water. And she went and filled the skin with water, and gave the lad a drink. So God was with the lad; and he grew and dwelt in the wilderness, and became an archer.  He dwelt in the  Wilderness of Paran; and his mother took a wife for him from the land of Egypt."

I find so much comfort in knowing that God has a sovereign plan that He weaves throughout all of the bad choices and mess ups that we do. We can't thwart God's plan.  Though Hagar and Ishmael were in a sense, collateral damage from the poor decisions of Abram and Sarai, God had a plan for both Hagar and Ishmael.  God's plan includes all kinds of people and circumstances to accomplish His purposes and to display His glory.  Hagar's and Ishmael's lives weren't what we necessarily think of when we think of God's plan for living, but God still blessed them and used them for His purposes. Though Isaac was the son of promise, God still planned for Ishmael's life to accomplish His purposes.  He has a plan for you.  It probably looks nothing like you envisioned, but trust Him.  He sees.  He hears.  He knows. He is your Provision.  He is the Living Water and the Bread of Life.  He wants you to come to the place where you stop relying on your own or someone else resources.  He wants you to stop relying on your flesh to make your world work for yourself, and instead walk in the spirit.  He wants you to submit your heart to Him and trust Him to bring about His plan for you.

Resources:  Blue Letter Bible Outline for Biblical Use and NKJV


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