GENESIS 16: MUTING GOD
Some people curl up with an intriguing novel while on a beach holiday. I like real-life stories and I love the Book of Genesis. I highly recommend it to anyone as great reading material! We’ve already had a poetic beginning, an exile, a murder, the setting up of ancient cities, a global disaster, and the birth of nations, and all this is packed into eleven short chapters! Simply riveting! I love it all from start to finish!
But more than just a fantastic story, woven within the narrative of the Creator God’s Epic Play is something that God later reveals as “treasures of darkness and hidden wealth of secret places”.[a] If reading the Book of Genesis is like ploughing a field, it’s important at the end of each row to walk back and check what’s been ploughed because, periodically, a priceless diamond is brought to the surface.
Even in the 21st Century, there’s life-lessons to be learnt from this part of the script. The first verses of this chapter, for example, have come four chapters and ten years after what’s now known as The Call of Abraham.[b] In his home country, Abram heard a clear message from his Maker saying that he’d become a great nation. Ten years on – and because it looks like the Creator’s not playing His part – Sarai suggests that her husband sleeps with someone else. [v1-2]
In Middle-Eastern culture, the idea of having more than one wife is not a foreign concept. However, this is clearly a plan to use Hagar’s body as a surrogate mother, so that Sarai “can obtain children through her”. [v2] Regardless of your beliefs when it comes to using a surrogate process, neither Abram nor Sarai seem to have taken into account what really happens (or what complications could arise) when two people become “one flesh”.[c] This is a concept that Abram would have been aware of. When Father God said, “…a son coming from your own body will be your heir…” Abram should have known that this naturally means with the person in his current “one-flesh” union.
So in addition to Sarai and Hagar’s plight, Abram’s also on a journey of faith. Father God said: “I will bless those who bless you, whoever curses you I’ll curse, and all people on earth will be blessed through you”.[d] However, in the very next incident, Abram falters in his trust. As a result, he thinks his life is in danger, he puts Sarai at risk in Egypt, and Father God had to firmly step in to rescue her![e] Four times now, the Creator has promised offspring and even told Abram what would happen to his descendants.[f] But instead of going back to Father God to ask who the mother should be, Abram consents to Sarai’s plan. [v1-3]
Now the style of this narrative doesn’t seem to show any concern at all for the use of Hagar’s body, or her feelings. As soon as the “one-flesh” symptoms kick in, Hagar’s feelings come alive and “her desire is now for her husband”.[g] While I don’t condone Hagar’s behaviour, as soon as Sarai becomes a third wheel in the relationship [v4], she immediately blames her husband, instead of saying sorry to Father God for taking matters into her own hands! [v5] Rather then demonstrating leadership and taking charge of what’s going on in his family, Abram dumps it all back on Sarai. In the process, he’s showing no love at all for the “one-flesh relationship” that he just started with Hagar! [v6]
As always, Father God comes to the rescue and this chapter holds another gemstone that has to be squirreled away because it’ll be needed later.
The one doing the “appearing” has appeared for a second time. He appeared to Abram and now He appears to Hagar, and is given the title “The Lord’s Angel”. There is, however, an immediate problem with simply writing this person off as “an” angel of the Lord – one of the many angels[h] – who’s there simply to give Hagar a message from her Maker. [v11]
Just as God promised Abraham to increase his offspring, this person also promises Hagar the He will increase her descendants. [v10] As a created being, no normal angel has the right or capacity to increase anyone’s family line – only the Creator can do that. So if this person’s identity is in question (is He the Lord, or simply “an” angel of the Lord) Hagar then “called the name of the Lord who spoke to her: ‘You are a God who sees’; for she said, ‘Have I even remained alive here after seeing Him?’” [v13]
It’s clear from the text that the One who is visible and speaking is considered to be both LORD and God. This is extremely important to remember as Father God’s epic storyline continues through the centuries because it was/is also clear that no-one has seen Father God.[i] The ancient notion was widely accepted: no-one could look upon the face of God and live. [j] So the question that remains even today is: If you can’t see the Face of Father God and remain alive, who is this person that Abram and Hagar saw – the One they called Lord and “The Living One”?
The profile, role and identity of the One who is later called Immanuel: God with Us is at the heart of this Epic Play. For now, one more thing is revealed about Father God…
God Himself named Ishmael. [v11,15] The name is Hebrew – the language of Abram the Hebrew[k] who came from a region in modern-day Iraq – Muslims trace their ancestry back to Ishmael.[l] It means “God has heard” and it’s the same Hebrew verb that means “God has heeded”. God Most High has heard and seen the plight of an Egyptian slave girl, and He’s concerned enough to step in with special care for those in need.[m]
With this in mind, we’re beginning to build up a picture of the One at the back of the greatest story ever told. Far from muting the Creator’s voice from the record of human experience, this is an epic storyline that begins to slowly and carefully trace a continual and active thread of divine intervention in human history – HIStory as we now know it.
CLICK to return to today’s “Daily Breadcrumbs”
[a] Isaiah 45:3
[b] Genesis 12:1-3
[c] Genesis 2:24
[d] Genesis 12:3
[e] Genesis 12:10-20
[f] Genesis 12:2&7; 13:15-16; 15:4-5,13-16&18
[g] Genesis 3:16
[h] Genesis 28:12
[i] John 6:46
[j] Genesis 32:31; Exodus 20:19; Deuteronomy 4:33; Judges 13:22
[k] Genesis 14:13
[m] Genesis 29:32 and Exodus 3:7