Tuesday, June 30, 2009

You Are The God Who Sees Me: Hagar....Us

Genesis 16:10-12

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. 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."

When I read through the verses above I can't help but to wonder what Hagar must have been thinking. This God was the God of Abram and her mistress, Sarai, not her God and yet He knew about her circumstances and cared about her, an Egyptian maidservant. Wonder, amazement, awe, finally knowing that someone loved her and cared about her....could these be some of her feelings?

Hagar knew that she was pregnant. This is the reason for her misbehaviour and haughtiness towards Sarai. What she didn't know that was that she was going to have a son, a rebellious one who would have difficulty getting along with everyone. God gave her a glimpse of what the future would be for her and her son. Not an easy one but at least she was informed in advance about the struggles that she and Ishmael would face.

Genesis 16: 13-16
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 Lahal Roi, it is still there, between Kadesh and Bered. So Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram gave the name Ishmael to the son she had borne. Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore him Ishmael.

You are the God who sees me. This is so true! God saw Hagar's plight and gave her reassurances that He knew exactly what was happening and what would happen in the future.

God sees us and knows our circumstances. He also knows our future. Sometimes He lets us know a bit about what is to happen and sometimes He doesn't.

Hagar did return to Abram and Sarai and we can assume that she submitted to Sarai just as God had asked her to do in Genesis 16: 9. With Ishmael's birth, the childless couple now had a reason to celebrate. Or did they?

Abram and Sarai had taken matters into their own hands when Sarai gave Hagar to Abram as his "wife." They had conformed to the views and approval of society at that time. It isn't really surprising that they must still wait another fourteen years for Isaac to be born. God had promised them many children but the promise was not through Ishmael, it was to come through Isaac.

God hadn't let them down. He had let them wait until it was impossible for Sarai to conceive. In this way, they and everyone else would realize that this was truly a blessing and a miracle from God.

Are we like Abram and Sarai? Do we realize that God has a plan for us but do we get impatient waiting? Have we ever had to wait as long as Abram and Sarai for God to fulfill His promise? Do we decide to take matters into our own hands like they did and then wonder why life gets so messy? Do we trust God implicitly to do precisely what He says He will do?

You are the God who sees me. Hagar said these words and so can we.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Abram and Sarai: Living in Canaan for Ten Years

Genesis 16: 1-4

Now Sarai, Abram's wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian maidservant named Hagar; so she said to Abram, "The LORD has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my maidservant; perhaps I can build a family through her."
Abram agreed to what Sarai said. So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sari his wife took her Egyptian maidservant Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. He slept with Hagar, and she conceived...

God had told Abram twice, in Genesis (Chapter 12 and 15) about the numerous children that he and Sarai were to have. God gave the promise but God did not provide the time frame. The question when will this happen was not answered until years after God made his covenant/promise with Abram. How many years did they have to wait after this promise was given? The initial covenant was given to Abram when he was 75years old. The fulfillment of a child occurred when he was 100. They had a 25 year wait, not to mention all the years before the promise was given that they were childless.

When Sarai suggested that Abram take Hagar to be his wife and build their family through her, she wasn't waiting for God to fulfill His promise to them. Neither was Abram, when he agreed with her suggestion. They were both following the accepted, human law of that time that if one's wife was barren it was alright to have take another woman as your wife so that you could have children. It is a custom that we see time and again in the Old Testament.

What about us? Do we tend to follow the culture and customs of society today? Do we allow them to override our hearts and rule where God should be in control? These are just a few examples of what society's influence: personal pleasure and fulfillment, attitudes, uncaring, unloving, jealousy, and greed. Sadly, for many of us, the answer is yes. I pray that we continue to seek God's will for our lives so that when choices need to be made, we choose to do God's will, not society's.

Genesis 16:4-6

When she (Hagar) knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress. Then Sarai said to Abram, "You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my servant in your arms, and now that she know she is pregnant, she despises me. May the LORD judge between you and me. "Your servant is in your hands," Abram said. "Do with her whatever you think best." The Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her."

Pride, jealousy, blame, anger, resentment, are just some of the emotions that I can see in these verses. In taking matters into their own hands, Sarai and Abram allowed satan to rule in their hearts and lives, for a time. Hagar fell into this as well. I can understand Hagar because she hadn't yet met the LORD however I shake my head at Abram and Sarai.

Yet, how many times in my life have I actually waited on the Lord? Or have I, like Sarai, helped things along? Then when everything seems to become a huge mess who do I blame? Do I take responsibility for my actions? Do I blame my husband, as Sarai did? Or do I instead get angry with God?

What about God’s grace? Had Abram and Sarai forgotten about it? Do I often forget about God’s grace? My prayer is that each remember God’s gift of grace. He loves us so much that He gave his son Jesus to die for our sins. Then Jesus rose to life on the third day. God loves us so much that He provided a way for us to be with Him. It isn’t anything that we’ve earned. It is His total and complete grace…a gift.

God extended His grace to Hagar.

Genesis 16:7-10

The angel of the LORD found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur. And he said, “Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going? “I’m running away from my mistress Sara,” she answered. Then the angel of the LORD told her, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her.” The angel added, “I will so increase your descendants that they will be too numerous too count.”

Hagar, the Egyptian and Sarai’s maid had an encounter with an angel of the Lord. He asked her two questions. Where did you come from? Where are you going? She answered by explaining that she was running away from her mistress. Then God’s angel told her to return to her mistress and to submit to her. Submit! Meaning, surrender to Sarai’s wishes and perhaps even to her mistreatment again. Then a promise was made to her. Hagar was informed that she would have many children.

How does this verse apply to us? There are times in our lives when we may have been mistreated by others. Some of them may have been fellow believers. I think that the two questions that the angel asked Hagar are vital.

Where did you come from? Where are you going?

These questions are important because we need to our lives and our actions. It’s vital for us to ask ourselves these questions so that we remind ourselves about God’s grace. God is always at work in our lives. Always! We just aren’t always privy to the information that explains: who, what, where, why, when and how. God works through those details, in His time. He just want us to be obedient and trust in Him.

Hagar was told to return to Sarai and to submit to her. We will have times in our lives like this. God will ask us to return. How is it possible to return to a setting where we were mistreated?

It’s only possible with God’s grace. When we pray and ask God to help us to forgive people for a wrong that they have done, God will guide us through it. We can’t do it on our own. Even if the people do not accept the fact that you’ve forgiven them, you have done what God asked you to do.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Grass Looks Greener on the Other Side of the Road: Abram and Sarai Continued

Have you ever gazed upon your neighbour's lawn and thought that their grass does look greener than your grass. Not only is it greener, but they don't seem to have the problem with the weeds that you do, nor the pot holes etc. I know that I have.

Let's take it a bit farther...sometimes we may even look at the lives of others and think that they have it much better than we do. They don't seem to have the financial struggles, or their marriage is better, their kids are well behaved, their vehicles always run perfectly, their house never needs any repairs. You get the idea. Okay, I'm guilty of this too.

When we begin thinking this way we need to realize that this is satan tempting us into being ungrateful. God has bestowed many blessings upon us.

We need to keep in mind that better isn't always the best. Neither is worse always the worst.

Today's verses about Abram and Sarai are an excellent reminder of this. I needed this reminder when I read through it the other day but more than that, I sometimes need this reminder on a daily basis.

Genesis 13: 1- 9

So Abram went up from Egypt to the Negev, with his wife and everyting he had, and Lot went with him. Abram had become very wealthy in livestock and in silver and gold. From the Negev he went from place to place until he came to Bethel, to the place between Bethel and Ai where his tent had been earlier and where he had first built an altar. There Abram called on the name of the LORD.

Now Lot, who was moving about with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents. But the land could not support them while they stayed together, for their possessions were so great that they were not able to stay together. And quarreling arose between Abram's herdsmen and the herdsmen of Lot. The Canaanites and Perizzites were also living in the land at that time. So Abram said to Lot, "Let's not have any quarreling between you and me, or between your hedsmen and mine, for we are brothers. Is not the whole land before you? Let's part company. If you go to the left, I'll go to the right; if you go to the right, I'll go to the left."

In these verses, Abram realizes that he and Lot do need to separate so that all of their livestock can benefit fully from the land. The separation will also prevent further disagreements between their "tented households." He graciously allows Lot the first choice. As is often the case, when we are allowed the first choice, we look at everything very carefully and will choose the best for ourselves. This is exactly what Lot does.

Genesis 13: 10-13
Lot looked up and saw that the whole plain of the Jordan was well watered, like the graden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt, toward Zoar. (This was before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.) So Lot chose for himself the whole plain of the Jordan and set out toward the east. The two men parted company; Abram lived in the land of Canaan, while Lot lived among the cities of the plain and pitched his tents near Sodom. Now the men of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the LORD.

Lot chose the land that looked lush and green. He chose what appeared to be the better of the two choices but it wasn't the best. He decided to live in an area where the grass was green but the people didn't honour the LORD.

This is a clear warning to us. Better isn't always the best because it could be from satan, not from God. Better could be a job where you just name your salary, the most expensive house on the street or the most costly vehicle on the dealer's lot. If our eyes are so busy focusing on the material objects then our heart is also there. We're laying up our treasures in the world rather than with God. How would a high salary, a pricy house or car help us to serve God better? How would any of this help us to share His love with others?

God demonstrates His grace to Abram and to us in these next few verses.

Genesis 13:14-18

The LORD said to Abram after Lot had parted from him, "Lift up your eyes from where you are and look north and south, east and west. All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever. I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted. Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you." So Abram moved his tents and went to live near the great trees of Mamre at Hebron, where he built an altar to the LORD.

Isn't this just like God. He blesses us by giving us room for improvement, time to rely on Him to provide. He grants to us a project that is a work in progress. He blesses us with a barren weed filled land, a fixer upper and yet all that we have is a demonstration of His grace and His glory. Only God can take the unseemingly, insignificant and mold it into His work of art and beauty.

When God awards us with the most unlikely material object we can't help but to give Him the credit for it becoming beautiful because we know what it looked like at first. This is also what God does for us. He takes our character, our nature, our imperfections, our ugliness and turns it into beauty. A beauty that will help others to learn to love God and accept to His grace because of what He has done for us.

The grass isn't always greener on the other side of the road. The better isn't always the best. Neither is worse the worst.


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Telling a Lie and the Trouble it Caused: Abram and Sarai....continued

Genesis 12: 10-13

Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to live there for a while because the famine was severe. As he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, “I know what a beautiful woman you are. When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife. Then they will kill me but will let you live. Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you.”

Abram knew that he would be killed so that Sarai could become someone’s wife. It was the way of life at that time. Unfortunately, when he told this lie and also asked Sarai to lie, he wasn’t showing his trust in God or in His grace. God had already guided Abram and Sarai this far in their journey. He had protected them and provided for them. Yet, fear and worry won out.

Are we really any different today? We trust, we are patient, we see God’s hand on our lives, yet we allow Satan to creep in with worry, doubt and fear. We allow Satan to take up residence in our hearts and minds where only our Lord should be present. We wallow in his temptations instead of casting them aside and filling ourselves with praise and thanksgiving and hope for God’s promise of blessing. We’re all guilty. Just as guilty as Abram and Sarai. Just as guilty in not trusting God when everything looked hopeless and desperate.

So what do we do? Sometimes we tell that lie, or stir things up to make things happen but this is our solution. It isn’t God’s plan for us nor is it the result that he would have chosen for us. We open ourselves up to temptation and circumstances that may never have happened if we had given God complete control of our lives.

Genesis 12: 14-16

When Abram came to Egypt, the Egyptians saw that she was a very beautiful woman. And when Pharaoh’s officials saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh, and she was taken into his palace. He treated Abram well for her sake, and Abram acquired sheep and cattle, male and female donkeys, menservants and maidservants, and camels.

So….at first it appears that the lie prospered Abram. You have to wonder why Abram would actually allow his wife to be taken into Pharaoh’s harem. Was she really less valued than the property (sheep, donkeys and servants) that he gained? I realize that during this time frame that she was considered property but God had promised to bless Abram with many children with Sarai as his wife, not as Pharaoh's wife. It does sound as though Abram didn't value Sarai as much as he should have.

God valued Sarai. God values the husband and wife relationship. God values truth. God values complete trust. God’s grace overrides everything.

Genesis 12: 17-20

But the LORD inflicted serious diseases on Pharaoh and his household because of Abram’s wife Sarai. So Pharaoh summoned Abram. “What have you done to me?” he said. “Why didn’t you tell me she was your wife? Why did you say, ‘She is my sister’ so that I took her to be my wife? Now then, here is your wife. Take her and go!” Then Pharaoh gave orders about Abram to his men, and they sent him on his way, with his wife and everything he had.

You and I can shake our head at Abram and Sarai’s folly because we can read up on what happens and see God’s grace and provision. Yet, when it comes to our lives and the mistakes that we make, we have to consider that we really aren’t any different than these two.

We don’t have continue the cycle though. We can prayerfully seek God’s will for our lives daily and minute by minute, if necessary. We can humble ourselves to learn from our mistakes and to grow in our trust of God’s love and grace.

How about you? Are you attempting to humble yourself and grow in your trust of God’s love and grace?