Abraham: A Journey of Faith – There Are No Shortcuts
This is the day the Lord has made let us rejoice and be glad in it, amen. Dear brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus. My dad is the king of shortcuts When we lived in Japan, he had a a way of avoiding all the busy intersections and all the places where there were traffic jams throughout the city of Tokyo where we lived, and he would seek out the quiet byways and back alleys. And he had such a knack for finding these shortcuts that even the Japanese members of his congregation came to him to find the quickest way to get places We all like shortcuts because they’re supposed to save time, but doing things the quickest way isn’t always for the best Grilling your hamburgers for example in the highest setting won’t mean that dinner will be ready more quickly. You’ll just end up burning the burger and delay dinner Likewise it might work to take that shortcut under the rail overpass with your little Honda Civic, but you better not try it with your tractor trailer As we continue our sermon series and are following Abraham on his journey of faith, we’re going to learn that when it comes to this journey, there are no shortcuts Unfortunately Abraham and Sarah tried taking a shortcut in our text for today and the results were disastrous What exactly happened and how did god deal with the fallout? Let’s find out as we turn to our text as it’s recorded in genesis chapter 16 So far our text So where are we at with Abram and Sarai as they were still called at this time? On the journey of faith it had been 10 years since God called him out of his hometown of Ur Ten years since he had come to Canaan, ten years since God had given him that promise that you will have a son and through that son all nations will be blessed. Why? Because it would be through those descendants that the Savior would be born into this world
They had been in Canaan for 10 years and life was pretty good They had many possessions, flocks and servants, but there was one thing missing Abram and Sarai still did not have that son even though God had repeated the promise to Abram you will have a son. In fact last week we heard how God even put that promise in writing, as it were, made it legally binding when he made that blood covenant with Abram But now God had said, you Abram will be the father of many. He never said, you Sarai will be the mother of many Could it be that God was going to fulfill his promise by giving a child to Abram through another woman? That seemed to be the thought that was going through Sarai’s mind when she approached her husband and said, the Lord has kept me from having children Go sleep with my slave. Perhaps I can build a family through her Now what Sarai proposed was the custom of the day If you were unable to give your husband children, you could take a servant, if you had one, and give that servant to your husband and if she would conceive and give birth to a child, you then could legally adopt that child as your own What do you think of Sarai’s plan? It took great humility to approach her husband and to suggest this because what woman would willingly hand her husband into the arms of another? And perhaps Sarai thought she just was being a team player God promised to give Abram children but it’s not happening Ten years have gone by Abram is 85 years old I’m 75 years old we’re not getting any younger How is god really going to fulfill that promise? I think i need to help it along This however was not God’s plan. It was a perceived shortcut to success Because God’s plan for marriage is this That the marriage bed is only for husband and wife. No exceptions. Period But Abram, that hall of faith believer, didn’t object, and that is disappointing isn’t it? Why did he not take this opportunity to say, Sarai I love you so much. This is such a generous offer i know you’re just thinking about me and the family But God keeps repeating the promise and it’s God’s plan that you and I remain united. Thank you but no thanks. Let’s just remain faithful. Let’s wait for God to fulfill his promise in his time But Abram said nothing of the sort. He welcomed Hagar into his bed and the results were predictable. When Hagar realized that she was pregnant it wasn’t only her belly that puffed So did her mind. She began to despise, that is to look down and to make fun of her mistress because she had accomplished in one try what Sarai had been trying to do for years Sarai of course was upset and she came to Abram and said, you are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my slave in your arms and now that she knows she’s pregnant, she despises me May the Lord judge between you and me. Pathetic But Abram’s response was perhaps even more pathetic Your slave is in your hands. Do with her whatever you think best What Sarai thought was best was to mistreat Hagar. How exactly we are not told, but it was bad enough that Hagar thought it would be better to run away, to go back to Egypt
And so Sarai’s words and actions caused a pregnant girl to take off across a barren desert What can we learn from this mess? Let’s make a few applications to our situation. Like Abram and Sarai we live in a time when the world does not honor God’s plan for marriage God’s plan is one woman one man lifelong relationship. And yet I have even heard Christian parents say to their children that they should move in with their boyfriend or girlfriend to see whether or not they are compatible for a life of marriage I’ve heard live-in couples say to me but pastor what’s the point of renting two places when we’re spending so much time together? And anyway, I think we’re getting married But this is a perceived shortcut to happiness and it doesn’t deliver You can even ask the non-Christian sociologist and they will tell you the dangers of living together with someone before marriage. That is not a trial period. It often ends up being a hiding period. Each individual is trying to put their best foot forward And then when that relationship progresses to marriage, suddenly all bets are off Now you got what you want and you can just be the person that you really were all the while and your spouse ends up scratching his or her head and says I didn’t realize i married this individual But even more to that point, in a live-in relationship the attitude is if this doesn’t work, we can always split It’s really a lack of commitment. And even that attitude is even carried over into marriage If things don’t go well. we can just split But divorce is painful. It’s expensive Brothers and sisters, especially young people here, do things God’s way by the book First of all, look for someone who shares your faith And then don’t move in together until you have made that public declaration before God and before his people Do things God’s way, and you will be blessed. There are no shortcuts Well, what else can we mined from this mess? Let’s pick on Hagar Her attitude in which she looked down and made fun of her mistress obviously was wrong. But is that not often the attitude that we show when we forget that everything that we have our fast feet, our beautiful singing voice, our organizational skills, our athleticism, our ability to fix just about anything, our knack at making friends. All those are talents given to us from God. They’re not ours by right nothing that we have worked for. So what right do we have them to look down on others who have not been so gifted? Really, what was it that Hagar had done to receive that child? That was a blessing from the Lord. That did not give her the right to make fun of Sarai. The gifts, the talents, that you have, they come from God and for what purpose? That you may glorify him by serving others Hagar’s attitude brought out the worst in Sarai But believers aren’t just supposed to act decently. Are we not also to react decently There must have been a better way for Sarai to handle that challenge of Hagar with patience with love and forgiveness. Not the way in which she handled the situation causing this pregnant girl to run away across the barren desert What about Abram that hall of faith believer?
How could he go along with Hagar’s plan? Not just the plan to sleep with Hagar? But how can he say to Sarai, go ahead your servant is in your hands Do to her whatever you want? Well, I suppose Abraham just didn’t want to get in the middle of that mess. Let Hagar and Sarai duke it out Do we do the same thing when we stand silently by when there’s obvious sin in our presence? We give in to our children’s sense of entitlement because we don’t want to have that argument again Or we remain silent when our spouse suggests a family schedule that we know is going to keep us too busy to be consistent in worship, or to even to have the energy to do home devotions Oh, it’s hard work to stay on this journey of faith. But there are no shortcuts Good intentions to be in God’s house, to be in his Word, doesn’t lead to a stronger faith So what did God think about everything that was going on? He knew about it of course That becomes clear when the Angel of the Lord intercepted Hagar on her way to Egypt Now this was no created angel, like the angel Gabriel We know this because the Angel of the Lord said things about himself that only God would say For example, he said to Hagar, I will greatly increase your descendants. No angel would have the right to say anything like that. The Angel of the Lord then is God himself. But most Bible students would say that he is the second person of the Trinity, the Son of God, who in time would take on human flesh and become known as Jesus It is the Son of God who makes an appearance to Hagar And he begins with a mild rebuke What are you doing here, Hagar? He might as well have said, Hagar you’re out of bounds Your place is back with Sarai. Go back and submit to her. Go back?. Did God not know what was happening, how she had been mistreated? That’s why she was on the run. Go back? For sure our God sees our misdeeds. But he also knows our misery. And he deals with us mercifully For the Angel of the Lord went on to say to Hagar, I will bless you You will have a son and he will have many descendants. To her credit, Hagar went back And she submitted herself to Sarai, not because God had said, Don’t worry, everything’s gonna work out in such a way that it’s going to be easy once you get back to Sarai. There wasn’t that promise But there was this promise. Haggar you don’t go back alone. I am there. I am watching over you And you can serve with the grace and the power that I will provide Indeed, what was it that Hagar called the Angel of the Lord? She called him El Roi, which in Hebrew means that God who sees me. Indeed, this was a God who not only saw but cared Even cared about a sassy servant girl This is the God who sees you too He sees how overwhelmed you may be for caring for aging parents He sees the difficulties that you go through at work with a boss that doesn’t care He sees the kind of difficulties you have at school or among your friends He sees and he cares. For in time the Angel of the Lord would become Jesus, Jesus who would
never abandon his role as servant to the world as Hagar had abandoned her role as servant to Sarai Jesus will not abandon that role, even though he was mistreated and ridiculed and betrayed. And finally let atop a desolate hill outside of Jerusalem where nails were pounded into his hands and feet But with each blow, God was hammering home this truth–the world stands forgiven Do you see what that means for you and for me, brothers and sisters? It means that now the God who sees us does not look at us with disgust or dismay, but with delight Because he sees people for whom Jesus died, his son And when he looks at us, in fact, he sees his son Hagar did go back to Sarai. And she gave birth to a son whom she named Ishmael a name given to her by the Angel of the Lord. Ismail means God hears. What a beautiful name and a wonderful reminder to Haggar Every time she called to her boy Ishmael she was reminded of that encounter with the angel of the Lord And she was reassured of this truth, that no matter what I go through, I have a God who sees me. And who is with me You see what the Angel of the he Lord is also saying to you this morning. He’s telling you go back Go back to that family that may have so many problems that you don’t even know where to begin Go back to your workplace and serve with humility. Go back to your friends and witness to them about the one who gives hope in the middle of a pandemic in an election year Go back with his grace, and his power You know, years later, God did surprisingly tell Abram to send Hagar and Ishmael away Did God change his mind about Hagar and Ishmael? No No, he was teaching Abram and Sarai and teaching us a very important lesson. In fact, this incident comes up in the New Testament book of Galatians The apostle Paul tells us that God directed Abram to send Hagar and Ishmael away because it was God’s way of saying, remember Abram and Sarai, when you took that shortcut, you took matters into your own hands You thought this is how you would accomplish my will. That’s not how I do things I do things apart from you. I make crazy promises that I always keep. And so Abram, Sarai, I don’t want you to think that Ishmael is going to be the one to carry on the promise that I made. No, no, that’s evidence of your efforts. Send them away. I will bless them, I will be with them That I’m going to deal with you on the basis of my love and the basis of my promises. That’s the same things that he says to you and to me today. He says stop taking the shortcuts, stop taking matters into your own hands Do things my way. Hold on to my promises Because who is this God, El Roi? The God who sees you and the God who is with you to bless. Amen