Genesis 17 Part One: I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you

Read Genesis 17

My nephew Kody and his friend Eric, who he served with in Iraq, stayed with us for a few days this week. During their stay I marveled at how close they are to each other.

There’s a bonding that occurs between men in combat that others can’t understand. It comes from fighting together, shoulder to shoulder. It comes from surviving together in the face of a life threatening enemy. The bond is especially strong toward one who gives everything he has for his fellow soldiers. This is a story about such a man.

For the last several years he gave everything he had to his comrades. He helped them endure through great battles. He helped them to overcome many great challenges. They survived many attacks from the enemy together. They accomplished great things together. They had bonded the way soldiers bond. They were friends on a level others couldn’t understand. Yet here came one of them, one of his friends, to expose him to the enemy — for money.

Realizing he was about to be betrayed, his heart sank, he felt sick at the thought. Betrayed by a friend. As his friend approached the man gave him one last chance to change his mind.

Must you betray me? he asked.

His friend didn’t reply but just signaled the enemy forces, revealing him, exposing him.

He could have escaped right then. There was a window of opportunity when he could have run. But he sensed that this was a way he could complete his mission. So he purposed in his heart to go. He was determined to be faithful to complete his mission.

He was carried off by the authorities. Once in their control, they attempted to trick him into a confession, they lied about him, they spit on him. But he persevered. He was determined to be faithful to complete his mission.

They asked him questions, insinuating questions. They mocked him, they ridiculed him. But he endured. He was determined to be faithful to complete his mission.

More questions, more insinuations. They beat him, they punched him. Finally, desperate to break him, they beat him to a bloody pulp. But he would not break, he would not give up! He was determined to be faithful to complete his mission.

He was determined to die because dying was the only way. So he carried his cross and allowed them to nail him to it. He hung there in shame, in pain, while people mocked and ridiculed him.

He hung there, God’s own Son, the very last person who deserved to be nailed to that cross. The only truly innocent one. The only one who walked before God faithfully and blamelessly would die in order to complete His mission.

Finally he said the words, “It is finished.” (John 19:30)

Mission accomplished.

As you look over Genesis 17 notice how everything that God says to Abraham is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy. God’s approach is right out of Philippians 4:8! His words are nothing but good and full of blessing. He says to Abraham, “Walk before me faithfully and be blameless…” “You will be the father of many nations.” “I will make you very fruitful…” “kings will come from you…” (Genesis 17:1, 4, 6)

Concerning Sarah God says, “I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.” (Genesis 17:16)

But the one paragraph where Abraham opens his mouth he laughs at God’s promises and he whines about God’s distribution of blessings: …he laughed and said to himself, “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?” And Abraham said to God, “If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!” (Genesis 17:17-18) Now we have to keep in mind that Romans 4:20 says of Abraham that he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God. So it may be that Abraham was laughing with delight at the great promise that God gave him. I have to confess that most of the Bible teachers I follow and respect ascribe to this thought. But I can’t help but wonder if God, as He so often does, isn’t demonstrating His grace toward Abraham in Romans 4:20, in a similar way to how He showed His grace to Sarah when He included her in the hall of faith. (Hebrews 11:11) I suppose we won’t know the answer until we’re over on the other side.

Either way, God responds with grace toward Abraham. He displays yet more faithfulness toward Abraham…

“…your wife Sarah will bear you a son.” and “as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him…” (Genesis 17:19, 20)

Here’s the reality: God is faithful but people are not. God is faithful but people are not. God is faithful but people are not. Abraham and his children fell short in keeping their end of the covenant. They didn’t walk before God faithfully. They didn’t lead a blameless life.

But God was faithful anyway.

God was faithful to Abraham, to Sarah, to Isaac, and to Ishmael in spite of their shortcomings.

And God is faithful to you and to me in the same way.

Jesus was and is faithful to you. He was faithful to die on the cross for your sins. In spite of the betrayals, the lies, the mocking, and the beatings, Jesus was faithful to complete His mission for you and for me.

He was faithful to you. He died so you could experience eternal life. He had to die on your behalf because the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23 KJV)

That should have been me up there on that cross, that should have been you. But Jesus took your place.

He laid down his life for you.

Listen to your heart right now! You know what you need to do. You need to come to him, to Jesus Christ, and ask him into your life, into your heart.

So do it right now! Ask Him in. Pray along these lines, “Jesus, thank You for dying for my sins. I believe in You. Please be my God, my Savior, my King, and my Friend. Amen.”

It’s oh so much more about God’s faithfulness than it is about your faith.

The bottom line is that He is faithful, He loves you, He will save you.

You have but to ask.

Genesis 17

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty; walk before me faithfully and be blameless. Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.”

 Abram fell facedown, and God said to him, “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. The whole land of Canaan, where you now reside as a foreigner, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God.”

 Then God said to Abraham, “As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come. This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised. You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you. For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner—those who are not your offspring. Whether born in your household or bought with your money, they must be circumcised. My covenant in your flesh is to be an everlasting covenant. Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.”

 God also said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah. I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.”

 Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?” And Abraham said to God, “If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!”

 Then God said, “Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him. And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation. But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year.” When he had finished speaking with Abraham, God went up from him.

 On that very day Abraham took his son Ishmael and all those born in his household or bought with his money, every male in his household, and circumcised them, as God told him. Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised, and his son Ishmael was thirteen; Abraham and his son Ishmael were both circumcised on that very day. And every male in Abraham’s household, including those born in his household or bought from a foreigner, was circumcised with him.

Genesis Chapter 17


Bible Gateway

Blue Letter Bible

Jon Couson’s Application Commentary, Volume 1

The Life of Jesus

A Days Journey by Jon Courson

Genesis 17:1 When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him

Full of Faith and Faithful - photo from CBS News

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him

Genesis 17:1

Andy Olson is a man’s man. He’s an Oregon State Representative now but in 2001 he was an Oregon State Police Lieutenant. At 6’3″ tall he’s a formidable figure. In the fall of 2001 Andy Olson and I traveled to New York City with a group of Christian firefighters, dispatchers, and law enforcement personnel. Our mission was simple. We wanted to see what we might be able to do to help in the aftermath of the attack on the twin towers.

During much of our time there the tone was somber (we attended more funerals than I can remember) but occasionally we did find time for some levity.

Most of our group entered into a contest of sorts, adopting the classic New Yorker greeting, “How-ya-doin?” with the goal of seeing who could pass as a Native New Yorker out on the street. But I noticed that Andy declined to participate.

One evening as a group of us arrived back at our hostel we overheard Andy practicing his “How-ya-doins,” alone in our room. Except that the “How-ya-doins” kept coming out “How’re you doing?” or “HOW are YOU doing?”

He sounded like Dick Solomon (John Lithgow) from the TV show Third Rock From the Sun. It was one of the most hilarious things I’ve ever heard. When Andy realized that we had overheard, the poor guy was mortified. It was at that time that a Fire Lieutenant from Corvallis named Steve Bowen took Andy under his wing and began to coach him on the nuances of how to deliver this classic New York greeting.

A few evenings later Andy and Steve were walking down the street in Times Square with Andy practicing his “How-ya-doins” when he finally nailed it. He sounded precisely like a native New Yorker. Just then a large African-American man who was a local approached.

“Do it!” Steve urged. “Greet him! You’ve got it. You can do it.”

“How’re you doing?” Andy sang out, reverting back to his Dick Solomon (Lithgow) delivery.

The native New Yorker laughed hysterically.

Back to Genesis: In Genesis 17 Abram is ninety-nine years old and it’s been fifteen years since he’s had a conversation with God. Why on earth would God not speak to the man who the scriptures tell us was God’s friend? (James 2:23)

Maybe that’s where you’re at right now. Perhaps you’ve been seeking the Lord and wondering why He doesn’t seem to respond in a way that causes you to experience His presence. Perhaps you’re feeling as though God is not with you in the way that you desire Him to be.

Take heart! Abram, God’s friend, had to wait fifteen years between conversations!

Remember, he’s not only called God’s friend, but Abram is also called the father of faith. God used the time between conversations to build Abram’s faith. And He’s using this time in your life when you’re not discerning His presence to build yours!

The Bible says that without faith it is impossible to please God. (Hebrews 11:6) So God, being far more concerned with our relationship with Him than He is with our current comfort, will do what He knows to be best for you and for me by putting us in situations that build faith.

Faith is the language of heaven. Fortunately for then OSP Lieutenant Andy Olson, it wasn’t important that he learn to speak the language of the native New Yorkers. But in heaven, few things will be more important than being fluent in the language of faith. Because your ability to communicate in the language of heaven which is faith, is one of the keys to your relationship with God Himself. (Hebrews 11:6)

But there’s more. There’s another aspect of faith. What are we to do during the fifteen years between conversations?

We’re to be faithful.

You may have seen in the news the tragic story of the Criado family in Medford, Oregon. According to the Mail Tribune, police suspect that the father and husband of the family, Jordan Criado, stabbed his wife, killing her, and set his house on fire killing their four children.

My fire department responded to this incident. My own role had to do with extinguishing the fire, but most of the firefighters and law enforcement personnel on duty that day had their hands on those patients. They had their hands on those kids. They did everything they could to save those lives. Sadly, the outcome was already decided before we arrived.

I spoke with many who were on the scene that day and more than one recognized that they were performing extraordinary life saving measures on patients who were already beyond help. But, even knowing this, they were faithful to continue those efforts.

I know many of the firefighters involved in that incident to be believers. Year after year they come to work each day, dedicated to doing their job with all their heart, as working for the Lord, not for men. (Colossians 3:23) They’re faithful in what the Lord has given them to do.

So what are you to do during the fifteen years between conversations? Be faithful. Be faithful in what the Lord has given you to do: at work, as a husband, as a father, as a member of your church, as a youth sports coach, as a volunteer at your local school.

Be faithful in all these things. The next conversation with God will be here before you know it.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men

Colossians 3:23


Mail Tribune: 10th Street Tragedy

Jon Courson

Genesis 16:7-16 The angel of the LORD found Hagar

Read Genesis 16:7-16

I was just six years old and it was the first day of school. My mother put me on the bus and I rode in with my fellow students to our elementary school on Laramie Avenue in Midlothian, Illinois, almost one mile from my house.

To this day I’m not sure what got into me, but just a few minutes after arriving, I decided to run away from school. I walked North on Laramie Avenue to 149th Street, turned right, and walked down 149th all the way to South Cicero Avenue which was and is to this day a dangerous four lane highway with heavy traffic and no crosswalk at the intersection. But in spite of all that I somehow managed to cross South Cicero and continued to South Kenton Avenue where I turned again and walked to my house.

I ran away from school.

Boy, was mom surprised to see me!

The first thing she thought about of course was me, a six year old, by myself, crossing South Cicero Avenue.

I didn’t want to be at school but God had other plans for me. My mother took me back and made it clear that I would be going to school, whether I felt like it or not.

So I obeyed, returned, and submitted.

In this post we’ll take a look at the story of Hagar and how she ran away, but first let’s set the scene.

In the last post we saw that Sarai fell prey to disbelief and decided to take matters into her own hands. Feeling that God wasn’t coming through on His promise to bless Abram with a multitude of descendants, Sarai decided to go with a plan that was not uncommon among barren women of Babylon and Ur at that time, she decided to offer up her handmaiden, her slave, Hagar, to Abram with the idea that she could build a family through her.

Abram, to his discredit, agreed, and Hagar became pregnant. Before Hagar was given to Abram to be his wife, Sarai held all the cards. Sarai was Hagar’s master or mistress, Hagar had nothing but her service to Sarai if she wanted to eat. After Sarai gave Hagar to Abram she, Hagar, was elevated in status, in that she was now one of Abram’s wives and she was now with Abram’s child to boot. Compound that with the infusion of hormones that my wife and daughters tell me women experience while they’re pregnant and boom — Hagar’s attitude took a dive and she despised her mistress Sarai.

The drama meter gets ramped up even more as Sarai responds to Hagar’s change in attitude by blaming Abram for the new found family strife, even though it was Sarai’s idea for Abram to take Hagar in the first place.

Abram throws up his hands, so to speak, and tells Sarai, hey, she’s your slave, do whatever you like with her.

At that point Sarai begins to mistreat Hagar, so Hagar flees the scene and that’s where we pick up our story today.

Deep breath! I’m amazed at all the drama. Someone should make a movie about this passage of scripture.

So when Hagar flees she finds herself near a spring in the desert that is beside the road to Shur. It’s interesting that the name Shur essentially means a point of observation. As Matthew Henry says, “God brings us into a wilderness, and there meets us.” (Hosea 2:14) He observes from His elevated perspective as we stray off the path He has in mind for us. He very often allows the issue to ripen before He reveals Himself to us. He knows when and where we’re most likely to respond to Him. So it was with Hagar.

So the angel of the Lord engages Hagar near the spring in the desert that’s beside the road to Shur. It’s here that we see the first mention in the Bible of the angel of the Lord. This angel of the Lord is unique in that throughout scripture all other angels steadfastly refuse to be worshiped whenever a man or a woman attempts to do so. But that’s not the case with the angel of the Lord. His acceptance of worship is an obvious indication that He is deity. I believe that the angel of the Lord is, most likely, the name used in the Old Testament for the second Person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ.

And look who He appears to first, a slave woman who has run away from her master. Jesus, the one with a heart to leave the ninety-nine to rescue the one, finds one lonely slave woman alone in the desert, in rebellion, and, as we’ll soon see, He gently guides her back on course.

The angel of the Lord starts his encounter with Hagar by leading her to humility. He doesn’t address her with the words, “Hagar, wife of Abram,” or “Hagar, mother of Abram’s child,” but, rather, He gently humbles Hagar by addressing her as Hagar, slave of Sarai. (v.8)

Then He asks her, “…where have you come from, and where are you going?” (v.8)

Hagar answers, “I’m running away from my mistress.” (v.8)

The angel of the Lord provides her with instruction, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her.” (v.9)

I suppose I’m like most people in the way that I struggle with this scripture. If I’m not being treated well by someone in authority over me, I do not want to submit. But God tells us that rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. (Romans 13:3-4)

The angel of the Lord, knowing that she would obey, blesses Hagar, telling her, “I will increase your descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count.” (v.10)

He prophecies that Hagar will give birth to a son and instructs her to name him Ishmael.

The angel of the Lord further prophecies that Ishmael will be a “wild donkey of a man;” and that “…his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers.” (v.11-12)

Of course these prophecies have come to pass. Ishmael’s descendants are the people of the Arab nations who are very numerous.

Sadly, the second part of the prophecy has also come to pass. The descendants of Ishmael, the Arab nations, are in constant conflict with each other and others. Ishmael’s descendants are particularly hostile toward Ishmael’s brother Israel. The Palestinians have a public agenda to wipe Israel off the map. In fact in their education curriculum, their maps don’t even include the nation of Israel, so, from a very young age, Palestinian children are indoctrinated with the idea that Israel doesn’t have a right to exist. And Palestine is supported by all the Arab nations of the Middle East.

Hostile against his brother Israel, indeed he is.

Hagar, even though she’s been directed to return to her mistress and submit, even though she’s received prophetic promises of blessing but also of hostility and strife, Hagar responds to the angel of the Lord with gratitude.

Hagar recognizes that God saw her in her trial and drew near to her. She says, “You are the God who sees me,” and she names a nearby well Beer Lahai Roi which means, well of the living one seeing me. (v.13-14)

Hagar ran but in the end she obeyed, returned, and submitted. She bore Abram’s son and Abram named him Ishmael in accordance with God’s command.

There are all kinds of ways to run. Hagar ran away to a different geographical location. Sometimes people run from their marriage problems to another lover. Others run from their problems to alcohol or drugs. Some run from their financial responsibilities by borrowing money. There’s even a thing called displacement activity where people run from their problems by focusing their time and energy on some benign hobby or activity instead of working on solving their problems.

You may have noticed that Charlie Sheen has been in the news quite a bit in the last eight or nine months or so. He’s trying to run. He’s run from his marriages to other women. He’s run from his problems to drugs and alcohol. He’s said that he’s different and that he can handle a life of running. “I have a different constitution,” Charlie has said. “I have a different brain; I have a different heart; I got tiger blood, man.”

Sadly, I think poor Charlie’s on a course with a big day of reckoning.

Perhaps you’re in a situation where you’re tempted to run: toward some benign but unconstructive activity, or toward alcohol and drugs, or toward divorce, or toward a different physical location like Hagar.

Perhaps this is a word from the Lord for you.

Sarai and Abram just went with their plan without seeking the Lord, without praying to the Lord. Hagar just split from Sarai without seeking the Lord. Prayer is so important. It’s not a matter of what to pray about because God’s word says to pray without ceasing so we’re to pray about everything. (1 Thessalonians 5:17) It’s only a matter of how much prayer we should devote to a given decision or issue.

If you’re in a situation where you feel tempted to run, pray! Pray through your problem. Pray through it. See what God would have you do.

Don’t be surprised if, like Hagar, God wants you to obey Him, return, and submit.

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, slave of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?”

“I’m running away from my mistress Sarai,” she answered.

Then the angel of the LORD told her, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her.” The angel added, “I will increase your descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count.”

The angel of the LORD also said to her:

“You are now pregnant
and you will give birth to 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.”

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 Lahai 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.

Genesis 16:7-16


Blue Letter Bible

Bible Gateway

Matthew Henry

Jon Courson

Genesis 16:4-6 You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering

When she 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 slave in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the LORD judge between you and me.”

“Your slave is in your hands,” Abram said. “Do with her whatever you think best.” Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her.

Genesis 16:4-6

Sarai, feeling anxious about God’s promise not yet coming to fruition, starts in with some drama. She starts with a complaint against God when she says, “The LORD has kept me from having children.” (Genesis 16:2) Sarai decides she needs to take matters into her own hands and offers up her handmaiden Hagar to Abram with the idea that she can build a family through her.

Abram agrees (a mistake on his part by the way, see the previous post on Genesis 16:1-4). Hagar gets pregnant and just as soon as she realizes she’s with child, she cops an attitude, she despises Sarai.

It was her idea in the first place so does Sarai apologize to Abram for pressuring him to take her servant Hagar? No, quite the contrary, Sarai complains to Abram and blames him for his family’s strife. She even brings the Lord into it when she says to him, “May the LORD judge between you and me.” (v.5)

Abram says, basically, what do you want me to do about it? And, “Do with her whatever you think best.” (v.6)

From that point Sarai begins to mistreat Hagar. (v.6)

So Hagar takes the baby and runs. (v.6)

This reads like the script of a chick flick!

With the focus of this chapter mainly on Sarai and Hagar I wanted a woman’s perspective. So I asked my wife Kathy for some insight into Sarai’s behavior in Genesis chapter 16 and received some interesting input:

“I think it’s about women and drama,” Kathy began. “You can just hear Sarai whining to Abram:”

God said that we’d have kids but it’s just not happening. How long has it been? It’s been years since God made you that promise about your descendants. We’re not going to have any descendants if we don’t do something about it! We’re getting older, sooner or later you won’t have what it takes to have kids any more.

“And, she was probably sharing all of these complaints with her handmaidens. You can just imagine Sarai and her handmaidens all emotional and coming up with all these crazy ideas to make something happen,” Kathy said. “One of which was to give her handmaiden to Abram.”

“Why?” I asked. “Why is Sarai stirring up all this drama?”

Kathy: “She has her husband telling her that God promised them all these descendants but she’s not believing. And didn’t she laugh in disbelief when the Angel of the Lord told her she was going to have a son?” (Genesis 18:12)

“Yes,” I answered.

“There you have it,” Kathy said, with an air of finality.

So the root of the drama was Sarai’s unbelief. And as I thought about it, I realized that most of the drama I’ve endured in my own life, and that I’ve observed in the lives of others, has stemmed from an unbelief in God’s word.

Quite often this has been because either I myself or the other people involved aren’t spending time in God’s word, or in church, or both to begin with. When I’m not hearing God’s word I’m not giving myself the opportunity to believe God’s word and I lose trust in God’s plan for my future.

When I’m spending time in God’s word and in church I tend to rest in His plan for my future. I tend to live with the attitude that all things God works for the good of those who love him.” (Romans 8:28)

Romans 10:17 says that “…faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (KJV)

The bottom line is that you and I will find the emotional drama in our live’s to be inversely proportional to the amount of time we’re spending in God’s word.

So spend time with Him.

Read His word daily.

Pray to Him, converse with Him.

Go to church. For…

…he that believeth shall not make haste. 

(Isaiah 28:16 KJV)

Or as the New Living Translation says,

Whoever believes need never be shaken.

“You know, as a man, if I post these thoughts concerning Sarai’s behavior, I could come under some heavy criticism,” I commented to Kathy.

“Yes, I guess you could.”

“What do you think about the idea of me quoting you?”

“Go for it,” Kathy said.

If this doesn’t work out — I sure hope I don’t get blamed for it.


Blue Letter Bible

Bible Gateway

Matthew Henry

Jon Courson

Genesis 16:1-4 “Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.” He slept with Hagar, and she conceived.

Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian slave named Hagar; so she said to Abram, “The LORD has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.”

Abram agreed to what Sarai said. So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian slave Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. He slept with Hagar, and she conceived.

Genesis 16:1-4

Human beings will let you down every time.

It doesn’t matter who you choose to look to: Brett Favre, or Miley Cyrus, or your husband, or your wife, or your father, or your boss, or your pastor, or your best friend — you’re in for a disappointment.

Last post we looked at Abram’s amazing encounter with God and we spent quite a bit of time exploring the excellent things Abram did with his life that resulted in his receiving God’s best. Abram went where God was, he sacrificed things of value, he waited on the Lord, and he drove away the birds of prey. (see To your descendants I give this land)

Now, here, in Genesis chapter 16, we see Abram’s humanity.

Abram’s 86 and Sarai’s 76. As is nearly always the case, there’s a gap of time between when God gave His promise and the fulfillment of that promise. Thirteen years in this case. Sarai was tired of waiting on the Lord for the promised fruit from her womb. For a barren woman to give a maidservant to her husband in order to have children on her behalf was a common custom in Abram’s time. So Sarai says to Abram, “Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.” (v. 2)

Yes it was accepted in society at that time.

Yes it was Abram’s own wife, Sarai, who was admonishing Abram to do this.

Yes it seemed as though this was the only way Abram and Sarai would see any fruit, any family, any children, any descendants.

But in spite of these seemingly compelling circumstances, Abram ought not to have done it. He had a choice and he chose to agree with Sarai. (v. 2) Abram was the leader of his family and part of being the leader is doing what’s best in God’s sight, even when society offers an easy way out. Even when others are telling you to do otherwise. Even if it’s your wife who is doing the telling.

Parenthetically, on the topic of sex outside of marriage, I know of men today who feel that they have valid reasons for engaging in extramarital sex. “Yea but I’m not getting my needs met at home.” or “Yea but this way I don’t have to bother her.” or even one guy I knew who said, “Yea but my wife and I have an arrangement.”

Doesn’t matter. God would have you do the right thing according to His word, whatever your circumstances.

Abram fell. And as we’ll see, this caused heartache, strife, and trouble for Abram, Abram’s family, and Abram’s descendants. In fact Abram’s decision to take Hagar is being felt by Abram’s descendants even today.

Abram provided a great example for us to follow in Genesis chapter 15, but we can’t look to Abram as our complete model of how to live life. We have only to turn the page over to chapter 16 and Abram falls. Like any other person, Abram will let you down every time.

Roger Federer’s one of my favorite athletes. He’s considered by most to be the greatest tennis player who ever lived. In grand slam tournaments, when Roger’s up two sets to zero, his match record is an incredible 178 and 0. That is until last week. Last week he was up two sets to zero, in a grand slam tournament, against a player with a double digit ranking named Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

Roger Federer lost.

Only one Person won’t let you down. That person is Jesus Christ.

Look to Him.

God is love. Love never fails.

1 John 4:8 and 1 Corinthians 13:8


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Jon Courson