By Bridget Teng of LSBC Singapore
Hagar’s life story (Gen 16:1-16)
As much as we all desire to have a perfect husband, wife or children in the family, we know that there are no picture-perfect families. Many families in the bible are far from perfect.
The Bible is filled with stories of sinners who find hope in the amazing grace and kindness of God. Many of us are familiar with Abraham and Sarah, but not with Hagar. Today we shall look at Hagar’s life story in Gen 16:1-16
1. Abandoned emotionally and spiritually
a. Hagar abandoned by Pharaoh
Hagar was given to Abraham by Pharaoh. Pharaoh gave her up, and now she found herself with Abraham. She probably came from Pharaoh’s palace and now she finds herself in Abraham’s tent. People dream of moving from a tent to a palace. But for Hagar it has been the other way round.
Have you been abandoned by your employer? – retrenched, backstabbed, demoted, falsely accused etc by your employer? My husband had been retrenched a few times. In 2009, I was retrenched and one month later, he was also retrenched. I only found a job 3 months later, but my husband found a job only almost 1 year later. It was a difficult time for us financially.
b. Hagar abandoned by Sarah
Hagar had served Sarah, and had presumably served her well, but now Sarah gave her up: “So Sarai, Abram’s wife, took Hagar the Egyptian servant and gave her to Abram as a wife” (Genesis 16:3 – NLT).
The laws in the ancient Near East give regulations for it. But this was never the way for the people of God. From the beginning, when God brought Eve to Adam, the purpose of God was that marriage should be between one man and one woman.
Hagar resents Sarah: “But when Hagar knew she was pregnant, she began to treat her mistress, Sarai with contempt (Genesis 16:4 – NLT). Sarah blames Abraham and wants him to suffer, “This is all your fault! I put by servant into your arms, but now that she’s pregnant she treats me with contempt. The Lord will show who’s wrong – you or me!” (16:5)
Have you taken things into your own hands instead of waiting for God to answer your prayer? When things turn bad, do you blame others instead of repenting? Do you respect your husband and submit to him as to the Lord? Eph 5:22
c. Haggar abandoned by Abraham
Abraham just wants to wash his hands of the whole situation. He takes no responsibility:
“Look, she is your servant, so deal with her as you see fit. ” (Gen 16:6 – NTL)
So now Abraham gave her up! He is the father of the child she is carrying. He has responsibility for her. But Abraham does not stand up for her. He gives her up, just as Pharaoh and Sarah had done before.
Husband, have you fulfil your role as a husband to love your wife as he loves himself, just as Christ loved the church and gave up his life for her? Eph 5: 25-29
d. Spiritually wounded
i. Hagar would have learned about God from Abraham and Sarah.
They’d have told her about the Lord who made heaven and earth, the God who loves undeserving people, the God who choose to bless a rebel world through a Son in whom his blessing would be found. In the kindness of God, Hagar finds herself in the family God has chosen to bless. She has been adopted like a daughter into the family of faith
ii. Stumbled faith
The people from whom she learned all that she knew about God turn out to be desperately flawed believers. That must have been devastating for Hagar. What good thoughts can she have of Abraham and Sarah’s God after this?
2. Reaction of Hagar
a. Being blamed, feeling hurt, jealous and resentment in this home. Hagar ran away from Sarah. Alone in the desert and pregnant.
This is a story for the woman who feels that she has been like a pawn, moved around on the board of other people’s lives.
This is a story for the man who feels taken for granted. He feels that he is a money making machine for an ungrateful family, who don’t know and don’t seem to care what it takes. A story of a husband who fail to love and protect your wife?
This is the story for the young person whose father or mother did not take an interest in you. They gave you up, and left you feeling abandoned.
This is a story for the person who has learned about God, but now struggles with faith because of what you have seen in some who believe.
Children who grow up in a Christian home often go through this, usually in your teenage years. Your parents are believers, but when you see the fractures in their lives you begin to say to yourself “Huh?” Some of you know what this is like. A Christian you looked up to, trusted, and they disappointed you. Hagar’s story is for you.
3. Deeply loved by God
a. God finds lost people
“The angel of the Lord found Hagar beside a spring of water in the wilderness, along the road to Shur.” Genesis 16:7 – NTL
God appeared to Hagar in visible form as he had did to Abraham and Sarah.
“She called the name of the LORD who spoke to her…” It was Yahweh who spoke to her directly and personally: “The angel of the Lord found her” (Genesis 16:7).
Hagar would never have found her way to God, but God in his mercy, found his way to her.
If God waited for us to find him, none of us would get there. Lost sheep don’t have the capacity to find the Good Shepherd. It is the Good Shepherd who has the capacity to find lost sheep.
She is running away from believers, and she is running away from God. She is angry and resentful; she feels a sense of injustice. There is a turmoil going on inside here
This hardly feels like a time when she can hear the voice of God. And yet it proved to be the great turning point of Hagar’s life!
4. How did God turn her around?
a. The question :
“Hagar, Sarai’s servant, where have you come from, and where are you going?” Genesis 16:8
i) Where have you come from?
Hagar was running from family and faith. She was leaving the people of God. She was running from the place where God had set her down.
Listen to this question from God today. Where have you come from? You have learned about God, but now with turmoil in your life, you are leaving him. Once you were serving God, now your heart is cold towards him. Others don’t know it, but God does.
ii) Where are you going?
Are you moving away from the path of faith in Christ. Gradually, you are pulling yourself away from believing people, linking up with another crowd. Where does this path lead? Where are you going? The path you are choosing is not the path to heaven.
As God intercepts her life, God’s question awakens Hagar’s conscience.
b. The Command
The angel of the Lord said to her, “Return to your mistress, and submit to her.” Genesis 16:9
God calls you to do the one thing that you really want to avoid.
Are you disappointed with your husband. There are no perfect husband on earth. When your husband fails you or abandon you, remember in Isaiah 54:5-6, God says…
“For your Maker is your husband – the LORD Almighty is his name – the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called God of all the earth. 6 The Lord will call you back as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit – a wife who married young, only to be rejected,” says your God.
Are you disappointed in the church, and on your way out of the body of Christ? Maybe you feel like Hagar, with Abraham and Sarah.
You are on the edge of quitting the people of God. The enemy tells you that you can have a private faith, but God says “Return to your mistress and submit to her.”
You are right to say that the church in this world is always fractured. That is why the church can never be the hope of the world, only Christ is. But on the last day, you do not want to be separated from the church.
c. The promise
The angel of the Lord also said to her, “I will give you more descendants than you can count. ” Genesis 16:10 – NTL
Hagar, walk with God in faith and obedience, and however hard your life may be, good will come of it. Blessing will follow it. You, if you walk with Christ, will also be able to say, “Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
i) God hears suffering people
The angel of the Lord said to her, “You are now pregnant and will give birth to a son. You are to name him Ishmael (which means ‘God hears’), for the Lord has heard your cry of distress. Genesis 16:11- NTL
God has listened to your cry of distress. God hears tears as well as prayers. God has heard your suffering—the exhausted sighs, the unanswered questions. “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book “.(Psalm 56:8)
Ishmael means, “God has heard.” Since he turned out to be a difficult boy, this must have been a blessing to his mother. Every time she called out his name, she would be reminded that God hears: “Ishmael! Ishmael! God hears! God has heard!”
You may say to yourself, “My parent never looked after me. My husband didn’t look after me. My children didn’t look after me. Now I have found the One who looks after me!
ii) God sees all people
She called the name of 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.” Genesis 16:13 – NIV
God sees and knows you better than you see and know yourself.
“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 to towards all his brothers” (Genesis 16:12).
Parents know what it is like in the struggles of our children when they fight against each other.
And Hagar says, “You are the God who sees me!” You know me as no one ever has!
God see with the eyes of love and Not with the eyes of condemnation. This, for a woman who was running from God, in order to lay hold of her, and in loving kindness to bring her back.
iii) His grace is sufficient for you
Hagar did what the Lord commanded. She went back to Abraham and Sarah, back to the fractured household of faith. Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram called the name of his son, whom Hagar bore, Ishmael
a) Obedience to God meant living with continued difficulty.
When Hagar went back, there were more problems with Sarah. The two women never really got along. When Ishmael was born, Hagar faced the daunting challenge of raising a son with the temperament of a wild donkey, and in the end, she was left to do it alone.
This is not a story that ends with “And they all lived happily ever after.” They didn’t! The “happily ever after” stuff belongs to fairy tales, movies and Korean dramas.
The Bible speaks to the real world—to the ongoing difficulties faced by single mothers, and perplexed wives and flawed fathers and troubled sons. The message is not “Come to Jesus and you will live happily ever after.” The message is “My grace is sufficient for you” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
b) If you come to the Lord Jesus Christ today, you will find that his grace is sufficient for you.
Living in the tension of a home where there is little peace, the grace of the Lord Jesus is sufficient for you. Living with the emotional abandonment and the spiritual wounding you may have experienced, the grace of the Lord Jesus is sufficient for you.
To live with and to master the wild impulses that sometimes rage in your heart and your soul—it won’t be easy. It will be a struggle. But you will find that his grace is sufficient for you.
I know that I am speaking today to some who feel emotionally abandoned, and to others who have been spiritually wounded. I am saying to you today from the Scriptures that
1. You are deeply loved by God.
2. He sees you.
3. He knows you.
4. He hears your affliction.
5. He sent his Son to seek and to save you.
By God’s grace, and through his Word, he draws near to you today with the command to repent, and with a promise of blessing. And his grace is sufficient for you.