Out of the Garden, part twenty-one

When we left Abram and Sarai yesterday they’d made a decision to take the promise of God into their own hands. Today we’re going to see the results of that decision.

Genesis 16:4-6 So Abram had sexual relations with Hagar, and she became pregnant. But when Hagar knew she was pregnant, she began to treat her mistress, Sarai, with contempt. 5 Then Sarai said to Abram, “This is all your fault! I put my 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!” 6 Abram replied, “Look, she is your servant, so deal with her as you see fit.” Then Sarai treated Hagar so harshly that she finally ran away.

It’s almost hard to believe just how quickly this all went wrong. Over the course of a SINGLE VERSE things take a turn for the negative. Abram does what Sarai wanted, the servant woman gets pregnant, and immediately the servant begins treating Sarai with contempt. In verse 5 the blame game begins, with Sarai saying it’s all Abram’s fault that things have gone so poorly (perhaps forgetting that the entire plan was her idea in the first place). When Sarai decides to deal with the situation, she does so poorly, responding to the bad treatment she’s getting from Hagar with bad treatment of her own, driving Hagar away.

I understand why Hagar left. She wasn’t in a good situation, and while it seems her own attitude wasn’t good she was also being mistreated in return. As someone whose natural reaction to conflict is to run away, I understand why she made the decision to leave. But the interesting thing that I want to focus on today is what happens next.

Genesis 16:7-10 The angel of the Lord found Hagar beside a spring of water in the wilderness, along the road to Shur. 8 The angel said to her, “Hagar, Sarai’s servant, where have you come from, and where are you going?” “I’m running away from my mistress, Sarai,” she replied. 9 The angel of the Lord said to her, “Return to your mistress, and submit to her authority.” 10 Then he added, “I will give you more descendants than you can count.”

The command God gives Hagar to return feels unfair to me on the surface, but there’s a word that gets used here that puts it into perspective. Authority. Hagar may not like the way that Sarai was using her authority over her, but one thing that’s undeniable is the authority of God. Once God uses that word there is no conversation, no debate. Because His authority is supreme. If He says return, you return, no matter what situation He has you returning to.

God is telling Hagar to return to a difficult and uncomfortable situation. But pay special attention to verse 10. Then he added, “I will give you more descendants than you can count.” God’s asking Hagar to submit to a difficult authority and endure a difficult situation, yes, but He’s also showing her and all of us a crucial lesson. There’s a blessing in endurance. There is a reward for those who can remain in place even when remaining in place leads to difficulties.

There’s another aspect of this that I think is so vitally important for us to recognize. Sometimes our place in God’s plan is in the midst of a rough situation. Christians can be far too quick to pass judgment on a hard time and start desperately seeking deliverance from it. This moment in the Bible should remind us that we also need to prayerfully consider that maybe this hard time is exactly where God needs us. We’re so accustomed to comfort and peace we forget that oftentimes God needs us in unpleasant places. There are numerous biblical examples to back this up. God often calls us to unpleasant places. At war, in prison. Dying on a cross. Don’t be so quick to discount a rough season or to immediately thrash and scream and cry for deliverance. Remember that the Bible shows us that sometimes God’s exact place for us is in a rough situation, and that there’s always a blessing for those who endure.
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I love all of you and I hope you’re having a great day. If you’re like me and in the midst of a rough situation in life right now, hold tight to God and do all you can to endure with dignity. And remember to look around and see what God has for you in the midst of a rough season, because it’s always something you wouldn’t have been able to learn in a season of peace and prosperity.

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