Genesis 16 - 18
Observe: In Gen 16 we see that several years have elapsed since God promised Abram that his descendants would be more numerous than the stars in the night sky, yet he and Sarai still had no children because of their advanced years. Sarai then devises a plan to have children through her maid servant and gets Abram to have a child with Hagar. Things don’t go well, and conflict arises between them when Hagar becomes pregnant. So Hagar runs away into the desert, but returns to Sarai after an encounter with the Lord. More years pass and the Lord once again appears to Abram and tells him that he would have a son by Sarai around that same time the following year, and changes their names to Abraham and Sarah. As a sign of the covenant, all the male members of Abraham’s household must be circumcised. Shortly thereafter, the Lord again visits Abraham as He is on His way to destroy the towns of Sodom and Gomorrah because of their sinful ways. Abraham pleads with the Lord not to destroy the towns if He finds any good people there, and the Lord agrees if he can at least 10 good people, He will not destroy them.
Interpret: Like many people, Sarai is a bit impatient and decides to help God carry out His part of the covenant by giving her slave Hagar to Abram as a second wife, and hopefully thereby getting the children promised by God. She wasn’t willing to wait for God to fulfill His promises in His good time. Her unfaithfulness led to the family strife seen in her relationship with Hagar. Hagar, on the other hand, demonstrated her faithfulness when she returned from the desert to Sarai as the Lord told her to, even though it was to certain harsh treatment at the hands of her mistress. Abram, for his part was also guilty of unfaithfulness when he agreed to Sarai’s scheme instead of waiting on God’s good time to bring about what He had promised, and gave in to the desires of his flesh. But, we see that God in His mercy, is still faithful to Abraham and intends to keep His part of the covenant. As an outward sign of this covenant, God requires all the males of Abraham’s household to be circumcised, which will separate and identify them among all the other peoples. Abraham had this done the same day that God pronounced it, and showed his renewed obedience.
Then there is the matter of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah for the evil and sin committed by the people there. God tells Abraham what He is going to do and why, yet Abraham actually bargains with God over the fate of the cities, as if God didn’t already know how many righteous people lived in them. God had waited patiently for the people to repent of their evil ways, but they just kept getting more and more evil. “The LORD said to Abraham, "How great is the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah and how very grave their sin! I must go down and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me; and if not, I will know." Genesis 18:20. Abraham was interceding on behalf of the people in those cities, asking for God’s mercy on them, but having found not even ten good people among them, the cities were destroyed in His righteous judgement.
Application: God continues to keep His promises to His people, and is faithful to us no matter how we respond. His timing may not suit ours, but anytime we get ahead of God and try to do things on our own, they usually don’t turn out so well. His timing usually calls for us to be patient – “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.” 2 Peter 3:8. Regardless of what we do, He will fulfill His promises and purposes, and that should strengthen us with hope, confidence and faith to wait on Him. And when Abraham interceded on behalf of the townspeople, he showed us that our prayers can make a difference.
Questions: Have there been any situations in your life when you were impatient waiting on God to answer a prayer or keep a promise? Did you ever go ahead with your own plans because things just weren’t moving along fast enough for you or going in the direction you wanted? How did that work for you? Have you ever just waited on the Lord and then thanked Him for His grace extended to you?
Prayer: Heavenly Father, forgive my impatience and faithlessness. You are the one true God, who never fails, who is always faithful, and who is the one true giver of all good things. Help me to be still and know that you are God. In Jesus name, Amen.
In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.