Taking Matters Into Our Own Hands
How many of you have ever made an important decision without first consulting the Lord? How many of you think that this happens a lot in our society? I think so. Maybe it’s because we don’t believe enough in prayer. Maybe it’s because we’re lazy. Or maybe it’s because we think that God is too busy to get involved in our mundane little problems. I don’t know. All I know is that we tend to make way too many decisions without first looking to the Lord for wisdom and help.
We make decisions about marriage.
About our future.
About how many credit cards we’re going to carry around in our wallets.
And we never stop to ask ourselves the all-
How does the Lord of heaven and earth feel about this?"
And it’s only after the bills start coming and the problems start popping up that we begin to say to ourselves, "It’s my fault! I should have prayed to the Lord about this a lot sooner. I shouldn’t have been so quick to take matters into my own hands." We do things like that all the time. Because we want to call the shots! We want to control our own destinies! I believe that this is exactly where Abram and Sarai went wrong in Genesis 16. The very first sentence of verse one sets the tone. "Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children." God had promised Abram several times that he would have children. In Genesis 12:7, he said, "to you AND YOUR OFFSPRING I will give this land." But that was years ago. Now, they live in the land of Canaan. Where they have been for ten years.
Sarai is 75 years old. She’s way past the age when women normally have babies. And in chapter sixteen, verse two, she says to Abram, "Look. I know God said that we were going to have a baby. But that was a long time ago. For whatever reason, the Lord has kept me from having children. And now, I’m too old to have them! And frankly, I’m sick and tired of sitting around, getting older by the minute, while God is up in heaven doing absolutely nothing about our problem! So I am going to take matters into my own hands! Apparently, God helps those who help themselves! So I am personally going to make sure that we will have a child to inherit our estate."
From a human point of view, I can understand how she felt. They’ve been waiting on God all this time for a child. And now, it didn’t seem possible that it could ever happen. And on top of everything else, back then, if a couple couldn’t have children, they were considered by society to be under God’s curse! And so you can begin to imagine how desperate Sarai was feeling. And how tired she was of waiting for God’s promise to come true. Some of you here today have been waiting on God for a long time. You’ve been waiting on him for a better job, for better health, for a better marriage. Or maybe like Sarai, you’ve been wanting to have a child of your own. And it’s just not happening. It’s not easy to wait. I don’t know about you. But I am not always a very good "waiter." I admit it. It’s one of those areas where God is still working on me. I feel that one of the things that God has been teaching me lately is that the things he has in store for us are worth waiting for. God wants us to know that everything he has planned for our lives will not come at once. We might get impatient. We might get frustrated. We might wonder what in the world is taking so long. But the things that God has in store for us are so wonderful that they are worth the wait! If only we can hold out a little while longer. Isaiah 40:31 says that "those who wait upon the Lord will renew their strength!" And Psalm 27:14 says "Wait for the Lord! Be strong and take heart, and wait for the Lord!" But that’s not what Sarai did. She was to the point where she did not want to wait any longer. And in verse two, she said to Abram, "Go. Sleep with my maidservant Hagar, perhaps I can build a family through her." And Abram agreed. And in verses three and four, he slept with Hagar. And she got pregnant. When I first read this, I said to myself, "This is one nutty family! Sarai is completely off her rocker! She has finally gone off the deep end!"
In our culture, we would call what Abram did with Hagar adultery. And in the eyes of God, that’s what it is. But several thousand years ago, this was a culturally acceptable way to make sure that there would be a male son to inherit the estate. Hagar was Sarai’s property. And she could make Hagar do whatever she wanted her to do, including serving as a surrogate for her own barren womb. The problem wasn’t so much what Abram and Sarai did. (Although today, it would be considered wrong) The problem was that Abram and Sarai never prayed about it! They never said, "Lord, is this what YOU want? Do you want us to take this next step? Or do you want us to wait a little while longer?" That is what they should have done. But instead, Sarai said "Abram, this is what we’re going to do!" And Abram got in the last word. He said, "Yes, dear." And Hagar got pregnant. I’m not letting Abram off the hook. He’s the spiritual head of the household. He should have prayed about this situation before going to see Hagar. But he didn’t. And then in verse 4, we’re told that once Hagar realized that she was pregnant, she began to despise Sarai.
Hagar is a pawn in this whole situation. She’s going through the trouble of having a baby. And at the end of the day, it wouldn’t be considered hers to keep! I don’t blame her for being angry! And then in verse 5, Sarai takes it out on Abram and says, "This is all your fault! I let you sleep with my maidservant. And now she hates me. You are responsible! May the Lord judge between me and you!" If I was Abram, I might have said, "What do you mean, "This is my entire fault? This whole hair brained idea was yours to begin with! What are you blaming me for?" In that sense, this is like a repeat of the Garden of Eden story; where everyone is ready to blame someone else for their problems. One of the biggest areas where the fall of man has really hurt us is in our inability to take responsibility for our actions. When we take matters into our own hands, and things don’t work out, the first thing we’re tempted to do is to say, "It’s not my fault! Everything would have worked out just fine if it wasn’t for you!" I’m sure some of you see this all the time. Have you ever tried to admonish one of your children? And then they say, "It’s not my fault. He started it! Why don’t you punish him, too? It’s his fault!"
Has that scene ever duplicated itself in your house? Now you know where it comes from. It goes way back. Not only to Sarai and Abram. But it goes way back to the Garden of Eden in Genesis 3. I guess old habits die hard. And like most husbands, Abram doesn’t like to get yelled at. So in verse six, he says to Sarai, "Your servant is in your hands. Do with her whatever you think best."
In other words, "Leave me out of it!
I wasn’t really up for this idea, anyway.
Do whatever you have to do."
And then Sarai must have said to herself, "Well, since my husband said that I could do whatever I want to do, then that’s exactly what I will do! I’m going to take my frustrations out on Hagar." And verse six says that she mistreated her. I think it’s ironic that just as Sarai mistreated the Egyptian woman Hagar. That years later, the Egyptian people would turn around and mistreat the Israelites. It’s the same Hebrew word in both cases. So when things didn’t work out the way Sarai wanted them to, she not only verbally abused her husband, but she physically abused her maidservant! So Hagar says to herself, "I can’t live like this." So she ran away. The angel of the Lord appeared to her and said, "Where are you going?" Hagar said "I’m running away from Sarai." And then in verse 9, the angel says, "Go back and submit to her." If I was Hagar, I would have said, "WHAT? Go back to her?
She’s mistreating me!
She’s making my life miserable!
You expect me to go back there and put up with more of her garbage?"
But in verse ten, the angel says, "If you go back, I will bless you so much that your descendants will be too numerous to count." The question I want to ask you is this: "Are God’s blessings worth waiting for? Is it worth putting up with all of the garbage and all of the hardships and all of the difficulties of this life?" Sarai and Abram voted with their feet. They said, "No, it’s not worth it. We are determined to get what we want no matter what the cost!"
Hagar said, "Yes. It is worth it.
If it means a better life for my son.
If it means a more glorious future.
If it means having a relationship with Almighty God, then Yes! It is worth it to me more than anything else in the world."
Then in verse 13, Hagar said, "You are the God who sees me."
In other words, you are the God who sees who I really am.
You are the God who sees everything that is going on in my life. And I will trust you. And wait for your promise to come true in my life no matter what I have to put up with. You and I live in a society where we can usually get what we want right away. We are Christians. And if I want the blessing of God on my life, I have to surrender all of my desires to him. And say, "Lord, from the bottom of my heart, I only want what you want.
Help me to be wise about the way I live life. Give me the patience to wait on your leading and your support before I go plunging my family deep into debt or any other situation."
I Want To Challenge You Today:
Don’t go making huge decisions without praying to the Lord.
Don’t repeat the same mistake that Abram and Sarai made.
Don’t take matters into your own hands. Give it to the Lord in prayer.
Tell him, ’Jesus, I want for my life and for my family only what you want.
Nothing more. Nothing less.
Psalm 22:5 says that they cried to you and they were saved, in you they trusted, and "they were not disappointed."
People let us down all the time.
The stock market lets us down.
Our boss lets us down.
But Jesus will never let you down.
What a friend we have in Jesus.
I invite you to him today. Let Us Pray!