Read Genesis 16:1-16. What is the significance of Abram’s decision to go with Hagar, even despite God’s promise to him? How do the two women represent two attitudes of faith (Galatians 4:21-31)?
When Abram doubted (Genesis 15:2), God unambiguously reassured him that He will have a son. Years later, Abram is still without a son.
Even after God’s last powerful prophecy, Abram seems to have lost his faith: he does not believe anymore that it will be possible for him to have a son with Sarai. Sarai, feeling hopeless, takes the initiative and urges him to resort to a common practice of that time in the ancient Near East: take a surrogate. Hagar, Sarai’s servant, is appointed for this service. The system works. Ironically, this human strategy seemed more efficient than did faith in God’s promises.
The passage describing Sarai’s relation to Abram echoes the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. The two texts share a number of common motifs (Sarai, like Eve, is active; Abram, like Adam, is passive) and share common verbs and phrases (“heed the voice,” “take” and “give”). This parallel between the two stories implies God’s disapproval of this course of action.
The apostle Paul refers to this story to make his point about works versus grace (Galatians 4:23-26). In both accounts, the result is the same: the immediate reward of human work outside the will of God leads to future troubles. Note that God is absent during the whole course of action. Sarai speaks about God but never speaks to Him; nor does God speak to either of them. This absence of God is striking, especially after the intense presence of God in the previous chapter.
God then appears to Hagar but only after she has left the house of Abram. This unexpected appearance discloses God’s presence in spite of human effort to work without Him. The reference to “the Angel of the LORD” (Genesis 16:7, NKJV) is a title that is often identified with the LORD, YHWH (see Genesis 18:1, Genesis 18:13, Genesis 18:22). This time it is God who takes the initiative and announces to Hagar that she will give birth to a son, Ishmael, whose name means God hears (Genesis 16:11). Ironically, the story, which ends with the idea of hearing (shama‘), echoes the hearing of the beginning of the story, when Abram who “heeded” (shama‘) the voice of Sarai (Genesis 16:2).
|Why is it so easy for us to have the same lack of faith that Abram had here?|