Deceived by Abidan Shah, PhD

MAN OF PROMISE – DECEIVED by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction:  Have you ever used the idiom “take matters into your own hands?” Usually, it comes from a place of frustration and impatience. You are tired of waiting on someone to fix something; so, you “take matters into your own hands” and try to fix it yourself. Sometimes, it works great; but most of the times, it ends up being a big mess and costing you even more. I can’t help but think of the show “Home Improvement” with Tim Allen. Tim “The Toolman” Taylor tries to take on projects on his own, even though his assistant Al Borland tries to warn him, and he ends up making a big mess and having to pay somebody to fix it for him! In today’s message in our series “Man of Promise,” we will see how Sarai took matters into her own hands to help Abram have a child, and it was a big mess. In fact, it is a big mess to this day. Our message is subtitled “Deceived.” Main point: God’s plan always requires patience and faith. It’s human nature to take matters into our own hands and make a mess of things. Thank God that he even takes our messes and works them together for our good and his glory through Jesus Christ.

Genesis 16       1 Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. And she had an Egyptian maidservant whose name was Hagar. 2 So Sarai said to Abram, “See now, the LORD has restrained me from bearing children. Please, go in to my maid; perhaps I shall obtain children by her.” And Abram heeded the voice of Sarai.

Context: As I mentioned last weekend, Abram was now 85 years of age, and Sarai was 75. It had been about ten years since Genesis 12 when they left their home in Ur of the Chaldeans to follow God’s call to be a blessing to all the families of the earth. Abram had his moments of doubt, but God gave him a vision in Genesis 15 of the horror and great darkness that would come upon his descendants. They would be strangers in a land not theirs and serve the Egyptians who will afflict them for four hundred years. God also promised Abram that he will bring them into the Promised Land when the time was right, after the iniquity of the Amorites was complete. By the way, last week we heard from so many of you as to how much the message on doubt meant to you. As I mentioned last time – “Doubt is the Enemy’s choicest weapon against God’s people.” Don’t forget – God’s delays are not God’s denials. Just because he is making you wait doesn’t mean that he has forgotten you or changed his mind or doesn’t care how you feel. He is working behind the scenes. He is working in your life. He is working in people’s hearts. He is working within the systems that he has created to bring about his best in your life. But listen carefully: He will answer but only in his timing.

Unfortunately, Sarai could not come to grips with the timing of God’s promise. So, she decided to take matters in her own hands, and it was a big mess, and it’s still a big mess to this day. What I want to do in the next few minutes is to look at this embarrassing, painful, and irreparable episode through the eyes of the 4 main characters involved:

1. Sarai:

1 “Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children…”

We can only imagine how difficult this must have been for her over the years. They had everything but no children to enjoy and pass down their wealth. When God called Abram, I think that initially she must have believed that they would have the child of promise together. With the passage of time and no child, she must have reconciled to the fact that she was not included in the promise. When her husband Abram suggested to her that she tell people that she is his sister, she went along with it probably thinking that this was how things were supposed to be. Abram may have shared the vision with her, and she must have seen the excitement in his eyes. Hence, she did what she did, i.e., gave her maidservant to Abram. According to Hammurapi’s Code, which is a code of law from 2000BC in ancient Mesopotamia, it was allowable for a wife to give her female slave to her husband if she could not have a child. So also, the Nuzi tablets from Northern Iraq had similar codes. Unfortunately, Sarai chose to follow the pagan way instead of waiting on God. She saw her husband’s desperation and took matters into her own hands. Listen to verse 2 So Sarai said to Abram, “See now, the LORD has restrained me from bearing children. Please, go in to my maid; perhaps I shall obtain children by her.” First, she is blaming God. Also, literally, the last line in Hebrew is “Perhaps by her I shall be built.” You find the same construction in Job 22:23 “If you return to the Almighty, you will be built up…” I don’t want to read too much into this, but, in a sense, she was looking for her self-worth in having a child.

Application: Ladies, where do you find your self-worth? Have you chosen to do things to find self-worth instead of waiting on God? Have you taken matters into your own hands instead of trusting God? Without daily reading God’s Word and praying to him, we are susceptible to the same temptation. Are you daily in God’s Word and prayer?

2. Hagar:

“…And she had an Egyptian maidservant whose name was Hagar.”

As I’ve mentioned in previous messages, they had picked her up when they went to Egypt. More than likely, she was a gift of the Pharaoh, the king of the Serpent Kingdom. According to some scholars, Hagar’s name was an Egyptian title meaning “royal concubine.” Unlike Sarai, she probably did not have a good life growing up. She was probably groomed to be in Pharaoh’s harem. When Abram lied about Sarai being his sister, Pharaoh must have assigned Hagar to attend to Sarai, the future Queen of Egypt. When he sent Abram and Sarai away, he also told them to take the livestock and the male and female servants. Hagar had no choice in this matter. Now, Sarai gave her to Abram, and, again, she had no choice in this matter. She became a pawn in this sad game. Later, we’re going to see how God cared about her.

Application: Did you have to suffer because of someone else’s bad judgment and decision? Has the Enemy told you that you are worth nothing or that you are a mistake? You are here today because God loves you and he gave his Son to die on the cross for you. You may have been a victim of someone’s scheme, but you are special to God.

3. Abram:

2 “So Sarai said to Abram, ‘See now, the LORD has restrained me from bearing children.Please, go in to my maid; perhaps I shall obtain children by her.’ And Abram heeded the voice of Sarai.”

As many reminders as Abram had of the true plan of God, he should’ve known better than to heed his wife. God had called him and given him a distinct promise. He had given him victory over the four kings of the North with a handful of well-trained but house servants. He had warned him against the King of Sodom and offered him the communion through Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God. He had confirmed his promise again by showing him the stars of heaven. He had given him a vision of the horror and great darkness coming upon his descendants. Then he ratified the covenant of the land with the passing of the “smoking oven and a burning torch” between the sacrifice of blood. Again, all of this had a physical meaning but also spiritual. He should’ve stopped Sarai from offering Hagar. Instead, he made the same mistake that Adam made. Genesis 3:17 “Then to Adam He said, ‘Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, “You shall not eat of it”: Cursed is the ground for your sake; In toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life.’” Abraham, just like Adam, failed to be a godly leader in his home.

Application: Men, are you a godly leader in your home? Don’t misunderstand. There is a place to heed your wife. God has given them a sixth sense. Then, there is a place to give godly leadership to your wife. Are you doing that?

Genesis 16       3 Then Sarai, Abram’s wife, took Hagar her maid, the Egyptian, and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan. 4 So he went in to Hagar, and she conceived. And when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress became despised in her eyes. A better translation: Her mistress lost status in her estimation. Often people make decisions without taking into consideration the ramifications of their choices. They think they know themselves or others, but they don’t.  Proverbs 30       21 “For three things the earth is perturbed, Yes, for four it cannot bear up: 22 For a servant when he reigns, A fool when he is filled with food, 23 A hateful woman when she is married, And a maidservant who succeeds her mistress.” Listen to Sarai’s reaction now: Genesis 16        5 Then Sarai said to Abram, “My wrong be upon you! I gave my maid into your embrace; and when she saw that she had conceived, I became despised in her eyes. The LORD judge between you and me.” 6 So Abram said to Sarai, “Indeed your maid is in your hand; do to her as you please.” And when Sarai dealt harshly with her, she fled from her presence. It’s a mess! As the famous poet Sir Walter Scott wrote: “Oh what a tangled web we weave/When first we practice to deceive.” I would tweak that to say: “Oh what a tangled web we weave/When first we practice to scheme.

By the way, there are no perfect families. Every family has issues. Every family has skeletons. Stop envying someone else’s life.

4. Angel of the Lord:

Genesis 16:7 “Now the Angel of the LORD found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, by the spring on the way to Shur.”

Who is this Angel of the Lord? He is the pre-incarnate Christ. It is the most prominent Christophany. He is referred to as God. In Genesis 31      11 Then the Angel of God spoke to me in a dream, saying, “Jacob.’…13 I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed the pillar and where you made a vow to Me. Angel of the Lord = God. Again, in Exodus 3, Moses was tending his father-in-law’s sheep in the back of the desert. Verse 2 the Angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush. The bush kept burning so Moses turned to investigate. Verse 4 So when the LORD saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, “Moses, Moses!” 6 …“I am the God of your father—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look upon God. I can give more examples. Also, he is not Yahweh. Some people think that the Angel of the Lord is Yahweh. Not true. One clear example of that is Zechariah 1:12 Then the Angel of the LORD answered and said, “O LORD of hosts, how long will You not have mercy on Jerusalem and on the cities of Judah, against which You were angry these seventy years?” Here the Angel of the Lord is interceding on behalf of God’s people to God. He is God but He is talking to God. Finally, The Angel of the Lord is not the Father or the Holy Spirit because they don’t show themselves visibly.

Genesis 16       8 And He said, “Hagar, Sarai’s maid, where have you come from, and where are you going?” She said, “I am fleeing from the presence of my mistress Sarai.” 9 The Angel of the LORD said to her, “Return to your mistress, and submit yourself under her hand.” Before you think that God was sending her back to get mistreated some more, think about it. Would you rather her die in the wilderness of the Negev or be back on the auction block in Egypt? Imagine if God had not cared for Hagar or Ishmael! What would that say about God’s care for pregnant women, helpless women, unborn, illegitimate (by the way, only illegitimate parents), or orphan children.

He even gave a promise: 10 Then the Angel of the LORD said to her, “I will multiply your descendants exceedingly, so that they shall not be counted for multitude.” Notice the parallels to the birth narrative of Jesus. 11 And the Angel of the LORD said to her: “Behold, you are with child, And you shall bear a son. You shall call his name Ishmael, Because the LORD has heard your affliction. 12 He shall be a wild man; (better translation: “wild donkey of the steppe land”) His hand shall be against every man, And every man’s hand against him. And he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren.” 13 Then she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, You–Are–the–God–Who–Sees; for she said, “Have I also here seen Him who sees me?” (better translation: “Have I really seen the back of him who sees me?”) 14 Therefore the well was called Beer Lahai Roi; observe, it is between Kadesh and Bered. 15 So Hagar bore Abram a son; and Abram named his son, whom Hagar bore, Ishmael. 16 Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore Ishmael to Abram. Not only are their parallels to the birth account of Jesus, but Paul will also use Hagar as an illustration to explain the life under the law and the life under grace, the superiority of the Abrahamic covenant over the Mosaic covenant.

Once again: God’s delays are not God’s denials. Just because he is making you wait doesn’t mean that he has forgotten you or changed his mind or doesn’t care how you feel. When you take matters into your own hands and make a mess, he doesn’t abandon you. Instead, he comes to you and comforts you. He even gives you promises to restore you and use you. He is a gracious God.

Come to Jesus today.

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