Saturday, September 15, 2007

Layman's Commentary: Genesis 16:1-3

Genesis 16:1-3: Now Sarai, Abram’s wife had borne him no children, and she had an Egyptian maid whose name was Hagar. So Sarai said to Abram, “Now behold, the Lord has prevented me from bearing children. Please go in to my maid; perhaps I shall obtain children through her.” And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai. And after Abram had lived ten years in the land of Canaan, Abram’s wife Sarai took Hagar the Egyptian, her maid, and gave her to her husband Abram as his wife.

Here is Abram, patiently awaiting God’s promise and Sarai realizing Abram needed offspring in order for the promise to be fulfilled. Since she herself had not been able to produce any children for Abram, she offered her Egyptian maid as a surrogate mother for Abram’s heir. Whether Sarai did this out of her love and care for her husband or out of her eagerness to see and be part of the promise is not directly specified in Scripture. However, a careful examination of her words may imply the latter. There is a hint of indignation in her words, as she seems to be blaming God for her inability to conceive. It is in an effort to take the situation into her own hands, for her own ends (“perhaps I shall obtain children through her”), that she offers Hagar to carry his child.

The next phrase “And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai” is reminiscent of Adam listening to the voice of Eve as she offered him the fruit that God had forbidden them to eat. Sarai’s act of the flesh is about to influence yet another man of God. The Scripture indicates that this occurred after they had lived in the land of Canaan for ten years and Sarai couldn’t wait any longer. She now takes Hagar and gives her to Abram as his wife. This was not to be an illegitimate extra-marital affair that Abram was to engage in. She gave him Hagar as his “wife”. In those days, polygamy was still practiced and tolerated by God but it was not His way.

How often do we choose a legitimate way, but not His way? How often do we miss the best for us? How often do we take things that are outside our realm of responsibility, into our own hands? God may have placed us into roles where He wants us to act – as parents, employers, teachers, and members of a board -- whatever it may be. In those roles, He expects us to act and make decisions within their scope and in accordance with His guidance and the Scriptures. However, oftentimes we get involved in attempting to deal with matters outside our God-given jurisdiction. Attempting to deal with issues that are not ours to solve, even if we do so seeking His leadership, is something that God does not often bless.

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