Greetings in the name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Praying for you, your family, your community, and the rest of the world. Right now, the whole world is suffering because of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). Let’s pray together to God, Our Ever-Loving Father, His mercy and protection on all, and God’s healing on those who are infected by the Coronavirus. We all believe God’s grace and love rest on all who look upon Him every moment with faith in Him.
The LORD is compassionate and merciful, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. (Psalm 103:8)
Abraham walked with God, and he learned more about God every day. However, the walk was not always rosy. He had faith in God, but a dark cloud of doubt was with him. From the beginning, the seed of the doubt was with him, and it had never left him.
Surely Abrahan had great faith from the beginning. He left his native country and relatives because he believed in God’s promise. What a faith that he had! His native country and relatives were the only and real social safety net at that time, but in faith, he left all of them without knowing where he was going. The great seed of faith was in him, the greatest gift from God.
However, the seed of the greatest faith was just a seed with lots of growth potentials. Abraham’s faith also took time to grow and fully mature. As he followed God, Abraham faithfully built an altar and worshipped God by calling His Name wherever he went. God was with him always. Abraham settled down in the promised land, Canaan, and a first challenge came to him. A great famine came to Canaan, the promised land. He went down to Egypt to avoid the severe famine, which was wise in earthly eyes because there was plenty of food in Egypt. He set out to Egypt without knowing what’s coming next. As arriving, he immediately felt a threat of being killed due to his exceptionally beautiful wife, Sarah. He lied, and he spared his life, but Sarah was taken to Pharaoh because Abraham lied Sarah was his sister. Abraham cried out to God and God heard. God intervened and Pharaoh returned his wife. And Pharaoh expelled Abraham from Egypt. Abraham learned a great lesson from God. Following his earthly wisdom did not make him safe from the great famine, but led to even a tougher life problem of losing his wife.
Through the lesson, Abraham knew more about God, and his faith was grown into Him. Abraham then, extremely generously dealt with his nephew, Lot, and sent Lot away with blessings. Abraham gave up the best for Lot simply because Lot wanted to have the best land before him. Indeed, Abraham won in faith but Lot actually became a loser due to his greed. Lot soon became a captive due to the war in the land that looked like a paradise. Abraham immediately chased down the king who captured Lot although the king was the most powerful at that time. In faith, Abraham prevailed and rescued Lot. God was with Abraham, and Abraham faithfully fought for Lot. As Abraham returning, God sent Melchizedek, the king of Salem and a priest of God Most High to bless Abraham.
Then Abraham’s life became quiet again. One day God came to Abraham because God knew Abraham’s seed of doubt was still in his heart. It had never left Abraham although Abraham so faithfully followed God. As God gave an opportunity to pour out Abraham’s heart, Abraham shared his struggle for many years because he had no son and Sarah was barren. After the long struggle, Abraham rationalized by harmonizing the contraction between God’s promise to be a great nation and the reality of no son and his barren wife, Sarah. His conclusion was to make Eliezer of Damascus, a servant in his household as his heir. What a nice idea! Then Abraham was comforted. However, God immediately responded to Abraham by telling,
“No, your servant will not be your heir, for you will have a son of your own who will be your heir.” (Genesis 15:4b)
Abraham was completely confused. He thought that God would agree with him. If such a faithful Abraham stumbled, what can we say more about ourselves? Surely, we will stumble also. It is a matter of when, not if.
For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. (James 3:2)
However, God is with us even in the midst of our stumbling. God then took Abraham outside by His merciful hand and showed the numerous sparkling stars displayed against the clear night sky. Awestruck fell on Abraham, and he became speechless. Then God told,
Look up into the sky and count the stars if you can. That’s how many descendants you will have!” (Genesis 15:5b)
Abraham actually tried, but he could not count the stars displayed before his eyes. Abraham finally saw God’s promise that was much more grandiose than what he ever imagined. Then Abraham believed.
The LORD counted him as righteous because of his faith. (Genesis 15:6b)
What an honorable mention of God! Abraham believed despite the impossibility without any further doubts. At that moment, Abraham made another huge progress in his faith, continuously growing and maturing in Him. God always continuously monitors the growth of our faith in Him. As Abraham became strong enough in faith to deal with harder spiritual food, God revealed the hard reality of the future of Abraham’s descendants:
You can be sure that your descendants will be strangers in a foreign land, where they will be oppressed as slaves for 400 years. But I will punish the nation that enslaves them, and in the end they will come away with great wealth. (As for you, you will die in peace and be buried at a ripe old age.) After four generations your descendants will return here to this land, for the sins of the Amorites do not yet warrant their destruction.” (Genesis 15:13b-16)
It was a hard message. Abraham struggled with God’s message, but he did not leave God. He just received it in faith. Then Abraham faithfully waited for God. Terrifying darkness came down over him, but he persisted alone in the wilderness in faith. God saw Abraham who was persevering. God appeared again to Abraham alone in the wilderness in the terrifying darkness. Then God made a covenant with Abraham, not just a promise. Yes, Abraham prevailed in faith. God said, ‘’
“I have given this land to your descendants, all the way from the border of Egypt to the great Euphrates River— the land now occupied by the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites, and Jebusites.” (Genesis 15:18b-21)
God made a covenant with Abraham to give the land currently occupied by ten nations. Each of the nations was far stronger than Abraham, who was just one person with his wife and servants. Even so, Abraham believed in God’s covenant. What an amazing scene between God and Abraham – telling the impossible covenant and believing in the impossible [in the earthly measure, of course] covenant. This is one great example of the beauty of walk with God in faith.
Abraham’s internal struggles were exhausted before God, and God replaced his doubt with God’s covenant. Yes, the one who did all was God, and Abraham just believed, which was what God wanted. Does this mean that it was the end of Abraham’s journey in faith? No. Another challenge in faith was waiting for Abraham. By the way, our walk with God is a life-long journey, and it is the most beautiful one that we can have on earth as Abraham walked with God.
Sarah, his wife, also struggled because she was barren. She saw Abraham’s struggle about no son and herself who was barren. It was not easy for her too. It had been the biggest burden in her heart since she married Abraham. In her eyes, Abraham was a man of faith who believed in God’s promise despite the impossibility. Of course, we know it was not true. Abraham also struggled, as Sarah struggled.
Sarah could not continue without rationalizing her struggle for herself as well as her husband. She came to the conclusion to make a son with her Egyptian servant named Hagar. Then she said to Abraham,
The LORD has prevented me from having children. Go and sleep with my servant. Perhaps I can have children through her.” (Genesis 16:2b)
What should be Abraham’s response to Sarah’s proposal? Abraham once proposed his rationalizing proposal to God by introducing Eliezer of Damascus, his servant as his heir. God did not accept his offer, and God took him outside and made him see the promise by showing the numerous sparkling stars. Then God restored Abraham’s faith so that Abraham remained in God’s promise against the impossibility.
According to the Bible, when hearing Sarah’s proposal, Abraham did not do anything. Instead, he agreed. Sadly, Abraham did not learn fully from his experience with God and accepted Sarah’s proposal. It could have had been a monumental moment of Abraham’s faith, but Abraham gave in. It reminded of Adam, who did not resist Eve’s proposal to eat the fruit of Knowledge, and he ate the fruit without making even a single question to Eve.
Although Abraham did overcome his internal struggle from the doubt in his heart, he failed miserably when an external temptation came as Sarah proposed, who was the closest and most trusted person in the world. Sarah was his faithful wife.
Satan knows the weakest part in us. Satan always makes his strongest blow at our weakest part. As a human being, it is impossible to resist or endure. How many failed before Satan’s temptations? Countlessly many from the most faithful like Abraham to an ordinary believer like one of us. Then what’s the solution?
Only by the power of the Holy Spirit, we can resist, endure, and prevail. Yes, we are nothing before Satan as we are, but In Him, we are strong. Even the most powerful blow of Satan cannot make us fall. We can continue standing firm in Him.
We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. (2 Corinthians 4:7)
Abraham in faith could have had resisted the temptation from Sarah, and seen the promise together. Then Abraham and Sarah together could have had overcome the doubts and struggle. Before the temptation of an easy and rationalizing solution, they failed.
As soon as Abraham agreed, Sarah took Hagar the Egyptian servant, and gave her to Abraham as a wife. It happened ten years after Abraham had settled in the land of Canaan. We can see their struggle for ten years, which is a long time. Additionally, they did not tell each other about their internal struggle. This was another reason why together they failed. They could have had shared their struggle and supported each other in God by praying together while asking for increasing their faith and God’s guidance through the difficult and long past ten years.
Hagar became pregnant. The sin of unbelief manifested in an earthly rationalization solution started growing in Hagar’s womb. When Hagar knew she was pregnant, she began to treat her mistress, Sarah, with contempt. Sarah did not know what to do. Sarah deeply hurt. It was not what Sarah expected. When Sarah made her plan, she did not know what was coming next.
She came to Abraham, and told,
“This is all your fault! I put my servant into your arms, but now that she’s pregnant she treats me with contempt. The LORD will show who’s wrong—you or me!” (Genesis 16:5b)
What was Sarah’s first statement? “Your fault, not mine.” Yes, it was not her fault, but Abraham’s fault. Of course, Abraham did not accept his fault. Nobody accepts one’s own fault first. The fault is always on the other person. This is a good example of our sinful nature that exists in everybody’s heart. Unless we are powered by the power of the Holy Spirit, we are always defeated.
Once sin is conceived, what does happen? It multiplies. Soon not just one, but many people soon fall into sin. We have to stop this multiplication as soon as possible. How? We have to come to God and ask His mercy and forgiveness by admitting and confessing our sins. We know Adam did not confess his sin before God. Instead, he insisted no fault on his side. Eve was not different. She pointed at the serpent while telling Him it was the serpent’s fault. One small sin committed by Eve multiplied. Both Adam and Eve lied to God and expelled from Eden, Paradise. This is sin’s nature. Sin attracts more sins.
Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather. (Matthew 24:28)
Sarah made her rationalizing solution rather than believing in God’s promise. Abraham accepted Sarah’s proposal. Then Hagar got pregnant and treated her mistress with contempt. Sarah complained to Abraham while telling “all your fault.” Then what do you expect what’s the next move of Abraham? Of course, Abraham did not like to hear criticism from his wife. Abraham also felt that it was not his fault. In Abraham’s mind, he just accepted Sarah’s proposal. Then all of the faults should be on her not him. Abraham, then, answered in frustration,
“Look, she is your servant, so deal with her as you see fit.” (Genesis 16:6b)
Abraham tossed the ball back to Sarah’s court while implicitly declaring that it was not his fault, and Sarah had to take it all as her responsibility. What a sinful thought of Abraham. In reality, nobody admitted one’s own sin.
Then Sarah started treating Hagar harshly since then. It was so hard that Hagar finally ran away. What a broken household! Nobody in the household was humble, patient, admitting one’s fault, and asking and giving out forgiveness. All were righteous, and the fault was only with the others.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Matthew 12:30-31)
None loved others as self. It was the telltale sign of the brokenness of Abraham’s family. They did not keep God’s greatest commandments — love God and love neighbor. One’s family member is the closest neighbor after all.
The poor Hagar ran out, but she had no place to go in the wilderness. After wondering, finally, she barely found a spring of water. She was sitting beside the spring. What a miserable day it was! She was crying, but nobody was there. She was there for a long time, but nobody came and consoled her. She was truly helpless and did not know what to do next. She was so desperate.
God, compassionate and merciful, sent His angel to Hagar in distress. The angel of God appeared to Hagar, and said to her,
“Hagar, Sarai’s servant, where have you come from, and where are you going?” (Genesis 16:8b)
“I’m running away from my mistress, Sarai,” (Genesis 16:8c)
The angel of God said to Sarah,
“Return to your mistress, and submit to her authority.” Then he added, “I will give you more descendants than you can count.” (Genesis 16:9b-10)
The angel asked to return to Sarah for reconciliation. Yes, it was the only solution for the highly tense, self-righteous, and conflicting Abraham’s household. God, full of mercy, gave Hagar the comfort that she needed most. God then encouraged her to return while giving a new promise to her about her descendants to be numerous than she could count. Hagar was alone, vulnerable, and helpless, but God found her. She was greatly comforted by God.
Then the angel continues,
“You are now pregnant and will give birth to a son. You are to name him Ishmael (which means ‘God hears’), for the LORD has heard your cry of distress. This son of yours will be a wild man, as untamed as a wild donkey! He will raise his fist against everyone, and everyone will be against him. Yes, he will live in open hostility against all his relatives.” (Genesis 16:11b-12)
God even named her son “Ishmael”, which means “God hears.” God truly heard Hagar’s cry from her heart, and God answered by sending His angel.
“Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. He sent out his word and healed them.” (Psalm 107:19-20)
Hagar experienced God when she was at the lowest part of her life. On the contrary, Sarah had experienced God yet. This is another secret of God, who finds one who is at the lowest part of one’s life
Yes, when we are at the lowest part of our life, we surely meet God, who searches for us as we cry out in distress. Why? God is full of mercy and compassion. God came to an Egyptian woman, Hagar even before Sarah, a Hebrew woman. How much so to us, who are His children. It does not matter who we are. God finds one who is crying out in distress. Then God gives hope and peace. Thus, what we present our broken and contrite heart to God, who will hear us and answer according to His infinite goodness.
My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise. (Psalm 51:17)
God does not and cannot despise the one who comes to God with a broken and contrite heart in distress. Hagar regained her strength and said,
“You are the God who sees me.” She also said, “Have I truly seen the One who sees me?” So that well was named Beer-lahai-roi (which means “well of the Living One who sees me”). (Genesis 16:13b-14)
Hagar praised God who watched over her. She named the well spiring, “Beer-Lahai-roi (well of the Living One who sees me). She was greatly comforted and returned to Abraham and Sarah.
Hagar then lived together with Sarah and Abraham. God mend the broken family by using Hagar, a mere servant of Abraham and Sarah. All sinned, but God lifted up the lowest. God healed the entire family of Abraham by lifting up Hagar, a mere servant girl.
Hagar gave Abraham a son, and Abraham named him Ishmael. Abraham was eighty-six years old when Ishmael was born. it was eleven years later after Abraham left his native country and his relatives and followed God and His promise without knowing where he went.
Our God is the God of harmony and provides comfort and peace to those who are crying out in distress. Abraham’s family was broken into pieces. Abraham and Sarah blamed each other, Hagar treated her mistress with contempt, and Sarah treated her harshly. Hagar ran away and sit beside a spring after wondering the wilderness all day. Hagar was alone, vulnerable, and in fear. She cried out in distress. God heard Hagar and sent his angel and comforted her. Yes, our God surely hears our cry in distress.
No one is perfect before God. Abraham was so faithful, but he also stumbled like us. Specifically, Abraham should have had rejected when Sarah proposed an earthly solution. Instead, Abraham took Sarah’s proposal without even asking a single question, although he knew it was not God’s promise. If Abraham rejected Sarah’s proposal, then the whole family had not been suffered by sins of Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar. Yes, sin surely multiplies.
Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough? Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. (1 Corinthians 5:6b)
Therefore, we should stay away from any form of sin, not to sin. We should remember that once sin comes in us, it multiples. Unless we fill our hearts with the new heart of God, the sin coming into our hearts will continue to grow. Soon we will be wrapped around by sin, which will lead us to the destruction of self, family, community, and even nation. Then what shall we do? Daily we should hear the voice of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. Please do not satisfy the worldly desire and passion in us, which will surely corrupt us. Therefore, do make every effort to together live in harmony while aiming for restoring others, comforting one another, agreeing with one another, living in peace in God’s love.
Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. (2 Corinthians 13:11)
Do not stifle the Holy Spirit. Do not scoff at prophecies, but test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good. Stay away from every kind of evil. (1 Thessalonians 5:19-22)