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Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. She had a female Egyptian servant whose name was Hagar. 2 And Sarai said to Abram, “Behold now, the Lord has prevented me from bearing children. Go in to my servant; it may be that I shall obtain children by her.” And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai. 3 So, after Abram had lived ten years in the land of Canaan, Sarai, Abram’s wife, took Hagar the Egyptian, her servant, and gave her to Abram her husband as a wife. 4 And he went in to Hagar, and she conceived. And when she saw that she had conceived, she looked with contempt on her mistress. 5 And Sarai said to Abram, “May the wrong done to me be on you! I gave my servant to your embrace, and when she saw that she had conceived, she looked on me with contempt. May the Lord judge between you and me!” 6 But Abram said to Sarai, “Behold, your servant is in your power; do to her as you please.” Then Sarai dealt harshly with her, and she fled from her. – Genesis 16:1-6
“God punishes sin with sin.” I remember that as a major teaching of my professor at the seminary. We were studying Romans, and once we got past Romans 1:16-17 (at least a week-long process), we looked at the rest of that chapter. In those following verses, the phrase “God gave them up…” occurs 3 times. And you know about how something is true if it is in the Bible one time. Twice, it is quite true. And three times??? It is most certainly true.
God gives people up to their sinful ways when they repeatedly rebel and refuse to acknowledge him and repent. This is the message of Romans 1:18ff. It is being played out here in the relationship between Sarai, Abram, Hagar, and God. Sad to say, there is much sin here. And it will only beget more.
Sarai gives up trust in God’s promises. She writes herself off as one who will be the means by which God’s promise is fulfilled. Abram is to have children greater in number than the stars in the heavens. It’s been 10 years or more. No child has come. No child will come for 13 more years. Sarai gives up on being God’s instrument in this, and offers her own solution. She offers her servant Hagar as a surrogate mother for Abram’s child. Not God’s plan. And when Hagar becomes pregnant and becomes disrespectful, Sarai treats Hagar so poorly that she flees the camp. Sin.
Abram listens to his wife and takes Hagar and conceives a child with her. And when Sarai complains about Hagar’s haughty attitude, basically discards Hagar. He says, in effect, Do with her as you please. Sin.
Hagar, for her part, cops an attitude toward Sarai because she is able to conceive a child whereas Sarai could not. Arrogance. Ridicule. Insolence. Sin.
How is it that we believe we can break the sin cycle apart from repentance? Why would we ever entertain paths of greedy machinations, lustful indulgences, or arrogant self-promotion and think there would be no consequence?
The rule of the hole is simple: when you’re in a hole, stop digging. The rule of sinful forays is, when you’re in the vortex of sin, repent and believe the good news. And then, bring forth the fruits of repentance.
We may not have full-on rebellion here on the part of Sarai, Abram, and Hagar, but their lack of faith and their unwillingness to wait for God’s provision leads to sinful actions. Lack of faith will always lead to sin of one kind or another.
Lord, keep us strong in faith, and faithful to your ways, and patient for your provision. In Jesus’ name. Amen.