The Story of Us, Pt. 5: God’s Promise and Our Powerlessness
Have you ever felt powerless, stuck and unable to escape? Genesis 16 is the story of two women who are powerless. Sarai is powerless in her barrenness; Hagar is powerless as a female Egyptian slave. One tries to take over; the other is overtaken by the kindness of God. Pastor Glenn Packiam calls us to recognize the God who sees us, and sends us to see others in the light of His grace.
Listen to the podcast HERE.
OT Reading: Genesis 16:7-13 (ESV)
NT Reading: Romans 4:13, 18-22 (CEB)
Gospel Reading: Luke 1:39-45 (CEB)
STORY: Fawn on our deck
How do you respond to being powerless, to being stuck?
In this episode, we see a story about powerlessness.
Genesis 16:1-2 (ESV)
“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.”
- Abram listening/obeying Sarai echoes the way Adam listened to/obeyed Eve:
- Not about men not having to obey women
- The voice of sin
Genesis 16:5-8 (ESV)
“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. 7 The angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, the spring on the way to Shur. 8 And he said, ‘Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?” She said, “I am fleeing from my mistress Sarai.’ ”
When God asks a question…he is staging an intervention!
- Adam, where are you?
- Cain, where is your brother?
- Hagar, where are you coming from?
Genesis 16:10-11 (ESV)
“The angel of the Lord also said to her, “I will surely multiply your offspring so that they cannot be numbered for multitude.” And the angel of the Lord said to her, “Behold, you are pregnant and shall bear a son. You shall call his name Ishmael, because the Lord has listened to your affliction.”
Genesis 16:13 (ESV)
“So she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, ‘You are a God of seeing,’ for she said, ‘Truly here I have seen him who looks after me.’ ”
God SEES Hagar!
- Hagar is the first person to name God.
- Hagar is given a glimpse of who God is!
- This chapter is less about Abraham’s lack of faith, and more about God’s faithfulness to a female slave.
In the middle of you suffering, God sees you.
- No, it is not fair. No, it is not your fault. No, it may not change anytime soon.
- But God sees you. He is watching out for you.
This is not to say we should acquiesce to injustice.
If God sees Hagar, then we should the ones who really “see” the harsh treatment of others, and “speak kindly to them in the desert”.
- Sometimes all we see is politics and social issues and protests and FB posts…
- But God wants us to see the people…just as He saw Hagar that day.
- That involves asking, as God asked Hagar, “Where have you come from and where are you going?”
What’s it like to be black in America?
What’s it like to be a refugee outside Syria?
What’s it like to experience homelessness in Colorado Springs?
Cf Serve the City
Both women in Genesis 16 are powerless:
This story will come to represent the work of the flesh: the human attempt to save ourselves.
We want to be empowered: to be able to give ourselves what we need…But we will never be so empowered as to be able to achieve the thing we need and want most… (love, acceptance, etc).
1. Sarai is powerless over her barrenness.
The belief that we have to take over is the beginning of sin.
2. Hagar is powerless over her lot in life.
- He calls her as a way of reminder her that she is a slave
- He sends her back to a place of powerlessness (not because God is pro-slavery; cf Onesimus, another runaway slave welcomed as a brother)
- One tries to take over; the other is overtaken by the kindness of God.
The call to become aware of our powerlessness is the beginning of repentance.
In our powerlessness to save ourselves, God sees us and saves us.
The promise of God is not something to be achieved; it is only to be received.