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Hagar and the God Who Sees

If you grew up going to Sunday school, no doubt you’ve heard many stories about Abraham and his family. You’d be hard pressed to find a Sunday school curriculum that goes through the stories of the Old Testament that doesn’t include the stories of Abraham, his wife Sarah, and his son Issac. They are such a central family in the Bible, it would be very odd to leave them out. 

But on that same token, there are some members of Abram’s family that we do tend to leave out. Abram’s second wife and his oldest son don’t get the same limelight as Sarah and Isaac, but they are very much part of Abram’s family and they are key elements of the Biblical account of Abram’s story. And as you might have now guessed, they will also be the focus of this next chapter in our study of the life of Abraham.

Now before we jump into this today, I want to remind you of three key facts. If you’ve missed a couple messages over these past several weeks, here’s what you need to know about Abram in order to really understand this chapter today.

#1.When we first met Abram in back Genesis chapter 12, God promised Abram that his descendants would become a great nation. In fact, over the past couple chapters, God has reaffirmed that promise several times – stating that Abram’s descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the sky – they would be like dust – so much that you could never count them all! That’s the first key fact to remember.

#2. Abram was currently childless. His wife Sarai had been unable to become pregnant, and so to-date, they had no children. That’s fact #2. 

#3. Abram was getting pretty old. We’ll see at the end of this chapter that Abram was now 86 years old. And I know that people lived longer back then, but still – Abram is no spring chicken anymore.

So these three facts set the stage for today’s chapter. God had promised Abram a son, Abram currently had no son, and Abram is starting to get old. With that in mind, let’s turn to Genesis chapter 16, verse 1.

Table of contents for Learning to Walk

  1. First Steps of Faith
  2. Trusting a Person – Not a Plan
  3. Good and Generous God
  4. Firepot Promises
  5. Hagar and the God Who Sees
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Firepot Promises

Learning to walk is certainly not an easy task. We probably don’t remember our own first steps as we learned to walk for the first time, but many of us have witnessed the great tumbles and falls as we’ve watched our own children try to take their first steps. It can be a bit painful to watch sometimes to see them fail, but at the same time its so exciting when they get it right! There’s always cheers and celebrations as your babies take those first steps. It’s such a milestone in their lives – being able to walk changes everything – life will never be the same again!

I think the same could be said about learning to walk with God. Certainly, we all have our share of stumbles and falls as we try to keep in step with God – learning to trust Him and to walk in his ways. We’ve experienced the bumps and bruises when we fail to trust and to follow God like we should. But most of us have also experienced the thrill of those first successful steps. Certainly, as a church we celebrate when people take those first steps of faith – because their lives will never be the same again! Learning to walk with God changes everything!

And so that’s why, for the past several weeks, every Sunday morning we’ve been learning to walk. Not physically of course, but learning to walk with God. We’ve been taking a look at the example of Abram as he learned to walk with God some 4000 years ago. And it seems that the process of learning to walk with God hasn’t changed all that much over the years.

There is so much in Abram’s life that we can relate to today – and I think that will be all the more evident as we look at our passage this morning.

Today we’re going to pick up our story of Abram in Genesis chapter 15. Now if you missed last week’s message, let me give you a quick recap. Last Sunday Greg told us about this great battle between 9 different kings – which included the King of Sodom. Now of course, Sodom (you’ll remember) was the city where Abram’s nephew Lot lived. Well, long story short – the King of Sodom lost the battle and as a result, all the people and goods of Sodom were carried away – including Lot and his family.

When Abram heard about this, he rallied his allies and chased after the army that had carried Lot away, defeated them, and recovered all that had been taken.

After winning the victory, Abram was on his way back when he was met by this guy named Melchizedek – the King of Salem and a priest of God most High. He shows up and he blesses Abram. And Abram in return, gives Melchizedek one tenth of all he owned.

And this interaction between Abram and Melchizedek is all kinda strange because as far as story goes, Melchizedek wasn’t even involved in any of these battles – this is the first time he’s ever mentioned, so what’s he got to do with any of this this? And why is Abram giving him 10% of his stuff?

And then as a further twist to the story, the King of Sodom – who was directly involved – tries to give Abram all the goods that Abram had recovered, but Abram won’t accept any of it – He doesn’t want to become rich at the hand of the King of Sodom. 

So instead of receiving payment or reward for his heroic rescue, Abram instead gives 10% of all his stuff to this guy Melchizedek who doesn’t even seem to be involved… So it’s all a little unusual and mysterious – but the bottom line at the end of the story is that God is pleased with Abram – and Abram is determined to walk with God.

And so that brings us now to chapter 15 – and we’re going to start at verse 1. Let’s read it together:

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Good and Generous God

This morning we are continuing our look at the life of Abram. We last left Abram as he was being deported out of Egypt – escorted out of the country by Pharaoh’s men. 

He had gone to Egypt to escape a famine, but while there were there, they ran into a few complications. Because Abram’s wife Sarai was so beautiful –  he had asked her to tell people that she was his sister, rather than his wife – out of fear that he would be killed by the Egyptians who would see how beautiful she was and would want to remove her husband out of the equation. 

Well, this plan worked so well that Sarai ended up being taken into Pharaoh’s palace to become his wife – something that I don’t imagine Abram & Sarai had counted on. But God intervened and brought plagues on Pharaoh and his whole household because of Sarai, and through that, somehow it was discovered that Sarai was really Abram’s wife. As you might imagine, Pharaoh was none too pleased when he found out that Abram had deceived him and that Sarai was actually his wife. So after some fairly harsh words, he had his men escort Abram & Sarai out of the country.

And so that’s where we’re going to pick it up this morning – in Genesis chapter 13, verse 1.

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Trusting a Person – Not a Plan

Last week Jesse and Greg gave us a fine demonstration of a three-legged race. With a little duct tape to ensure they were perfectly in sync, they made their way across the stage – and believe it or not, they did it without disaster. I guess they’ve known each other long enough and worked with one another often enough to successfully journey together and travel in sync without tripping each other up.

And all of this was an illustration for us of what our walk with God sometimes looks like.

Now of course, we don’t have duct tape to keep us perfectly in sync with God as we attempt to walk with Him in our day to day lives – but that’s the goal. To walk in sync with God – to follow his lead, to do as He does, and to stay close by His side as we journey through life together with Him.

But without that duct tape, it seems we often get out of sync with God. We drift away, we do our own thing – and as often happens in a three-legged race – before we know it, we find our selves flat on our faces.

But the good news is that we can learn to walk with God with minimal faceplants. And the key word there is “learn”. It doesn’t come automatically. It takes time and practice to learn to consistently walk with God. Thankfully, God is incredibly patient with us – and He leads us gently, always encouraging us to get up once again and have another go at it – just to take it one step at a time.

And fortunately for us, God has also given us some great teachers too. We can look to the pages of Scripture to find many examples of men & women who – over a lifetime – learned to walk with God and so we can learn from their examples. One of those great examples, as I mentioned last week, was Abram.

Now Abram was a guy who didn’t start learning to walk wth God until he was about 75 years old – which seems really late in life, but considering that he lived to be 175, he still had about 100 years to practice and learn how to walk with God. So I think Abram’s 100 years of experience can offer us a lot to learn from. And so for the next several weeks, we want to take a look at Abram’s life – leaning from his example as he learned to walk with God.

Now last week, we saw Abram’s very first steps of faith. While he was still living with his father, Terah, God appeared to Abram and told him to leave his homeland and his father’s family, and to go to the place that God would show him.

Table of contents for Learning to Walk

  1. First Steps of Faith
  2. Trusting a Person – Not a Plan
  3. Good and Generous God
  4. Firepot Promises
  5. Hagar and the God Who Sees
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First Steps of Faith

The Christian life is often described as ‘walking with God’ and I think a three-legged race is a good illustration of what that can look like. Walking with God can be a thrilling journey when we keep in step with Him – following His lead. But when we get out of sync with God and try to do things our own way, very quickly can we find ourselves flat on our face. 

I think it’s a fairly common experience among Christians – especially new Christians – that in our attempts to daily walk with God, we struggle to stay in sync with Him and often we find ourselves tripped up and discouraged in the fact that we mess up so often.

But the fact is that no one just jumps in and walks perfectly in sync with God for the rest of their lives – it’s a learned process. It takes time to learn to walk with God.

Sometimes we read those incredible stories in the Bible of these heroes of the faith like Paul or Elisha or Daniel and they just seem like they’ve got it all together. But I guarantee you, there was a lot of practice and a lot of failures as they learned to walk with God.

I think Abraham is a great example of someone who had to learn to walk with God. I don’t know how much you know about Abraham, but aside from Jesus, he’s probably the most central figure of the Bible. He was the father of the nation of Israel – the father of Christianity really. It was through Him and his family-line that Jesus our Saviour born. And He wasn’t just a physical ancestor of Christianity – the Bible often points to him as our spiritual ancestor as well –  the first of those who were saved by faith.

But even heroes of the faith (like Abraham) had to learn to walk with God. Abraham had his ups and downs. He stumbled just like we do. But over time, and through a wide variety of experiences, Abraham learned to walk with God – to stay in step with Him. And as a result, Abraham had an incredible journey with God, and his life has left a lasting legacy even for us today several thousand years later. 

That kind of journey and that kind of legacy is possible for us too, as we learn to walk with God. So over the next few weeks, we’re going to look at Abraham’s life – watching as he learned to walk with God, because I think there is so much that we can learn from him and apply to our own journey with God. I’m calling this new series “Learning to Walk” and I trust that we will do exactly that as we study the life of Abraham – that we will learn to walk in step and in close communion with our God, just like Abraham did. So let’s jump right into it!

Now as I mentioned earlier, Abraham is one of the most significant characters in the entire Bible. In fact his story is the first biography in the Bible. Up to this point, the Bible has been telling us about certain events – events like creation and the flood and building the tower of Babel – but when the Bible introduces Abraham, its not to tell us about a particular event – it’s to introduce us to a particular person and his family.

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