By 9 p.m. this evening, both of my babies were asleep.
I don’t know why, but I did something that I do every now and then–I laid with each of them for awhile and talked to them quietly while they slept. Why I wait until they are asleep, I can’t explain. I got my daughter to sleep first with some R&B (she finds the voices of Smokey Robinson, Luther Vandross, and Ronald Isley particularly soothing) and then laid with her for awhile and just looked at her. I must admit, my daughter is ten times more challenging of a little person than my son was when he was the same age. My son had a cheerful, peaceful disposition. He did not throw temper tantrums, he did not try to hit, and he was content to do just about anything. My husband and I carted the little plump guy all over the place–he has probably been to every mall in Michigan, we have always been comfortable taking him to restaurants because he never acts up, etc. He was always just happy to be out and about.
My daughter is temperamental. She hollers more, she hits, she stretches her little body out and howls when she does not get her way. She used to hate her back-facing carseat and made rides in the car unbearable. I told myself when I was still pregnant with her that it would not be fair to her to compare her to her brother, because they are two totally different people. Yet, I still find myself marveling at exactly how different they are in terms of their tempers. I look at her sometimes when she is howling and just shake my head. Sometimes it gets on my nerves, but sometimes it is kind of amusing to see such a feisty one-year-old.
Despite their differences, and the fact that in their own ways each of them get on my nerves every now and then, there is one thing I can say with certainty–motherhood is often a thankless job, but I would not change anything about either one of them. I would not trade the world for either one of them. God gave me these two little people and he made them the way he did for a reason.
I credit my son’s birth as another event that led to further deepening of my relationship with Christ. I was kind of lost for awhile after I was raped. I knew that I could no longer live my life the way I had been living it. But there was still something missing. I did not feel as though I had a catalyst for continued improvement. I knew that I needed to work on myself for myself, but even after getting my life back on track at a new job and a new school, I still felt like I was simply going through life’s motions with no satisfaction or purpose.
When my son was born, I knew that it was more important than ever to make my commitment to God stronger and more persistent. Only then did I realize that my life was not my own, and that I had to do what I needed to do in order to make my house stronger. That meant getting my children and husband (who was not my husband at that time, as I have mentioned) into church and getting us into better fellowship with God. My husband has been amazing at how quickly he was able to commit himself–he has done better than me, in my opinion. It is important to both of us that we continually educate ourselves and set a positive example for our kids to follow. How can we expect them to do something then show them the exact opposite? It does not work that way. Kids are often smarter than we think, and they definitely watch everything the adults in their lives do.
The Bible says we should become like children (Matt. 18:3). Children have a great deal of confidence in their parents–they will often believe everything their parents say. They depend upon their parents and fully expect that their parents will provide for them. Children are very forgiving of adults and other kids alike… I remember when my son and I were at a birthday party where the party organizers had rented a bouncer with a slide on it. One little boy, who was quite a bit larger than my son, was flipping kids over as they jumped, often without their permission. I was a ways away but I saw him flip my son. My son had not been ready to be flipped and landed quite awkwardly, but managed to regain his footing. I was on my way over there to let the little offender have it, but as I approached I saw my son look the little boy square in the eye and say, “Don’t you do that again”.
I hung back a little to see what would happen next. I was hoping my son would not have to employ his karate skills. Luckily, he did not. The little boy said, “Ok, sorry”–and they went right back to bouncing. The little boy didn’t flip any other kids after that.
Our relationship with God is just like that of a parent-child. God speaks to us through his Word and guides us from infancy in Christ to maturity. Along the way we mess up, are convicted by the Holy Spirit, and chastised by our heavenly Father. Yet, we do not always have the blind trust in him that earthly children usually have in their parents. And we definitely do not always have the confidence in God that we should. (I am guilty of this as well!!!)
Sarai was an example of someone who showed a lack of confidence and faith in God in the book of Genesis. In Genesis 12, Abram leaves his native land with his half-sister/wife Sarai and nephew Lot. God has told him this: “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Gen. 12:2-3). Little did Abram know he would become the father of Israel. Hence the importance of Israel to Christians today–these are God’s chosen people. Israel will play a pivotal role in the fulfillment of end-time prophecy.
Abram was 75 when they began their journey, and by most accounts, Sarai was 60, and barren (Gen. 11:30). There is not much background given about the couple before this journey began, but we have other Scriptures that explain to us what kind of man Abram was. First, he may have been commanded to leave the house of his father Terah because he was involved in idolatry (Joshua 24:2). He was a man who walked by faith and demonstrated his faith by his works (Rom. 4, Heb. 11:8-9). Abram and Sarai were kind of like my husband and I, it seems (not the half-brother/half-sister thing, of course)… my husband’s faith does not go through as many fluctuations as mine.
That is not to say his faith was always strong–again, God uses flawed people to accomplish magnificent feats. Abram is no different. Upon arrival in Egypt, Abram appears to have become concerned that the Pharaoh would acknowledge his wife’s beauty and perhaps want to kill Abram in order to make her his wife. He convinces Sarai to lie for him and tell Pharaoh that she is Abram’s sister (since they were half-brother/half-sister, would that qualify as a white lie? Just kidding. A lie is a lie, white, black, red, green, or polka-dotted).
Instead of relying on God to preserve him, Abram allowed this lie to be perpetuated. What could have happened? Well, the men did acknowledge that Sarai was indeed very fair, and for this reason she was given a place in Pharaoh’s palace and became his wife, with Abram reaping the residual benefits as well, including sheep and cattle. Who knows how long the lie would have continued, but God stepped in and plagued Pharaoh. The Bible does not explain exactly how Pharaoh figured out the cause of the illness, but he found out and asked Abram why he did not tell him Sarai was his sister. Then he gave them the boot.
I wonder what God was thinking when this transpired. Of course, we do not know how long Abram and Sarai were in Pharaoh’s palace, but can’t you just image God with his head in his hands, sighing deeply? Abram had leaned to his own understanding and almost derailed God’s plan for him. Imagine that. God stepped in and put things back in order. Interestingly, Gen. 12:20 states that Pharaoh sent the couple away with everything they had, leaving one to assume that Abram kept the wealth he had amassed while he was there (sheep + cattle = money). As is mentioned in Gen. 13: 2, Abram also had silver and gold.
Next, an interesting event occurs between Abram and Lot. Lot had also acquired flocks and herds, c/o Abram and Sarai. After awhile, the two men began to quarrel over land. In an attempt to be a peacemaker, Abram grandly allowed Lot to have the first pick between two parcels of land. Instead of humbling himself and appreciating his uncle’s sacrifice–which he should have done since Abram was the reason he had the wealth in the first place–Lot got greedy in a way, and selected the land which had the best access to water, Jordan, while Abram lived among the Canaanites. The Bible tells us that Lot pitched his tents near Sodom (Gen. 13:12) and that the people of Sodom were very wicked and committing great sins against the Lord (Gen. 13:13).
At the end of chapter 13, God tells Abram that he will increase him, in terms of his land and his offspring. Gen. 14 describes the war between several kings, including those of Sodom and Gomorrah, which resulted in four opposing kings looting Sodom and Gomorrah, taking all kinds of spoils, including Lot. An escapee reports this to Abram, he assembled his army of 318 men and went and recovered Lot, his possessions, and the other people. Abram meets Melchizedek, the king and priest of Salem, and also interacts with the king of Sodom. The king of Sodom tells Abram to return the people to him and keep the rest of the plunder, but Abram refuses. Why? Sounds like a pretty cushy deal to me, considering he had risked his life to go there. Well, obviously Abram was a very focused and disciplined man. He went for one sole purpose–to get Lot back. He did just that. Abram also wanted to make sure that everything he did glorified God, not himself. He did not want anyone else to get the credit for making him rich.
Admittedly, I have been a tad bored reading these last several chapters of Genesis, although there are some juicy bits. But now we’re getting to the really good stuff–the story of Hagar and Ishmael, and Sarai’s doubt.
In Gen. 15, the Lord reminds Abram that He is his shield, and for that reason, Abram should not be afraid. Nor should we! As we walk around each day wearing the armor of the Lord, whom should we fear??? Not a soul. But I digress. At this time, Abram brings up the fact that he is childless–therefore, there is no heir to his estate. If only Abram knew what would come from his lineage!! God tells Abram that not only will he have a son, but his children will be as innumerable as the stars. I’ll bet that was encouraging to Abram, and look at what he did–he believed the Lord (Gen. 15:6).
After Abram performs a sacrifice, God allows him to fall into a deep sleep and reveals the future of his nation, Israel–that they would be enslaved for 400 years in a foreign nation, and that nation, which we know is Egypt, will be punished. God also discloses their deliverance and mentions the return of their fourth generation to Canaan. Luckily, Abram, who was probably thinking he was too old for all of that, was also told that he would avoid this. The Lord makes a covenant with Abram regarding the land.
Hopefully you are still with me…
In comes Hagar! As we know, Abram was a wealthy man, and when he left Egypt, he and Sarai had taken some slaves with them. Hagar was one of those slaves. Again, we see an example of a person leaning to their own understanding. Unbeknownst to Sarai, God and Abram had already had a conversation during which it was revealed that God had a plan in place for their childlessness. But Sarai, probably feeling inadequate since she was unable to produce an heir for her son, decided to have her husband sleep with Hagar to get him a son. That is one understanding wife to allow her husband to commit adultery. Won’t be going down in my household.
Sarai’s comment is interesting to me: “The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave, perhaps I can build a family through her” (Gen. 16:2).
YIKES. This sounds ugly from the beginning. Her tone or attitude seems to be one of blame: “God wouldn’t let me do it, so I am going to handle things my way!” I cannot tell you how many times I got impatient waiting for God and took a situation into my own hands, not knowing he had already worked it out in my favor. In each of those occasions, I got myself into a major pickle and then had to go to my Father and tearfully request a way out. Again, I do not know why he has not yet tired of me.
Sarai did the same thing. I wonder if she meant well, and why she picked Hagar? I have to question her motives, and how she thought this plan was a good idea. First, the adultery issue. Second, she really thought that she could just raise Hagar’s child as her own and that would be that? I understand that slaves were property, but it just seems a bit…wrong. Social customs of the day dictated that it was legal and acceptable for a woman to provide a female slave to her husband if she was incapable of having a baby. But just like there are laws today that say that certain things are acceptable, we as God-fearing people have to know the difference between man’s law, which is designed to curb our inhibitions to a certain extent, and the more-important laws established by God. Just because something is considered socially acceptable does not mean we as Christians should do it.
Of course, I cannot relate to Sarai, so perhaps I should not be so harsh. I had two children with no problem. I refuse to call my kids accidents, but I will honestly say they were both pleasant surprises, meaning I was not “trying” to have either one of them when they came along. I can understand how the ability to have children is an essential component of some women’s self-esteem and identity, whereas others are perfectly content never having kids, instead preferring to be the cool auntie or whatever else. Of course, Biblical times were different, in terms of the importance of producing a male heir. But I wonder if Sarai ever wondered why God had not yet her have children. Did she stop to think that perhaps God knew having a child before they did would be untimely, as he was still working on building up Abram? In other words, I wonder if Sarai understood that each time God made a covenant with Abram, she was indirectly involved to, as she was his wife. In certain situations, when my husband and I have been going through hard times, I wonder what lesson is in the struggle, and who is it aimed at–me or my husband. As it turns out, it doesn’t matter. Because we are one, we are both going to learn that lesson and benefit from it. What God does with my husband affects me indirectly. The same for Sarai.
It confuses me as to why Abram agreed. (Adam and Eve, all over again). Did he think this was the way God intended for him to have those children, innumerable as the stars? I do not see how. Since when has God given the okay to something so improper and out of order? Or, could I look at the situation through the eyes of SOME men today: “My wife is LETTING me sleep with this incredibly hot chick??? SWEET!”
Whichever head he was thinking with, Abram slept with Hagar and she conceived. Then she began to resent Sarai. She probably thought she was special–she had done for Abram what his own wife had been incapable of doing–allowing him offspring, yet she was still subject to Sarai’s rule. And does it come to the surprise of anyone that Sarai began to mistreat Hagar? I’m sure her jealousy burned toward Hagar everyday as her belly began to swell. But what is funny is that Sarai blames Abram for her misery!! “You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering…” (Gen. 16:5). Now, I do think Abram is responsible in that he should have assured his wife that God would take care of their problems, and he should have comforted her for her inability and ensuing guilt for not being able to give him a child, but to place total blame on Abram seems a bit faulty to me. YET, he is the leader, being the man, and should have set a better example and refused the offer in the first place.
I also find it interesting that during that exchange between Sarai and Abram, where she is obviously crying out for help, Abram’s response appears to be pretty dismissive. He does not seem to want to have much negative interaction with Hagar, instead telling Sarai, “hey, she’s your slave. Do whatever you want with her”. That does not appear to be sound, Godly advice–knowing Sarai had it in for Hagar, I am sure Abram had to have known that telling Sarai something like that would not work out well for Hagar, who was used as a pawn in their plan. Hagar runs away, but is confronted by an angel of the Lord who convinces her to return to Sarai and submit to her. Her reward will be a son named Ishmael and numerous descendants. God describes Ishmael as being wild and hostile: (Gen. 16:11-12) “You are now pregnant and you will give birth to a son. You shall name him Ishmael, for the Lord has heard of your misery. He will be a wild donkey of a man, his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers”.
Gee, thanks, Sarai. Great work. Incidentally, Sarai means “contentious”. Go figure.
Hagar gave birth to Ishmael when Abram was 86.
The tension between Sarai and Hagar continued throughout the ensuing chapters. In 17, God makes another covenant with Abram–this involving circumcision as symbolic of removing impurities–and tells him he will now be called Abraham, “father of many nations”. Sarai now becomes Sarah. God goes further to tell Abraham that Sarah will produce a son, and she will be the mother of nations. Abraham is tickled by this–Sarah is 90, he is 100. But here is something interesting: Abraham says “If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!” (Gen. 17:18). This says something to me–Abraham obviously loved Ishmael.
God continues his reveal to Abraham, explaining that the son that will be born to Sarah will be named Isaac, and with Isaac God would establish his covenant, as he did with Abraham. Abraham took Ishmael with him that day and they were circumcised–again showing Abraham’s relationship with his son–it was important to Abraham that Ishmael be spiritually compliant with God. The other men were circumcised as well (can you imagine how that conversation went over? These guys had probably never heard of such a thing, yet all of a sudden, here comes Abraham with a hatchet or something proposing to cut skin off of their… They must have really trusted him!)
In chapter 18, Abraham is sitting outside his tent–interesting that he is still living in a tent, by the way. This entire time, Abraham has never lived in a proper house. Abraham has obviously accepted that he is a stranger in his own Promised Land–remember, God told him that his descendants would have the land, but Abraham would die and be buried before that occurred. A tent is quicker and easier to move than a house–Abraham was obviously ready for God’s instruction and faithful to his covenant. Can we relate to Abraham? Yes. We are a part of this world, but we are not apart of the world, if that makes sense.
But let me wrap this up–the old eyelids are getting heavy 🙂
Abraham sees three men standing by and obviously recognizes them as angels, as he gets down and bows. There are some people who believe one of these individuals was Jesus. Either way it goes, Abraham had apparently interacted with them enough to know they were divine. He offers them food and drink, and while they eat near a tree, they ask for Sarah. One of them says that by that time next year, Sarah will have a son. Contentious–I mean Sarah–was eavesdropping, and overheard this exchange. Thinking of her advanced age, Sarah laughed at the thought of having a son. The Lord asks Abraham why Sarah laughed, and says something I love:
“Is anything too hard for the Lord?” Gen. 18: 13
My friends, it does not get much better than that. I know all of us go through our struggles–as you know, I am struggling from unemployment and the beating my self-esteem is taking because of it–but just the evening I stopped and thought. Sure, my husband and I do not have all of our wants covered–yes, we want to be able to take our kids more places, take vacations, go out to eat, shop, etc. But despite our financial struggles, we have always had plenty to eat, clothes to wear, a place to stay, and cars to drive. And my husband has managed to have relatively stable employment even though I have not. I am always reminded that God sometimes blesses us through other people. So although I do not have much, my husband, parents, in-laws, etc., have been instrumental blessings in making sure my husband and I, and more importantly, our kids, have everything we need. Sometimes it just takes a colossal swallowing of pride to go ahead and accept help from people who love you and genuinely just want to help.
Now, here is where Sarah gets even ballsier. She lied right to the Lord. It is almost laughable. Once questioned about her doubtful laugh, she tried to tell God she hadn’t laughed. This woman is something else! However, I did wonder why God did not get upset when Abraham laughed in Chapter 17. Perhaps in his infinite wisdom, God perceived different motivations between husband and wife for their laughter. Perhaps Sarah’s laugh was more cynical, while Abraham’s was of disbelieving joy? I don’t know. One thing is for certain–God holds Abraham responsible for his wife’s spiritual condition, which is evidenced by the fact that he first confronted Abraham when Sarah laughed, instead of directly querying her. Again, as the man, Abraham was supposed to be the leader in all areas of that household, including the area of spirituality. Sarah’s disbelief can be perceived as a failure of Abraham’s spiritual leadership.
These passages of Scripture appear to simply tell a story–that of how Abraham became who he is–but they are actually rich with life lessons. We see examples of doubt, weak faith, and what happens when we lean to our own human understanding and try to intervene with God’s infallible plan for our lives. Like I said, if only we were more like children, and blindly accepted and followed what our Father would have us do, we would be so much better off.
I will continue with the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah tomorrow, because that is another of my favorite Biblical Old Testament stories, and I could get long-winded…