Friday, September 19, 2008

The life of Abraham - Genesis 16

I know control is an illusion. The rational part of my mind knows that I am like an ant on top of a truck tire. If it starts to move, I have a vague sense that something important is happening. More likely, I don’t know what it is until the tire goes around and squishes me. I know that God is in full control of my life and it could take decades for His plan to be fulfilled in my life. My impatient nature, however, makes me want to take control of the situation. This provides me with enormous amounts of stress. Often, I feel like if I am not working toward changing my situation at that very second it is wasted time.

That is where I find today’s reading about the life of Abraham interesting. Today we’re in Genesis 16. Abraham knew of God’s promise that he would have a son, yet he had been living in the land of Canaan for more than 10 years since that promise. Keep in mind, he was 75 when he was given the promise, and obviously was not getting younger. While he was a faithful man, we see several times that he wasn’t exactly a patient man. Of course, he had already shown an extraordinary amount of patience in waiting 10 years already.

3 So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian maidservant Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. 4 He slept with Hagar, and she conceived. – Genesis 16:3-4

Because of the social conventions of the time this was not considered and infidelity. Women were expected to contribute children as part of a marriage. This kind of arrangement was common if they couldn’t. The child would still be considered Sarai’s in this case. As we see further, Hagar developed a superior attitude and her relationship with Sarai became strained. The same is true with the relationship between Sarai and Abram. As a result, Hagar was driven away and the situation became very complicated. We see, however, that God still was in control of the situation.

11 The angel of the LORD also said to her:
"You are now with child
and you will have a son.
You shall name him Ishmael,
for the LORD has heard of your misery.
12 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." – Genesis 16:11-12

We know that this was the beginning of the split between Judaism and Islam. Verse 12 specifically sounds like the world’s modern perception of the religion of Islam, which traces its roots back to Ishmael. This does not mean God is against these followers. God, in fact, promised to take care of Ishmael and his descendents. This promise is very similar to the one he made to Abram, in fact.

This easily could be perceived as Abram screwing things up because he tried to take matters in his own hands. We see that God was still in control. The plan he had for Abram was not messed up or even delayed. It would be accomplished in its own time, and that is something that I especially need to learn.

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