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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

My 'Hagarian' Concern

In Genesis 16 we have the account of Abram, Sarai, and Hagar.  The plan of God is rejected by Sarai and in her fleshly desire she seeks a way of offspring by her servant Hagar.  Sarai believed the only way to obtain offspring was for her husband Abram to go into her servant Hagar and conceive a child.  The result of this ungodly direction was extreme tension within the home.  When Hagar knew that she had conceived she looked with contempt upon Sarai.  Sarai did not take to kindly to this scenario and began to express her displeasure.  Sarai vents her anger upon Abram and Abram turns Hagar over to the will of Sarai.  Sarai explodes upon Hagar and treats her harshly.  Sarai was mean enough to cause Hagar to run away and seek to go back home.

Hagar was willing to take off across the wilderness towards Egypt to get out of the presence of Sarai.  The wilderness that she was to cross is described by Moses as, "the great and terrifying wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no water, who brought you water out of the flinty rock"(Deut. 8:15).  Jeremiah says, "And now what do you gain by going to Egypt to drink the waters of the Nile" (Jer. 2:18)?  It can be justly argued that Sarai's actions are wrong and deserving of justice.  A person can understand why Hagar would want out of this situation.  The tension in Abram's tent surely increased daily and there existed anamosity between the two women and surely there was some bad feelings toward Abram from each of the women.

What is the counsel of the angel of the Lord?  First, it is the angel of the Lord who found her.  Second, the angel of the Lord addresses her as servant/slave of Sarai.  Humility answers to a true identity and pride rebels against that which goes against the flesh.  Hagar could have responded by saying, "I am no servant/slave of Sarai.  That woman did me wrong and ruined my life and I will never serve her and I will never go back".  Hagar did not respond in that way, but rather by listening to the voice of the angel of the Lord.  Third, the angel rebukes her departure (cf. Ecc. 10:4).  This is an astounding scenario.  It seems that Hagar is justified in her departure, but yet the Lord rebukes her for departing.  The angle of the Lord tells her not only to 'return/repent', but also to submit.  This phrase would be the number one phrase that the flesh would hate.  Return and submit goes against the flesh and causes anger to rise to the top.

The Lord is the one who called Abram and put him in the position that he is in.  Out of all the thousands upon the earth, Abram is chosen of God and the covenant is with him.  Abram is not perfect nor is his wife, as this story and many others would confirm.  The covenant is based upon God's calling rather than the work of man.  If Hagar flees from the tent of Abram, where will she go?  What can possibly be gained by leaving the place that God has established and returning to the world which is opposed to God?  Countless are the souls of men who have run from the local church that God has established to return to the world which is opposed to God.

I have heard countless stories of why people leave the local church and they all sound like justifiable reasons to leave.  The pastor is an idiot.  The people were unfriendly.  The church was not going in the direction that I believe they ought to be going in.  The deacons run the church.  Mrs. so-and-so is in charge of everything.  The money is being used for things that I do not approve of.  The list can go on for quite some time and these statements are usually made by those who have left churches many times before.  The one common denominator is that it is never their fault.  The fault of their departing the local church is always the fault of someone else.  One wonders why people who always know a better way to do things do not start their own church where they can show everyone else how to do it.  No, most generally they either depart to never return to any local church or they join another church and stay until they find the faults with that one.

The greatest demonstration of mercy for people who run from the local church would be for them to be stopped by the living God and told to repent/return to their local church and submit.  Certainly there are valid justifiable positions for leaving a local church, but on the whole most people need to repent and submit.  Countless people will never experience genuine renewal, revival, and reconciliation until they return to their local church and submit.  Abram and Sarai made no effort to retrieve Hagar, but it was the Lord who told her to return and submit.  Oh, that the Lord of glory would press upon a souls heart today that they must "return to their local church and submit to her". 

1 comment:

  1. My pastor is a pretty smart man.
    The church people are very friendly.
    They can use the money however they decide.
    None of those things caused my to become an Atheist. I still go to Church on Sunday, because that's when my family comes to the city, and it gives me an opportunity to hang out with them, but...

    What led me to become an Atheist was reading the Bible in full and studying it intensely. I started it because I wanted to share my faith, and I figured I should know the Bible, if I was going to share it with people.

    After 6 months, 2 separate Bible study groups along the way, a local Bible outreach program, going to Islamic studies (because they study the Bible, but I also wanted to know how to reach out to Muslims), and lots of one-on-one study time with the Chaplain, where we researched the Hebrew and Greek aspects of the Bible together -- finally, at the end of the last page, for the first time in my life, I said, "Yup, I don't believe this anymore."

    Current believers who've asked me about my ex-faith have accused me of leaving the religion because: "you just hate GOD" / "you just want to live in sin" / "you didn't really read the Bible, you're lying" / "you must have studied it wrong" / "you didn't read with the right intentions" / "you were never BORN AGAIN" / "you had a lying spirit" ... yadda.

    My intentions were right (actually, most people would say they were "noble"), I believed I was "born again" for years (because I fully believed the Bible was the Word of God, and I thought those good feelings were the Holy Spirit), I don't "hate God" (because I simply figured out that I don't believe in him anymore), I don't "want to live in sin" (but now I understand that "repentance" is more appropriately just "deciding to make better choices and reparations with people you've offended"), I don't lie (I utterly loathe dishonesty, and don't even lie to protect myself), and I'm pretty sure I didn't read it wrong (since I had tons of spiritual guidance, and my fields are linguistics and computational logic).

    I continued to refer back to it to get a better comparative understanding, while I was reading the Quran and the Book of Mormon (since those books are heavily rooted in the Bible, though fundamentally different). So even after all that, I continued to learn more.

    I didn't mean to let anyone down. I just figured out that I couldn't believe it anymore, now that I understand it.