I will …
Week 4: Genesis 16
God keeps his promises. When he says he will do something, we can rest assured that he will do it. But he is a patient promise-keeper. He often uses waiting and delay to put his greatness on display and to shape us into the people he wants us to be. Our world is not big on waiting. If there is a shortcut that will more quickly get us where we want to go, we take it. But shortcuts can be dangerous when they are motivated by impatience, frustration, or panic. They can be especially tempting when we don’t have a clear word from God. And shortcuts in the context of important relationships or life choices can result in negative consequences for ourselves and others that last for years. A life of faith that is anchored in God’s promises and in his character will inevitably involve waiting on God at times. There are times when we need to just be still and know that he is God. He sees us. He hears us. He will do what he has promised.
When you get stuck in traffic or in a long line at the grocery store, are you the kind of person that looks for another way around or are you more likely to just wait it out and hope for the best?
Getting into the Text:
1. (Genesis 15:2-4) Prior to the start of chapter 16, how specific had God been with Abram regarding how the promise of offspring would be fulfilled? Sarai was about 75 years old at this point and barren (see Genesis 11:30). Do you think Abram and Sarai expected that God would fulfill his promise through Sarai?
2. (Genesis 16:1-3) When a wife was found to be barren in ancient times, it was culturally acceptable and sometimes even required by marriage contracts that the wife should provide an alternate woman to have children on her behalf. The text here does not mention that Abram or Sarai consulted with God about their plans. Do you think Abram and Sarai’s decision to involve Hagar was a step of faith that turned out to be wrong, a sign of impatience with God, or something else? As you encounter obstacles and delay in your own life, how do you balance personal initiative with waiting on God, especially when his plan is not so obvious?
3. (Genesis 16:4-9) What factors and behaviors contributed to the conflict between Sarai and Hagar? The road to Shur would be taking Hagar in the direction of Egypt, her homeland. Why do you think that the LORD instructs Hagar to go back and submit to Sarai? How would you have felt if you were in Hagar’s situation and you heard those instructions?
4. (Genesis 16:10-16) God’s word reveals who he is and how he wants to relate to us. What do we learn about him from this passage? What do his actions toward Hagar communicate? How does it make you feel to read that our God is one who sees and hears us in our trouble? By the end of this passage, what do you think Abram is thinking about Ishmael and about God’s promises to bless Abram’s offspring?
5. (Genesis 17:15-19) How long does Abram wait before learning that Sarai is going to have a son and that her son will be the chosen heir through which God fulfills his promises to Abram? (Recall Abram’s age in Genesis 16:16.) Why do you think God often delays like this, sometimes with little specific guidance in the meantime? What does he accomplish during the periods of waiting?
1. How is God using delay in your life? What alternatives to trust and obedience are the most common temptations for you? Spend some time meditating on these verses this week: Psalm 46:10-11, Psalm 130:5-6, Lamentations 3:25-26, Isaiah 40:30-31, 2 Corinthians 4:17.
2. During times of distress, we are often tempted to question God’s character. It may seem like God does not see or hear us. Or we may doubt that he is compassionate and gracious. Yet, the testimony of God’s word is that he is the God who sees. He is the God who hears. He sought Hagar ought when she was on the run and was gracious to her. Which of these aspects of God’s character do you need to cement in your mind right now so that you will be prepared to think, act, and pray well when trouble comes?