Reading Through The Bible in 2011, Part 6
What I Read Today: Genesis 15-17.
What stood out: Genesis 16: 9-12, ” Then the Lord’s angel said to her, ‘Return to your mistress and submit to her authority. I will greatly multiply your descendants,’ the Lord’s angel added, ‘so that they will be too numerous to count.’ Then the Lord’s angel said to her, ‘You are now pregnant and are about to give birth to a son. You are to name him Ishmael, for the Lord has heard your painful groans. He will be a wild donkey of a man. He will be hostile to everyone, and everyone will be hostile to him. He will live away from his brothers.'”
Random Thoughts About What I Read:
I am a champion of the underdog.
Maybe it comes from years of pulling for sports teams that always seem to come up short. Maybe it stems from liking music that nobody else liked and hoping the bands could at least make money to keep doing it. I like the independent (and usually off-beat movies. I like the odd-duck kid in the Pixar films. I like the mutt. I’m a sucker for the stories where an inner-city kid gets into the Ivy League school. In short, I’m much more drawn to Rocky that Apollo Creed.
Which is why I’m really drawn to the story of Hagar in this passage moreso than the more well-known stories of God showing Abram that he certainly would be getting land, seed and a blessing, or Sarai’s plan to speed up the process, or the couple having a baby in old age.
See, Hagar was a handmaid. A servant. And let’s be honest, we’re all on-board with the idea of being a servant until we’re treated like one, right? I’d imagine most of her life was spent working for the well-off couple. Maybe it was their cooking (which back then involved a lot more than forking a potato and shoving it in the microwave) or dishes or cleaning the place or whatever else handmaids did back then. My guess is that she probably didn’t spend many nights out on the town.
Anyway, Sarai and Abram probably spent many nights talking about their unique position with God…that somehow they’d be given descendants through which God would work His plan for humanity. But it wasn’t happening. Sarai was older than childbearing age…and in that culture she’d probably been trying to have kids since she was old enough to start trying to have kids. Probably been on the receiving end of gossip and whispers from the other ladies around town. So, she decides it is time to bend to the social custom of the day and allow a maiden to provide an heir.
Adding insult to injury, the handmaid gets pregnant. So it IS Sarai’s fault after all.
Adding insult to injury, the handmaid gets uppity with Sarai.
Possibly for the first time in her life, the handmaid catches a break. The girl from Egypt who performed the tasks that servants are to be paid to do now gets some degree of upper hand: She’s carrying Abram’s child, and would be a part of God’s plan for humanity. The Hebrew word means to “treat with contempt.” Hagar did this.
Now, that’s not going to sit well with Sarai. Sarai complains to Abram, who gives her permission to do whatever she feels she needs to do. So, she treats the servant like a servant…only this time ups the treatment to harshly.
There’s plenty of bad behavior here. Hagar has some. Sarai had the plan go differently than she’d drawn it up so she gets rid of the…
The underdog is now even moreso the underdog. Pregnant. Unwed. Homeless. These are all downgrades from “servant.”
True to form, this is where God usually shows up…and he does. In the desert. He tells her the last thing the underdog wants to hear:
Go back to Sarai and SUBMIT TO HER AUTHORITY.
Can you imagine?
You have got to be kidding.
And on top of all that, my son is going to be a wild donkey (not an insult. It simply means free-roaming and strong) and because of this will live a life of conflict?
In what must have been a very long walk back home and a very interesting conversation (“Um, so Sarai…I know I’ve kind of despised you and stuff, but I met God in the desert and I’m supposed to come back and serve you.”), she is obedient. For 13 years.
Of humble servanthood.
Watching her son grow up in a house only to know it won’t be long before he’s out being a wild donkey of a man at odds with society.
I don’t know that she knew what she was in for when she turned back around in the desert and headed back to Abram’s estate. What I do know is that she did it.
And I’m encouraged by the underdog’s obedience…and submission to harsh authority. All because God said so.
Because I tend to kick at almost everything God says.
(Tomorrow’s reading: Genesis 18-21)