Cultivating Faith: A Man of Conviction (Pt 6)
The descendants of Abraham would number as the stars are numbered in the heaven (Genesis 15). God is gracious to reveal that Abraham’s future descendants would one day come out of Egypt after about 400 years of affliction with great possessions, great numbers, and a great God. While God accomplished much for Abraham, what do we read of Abraham’s accomplishments? We sum everything up in two words: Abraham believed. However, the years pile up until…
Conviction is undermined by compromise (Genesis 16.1-3).
The temptation for believers to compromise intensifies when…
A Problem in Life Presents Itself (16.1)
Compromise of our convictions in the Lord begins when an insurmountable problem presents itself to us. The temptation is to lift ourselves out of it or access that which cannot be humanly accessed. We don’t pray or turn to God; instead, we take matters into our own hands. This is a devastating decision.
The problem is obvious to Sarah at the outset of Genesis 16. She didn’t have a son, but she had a maidservant. Certainly Sarah’s plea for her husband to go into her maidservant would be persuasive in more ways than one. Abraham cared for and certainly dearly loved his wife. Surely his heart ached due to her barrenness. Sarah had a solution to a problem that perplexed Abraham. And one must conclude that what Sarah suggested would have been a great temptation for a man like Abraham, even though quite common in the day in which he lived. So, the downward spiral continues…
A Pragmatic Plan is Set in Motion (16.1-3)
Ten years passed since Abraham had come into the Land. Sarah felt that it was her fault that God was withholding the promised heir from her. But she would do well to remember that God made His promise with Abraham and not with her. Sarah had carried a burden she was not meant to carry. Instead of giving into his wife’s request, Abraham should have comforted and assured her. He should have reminded her of the power of God to keep His promises.
We are so easily derailed by pragmatism when problems present themselves. There will always be many options for us. There will always be many voices or counselors to advise us. We need discernment and wisdom from God in a sea of options and the cacophony of counselors. It is important that we do not allow godly convictions to suffer under the corrosion of compromise. If we fail to listen to the still, small voice of God, then we will quickly realize that…
Compromise always brings devastating consequences (16.4-16).
While this may seem obvious to an believer with a modicum of maturity, it is still something that we practically forget as we live life disconnected from the will of God. Do this long enough, and…
Compromise Breeds Contempt (16.4-6)
Abram went into Hagar, Sarah’s handmaid. She conceived, and then the contempt ran in both directions when it came to Sarah and Hagar. Hagar not only looks down upon Sarah, but she fears her. As for Sarah, she deals harshly with Hagar. So much so that Hagar flees for her home in Egypt. Compromise always breeds contempt.
However, all hope is not lost. It never is for the child of God. Devastating consequences help us turn the corner. We learn that…
Compromise Deepens Conviction (16.7-16)
The Angel of the Lord, the Lord Jesus Himself, found Hagar by a spring in the wilderness. The common current of questioning from the Lord finds another place within the historical account of Genesis. “Where have you come from, and where are you going?” This is so reminiscent of what we see as God confronts Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.
The Lord commands Hagar to return and submit to Sarah. He also promises her that her descendants will multiply exceedingly. They shall be innumerable! The amazing announcement the Lord makes at this point in the narrative is so clearly aligned with the announcement of our Lord’s birth. It is uncanny: “Behold thou are with child, and shalt bear a son, and shalt call his name Ishmael; because the LORD hath heard thy affliction” (Genesis 16.11). The angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and declared, “Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us” (Matthew 1.23).
Compromise can deepen conviction once we repent and turn to a firm stand based upon firm dependence upon the Holy Spirit. All of us fall short of the glory of God. All of us have had times of compromise in our lives. While we do not need to compromise in order to deepen godly convictions, the raw truth is that such a scenario has the potential to do just that. The awful, bitter fruit of compromise will goad us back to the Savior and deepen our relationship with Him. The only other option is to go adrift and rudderless in a sea of sin.
Our text is clear. The Angel of the Lord names Hagar’s child through Abraham Ishmael, which means “God hears”. The close parallel with our Lord’s birth announcement to Joseph points forward to His name Immanuel, which means “God with Us”. It is one thing for God to hear us; it is quite another for Him to be with us. Ishmael is born because God heard the affliction of Hagar; Immanuel is born because God heard the affliction of the world!
But Hagar named the Lord. She called Him: “Thou God seest me” (Genesis 16.13). The name of the well is named Beer Lahai Roi (Well of the One Who Lives and Sees Me). Hagar left Abraham and Sarah and fled for a familiar place. However, something quite unexpected happened to her. God came after her when Abraham or Sarah did not. She could leave behind them, but she could not leave God behind. He pursued her! He sees. She saw the God who sees her and learned that she, too, could have Abraham’s God as her own God.
The cultivation of a life of faith necessitates an uncompromising stand upon the truths of God’s Word. One of those great truths concerns His revealed character. One powerful meditation concerning His character is that God sees …He sees all. God knows …He knows all. When Hagar comes back to Abraham and Sarah, she will become an ensign of their compromise before the Lord. She will be an instrument that deepens the conviction of God’s revelation and promise to Abraham and Sarah. He sees and He knows.
Cultivating a life of faith motivates an uncompromising stand for at least three reasons:
- God’s omniscience convinces and grieves the compromising heart. Don’t be among those who say, “How does God know” (Psalm 73.11)? Don’t think that no one sees; God sees. He searches the heart. He knows you. You cannot hide in darkness from Him (see Psalm 139.1, 12). This may bring fear and grief, but it is an important step to hope and the cleansing desire to welcome the searching penetrating gaze of God in order to melt away anxiety (see Psalm 139.23-24).
- God’s omniscience reaches the thoughts and intents of the heart. You cannot claim that God is not fair or that He does not judge with righteous judgment every man. We are finite. We only see the outward actions of people; God sees the inner man, the soul (see 1 Samuel 16.7). All the ways of man may be pure in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the spirit of a man (see Proverbs 16.2). The only intent that rings true is that which is for the glory of God. Beg God for the discernment and protection from deceit that is needed due to our easily corruptible hearts.
- God’s omniscience heals and comforts the broken heart. There is hope for those of us who have compromised our convictions. Don’t run from the harshness of real-time life as desperate and broken Hagar did. When you are slandered and cannot defend yourself, remember that God sees. All things are naked and open to the One who will judge righteously (Hebrews 4.13). His eyes still run to and fro and throughout the whole earth in order to show Himself the strong and all-seeing God that He is. He reveals Himself to those who humble themselves, submit, and return.
God sees. This is both comforting and convicting. When we are hurting, God sees the hurt at its deepest level. God sees us strive for lives of holiness in the face of those who accuse us of being sanctimonious and legalistic. God sees when we go to Him yet again, broken and ruined by our sin. We know that the blood of Christ cleanses us from all sin! Even at the most depressing times of our lives, we can put one foot in front of the other and find our way back to Calvary. God sees. I know He sees me.