This text from Gen 16 is about the time Hagar fled from Sarai. Have you been considering leaving? Have you toyed with the idea that it is time for you to leave your husband? It’s time for you to leave your job? It’s time for you to leave your church?
Hagar, Sarai’s handmaid, fled from Sarai, her mistress, over an incident involving Hagar’s conception by Abram. Sarai couldn’t bear a child with Abram and so she decided to let Hagar conceive her child. When Hagar conceived, the trouble began.
We can learn a great deal by studying the incident between Sarai and Hagar. What happened between them in Gen 16:4-10 is a common problem that crops up between people all the time. Hagar’s choice following the incident was to flee from Sarai’s face. And this is the typical response when trouble brews between people. Somebody wants to leave. Are you thinking about leaving?
There are three things in this passage you should consider.
Part of the problem was Hagar’s attitude. Gen 16:4-5 – Hagar despised Sarai. That’s one reason why Hagar Fled. Part of the problem with you wanting to leave is with you. Deep down, you have to search your own heart and come to the realization that you despise the person, or somebody connected with the person, that you are trying to leave. But you have to also realize that God’s attitude about that person may be vastly different than yours. Abram and Sarai certainly were not at their best in Gen 16. Nevertheless, God’s attitude about them was very different than Hagar’s. Hagar despised Sarai. Yet Sara is included among the heroes of faith in Heb 11:11-12. Though Sarai and Abram were wrong to devise the plan to conceive with Hagar, Hagar was wrong to despise Sarai when she conceived. She was at fault. What fault do you have in the problem that is causing you to want to leave? Be honest.
Part of the problem was Hagar’s insubordination. Gen 16:6 – Sarai dealt hardly with Hagar. This is another reason why Hagar fled. Sarai had every right, as Hagar’s mistress, to deal hardly with her. Sarai was the authority. And Hagar didn’t like the way that Sarai handled the situation. Sarai and Abram were at fault for getting Hagar involved in this conception. However, when Sarai dealt hardly with Hagar, she had the responsibility, as Sarai’s handmaid, to take it. Today, people are generally very insubordinate. In business, employees generally assume that management is at fault when enforcing policy. In school, parents consider that the teacher, or the administration, is wrong when their child is reprimanded. In law enforcement, parents generally assume that the officer is at fault for enforcing the law. In church, parents generally criticize the pastor for the way he handles discipline. Are you submissive to authority or are you insubordinate? Be honest.
Part of the problem was Hagar’s response. Gen 16:6 – Hagar fled from Sarai’s face. When confronted with her behavior, Hagar took off. She didn’t offer to change her attitude or her insubordination. She left. This is a very typical way for people to handle conflict in their lives. Rather than stick around and resolve to fix their attitude and change their behavior, they just leave. Of course, you must realize that when you leave, you take your part of the problem with you. You can’t run from yourself. So, whatever part you had in the problem stays with you and will affect how you handle other similar problems in the future. Have you fled from a problem or are you considering fleeing from a problem? Be honest. Running isn’t the answer.
There are two questions in this passage you should answer.
God’s first question was “Whence camest thou?” Gen 16:8 – the angel of the Lord found Hagar by a fountain of water in the wilderness. He asked her from where she had come. That was a good question. She was pregnant with Abram’s child. He was one of the wealthiest men of that time. He was a friend of God [Jas 2:23]. She had many blessings in his home. Except for this incident with Sarai, she had been treated very well. What are you leaving? Have you thought through, factually not emotionally, all the benefits of your current situation? What are you giving up? Why are you walking away from it? Because you got mad? Be honest. My pastor has seen families leave his church over problems and has found that they encountered worse problems after they left. Leaving didn’t solve anything.
God’s second question was “Whither wilt thou go?” Gen 16:8 – Hagar said, “I flee from the face of my mistress Sarai.” You must realize a great truth in situations like this, “Never leave just to get away from something. Always go to something better.” Sitting by a fountain in the wilderness with no place to go was not an improvement over living with Abram and Sarai. Hagar only thought about getting out of there. She didn’t consider where she would go. And how about you? Now that you are considering leaving, where will you go? Be honest. You might be saying, “I’ll find a place.” Let me caution you. If God has not made plain the place where he’s leading you, then you are simply running from your problem like Hagar did. That’s the wrong move.
There are two commands in this passage you should follow.
God’s first command was “Return to thy mistress.” Gen 16:9 – God told Hagar to go back to Sarai. Of course, Hagar would have been reluctant to do that since she left under bad circumstances. Nevertheless, that’s what she was commanded to do and that’s what she did. More often than not, the right response to trouble, when you feel like fleeing, is to return to the place where God put you, originally. Sadly, most people won’t do that. How about you? What’s God telling you to do? Are you going to return because you thought about leaving for the wrong reason? Or are you going to just keep going and hope for the best? Be honest.
God’s second command was “Submit thyself under her hands.” Gen 16:9 – God told Hagar to submit to the authority in her life. She had done that successfully for many years, until this incident came up. Now, Hagar had to return and humble herself to her mistress. She did it. But the question is, “Can you?” You see, the problem is not so much with your husband, or with your boss, or with the principal of the school, or with the peace officer, or with the judge, or with your pastor. The problem is with your inability to submit to authority. You will go along with authority as long as it is convenient and appealing to you. But the moment the authority won’t let you have your way, you’re leaving. That’s on you. The question is, “Will you submit?” Be honest. If you won’t, you’re going to run into this same problem again down the road.
There is a promise in this passage you should take into account.
God promised Hagar that he would multiply her seed exceedingly. Gen 16:10 – God told Hagar that if she would return and submit, she would not be able to number her seed for multitude. You see, she had been in the place of blessing and she had left it. If she would return, God would bless her again. Do you not realize that God’s blessing is at stake in your decision to flee? You must stop and consider that if you leave for the same kinds of reasons that Hagar left, you will walk away from the blessings of God. And they cannot be found any other place than where God wants you to be.
Conclusion: many people face the same dilemma that Hagar faced. Yet, most of them don’t ultimately respond the way that Hagar did. They leave and they never go back. Listen, meet with God where you are right now and evaluate your trouble just like we have done with Hagar. Own the part of the problem that is yours. Answer the two questions that Hagar had to answer. What am I leaving and where am I going? Ask God for his direction and follow his commands. And if he tells you to return, do so; and be sure to submit. And then look for God’s blessings, for he will surely bless the right response. I know a fellow that quit his job for the same reasons that Hagar left her mistress. He has struggled ever since. I counseled him recently to return to his former employer and to submit himself to his boss. Things were much better when he was with this employer than they have been since he left. He needs to go back.