Whose voice are you hearkening to?


Genesis 16:1-3 gives the account of the conversation that transpired between Sarai and Abram her husband. Since Sarai was barren and did not have children, she asks Abram to take here Egyptian handmaid (servant/slave) as his wife and to have children through her. What is pitiful to note is not just the state of affairs that Sarai is in, for she did not recognize the Sovereignty of God, who had promised her husband, not only The Seed through him (Genesis 3:15; Galatians 3:16), but also a innumerable number of seeds, as much as the stars in the sky and as the sands of the seashore (Genesis 22:17), but even more pitiful is the fact that Abram hearkened to the voice of Sarai.

The Merriam-Webster’s dictionary gives us two definitions for the word “hearken”. The first uses the word “listen” to define the word “hearken” and then uses the phrase “to give respectful attention” to give it a stronger meaning.

In other words, Abram agreed respectfully to Sarai’s voice to take matters into his own hands and bring forth a progeny through Hagar, his wife’s servant. Interestingly, just before this conversation, Abram is actually found reasoning with God, asking for a child, lest his own servant Eliezer be the heir to him (Genesis 15:1-4). God tells that the servant in his household shall not be his heir (Genesis 15:4) and yet here we see Abram listening to his wife’s voice, over that of God, and trying to rearrange God’s plan and timing. Abram rightfully should have counseled Sarai to hearken to God’s voice, and be assured of a child through Sarai.

Points to ponder: 
Many a times, we find ourselves hearkening to various voices – voices of our families, our friends, our colleagues, our superiors, our peers, etc. instead of hearkening (agreeing with respectfully) to the voice of God, through his word (the Bible), in the meditation of our hearts with him, or through his people. Whose voice are you hearkening to, today?

Genesis 16:1-3 (KJV)
Now Sarai Abram’s wife bare him no children: and she had an handmaid, an Egyptian, whose name was Hagar.
And Sarai said unto Abram, Behold now, the Lord hath restrained me from bearing: I pray thee, go in unto my maid; it may be that I may obtain children by her. And Abram hearkened to the voice of Sarai.
And Sarai Abram’s wife took Hagar her maid the Egyptian, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan, and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife.

 

 

 

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Behold now, the Lord …


Genesis 16:1-3 gives us the account of the conversation that transpired between Abram and his wife Sarai. Sarai was barren and she tells Abram to take Hagar, her Eqyptian handmaid (servant/slave) as his wife, and have children through her.

What is pitiful is that while Sarai correctly recognized the source of her barrenness as God, for children are a heritage of the Lord (Psalm 127:3) and we know Sarai knew this for she said to Abram, “Behold now, the Lord hath restrained me from bearing:”, she failed to recognize the Sovereignty of God, who had promised to create in her, the seed ex nihilo (out of nothing; out of her barrenness).

Points to ponder:
Many a times we fail to see the Sovereignty of God by focusing on the barrenness in us. While God may allow times of barrenness in our life, he is always Sovereign – a Sovereign God for whom it is easy to create ex nihilo; streams in the desert (Isaiah 35:6). Instead of saying, “Behold now, the Lord has restrained us”, let us just say “Behold now, the Lord” for he is Sovereign and can turn our barrenness into a lasting legacy.

Genesis 16:1-3 (KJV)
Now Sarai Abram’s wife bare him no children: and she had an handmaid, an Egyptian, whose name was Hagar.
And Sarai said unto Abram, Behold now, the Lord hath restrained me from bearing: I pray thee, go in unto my maid; it may be that I may obtain children by her. And Abram hearkened to the voice of Sarai.
And Sarai Abram’s wife took Hagar her maid the Egyptian, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan, and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife.

Smoking furnace and burning lamp


Genesis 15:17 reads “And it came to pass, that, when the sun went down, and it was dark, behold a smoking furnace, and a burning lamp that passed between those pieces.”, where pieces refers to the elements of the sacrifice that Abram had brought before God.

So while it was dark, we see a smoking furnace and a burning lamp passing between the sacrifice. What could this mean?
Some commentaries exposit and state that the smoking furnace refers to the afflictions of the Israelites (the seed of Abram) would face and they get their basis from other scriptural texts which portray
– the Egyptians who enslaved the Israelites as a furnace of iron (1 Kings 8:51),
– the Assyrian (Sennacherib), who besieged the Israelites whose reign was symbolic of a furnace in Jerusalem (Isaiah 31:9)
They also exposit and state the the burning lamp symbolizes the salvation of the Israelites (the seed of Abram), which they exposit from the Scripture recorded in 1 Kings 11:36 and 15:4 and Isaiah 62:1. 1 Kings 11:26 and 15:4 both express the words of God, who for David’s sake, said that there will be a lamp who will be set forth establish Jerusalem. Isaiah 62:1 refers this lamp that burns as one of salvation.

While these are certainly plausible, I am convinced that the two symbols here, of the smoking furnace, and the burning lamp are symbolic of the persons of the Triune Godhead and I deduce these, not by mere opinion, but by substantiating text in the Bible.
First, the smoking furnace and burning lamp were animate and passed through the pieces of the sacrifice, accepting the sacrifice that was offered and so it is less likely that these symbols directly meant the afflictions and salvation of Israel, as the commentators state. Furthermore, Exodus 19:18 states that when the LORD God descended upon mount Sinai in fire, the mount was altogether in smoke, which ascended as the smoke of a furnace. So this makes me believe that the smoking furnace is symbolic of God, the Father, the first person of the Trinity.
I must admit that the identity of the burning lamp is a little more ambiguous. On one hand, it could be symbolic of Jesus Christ, the second person of the Trinity, who is the light of the world, who shined out in the darkness as a burning lamp. When Jesus walked with the men on the road to Emmaus, they felt their hearts burn within them (Luke 24:32), which further accentuates this proposition that Jesus is the burning lamp. On the other hand, it is also possible that the burning lamp could be symbolic of the Holy Spirit of God, the third person of the Trinity, who though being one (Ephesians 4:4) is expressed as seven lamps of fire before the throne of God (Revelation 4:5), in whose midst stands Jesus Christ, the lamb of God (Revelation 5:6). Herein, we get a glimpse of the Triune God in One (God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son and the Holy Spirit God) all at work in the acceptance of the sacrifice offered by Abram.

Points to ponder:
If you/I were to offer your life as a living sacrifice today, would you/I have the Triune God in one passing through your/my life and accepting the sacrifice of our life, while we live in a dark sinful world? Would you/I see a smoking furnace and a burning lamp pass through your/my life? Think about it.

Genesis 15:17 (KJV)
17 And it came to pass, that, when the sun went down, and it was dark, behold a smoking furnace, and a burning lamp that passed between those pieces.

Exodus 19:17-19 (KJV)
17 And Moses brought forth the people out of the camp to meet with God; and they stood at the nether part of the mount.
18 And mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire: and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly.
19 And when the voice of the trumpet sounded long, and waxed louder and louder, Moses spake, and God answered him by a voice.

Luke 24:32 (KJV)
32 And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?

Isaiah 62:1 (KJV)

1 For Zion’s sake will I not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth.

For the iniquity is not yet full


The Lord tells Abram that his seed shall be strangers and slaves in a land that is not their own, but then the Lord would judge the nation whom they would serve and in the fourth generation they shall return to where he is, in the land that would be Abram’s, that the Lord was going to give him, for the iniquity of the Amorites (one of the people groups whose land would be given to Abram) is not yet full.

This statement of the Lord makes us want to try to answer two questions –
First, what is the iniquity of the Amorites?
Second, what does it mean that the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full?

First, by looking at another passage in the Scripture, we can deduce that the iniquity of the Amorites was predominantly idolatry, for when the evil king Ahab is described in 1 Kings 21:26, he is likened to the Amorites for their idolatry. Second, the rampancy of sin (of idolatry) had not yet reached its full, during the time of Abram and so the Lord tarries for not one, but for four generations, before bringing his judgment on the Amorites and other pagan nations that worshipped and followed other false gods. In fact, close scrutiny of this, gives us insight into the longsuffering nature of The Lord, who waits patiently for his people to return to him, not wanting anyone to perish (2 Peter 3:9).

Points to ponder:
What are your idols? Is it your family, your job, your possessions … what is it? Let us not be likened to the sin that displeases God as was Ahab. God is a Loving yet he is a Just God and his judgments are timely … never too early and never too late. He is patient with each one of us, but a time will come when his longsuffering and loving nature would give way for his just nature and he would judge all who choose not to follow and worship him alone, violating his commandment of having “no other gods before him.” (Exodus 20:3). A time is coming, when the antichrist shall come upon the earth and sin shall have reached its full – let us watch out for God’s judgment may then fall on mankind.

Genesis 15:14-16
14 And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance.
15 And thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace; thou shalt be buried in a good old age.
16 But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.

Promises amidst Great Darkness


Genesis 15:12 reads “And when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and, lo, an horror of great darkness fell upon him.” And it is in this state, that the Lord speaks to Abram. The Lord tells him to be assured that though his seed would be a stranger and slaves in a land that is not their own (for four hundred years), The Lord will judge the nation who will be their master. His seed will be come out of the land of their captivity with great substance (possessions) and he himself will pass away in peace. Then The Lord makes a covenant to him after accepting Abram’s sacrifice that he will give to Abram’s seed the land and lists out the region that would be Abram’s property. 

While, on the surface, it may seem that a word of sojourning and slavery is not exactly what Abram would want to hear when he was engulfed with a horrifying darkness, closer scrutiny of what the Lord was promising Abram reveals certain hidden treasures from the Scripture, which is actually quite amazing. 

First, this is a promise of progeny. Abram had no child of his own at this time, and yet the Lord promises to Abram a seed and a nation from him. 
Second, this is a promise of protection. The Lord promises to be the judge of the nations that enslaves the seed of Abram.
Third, this is a promise of provision. The Lord promises to bring Abram’s children, out of their land of slavery with great provisions (substance) proving to Abram that he indeed is Jehovah-Jireh.
Fourth, this is a promise of peace. While Abram was a in a state of fear (as a dreadful darkness loomed around him), The Lord promises him Abram will go to his grave in a good old age in peace.
Finally,  this is a promise of property. The Lord lists out the land of 10 nations (Kenite, Kenizzite, Kadmonites, Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaims, Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites) as the lands that he will give to Abram.

Points to ponder:
When it seems like you are in a dark place and all that surrounds you just darkness (great darkness), listen intently to what The Lord is promising you … it may be a promise of progeny to the one who is barren, a promise of protection to the one who is defensless, a promise of great provision to the one who is needy, a promise of peace to those who are unrestful, and a promise of property to the one who has no possessions … or it may be all of the above. What is The Lord promising to you today (amidst great darkness that may be surrounding you)?

Genesis 15:12-21 (KJV)
12 And when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and, lo, an horror of great darkness fell upon him.
13 And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years;
14 And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance.
15 And thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace; thou shalt be buried in a good old age.
16 But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.
17 And it came to pass, that, when the sun went down, and it was dark, behold a smoking furnace, and a burning lamp that passed between those pieces.
18 In the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates:
19 The Kenites, and the Kenizzites, and the Kadmonites,
20 And the Hittites, and the Perizzites, and the Rephaims,
21 And the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.

Drive them away


When Abram asked the Lord as to how he would know that he would inherit the land that the Lord was giving him, the Lord asked Abram to bring him a sacrifice of a heifer, she goat, ram, each three years old, a turtledove and a young pigeon. Abram did as he was told and he brought these animals and birds as a sacrifice to the Lord. But when the birds of the air came down upon the sacrifice, Abram drove them away.

Points to ponder:
When we present our lives as a living sacrifice to the Lord, there are many things that attempt to steal our sacrifice away. What we ought to do is drive all these things away, just as Abram did. We need to watch for the all which try to steal the sacrifice of our lives to the Lord, and drive them away. Are you a driver?

Genesis 15:9-11 (KJV)
And he said unto him, Take me an heifer of three years old, and a she goat of three years old, and a ram of three years old, and a turtledove, and a young pigeon.
10 And he took unto him all these, and divided them in the midst, and laid each piece one against another: but the birds divided he not.
11 And when the fowls came down upon the carcases, Abram drove them away.

Whereby shall I know?


Genesis 15:8 expresses the question that Abram posed to God, when God told him that he would give to Abram, the land where he was. Abram asked “Whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it?”

Interestingly the phrase “Whereby shall I know” is mentioned ad verbatim only twice in the King James Version of the Holy Bible. The first time, it is used in this context of Abram questioning God and the second time it is mentioned, it is in the context of the announcement of John the Baptist’s birth. Zacharias (the father of John the Baptist) questions angel Gabriel, about the possibility of such a birth, for he did not believe the words of the angel (Luke 1:20), as he mentions that he and his wife were old (Luke 1:18;13-20). Zacharias questioned “Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years.” The angel tells Zacharias that he would be not be able to speak until the time when the prophecy of John’s birth is fulfilled.

Now let us go back to Abram. Abram asks the same question, “Whereby shall I know” to the Lord himself and yet does not face any consequence such as Zacharias. Why is that so? Closely scrutiny reveals a couple of hidden treasures in this account. First, Abram did not disbelieve God. If you see his words that follow the question … which reads “I shall inherit it”, we can see faith expressed in words – words of assurance that what God was promising Abram, was going to come to pass, in due course of time. Second, Abram did not focus on his own self unlike Zacharias, who saw his old age, as an impediment to God, fulfilling his prophecies.

Points to ponder:
What God wants from us is for us to simply and only believe. When we question God of his plans for our life, let us not question him with disbelief in our hearts, but rather let us do so with assurance that what he says shall come to pass. Also, we in our fragile nature and self can add nothing to God’s Sovereignty. What God says will come to pass. When we look at ourselves and our abilities, we may end up questioning God with disbelief, and may face unintended consequences. Let us instead look at God and his Sovereignty, which would make us question God with the right attitude in our heart – the heart of belief. Next time, you ask God, “Whereby shall I know?”, take a moment to pause and ponder – are you asking with belief or doubt?, – who are you looking at, when you are asking this question – God or youself? Whereby shall I know for it shall be! 

Genesis 15:8 (KJV)
And he said, Lord God, whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it?

Luke 1:18 (KJV)
18 And Zacharias said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years.