little girl waiting January 19 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today's Bible reading (NIV) or alternate versions (use your browser arrow to return): Genesis 16, 17, 18

What to Do While Waiting

Someone in authority says to you, “Don't do anything until I get back! When I return I will take care of it.” But what if that person delays coming? And, what if things don't seem to be going the way we think they should? Perhaps, we should help things along. After all, doesn't the Bible say, “God helps those who help themselves?” To the surprise of many, there is no place in the Bible which says that. Yes, we need to act in faith, but we need to do it in the way and time God desires. Although it is difficult, sometimes we just need to wait.

For ten years Abram and Sarai lived in a strange land with the promise that Abram would have a son. Now he was eighty-five and she was seventy-five. Even if they still had their youthful vigor (people back then lived much longer), it didn't look like God was going to answer their prayers. Maybe he needed help. Maybe he wanted them to show some ingenuity. God gave them minds to use, right? We show our faith by our works, right? Yes, both statements are true, but they needed to follow God's directions, and he did not say to Abram and Sarai, “work it out yourselves.” He gave them an unconditional promise that he would bring it to pass. They needed to show their faith in God by waiting. What about us—will we wait for God to work, or will we make our own plans, just in case he does not deliver on our time table?

In today's Bible reading Sarai devises a plan to help God (Genesis 16:1-16). Since she is barren, she can exercise a common practice of the day to have children by her maid servant. Since Hagar is her maid servant, she can become Abram's wife, and then the children she bears will be Sarai's and Abram's.

Sarai's plan does not work out well. True, Hagar does get pregnant, but then she despises Sarai, thinking herself better than her mistress for carrying Abram's child. Sarai blames Abram (figure that one out), so Abram leaves the situation in Sarai's hands. Sarai mistreats Hagar, and so she flees. Abram should have been a man and stood against Sarai's plan to give God help but he did not. After waiting ten years for her to become pregnant maybe Abram was also giving up hope. We do a lot of dumb and desperate things when we lose hope. Because Abram does not follow God's leadership, he has to bear the departure of his wife Hagar and their new born son (Abram's first and only child at that time).

What do we need to wait on God to do in our lives? Abram and Sarai had to wait fifteen more years for God to fulfill his promise to them. That is a total of twenty-five years since they were originally promised a son. How long are we willing to wait on God?

What happens to Hagar and her son—are they forgotten so that they die in the wilderness? No, God is merciful and gracious. This is an encouraging message for those suffering domestic violence. As God sees the distress of Hagar in the wilderness, pregnant and fleeing from the mistreatment of Sarai, God also sees abused wives (or husbands) and orphaned children, and he cares.

When the LORD reveals himself to Hagar in the wilderness and gives her hope, she gives him an endearing name. The name Hagar gives for God is Beer Lahai Roi, which means the “Living One sees me.” God is not just Beer Lahai Roi for Hagar; the Living One also sees us in our afflictions. He then directs Hagar to return to her home and be submissive under her mistress (which she apparently had not been).

God's instructions to Hagar to go back home, however, does not necessarily mean others in abusive situations should do the same. Hagar was a slave, not a wife on equal par with Sarai. She had no rights of her own. Today if a woman is being mistreated, she may have to remove herself from the situation, stay with a friend or family member, and get some Biblical counseling. God will provide hope and protection if those who are abused or otherwise mistreated follow his leadership.

Another thing we need to do while waiting is to be loyal and committed. In today's marriages we have wedding rings as symbols of our commitment to a lifetime of love. In Abram's day the symbol for his commitment to the LORD was the circumcision of all males (Genesis 17:12-14). This was a conditional covenant. His family's obedience in circumcision signified their willingness to cut off the life of the flesh (their sinful culture) and live for God.

The circumcision of Jewish babies and many non-Jewish babies around the world has been practiced since that time. While circumcision is now more of a tradition than a commitment; there are, however, certain health benefits to the procedure (more...). It is very likely that God was looking out for their health, but his main intent for circumcision was to symbolize the circumcision of their hearts (Deuteronomy 10:16).

Spiritual circumcision is what the LORD still desires for all Christians, male or female. Spiritually speaking, what are we willing to cut out of our lives so we will live for God? The physical symbol which we have today to show our commitment to live for God is not circumcision but water baptism. Have we been baptized to show others our commitment to live for our Lord? Are we living up to our commitment?

While waiting for God, it is important that we do the things he wants us to do, the way he wants us to do them, until he comes back. This might be likened to a parent who leaves his young adult children in charge, or a foreman who leaves his workers in charge. They expect them to do the right things the right way and with good behavior.

Abraham is a man of faith and for the most part is a man of good character. God chooses him to fulfill his plan for the world—he changes Abram's name to Abraham, meaning “father of many” nations. While he is waiting for the LORD, three strangers come to his tent from a journey in the desert. He is not mean or rude to them—he is hospitable. He welcomes the strangers and feeds them. The writer of Hebrews exhorts Jewish believers, “do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it” (Hebrews 13:2, NIV). This is exactly what Abraham does.

Are we kind and hospitable to strangers? (This does not mean we are hospitable to those who are obviously dangerous). Abraham is sensitive to the weary travelers, wandering around in the heat of the desert sun. He offers them water and something to eat to refresh and revive them. From their conversation he learns they are messengers from God being sent to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah because of their perversions and wickedness (one of the messengers is probably a pre-incarnate appearance of Christ since he is called the LORD in Genesis 18).

Abraham is concerned—his nephew Lot and his family live in Sodom. In his compassion he pleads with the LORD to save the righteous in the city, even if they are few. Sodom and Gomorrah are destroyed by fire and brimstone, but only Lot and his daughters are saved. In Jude 7 the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah is likened to the destruction of sinners in the eternal fires of hell. Our response should be like Abraham's (Jude 22-23); we should have compassion on people and seek to save them from this everlasting judgment. A true personal relationship with God brings spiritual life and peace (more..).

Lessons to Live By

•  While waiting, keep trusting and doing things as the LORD directs. This will lead to less trouble and more blessings.
•  God cares for those who are mistreated. Put your trust in him. Seek help if you need it.
•  Christians, show your commitment to God by cutting off impure habits and sins and by being baptized.
•  Be hospitable to strangers.
•  Be compassionate to those who do not know God and are headed for everlasting hell-fire. Pray and share the gospel with them to try to save them if you can.

Focus Verses

Psalm 27:14 (NIV) “Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.”

Jude 1:22-23 (NIV) “And of some have compassion, making a difference: And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.”

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A Look Ahead: What happens if we do not wait and keep trusting God? We may have to be Rescued. Learn more in our Next Lesson.

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