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The Lord Your Healer: 

Discover Him and Find His Healing Touch by Paul J. Bucknell

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Discover Him and Find His Healing Touch

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The Bible Teaching Commentary on Genesis: The Book of Foundations

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Overcoming Anxiety: Finding Peace, Discovering God


Genesis: The Book of Foundations

Abraham's Life Detours

C.) Procedure Detour (Genesis 16-17)

Doing things in ways that you shouldn't!

Paul J. Bucknell

1. The difficulty

The problem and the temptation are seen in Genesis 16:1,

“Now Sarai, Abram's wife had borne him no children,
and she had an Egyptian maid whose name was Hagar.”

Abraham's Life Detours
Intro & Objectives
A) Place Detour (Genesis 12;20)
B) Person Detour (Genesis 13-14)
C) Procedure Detour (Genesis 16-17)
Every crises that we face in life also offers its own temptation. In their case, Abram simply didn’t have any children after many years of being married. Along with the personal frustration was the social stigma still seen in some societies. They faced rejection from others because of it. The problem, however, was much greater than just Sarah’s. Notice Yahweh’s repeated promises to Abram.

“And the LORD appeared to Abram and said, "To your descendants I will give this land.” (12:7) And I will make your desendants as the dust of the earth...” (13:6)

If it was in modern times, Abram and Sarah might have joined the list of many others in seeing whether they could help the fertilization process along. They would check out the best hospitals but discover meager results. Or perhaps they would not have. They knew something that many of us do not know.

In Genesis 16:2, Sarai, his wife, said, “Now behold, the LORD has prevented me from bearing children.”

The Lord was in charge of her fertilization. But if she really believed this, would she then have given Hagar her maid to Abram to lie with?!

We can sense the doubts and frustrations in this chapter.

The very blessing that brought Abram to the land was the promise of a great nation. But what good is it to have a land but no descendants?! The lack of a child became a severe test of Abram’s faith. It is like saying to a boy with only one arm that he would become a great baseball player. The promise in a sense teased Abram and provoked him to understand more of God. We can sense Abraham’s perplexed state a bit more from Genesis 15:1-6,

2 And Abram said, "O Lord GOD, what wilt Thou give me, since I am childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?" 3 And Abram said, "Since Thou hast given no offspring to me, one born in my house is my heir."

It would have been easier if God had never spoken to Abram, but He had. In fact Abram’s name means father. His destiny was wrapped up in what he did not have. Abram did believe God as verse 15:6 says, but God was developing and greatly testing this faith. The real quality of endurance is not waiting up to almost when fulfillment would come but right up to when the full time had come.

2. The detour

There was a common practice in those parts recorded in ancient records found by Haran. If there was infertility, then it was legal and acceptable for the husband to impregnate his wife’s slave girl. When the time of birth came around, the wife would be there at the birth and receive the baby, and they would treat it as her own. This is what is Abram did in Genesis 16:3-4.

“And after Abram had lived ten years in the land of Canaan, Abram's wife Sarai took Hagar the Egyptian, her maid, and gave her to her husband Abram as his wife. And he went in to Hagar, and she conceived; and when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised in her sight.”

We should remember it was not that they were impulsive. It seems that Sarah had mentioned this option ten years prior to him following up on it as 16:3 says. But as often happens, time tests our faith. We ask, “Did God really mean that? Maybe I misunderstood Him.”

  • Don’t always follow the advice of your wife.
  • The husband is responsible to do the right thing.
  • Respect God’s hand in fertility.
  • Remember it is God Himself who makes our situation harder at times.

3. The consequences

Self-reliance is our biggest problem. This is especially true in a materialistic and wealthy society. We have so many ways to ‘help’ God out. We pride ourselves on what we can do. We like Abram are rebuked for not doing what we could do through faith. Every imitation of God's work, however, is a poor imitation of God’s best.

Genesis: The Book of Foundations - the Living Comentary

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Like my peach tree that looks so nice with blossoms and later on peaches, a disease gets to them and they wither and drop off. Things get worse until by God’s grace He steps in. Until we confront our sin, problems get worse and worse. When one does not do things in God’s timing and ways, then all sorts of bad things happen. Notice four consequences of Abraham's 'work of the flesh.'

• Ishmael’s descendants became a major threat to Israel (of Isaac the Promised son).
• Further difficulties in Abraham and Sarah’s marriage developed (cf. Genesis 16).
• Abraham was unable to see God’s faithfulness in his own life.
• Poor testimony to the world. (“I didn’t think there was such a God.”)

Origin  of Middle east  Crisis Diagram

Galatians 5:27 flesh  against the spiritThe Middle East conflict arises every time Israel is revived. After the captivity, Nehemiah faced great hostility (Nehemiah 2:19 “Geshem the Arab”). After the United Nations chartered Israel back into existence in 1948, the Middle East has been filled with hostilities.

This is true spiritually too. One important principle highlighted in Galatians is that the flesh is opposed to the spirit. Truly Abraham’s “work of the flesh” has produced a long-lasting illustration that we can well see even today an amazing 4,000 years afterwards. We should not shun either side, though. Both groups need to hear the gospel. Both sides will eventually drop their hardened hearts and come to Jesus Christ. This is one of God's goals for so blessing these two groups.

Reflecting on An Important Spiritual Principle

We have before us a very important spiritual principle important for every Christian. A person wanting to know God has two big hurdles. The first is when one becomes a Christian. In this case, he must not think he can be accepted because of his works. He has sin and cannot be accepted by a holy God. He has to believe or have faith in Christ to become God's child. this is hurdle #1.

Hurdle #2 is just as diabolical as the first but often goes undetected in the Christian church. In this case a person who has come to know God by faith resorts to working by the flesh, i.e. by his own works and resources, rather than by faith. Paul in Colossians 2:5-7 summarizes this nicely.

For even though I am absent in body, nevertheless I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good discipline and the stability of your faith in Christ. As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude.

The clearer we identify these two sides and purposely align ourselves with one, then the easier life will be. This does not make the battle easy necessarily, but it does remove most of the confusion where God's army suffers the greatest casualties.

Flesh versus Spirit diagram.

4. God’s solution

God of course wants us to endure the test and withstand the enemy’s testing. It is good to summarize some of the suggestions of the world and compare them to what the Lord says. This incident Abraham and Sarai had with Hagar and Ishmael highlight these differences.

evaluating detours

Abraham and Sarah

Spiritual Principles

World's ways seem best

16:2• Sarah recommended this worldly way of getting God’s work done. Abraham, at first, thought God would do it through his own son. But time and others wore him down to allow the world’s way to become a possible solution.

The world confidently tells us this or that way is best. God’s says the world’s ways are never best. Eventually Hagar and her son Ishmael were thrown out. They could not live together. Work done in the flesh will one day be revealed for what they are: empty pursuits. God’s work done in His way will never lack supply.

Seems compelling

Genesis 16:3-4a

"And after Abram had lived ten years in the land of Canaan ..."

God purposed that Abram wait many years before Isaac was born. After 10 years he tried to hurry things. The last 14 years was proof that hurrying of God’s plans takes only more time! (A:86 Ishmael (16:16)> A:100 Isaac (21:5))

The world places much urgency on matters. But God is not in a rush. One finds much pressure from the world to do it their way. God is in no time pressure. We seem to think we are doing God a great thing by speeding up plans for His kingdom, but in fact we slow things down.

God in fact usually first destroys the vision we have of something and then later builds it up on His own terms.


The custom of the world tells us that the son born to the wife's maid would become her own son. Legally yes, but everyone knows it is only a game.

"And he went in to Hagar..."

The world only considers something it can do. God however often gives assignments beyond what we can do. The world focuses on what it can accomplish in its own wisdom and through its own resources. With God’s way, miracles are common place because man cannot do them on his own. Isaac was a miracle child.


Abraham and Sarai truly believed they were doing God a favor.

God broke this dream in a flash. Hagar despised Sarai and they could not live together any longer.

"She (Hagar) fled from her presence." (16:6)

The wottrld prides itself on doing everything that it could. God’s way however always exalts Himself. Man feels good by emphasizing that he did everything that he could with his talents, money and reputation. We could praise Abram because he used his resources and never did anything illegal. Man’s way exalts man; God’s way always promotes God.


The reason Abraham waited so long to take Sarah up on the suggestion was that he doubted this was God's way.

In Abram’s case marriage principles were broken. Deep down they knew it, but they chose to violate them. God’s ways are always in accord with His Word.

The world suggests to go counter to God’s principles in His Word. God says He never wants us to go counter to His principles in His Word. The world including much of the professing church today believes in relativism.

Living by senses

Abram received so much mocking because of his name meaning 'father,' and his 'God-given' plans on coming to this land - as many descendants as the stars in heaven. As we read these verses we can feel the clash between what one felt and what God wanted.

The world lives by what it sees, feels and senses. God’s ways are by faith. Man focuses on and is limited to what is happening around him; he is pragmatic. The world is fixed on copying others. God however works in creative and various means all within the bounds of His Word.

In summary, we, the circumstances, and they all find that what they did was a colossal mistake that could not be easily forgotten. If Abraham waited a bit longer, all would have been well. Abraham doesn't have another chance to avoid these detours, but we do.

Will we stay on God's path? Let's plan to. Detours are big messes that God somehow works out in the end but always at great expense.

Next=> "Failing to Wait" from Genesis 16-17

->> Lesson #11 Assignment

Scriptures typically quoted from the New American Standard Bible unless noted: (C) Copyright The Lockman Foundation 1988

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