Community Group Study “Genesis: The God Who Sees”

Before your community group meets:

Read Genesis 16:1-16 and write down 10-12 observations from the text.

Whose voice does Abram listen to and does it lead Abram to deeper trust in God or self reliance?

Historians tell us that this arrangement with Hagar was a cultural acceptable practice, how are followers of Jesus similarly tempted today follow cultural norms over God today?

Who does Hagar turn to in her distress and what name does she give God?

Study Information:

In Genesis 15 we got our first glimmer of Abram trying to manufacture the promise of God. He claimed Eliezer, a household servant as his heir. It was a common practice in the ancient world that if you were childless you could adopt a servant born in your house as your heir. God knew Abram’s fear, addressed it lovingly and expanded on the promise by making a covenant with Abram that was unconditional and would eventually lead to Jesus going to the cross. Abram believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness (Genesis 15:6).

But, as we have seen in the past (Genesis 12), after God makes a promise, it seems like what follows next is a test of faith to see if his promise is really trusted. In chapter 16 we learn that Sarai had a plan because in her mind God had delayed too long. Abram and Sarai were still without a child of their own so Sarai approached Abram with what was a culturally acceptable custom of the day. In the ancient world if your wife was unable to have a child you could take a servant as a wife and have a child with the servant and you wife could claim that child as her own. To Sarai, God didn’t specifically forbid this practice… right? Up to this point God hasn’t specifically said that the child will come through Sarai, that comes in Genesis 17:19. And… hadn’t God delayed long enough? This all took place after being in the promised land for 10 years, so Abram was around 86 years old, how much more time do they got, right (Genesis 15:16)? God was taking his sweet time, so why shouldn’t the people of God act…? You can see the justification in Sarai’s plan, since God has not been specific and since God delayed and since everyone else does this… , therefore it must be ok.

Genesis 16:2 hints back to the Adam and Eve temptation event, Abram listened to the voice of Sarai over the voice of God. He took Hagar as a wife, she conceived, mission accomplished.

Things seemed to be going ok in the minds of Sarai and Abram. Hagar, their Egyptian servant, was pregnant so the promise of God was bound to be fulfilled. Yet, things spiral down quickly. Genesis 16:4 “and when she saw she had conceived she looked with contempt on her mistress.” The word contempt is to “look down on” in our text. You could understand why she would feel this way towards Sarai. Hagar has been used and abused against her will. But instead of acting with mercy, Sarai reacts with vengeance demanding that Abram do something. This is a common pattern for those of us who are confronted with our sin. We typically lash out at the thing that we turned to for salvation that let us down. In this case, Hagar becomes a punching bag for Sarai. Instead of putting an end to this or intervening, Abram responds with passivity, another echo of Adam’s sin. He gives Hagar over to Sarai to do what she pleased and so the abuse continues on until it reaches a breaking point and a pregnant Hagar runs for her life, going back to what was familiar, her old home in Egypt.

What is challenging for us as modern readers is that God meets her in the wilderness and sends Hagar back. Hagar will respond in faith and trust and go back to a place where she was mistreated and abused. We can question why God would do something like this, but we need to see that God will work in a way to preserve and protect Hagar (Genesis 16:13 — “God looks after me”).

Genesis 16:7-16 teaches us two things as the Angel of the Lord meets Hagar in the desert. We first see God’s pursuit of the lost and broken. The angel of the Lord gently asks Hagar a question about where she is going and why she is running. In a way, God meets her in the literal and metaphorical desert of her life. Second we see God’s blessing to someone outside of the promised family. God promises her that her son will become a great people, sure he will be a difficult man, but God will build up her family line as well.

Abram and Sarai’s sin shows us that our attempts to manufacture God’s promise and to provide salvation for ourselves is devastating, but God pursues his children in love and redeems even in the mess we make.

At your community group:

Take 15-20 minutes to share about how God has been at work in your life, prayer concerns and pray for one another.

How did God speak to you through the scripture and the sermon this week?

Scripture and Discussion Questions:

Imagine waiting a restaurant for your food to come out and it is taking longer than it should. How do you typically feel in these moments? Now imagine that there is something you’re hoping for to happen in your relationship with God and your life, and it may even be something God has promised in his word, but it is taking longer than you think it should. What options do you have in these moments? Look at Genesis 16:1-3, what do we learn about Abram and Sarai’s situation? How should they have responded differently?

How does Abram show passivity in this passage (look to verse 2 and 6)? What are the consequences for his passivity?

Shur (16:7) is an area of desert Northeast of Egypt. Where is Hagar heading? Why would she head there? In times of stress and fear do you pursue things that are familiar to you?

What do we learn about God based on his interaction with Hagar? How does she demonstrate faith and how does that function as a contrast to Sarai?

It is a difficult line to walk, faith does not always mean passivity, but it definitely does not mean that we frenetically pursue self-salvation efforts through ungodly ways. What are some ways this text speaks to those of us who are in a position of waiting on God?

Looking Ahead:

Read Genesis 17:1-14 and write down 8-10 observations from the text like names in the text, how the word covenant is used, how much time has passed by and ages.

How does God expand on the covenant from Chapter 15?

Abram meant “exalted father”, God changes his name to Abraham which means “father of many people”, why does God do this? (Look back to Genesis 16:15)

Why does God give them the sign of circumcision, look to the text of scripture to find an answer.

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