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Gen 16-19: The Consequences of Sin and the Triumph of Grace Print E-mail
Monday, 02 January 2006

How do you deal with the situation of an unwed couple becoming pregnant?  Many of us, at some point in our lives, have wrestled with that question, whether it be friends, family, or just people that we know.  Having faced it in my own family, I must admit that it is difficult.  The shame and disgrace that comes from Ďbeing caughtí in premarital sex is often felt by many parties, either the couple themselves or their parents.  Then you must deal with the fact that a baby is on the way and life will never be the same.  Should the couple marry?  Should they pursue education?  Who will raise the baby?  What will be the future of the mother and father of the child?  What role will the grandparents play?  All of these questions are part of the difficulty in this situation.

Yet, at the same time, a baby is to be born.  And however you look at it the Bible will not let you conclude anything else but that a child is the blessing of the Lord.  This child, although born out of wedlock and into a difficult situation, is nonetheless a gracious gift of God and should be treated as a great blessing of God. 

So then which one is it?  Is the child a blessing or the consequence of sin?  I think we have to answer that the child is both.  Granted, we would never condone the action of the parents for it is sin and should be repented of.  At the same time, we should love the child as part of Godís mysterious grace and mercy.  We do not pretend as if premarital sex is justified by the gift of a baby and we do not neglect the fact that a child is a gracious gift of God.  In the end, we can only conclude that God, by His grace, has taken what was intended for evil and turned it into good (see Genesis 50:20).

In our passage this morning, we run into many instances of sin, grace, consequences, and judgment.  These are issues that are good for us to work through as believers so that we can respond faithfully when situations arise like these in our own lives, such as a baby being born outside of wedlock.  Granted, our particular situations do not parallel exactly, but that does not mean that there is nothing for us to learn from these stories.  So, letís look at three lessons concerning sin and grace from our text.

First, disobedience and wickedness is never a substitute for patience.

However a situation turns out, we must never conclude that is better being disobedient to God than it is being obedient to Him.  When He brings blessings, even from sinful actions, we are never to conclude that sin is alright or that God does not take it seriously. 

A delay in Godís plans never justifies sin.  When God calls us to be patient we are not to take matters into our own hands.  This is what we see in the actions of Sarai and Abram in chapter 16.  Look at verses 1-2 with me.  They did not wait on the Lord in this instance.  Rather, they took matters into their own hands.  Sarai reasoned that because of her age she could not conceive, so she found another way and Abram listened.  Even though God had promised Abram that He would have a son, Abram could not wait.  Saraiís plan was reasonable and made sense.  It was a common custom for wives to give their maidservants to their husbands for marriage and so they disobeyed.  They took matters into their own hands.

We see the same sin with Lotís daughters at the end of our passage.  God had rescued them from the destruction of Sodom and instead of waiting on him and being obedient, they got their father drunk and committed incest in order to have children.  They wanted what they wanted and so they ignored what was right before God.  They took matters into their own hands.

I must say that one of the most difficult things that God calls us to do is to be patient, to simply trust that He will do what He has promised in His timing.  I remember the struggle of waiting for a wife.  Granted, I had no promise that God would give me one only a great longing.  And I must say that in my time of waiting I often struggled with the temptation of taking matters into my own hands.  I often told myself in my dark moments: ĎStop being so picky, stop waiting, just do what you have to and make it happen.í  Yet, by Godís grace I was able to wait and by His grace He gave me the gift of a wife.  Why is it so important that we not give in to the temptation to take matters into our own hands?  Let me give you two reasons.

First, we should not take matters into our own hands because these actions reveal our lack of faith in Godís promises.  Look at 18:9-15.  Although the Scriptures tell us that Sarah eventually believed in the Lord (see Hebrews 11:11), we see in these passages her struggle to believe.  When the Lord and the two angels tell her that she will have a child she can only respond in laughter to such a promise.  In our dark moments, when things are as hard as they get, and the Lord reminds us of His promise that all things work together for our good, it is so tempting to laugh.  I admit that in these dark hours it is hard to hold on to our faith in the promises of God.  But we must.  The lives of the saints, including Sarah and Abraham, are shining examples of why we should fight for faith in these moments.  We must be people who believe.

Second, we should not take matters into our own hands because there are consequences to such actions.  Godís forgiveness is greater than our sin.  The blood of Christ will cover any and all offenses.  Yet, this does not mean that consequences are not real.  You can be forgiven for sex outside of marriage, but such forgiveness will not relieve you of the responsibility of raising the child or dealing with a sexually transmitted disease or struggling with harmful thoughts later in your life.  These are consequences to sin and they are real.  Even though the Lord forgives Sarai and Abram for their actions, it does not mean that Ishmael and his rebellious descendents are not real.  Look at 16:12 with me.  Well since the Lord forgives does this not come true?  Look at 25:12-18, especially verse 18.  No, as Christians we must recognize that there are consequences to our sin that are not simply erased by forgiveness. 

There was a women on death row in Texas who was convicted of murder.  She confessed openly that she had committed the crime.  While awaiting her execution she was converted and immediately people began to cry out for her pardon.  Many Christians joined in and thought she should be released.  Yet, many simply overlooked the reality of consequences to sin.  Whether you agree with the death penalty or not, we must not conclude that forgiveness erases consequences.  Rather, as believers, we must hold fast that through the blood of Christ our sins have been forgiven and that we will not face judgment in hell for them, while at the same time understanding and accepting the fact that our sins will have consequences that we must face.

Thus, we cannot take matters into our own hands when God calls us to wait and trust.  We must always believe that it is more blessed to be obedient than it is to be disobedient.  We must learn this lesson from Sarah and Abraham.

Second, God is just in His judgments against sin.

Let me give you two reasons why I think we can learn this from this text.  First, Godís justice is seen in His conversation with Abraham (18:22-30).  Look at verse 25.  In this passage God is making it clear to Abraham that He is just in His judgment of Sodom.  At the same time, Moses is teaching us this same lesson.  God does not judge haphazardly.  No, He knows the entire situation and judges justly.

Second, Godís justice is seen in the fact that Sodom is filled with wickedness.  Not only do we see God investigating the situation, but the passage makes it clear that Sodom is horribly wicked.  In chapter 19, when the angels come to the city, the men rush after them and want to rape them.  You cannot miss their wickedness in the text.  Instead of showing them hospitality, as exemplified with Abraham and Lot, the men of the city want to use them for selfish sexual pleasure.  Needless to say, God is just is judging them because they are clearly wicked.

Thus, we see that God is just in His judgments against sin.  In fact, we can say that God is the standard for justice.  Our justice system is based on the idea of innocent until proven guilty.  Granted, it is not perfect, for no human system could be, but our very idea of justice is rooted in Godís justice.  We did not make up justice and then subject God to it to see if He is just.  Rather, He himself is the very standard of justice in the universe.  Any understanding of justice that we have comes from Him and His character.  He justly brings consequences and He justly brings judgment.  Yet, that leads us to one final lesson concerning sin and grace in our text.

Third, even in consequences and judgment we see the triumph of grace.

You cannot help but be amazed at Godís grace in this passage.  In fact, I think these are some great examples to help us understand exactly what Godís grace is.  Just consider with me the different characters and Godís grace in their lives.  First, God shows grace to Hagar in 16:7-16.  You may be tempted to think that Hagar is nothing but a victim in this passage and in some ways she is, but look at 16:4.  Hagar looks with contempt on Sarai because she was able to have Abramís baby and Sarai was not.  Moses reveals to us Hagarís pride over something that she really had no control over, for it is God who is the author of life.  Yet, we read in 16:7-16 Godís grace in Hagarís life.  Why call this grace?  Because it is the love and favor of God which is completely undeserved.  God, in His sovereign grace, chooses to take care of Hagar and promises her numerous descendents.  This is pure grace.

God also shows great grace to Abram and Sarai.  Again, when we read of their actions in chapter 16, we may expect God to give up His plan of blessing them.  But He does not.  In chapter 17 God continues his relationship with Abram.  He gives him the sign of the covenant which is circumcision and promises him again that he will have a son.  He changes Abramís name to Abraham and Saraiís name to Sarah and even gives them the name Isaac for their son.  None of this is deserved.  It is only Godís grace that can explain this.

We even see Godís grace in the life of Lot.  The angels come to his house and tell him to leave.  But Moses tells us in 19:16 that Lot lingered and eventually had to be dragged out of the city.  Such grace on the part of God.  Also, the situation with his daughters is seasoned with grace.  We are told that one of the girls has a son named Moab whose descendents will be called Moabites.  There is a famous Moabite in history who will actually have a book in the Bible named after her.  Her name is Ruth.  And according to Matthewís genealogy in Matthew 1, we know that Jesus is a descendent of Ruth.  Again such grace is truly amazing.

Of course you may be thinking, ĎWhy didnít Sodom receive any grace, didnít they deserve it just as much as the rest of them?í  But thatís just the point of grace, it is always undeserved, always unearned.  God was just in pouring out judgment on Sodom for their wickedness, His grace was letting them live as long as they did.  At that you may ask, ĎBut what about Godís justice in dealing with Hagar, Abram, Sarai, and Lot?  How is this just?í  It is this question that points us to the cross.  When Jesus died on the cross, He displayed to the world the justness of Godís sovereign grace.  The sins of the Old Testament saints were paid for at the cross.  One reason that Godís grace is so amazing is that through the life and death of Christ it is just (see Romans 3:21-26).  The judgment that fell on Sodom for their sins, fell on Christ for ours.  Thus, the grace of God that we enjoy this morning is completely undeserved and completely just.

For this reason, we must resist the temptation to believe that we deserve Godís grace.  At the same time, because of the cross of Christ, we must realize that God is just in all His consequences and judgments for sin.  No one will be sent to hell or heaven unjustly.  Thus, instead of taking matters into our own hands, we must be patient and wait faithfully.  And whether we are dealing with pregnancy out of wedlock or guilt over our own sins or simply waiting on the Lord, may we remember that our God is sovereign, just, and graceful in all that He does.  Amen.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 21 February 2006 )

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