Theme: Faith (Part 8)
(Key verses: Gen 16:1-16)
Our natural mind is made to be ruled by spiritual darkness by God’s design and purpose, and we are naturally destitute of the wisdom of God (Psa 69:5; Joh 1:5; 1Co 1:20; Jer 17:9). God created the darkness first in us before He brings the Light (Gen 1:2-4; Isa 45:7; Jer 18:4; Rom 8:20; 2Pe 1:19). In this darkened state of mind we joyfully follow our own foolish counsel, also referred to as the “wisdom of this world” (Pro 12:23; 1Co 1:20; 1Co 2:6; 1Co 3:19):
Pro 15:21 Folly is joy to him that is destitute of wisdom: but a man of understanding walketh uprightly. .
Pro 19:3 The foolishness of man [Hebrew: “âdâm”] perverteth his way: and his heart fretteth against the LORD.
Pro 28:26 He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool: but whoso walketh wisely, he shall be delivered.
In this discussion on the foundational theme of faith we will find that folly is indeed a subtle counterfeit of faith which few can see before they experience its devastating effects in their own lives. We all, like Job, witnesses this in others first before we see it in ourselves:
Job 24:12 Men groan from out of the city, and the soul of the wounded crieth out: yet God layeth not folly to them.
Job 24:13 They are of those that rebel against the light; they know not the ways thereof, nor abide in the paths thereof.
When folly also masquerades as faith it takes on a deeper deception. Foolishness has the appearance of light when it ministers to us its own righteousness and wisdom:
2Co 11:14 And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.
2Co 11:15 Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.
All things God reveals about the kingdom of heaven in us have a dark (a negative application) and a light side (a positive application), for those who can receive this. So also is the spiritual meaning of the number five in scripture. Through the scriptures we learn that the number five is spiritually linked to God’s grace which comes through faith (Exo 25-27; Lev 1-5; Eph 2:8-9). Foolishness also has a counterfeit application through the number five:
Mat 25:1 Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom.
Mat 25:2 And five of them were wise, and five were foolish.
Foolishness relates to our natural disregard to heed God’s word (His spiritual oil) when follow the advice of our natural mind. Our old man Adam is the fool in us as he is naturally “full of words” which in the end will swallow and judge him (Luk 19:22):
Ecc 10:12 The words of a wise man’s mouth are gracious; but the lips of a fool will swallow up himself.
Ecc 10:13 The beginning of the words of his mouth is foolishness: and the end of his talk is mischievous madness.
Ecc 10:14 A fool also is full of words: a man cannot tell what shall be; and what shall be after him, who can tell him?
Ecc 10:15 The labour of the foolish wearieth every one of them, because he knoweth not how to go to the city.
This is also what we learn through the life of Abram (later called Abraham) – one of the main characters in the Old Testament which God used to bring to us a picture of what the faith of Christ in us also has to endure. We will never receive the righteousness of Christ by following our own foolish ideas of flesh:
Gal 2:16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.
Php 3:9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.
In this discussion we will focus on how the folly of our own understanding obscures the path of the faith of Christ in us for which we will pay painful lessons which God causes to achieve humility in us. Abram, his wife Sarai and his offspring help us to see how foolishness plays itself out through bitter and regrettable decisions we all make. The first time we meet Sarai in the scriptures, we see her as a woman who is unable to bring forth children:
“Sarai Abram’s wife bare him no children”
Gen 11:30 But Sarai was barren; she had no child.
Bareness is indeed reflecting our first spiritual condition from the hand of the Potter as we all bear the terrestrial body of flesh with its dark carnal mind (Psa 51:5; 1Co 15:40). The second time we read about Sarai’s barrenness another interesting lady is mentioned in the same breath:
Gen 16:1 Now Sarai Abram’s wife bare him no children: and she had an handmaid, an Egyptian, whose name was Hagar.
Hagar was part of “all that he had” when Abram went out of Egypt after he went there to get away from the grievous famine in Canaan:
Gen 12:9 And Abram journeyed, going on still toward the south.
Gen 12:10 And there was a famine in the land: and Abram went down into Egypt to sojourn there; for the famine was grievous in the land.
Gen 13:1 And Abram went up out of Egypt, he, and his wife, and all that he had, and Lot with him, into the south.
Longsuffering and patience are part of the fruit of the spirit of God and is therefore not part of the natural mind as created by God in the beginning (Gal 5:22-23). The natural mind is lawless and cannot please or obey God, which Adam and Eve also prove by their disobedience in the garden of Eden (Gen 3:1-24; Rom 8:6-8; 1Ti 1:9). The carnal mind wants everything instantly or in the shortest time period and will actually come up with ingenious ways and means to get what it wants. One of the biggest deceptive schemes of the carnal mind is to convince us that we are actually walking in faith, when it is actually following its own twisted concept of faith – when we believe in our faith and not in God:
Gen 16:2 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.
Gen 16:3 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.
After ten years in Canaan the flesh of Abram and Sarai revealed its inherent impatience. This is a sure sign of folly in our lives. The number ten spiritually indicates completeness of flesh as we also think we can please God through our fleshly ideas of the operation of faith. Like faith, folly will also make sacrifices and this case Abram and Sarai sacrificed their marriage to accomplish God’s will for them to have children – or so they thought and were sincerely convinced about. By God’s design, it is our carnal striving and impatience which sets us up for our biggest battles which will teach us so much of how we need to wait on the Lord. Here again we see a pattern which was started in the garden of Eden when Adam listened to the words of Eve instead of the Word of God. Godly faith comes via the Word of God exclusively (Rom 10:17):
Gen 3:17 And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life;
Sorrow and curse is what we reap when we follow our flesh – our deceived wife and not the Head, Jesus Christ and His Word (Hos 1:2; Pro 7:10; 1Co 11:3; 1Ti 2:14; Rev 17:1-6). This is what Abram will also learn since this action of theirs brought forth an offspring which will be a thorn in the flesh until this day. How deceitful is the heart of natural man when it brings a beautiful solution but hiding the enormous price attached to that (Jer 17:9). The folly of the flesh is actually seen as a work of faith when we do not as yet have the patience to wait for God’s perfect time (Ecc 3:1; Luk 21:19):
Pro 8:33 Hear instruction, and be wise, and refuse it not.
Pro 8:34 Blessed is the man that heareth me [this is Godly wisdom talking], watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors.
Pro 8:35 For whoso findeth me findeth life, and shall obtain favour of the LORD.
Pro 8:36 But he that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul: all they that hate me love death.
Isa 30:15 For thus saith the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel; In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength: and ye would not.
Our natural folly “would not” listen to wise counsel because it cannot – it is an obstinate and stubborn beast (Isa 48:4; Hos 8:9; Psa 32:9; 2Co 2:14). Living according to our physical understanding is what God ordained in order that we should not see His purposes and plan until His appointed time:
Ecc 3:11 He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.
Our folly is witnessed in our words and actions – through the fruit we bear God reveals to us what tree we are living of (Gen 2:9; Mat 7:16). Abram and Sarai are learning the folly of laying hands on someone in haste (Heb 6:1-2; 1Ti 5:22):
Gen 16:4 And he went in unto Hagar, and she conceived: and when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised in her eyes.
Hagar’s heart could not resist the despising of her mistress. She found favour from God above her mistress. Our natural offspring will always be there long before the spiritual fruit can be brought forth and very few can resist the temptation to show off their physical blessings in this age. Our own sins will reveal to us our folly and this is what Sarai also found out (Jer 2:19). But Sarai did what all natural minds do when it is caught out – it shifts the blame out there, even as Adam and Eve did in the garden of Eden (Gen 3:12-13). In Sarai’s eyes Abram was the main culprit. Like Adam, Abram also brought in the “hand of man” to solve the problem (Gen 9:5; 1Ch 21:13):
Gen 16:5 And Sarai said unto Abram, My wrong be upon thee: I have given my maid into thy bosom; and when she saw that she had conceived, I was despised in her eyes: the LORD judge between me and thee.
Gen 16:6 But Abram said unto Sarai, Behold, thy maid is in thy hand; do to her as it pleaseth thee. And when Sarai dealt hardly with her, she fled from her face.
King David said these words which reflect the mercilessness of the natural hand and heart in all of us which Sarai also showed to Hagar. This is yet another sign of folly in our lives – harshness when we forget that we have received mercy (Rom 11:29-32):
2Sa 24:14 And David said unto Gad, I am in a great strait: let us fall now into the hand of the LORD; for his mercies are great: and let me not fall into the hand of man.
This is what also happened to Hagar – she mercifully fell into the hand of the Lord:
“the angel of the LORD”
Gen 16:7 And the angel [Hebrew: “malak” = messenger] of the LORD found her by a fountain of water in the wilderness, by the fountain in the way to Shur.
The phrase “the angel of the LORD” appears 59 times in the KJV, and this is the first time this phrase is used in the scriptures. Right here in Genesis 16 the identity of this angel is also revealed through Hagar’s words:
Gen 16:13 And she called the name of the LORD that spake unto her, Thou God seest me: for she said, Have I also here looked after him that seeth me?
It was the Lord Jesus Himself who spoke to Hagar. Jesus is indeed “the angel of the LORD” as He is the angel of God to whom the Father said these words:
Heb 1:13 But to which of the angels said he at any time, Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool?
Psa 110:1 A Psalm of David. The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.
Jesus said that these words of David refer to Him as the Christ and the Son of David, as “the angel” at the right hand of God, the Father which the Pharisees could not see:
Mat 22:41 While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them,
Mat 22:42 Saying, What think ye of Christ? whose son is he? They say unto him, The Son of David.
Mat 22:43 He saith unto them, How then doth David in spirit call him Lord, saying,
Mat 22:44 The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool?
The angel of the Lord appeared to Hagar in the desert and posed some of the most important questions humanity is struggling with:
“….where did you come from? and where will you go?”
Gen 16:8 And He said, Hagar, Sarai’s slave, where did you come from? and where will you go? And she said, I flee from the face of my mistress Sarai.
Our human answers are limited to what we can perceive in our earthly lives from physical birth up until this point in time. Hagar answered according to her limited understanding of things. But through this interaction we also learn how to submit to God as He is the One who wrote all our days in His book (including all our thoughts and actions), and everything in our lives is 100% according to His plan (Psa 139:16). Flesh and blood has no truth of his true origin without the Word of God, neither does it have any idea of his destination or the purpose to its existence. So God answers us according to our level of faith and understanding at each point of our journey (Psa 18:25-26):
Gen 16:9 And the angel of the LORD said unto her, Return to thy mistress, and submit thyself under her hands.
Gen 16:10 And the angel of the LORD said unto her, I will multiply thy seed exceedingly, that it shall not be numbered for multitude.
The promise of the angel of the Lord also relates to these words of God to Abram:
Gen 13:16 And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered.
A split in the offspring of Abram is first introduced here, as Hagar will bring forth a multitude from the seed of Abram. This multitude must be seen in terms of the multitude (or the “many”) that will be the enemy of the few in this age. It refers to those who cannot hear the spiritual words of God (Luk 22:47; Luk 23:1; Act 16:22; Act 21:36):
Mat 13:34 All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables; and without a parable spake he not unto them.
Mat 13:10 And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables?
Mat 13:11 He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.
Mat 22:14 For many are called, but few are chosen.
Hagar and her offspring in us are very much part of God’s plan. During our whole lifetime in the flesh the same “multitude” will always be there to be a servant to God to humble us and force us to always look to God and not depend on our ideas and solutions. Hagar and her offspring are those who can see only as far as the Lord can supply in their physical needs:
Gen 16:11 And the angel of the LORD said unto her, Behold, thou art with child, and shalt bear a son, and shalt call his name Ishmael; because the LORD hath heard thy affliction.
Gen 16:12 And he will be a wild man [Hebrew: “pereh”]; his hand will be against every man, and every man’s hand against him; and he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren.
Gen 16:13 And she called the name of the LORD that spake unto her, Thou God seest me: for she said, Have I also here looked after him that seeth me?
Gen 16:14 Wherefore the well was called Beerlahairoi [“well of the Living One seeing me”]; behold, it is between Kadesh and Bered.
The “wild man” is also referred to as a wild ass (the same Hebrew word is used: “pereh”) whom God has set free in the wilderness and there He also provides for the “wild asses” (Job 39:5-6)
Job 24:5 Behold, as wild asses [Hebrew: “pereh”] in the desert, go they forth to their work; rising betimes for a prey: the wilderness yieldeth food for them and for their children.
Jer 2:24 A wild ass [Hebrew: “pereh”] used to the wilderness, that snuffeth up the wind at her pleasure; in her occasion who can turn her away? all they that seek her will not weary themselves; in her month they shall find her.
The flesh also has a well of water which God supplies for our temporary needs, even as we “eat…every one of his vine, and every one of his fig tree, and drink…every one the waters of his own cistern” (2Ki 18:31; Pro 5:15). The well where the angel of the Lord spoke to Hagar was between Kadesh and Bered. Bered means “hail” and hail is a symbol of God’s judgement to all the lies and folly in our hearts (Isa 28:15-17). But this judgment is only reserved for the true sons of God, the house of God, which Abram’s offspring through Isaac spiritually represented (Gal 3:29):
1Pe 4:17 For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?
Kadesh (meaning “holy”) links with the name “Kadesh-barnea” which is significant in physical Israel’s wanderings in the wilderness (Deu 9:23-24; Num 13:26; Num 32:8; Num 20:1-16; Num 27:14; Num 33:1-49). Miriam died here, and it is also the place where the impatience and folly of Moses was displayed to the whole nation when he hit the rock twice instead of speaking to it which prevented him from entering the land (Num 20:1-12; Psa 106:32). Kadesh is also where the report of Joshua and Caleb was different from that of the other ten spies about the land which they were to enter (Num 13:1-33; Num 32:8). It was at Kadesh where the separation came between those who God ordained to enter the land and those who died in the wilderness because of unbelief and foolish rebelling against God (Num 13-14). This split is very significant in terms of Sarai and Hagar and our own distinction between what is of faith and what is of folly in our own walk (Psa 29:8):
Gal 4:22 For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman.
Gal 4:23 But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise.
Gal 4:30 Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman.
Gal 4:31 So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free.
Abram’s firstborn is the type of our own “wild man” who thinks he has a free will. Our flesh with its carnal mind is also representing “the abomination of desolation” who sits in the temple of God thinking he is God (Mat 24:15; 2Th 2:3-4). That is the man of sin who lives in the wilderness in a house which is built on sand and will indeed fall during the judgement of God (Mat 7:26-27; 2Th 2:7-8):
Gen 16:15 And Hagar bare Abram a son: and Abram called his son’s name, which Hagar bare, Ishmael.
Gen 16:16 And Abram was fourscore and six [eighty six] years old, when Hagar bare Ishmael to Abram.
To obey God has nothing to do with our clever and intelligent ideas, but everything to do with keeping His commandments according to our level of faith in God’s provisions and timing at all times. God willing, we will receive the faith to see that it is our own pride and lusts which are the driving forces when we want to show God and others our commitment to fulfill His plan long before it is ordained to take place (Isa 40:30-31). But before that happens we will follow the devastating route of folly, and we will indeed reap what we sow (Gal 6:7-9):
Mat 23:15 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.