The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you,not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. -- 2Peter 3: 9 (ESV)
The way Sarai and Abram counted slowness they figured God was late in keeping His promise. Ten years after all is a long time. So they decided to stop patiently waiting and took matters into their own hands. What we can also glean from this verse is the reminder that God is infinitely concerned about the salvation of the souls of men. Perhaps not as much so of the fact that all of our friends seem to be getting married around us while we are still alone. It is also a reminder of where our focus is supposed to be. On His Gospel. On the eternal destination of the people in our families, lives, and world. Not that we do not care about being single. Not that we even stop wishing for that special someone. But that we do not draw our contentment, or lack thereof, from the existence of someone in our lives. At least someone other than God. Chew on that for a second. This is the relationship idolatry we are speaking of. God wants preeminence in our lives. Even in a marriage contract, God is supposed to come first. Yet as singles we can often loft the relationship that is to come, above the God we are praying to for deliverance of it. That is what Sarai and Abram have essentially done here. The key verses conclude:
And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai.So, after Abram had lived ten years in the land of Canaan, Sarai, Abram's wife, took Hagar the Egyptian, her servant, and gave her to Abram her husband as a wife. -- Genesis 17: 1-3 (ESV)
Oh beloved do you see it? Abram listened to voice of Sarai. He did not listen to the promises God had given him. He did not listen to the covenant that God had made with him. Father of many nations. All of the earth blessed through him. That as many grains of sand on the shore would be his descendents. All from a son he would have with Sarai. Ten years and one bad suggestion and there was Abram fathering Ishmael. A wild donkey of a man the Lord decreed who would have his hand against everyone and everyone's hands against him. There is always a price to pay for disobedience beloved and not waiting on the Lord. For Abram and Sarai it would be another 13 years before God would speak. One year following this, the child of promise would be born, Isaac. From Abram when he was 100 years old and Sarai when she was 90. Impossibility within the limited confines of man but for God, anything He says He will bring to pass He can and will.
As single Christians we must listen for the voice of God in our lives. I do not mean the audible voice received by Abram. I mean the revealed will of God in His Word. After ten years of singleness we will have many voices like Sarai in our ears. Our friends will have plenty of advice. Our families will as well. Even our brethren in the church. We must weigh those voices against only one thing. What does the Lord say? In the case of Abram, when Sarai presented this idea to him he should have said that he would wait for the promise the Lord had made. Instead he listened to the voice of Sarai. Tempting though it might be in our impatience, do not look toward the Hagar someone points out to us.
That is the final point for us as single Christians today. What to do when Hagar starts to look good. From the text we know that Hagar was not what the word spoken by God promised. She was what the flesh desired. Tired of waiting, Sarai cast her eyes upon her slave and thought she could end the state of childlessness she was enduring. Often times we as singles can look out into the world and start to see options we know are not what God has said we should pursue in His Word that might end the state of singleness we are enduring. We know the Bible says we are not to be unequally yoked. We know the Bible says that light is to have no fellowship with darkness. But there is Hagar and we have been waiting too long we start to think. We start to scheme in our mind:
"Well he believes in God."
"She is a really nice person."
"If I can just get them to come to church I know they will get saved!"
"Go in to my servant; it may be that I shall obtain children by her."
The millennium may be different but human nature has not changed. Thank you for allowing me to stretch these verses a bit today. This narrative was not truly written so speak to the challenges facing single Christians but the entire canon of Scripture is good for teaching in righteousness and these stories are provided that we might learn from them. Beloved, I am not saying these are easy subjects we discuss. They are not. But if God asked us if we would still serve Him even if the child of promise/relationship of promise would never come what would we answer? Remember that even though Isaac was delivered, God eventually made Abraham decide if he was willing to sacrifice him. So if God asked us that question and we know our answer would be yes, then we need to serve Him now as such. In closing I think of the rich young ruler who idolized money in his heart over God. For some of us our relationship idolatry can be the same kind of stumbling block. We are not to put anything ahead of God.
Beloved, I am not saying that God has someone special for you if you just have patience and anyone who does is stretching what Scripture says and feeding our potential idolatry. Perhaps God has a shipwreck of solitude in store -- but will you still serve Him? Perhaps He has the poverty of loneliness in store -- but will He still be enough? Or will we start to think that maybe he has forgotten about us when Hagar starts to look good. As difficult as this is I pray we stay strong and find our contentment in Him alone.
Reverend Anthony Wade -- April 3, 2016