Hagar, Sarah, Abraham, and Circumcision

January 24, 2022 at 5:15 am Leave a comment


File:Sarah presenting Hagar to Abraham, who sits at the foot of a bed, from the series 'The Story of Abraham' MET DP828535.jpg
Credit: Sarah presenting Hagar to Abraham (c. 1543) / Wikimedia

We all have concocted a harebrained scheme a time or two to try to solve some problem or get ourselves out of some jam. The people of the Bible were no different.

When God appears to Abraham and Sarah and promises them that they will have a son who will be the progenitor of a great nation even though they are both well past their childbearing and childrearing years, Abraham, at first, responds with incredible faith:

Abram believed the LORD, and He credited it to him as righteousness. (Genesis 15:6)

But after years of waiting and no baby on the way to show for their patience, Abraham and Sarah decide to take matters into their own hands:

Sarai said to Abram, “The LORD has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave Hagar; perhaps I can build a family through her.” Abram agreed to what Sarai said. (Genesis 16:2-3)

This is a shocking turn of events and rightly should be repulsive to us. Predictably, Abraham and Sarah’s scheme does not work out well for them:

Abraham slept with Hagar, and she conceived. When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress. Then Sarai said to Abram, “You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my slave in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the LORD judge between you and me.” “Your slave is in your hands,” Abram said. “Do with her whatever you think best.” Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her. (Genesis 16:4-6)

Jealousy and abuse are the fruit of a pitifully and pathetically sexually disordered relationship, leaving the reader to wonder: Is there any way forward? Can any of this be repaired or restored?

In response to Abraham’s sexually disastrous choices, God announces:

You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between Me and you. (Genesis 17:11)

I have been asked many times why God chose circumcision as the sign of the covenant He made with Abraham. It seems strange until one realizes that God takes the very spot Abraham had used to deny and disparage God’s covenant promise of a son and turns it into the very sign of His covenant. Circumcision, it turns out, is a bit of strategic sanctification. It is certainly painful, which Abraham certainly deserves in punishment for his sin. But it is also a sign to Abraham that God’s covenant promises to him still stand. In other words, Abraham’s circumcision is a surgery of grace. And grace is what Abraham needs to cover his sin.

It is no secret that sexual sin runs rampant in our world. But this is nothing new. Just ask Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar. And yet, when such sin works to betray trust, shatter promises, separate marriages, and break hearts, God is right there with His grace – working to redeem sexual sinners in their brokenness and restore those who have been sinned against sexually from their shame and pain. The sign God gave to Abraham is a testament to this – and a promise for us. God’s grace meets us when we sin sexually and when we are sinned against sexually.

If you are struggling with either sexual sin or being sinned against sexually, you can ask for help – from God and from others. Even after his sexual sin, God made Abraham the father of a great nation – Israel. And even after being sinned against by her husband, Sarah went on to become the mother of that same great nation. And even after Hagar was sinned against by both Abraham and Sarah, she and her son Ishmael, who also became a great nation, were protected and cared for by God.

God did all that with a giant mess of sexual sin. What can God do with you? It’s a question worth asking – and a hope worth holding.

Entry filed under: Devotional Thoughts. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , .

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