Today, I want to look at Genesis 16 -20 to see it in its original context and to see how it relates thematically to Jesus and His people both past, present, and future. You may be surprised it encapsulates the New Testament from beginning to end. This post will be longer than most because I did not want to divide it. Our Biblical summary from Genesis will be in black and my comments will be in blue. Having said that, let’s begin.
In Genesis 16, Abram’s wife, Sarai was barren so she took things into her own hands by giving her Egyptian servant, Hagar to Abram in order to bring about God’s promise of descendants from Abram.
Several godly women in the Bible, including Sarai were originally unable to conceive children but later conceived one or more children. They were all shadows of the virgin, Mary who miraculously gave birth to Jesus. God was always capable of making an unfruitful womb fruitful no matter what was causing infertility.
Mary was engaged to a man named Joseph and was surprised when Gabriel told her she had been chosen to bear Jesus, the Messiah. She was willing but didn’t fully understand how she could do so when she was still a virgin. Gabriel explained to her that God planned to do this miraculously through the power of the Holy Spirit instead of through natural human means.
Once Hagar became pregnant, she looked on Sarai with contempt. Sarah was most likely jealous and responded to Hagar’s contempt by mistreating her. Eventually, Hagar left because of Sarai’s harsh treatment but later, the Lord found Hagar by a spring and made her return and submit to Sarai’s authority.
When Jesus finally began His ministry, the Jewish religious leaders shared similarities with Hagar’s attitude by looking on Jesus with contempt and rejecting Him even though He had not led anyone away from Torah. When the religious leaders saw Jesus’ miracles, they were jealous of Him, tested Him, and did not repent of their lawlessness or believe He was the Promised One.
After Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension, non-believing Jews also shared similarities with Hagar by persecuting those who believed in Jesus, the Messiah. According to Paul, God intended non-believing Jews to become jealous of the Gentiles in order to change their attitude and to bring them to Himself (Rom. 11:11-15).
At some point during the days of the early church, believing Gentiles behaved like Hagar, the Egyptian slave woman because they left and separated themselves from the believing and non-believing Jews who descended from Sarai. Unfortunately, the early Christian church became syncretised with paganism.
Now the time has come for the Gentiles to come out of the syncretised church in order to return and completely submit to the terms of the marriage covenant (Torah) as Hagar returned to submit to Sarai. At this point, not all Christians want to submit to the terms of the marriage covenant. They must understand that Jesus never led people away from the commandments of God or established a new religion as many believe. It is time for God’s people to keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Christ (Rev. 12:17; 14:12; 18:4). Please note these verses say “the commandments of God,” not “the commandments of Christ.” Obeying God’s commandments and faith are important because obedience is proof of faith. James 2:26 says it this way, “faith without works is dead.” As believers in Christ obey God’s commandments, I believe we will see even more non-believing Jews come to know Jesus (Yeshua) as the promised Messiah.
God assured Hagar that He would increase her descendants. He told Hagar that she would have a son that would be called Ishmael (which means God pays attention) because God saw her misery. God explained that Ishmael would be blessed, be a great nation, and be the father of 12 princes. He would also be wild, against everyone, everyone would be against him, and he would live at odds with all his kinsmen. At that time, Hagar named God El Ro’i (God of Seeing) – the one who lives and sees.
The description of Ishmael applies to many who practice Islam but I think this can also apply to the animosity that exists between some Gentile and Jewish Messianic believers who are at odds with each other and the persecution and mockery of believers by non-believers. Those who profess faith in Christ must stand up for their beliefs and be united throughout the world despite mockery, persecution, and possible martyrdom. During this time we must remember that God sees what we’re going through.
Genesis 17 continues by telling us that God visited Abram and commanded him to walk in His presence and be pure-hearted. He changed Abram’s name which means “exalted father” to Abraham which means “father of many” and promised to give the land of Canaan to his descendants.
God has promised to give His people a new name and to give them (except the descendants of Zadok and the Levites) the land of Canaan as their inheritance (Ex. 6:8; Ezek. 36:8-12; 44:15-28; Rev. 2:17). The Lord will be the inheritance of the sons of Zadok and the Levites. The Jews will have a portion of land assigned to them according to their tribes and the foreigners (Gentiles) will also be assigned a portion in the territory of the tribe with whom they are living (Ezek. 47:21-23; Matt. 5:5).
Jesus lived in obedience to Torah and humbled Himself even unto death. Because of this, He was highly exalted by God and given the name that is above all names. In fact, at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, no matter where they are, and bring glory to God the Father by confessing Jesus is Lord because He is the King of many kings and Lord of many lords (Phil. 2:8-11; Rev. 19:16)!
The covenant of circumcision was then given to Abraham for all males in his household including both those born in his house and foreigners whom he would buy with a price.
During the millennial reign of Christ, all males including foreigners who enter the sanctuary of the Lord must be circumcised both in the heart and in the flesh (Ezek. 44:9). Many believers do not realize this. All believers including Gentiles are much like the foreigners who were members of Abraham’s household because they have been bought with a price (1 Cor. 6:20). They should be circumcised in the heart and flesh because they have been made members of the household of faith (Rom. 2:28-29; 11:17). Although physical circumcision is not required in order to be saved, Paul told us that the real Jew (or a Gentile grafted into the olive tree of Israel) is not just one outwardly but also inwardly—that circumcision is not just physical but also spiritual (Rom. 2:28-29). Both are important. Paul said that men should remain in the condition in which they were called but he also said what’s important is obeying God’s commandments (1 Cor. 7:18-20). I think another reason many Gentiles are not circumcised today is because this fits the pattern of the second generation of the Exodus who were not circumcised in the wilderness. We must not forget that they had to be circumcised prior to entering the Promised Land under Joshua’s leadership!
God changed Sarai’s name which means “mockery” to Sarah which means “princess.”
The Bride of Christ is like Sarai because she is often mocked but in the future, she will be like Sarah–she will be the Princess of the Prince of Peace during the millennial reign of Jesus Christ (Isaiah 9:5; Ezek. 34:24).
In Genesis 18, three men visited Abraham and one of them (the Lord) promised a son to Sarah and Abraham by the next year but Sarah laughed at the news because she was past the age of child-bearing. The Lord stayed and spoke with Abraham while the other two men set out for Sodom and Gomorrah. During their conversation, Abraham interceded for the righteous that were living in Sodom and Gomorrah when the Lord revealed His plans to destroy these cities.
During the second half of the tribulation, two witnesses will preach the need for repentance, of Jesus’ return, and the coming judgment. Initially, people will probably laugh at these men for prophesying. Eventually, they will hate them for the authority the witnesses will have and for destroying those who try to harm them yet the people will rejoice when these prophets are killed by the beast that comes up out of the abyss. Meanwhile, we must emulate Abraham by interceding for the righteous people who are in Jerusalem, which is spiritually Sodom and Egypt (Rev. 11:3-10). As I see it, the rest of the world is also spiritually like Sodom and Egypt too so we might as well intercede for all of the righteous people to be spared.
After the Lord’s two companions entered Sodom in the evening, Lot found them and convinced them to stay at his home. He prepared a meal for them and later when it was time to sleep, the men of the town who had heard of their arrival came and surrounded Lot’s house. These men desired to have homosexual relations with the two godly visitors. Lot offered his virgins daughters to them but they were only interested in satisfying their homosexual desires. They accused Lot of judging them for their sexual preferences and threatened to harm Lot worse than the two visitors because of it. As they attempted to reach Lot, the visitors brought him into the house and struck the men with blindness so they couldn’t find Lot’s door. They warned Lot’s family of the coming destruction and told them to get their family together and leave. Lot’s sons-in-law did not think they were serious and refused to go. Not long afterwards, Lot and his family came out of Sodom and Gomorrah prior to their destruction. Lot’s wife became a pillar of salt because she looked back but Lot and his daughters were delivered.
If the pattern presented in Genesis 16-18 is any indication of what we can expect in the future, the time of Christ’s judgment is near because of the growing openness of homosexual activity in our midst today. It is not surprising that explaining to anyone that the Bible says homosexuality is a “sin” or “immoral” is considered “judging” or “hate” and is met with anger or threats to punish them for hate-crimes or force Christians to be re-educated or to conform to the world’s definition of tolerance. Homosexuals have become blind to the fact that Jesus is the door – the only way of salvation. Unless they repent of their sin, they will never truly find Him. Instead, they will share the fate of the Sodomites. The Bible makes it clear that those who practice homosexuality will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9; Rev. 22:15).
As Lot’s family was warned to leave Sodom, God’s people have been warned to come out of Babylon the Great. It is referred to as:
- The great city (Rev. 11:8; 18:10)
- Jerusalem; the city where Jesus was executed; spiritual Egypt and Sodom (Rev. 11:8)
- A source of economic resources (Rev. 18:11-13)
We should be particularly concerned with the spiritual aspect of this city and examine our own spiritual condition and the city we live in. We should examine our worldviews, beliefs, and the origins of our traditions including various Christian denominational beliefs and practices that have been syncretised with ancient Babylonian idolatrous practices. We need to do this because many Christian traditions are not necessarily Biblical. We should not worship God using pagan idolatrous forms (1 Kings 12:26-33). We must avoid partial obedience and forsake traditions and/or forms of worship that God has not commanded instead of justifying participation in idolatrous forms for the purpose of worshipping God (2 Chron. 33:15-17; Deut. 12:29-32, 1 Sam. 15).
Coming out of our own smaller spiritual “Babylons” requires change that we might not be comfortable with. In order to prepare for the coming tribulation period, we should consider changing our lifestyles so we can live within our economic means. We also need to abandon unhealthy relationships. Both of these may require planning, downsizing, and/or moving. If you feel you need to move away from sinful influences, ask God to lead you to a place of purity where you can stay for a long time.
New churches with a focus on Hebraic roots are slowly popping up in various places because people are trying to come out of churches that are synchretized with pagan traditions that are associated with the ancient mystery Babylonian religions. Unfortunately, some of them are struggling to properly interpret the Word of God. Before new leaders can properly lead people who desire to embrace a Torah lifestyle, they need to take time to:
- Understand the doctrinal errors of mainline Christian denominations taught by churches, Bible schools, and/or seminaries.
- Understand that there are some differences in Scripture interpretation among Messianic congregations. Try to be aware of any debates Messianic Jews have over the proper interpretation of Scripture.
- Learn what you can about the culture and history of the Jews.
- Be engrossed in Torah and test all interpretations of Scripture against it.
- Know and/or be willing to learn what the Bible teaches as a whole about a particular topic.
- Live a Torah lifestyle.
I am very much aware that coming out of a synchretized church is very hard to do when other family members want to stay and/or don’t agree with you. Spouses need to make a decision to remain together or go to separate churches. When there is division in the home, you have to decide what holidays to observe and how to do so to obey God’s commandments. Some people may need to stay where they are already worshipping so they can carefully lay a Torah foundation for others around them as long as God leads them to do so. Your church may or may not welcome your input. Staying where you are may temporarily be a better option if there are no Messianic groups open to receiving Gentiles in your area or if new churches embracing their Hebraic roots in your area are selectively choosing parts of Torah to embrace and other parts not to not embrace. No matter how you look at it, unless your whole family comes out of a synchretized church at the same time, you’re in a bad situation.
Be prepared to be accused of apostasy by family and friends for choosing to leave some of your pagan- Christian traditions behind even though you are really drawing closer to God. The sword of truth can cause painful division in families so you need to be forewarned (Matt. 10:34-36).
Once you leave the spiritual Babylon you are in, please try not to look back as Lot’s wife did. As you obey God’s commandments, you may be helping your family to avoid judgment as the time of the tribulation approaches.
After the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot’s daughters thought they were the only ones left alive on the earth so they had sex with their father in order to have descendants. Each daughter had a son. One became the father of the Moabites and the other became the father of the Ammonites.
Once Babylon the Great is destroyed, there will still be two primary groups of people left—those who served the Lord and those who did not. Jesus will still need to deal with Israel’s enemies.
In Genesis 20, Abraham and Sarah traveled to Gerar, a Philistine city which was between Kadesh and Shur and lived there. Once again Abraham told the people living in the area that Sarah was his sister because he was afraid they would kill him. You would think he would have learned his lesson with the Pharaoh of Egypt but this time, Abimelech (whose name means “father of the king”), the king of Gerar took Sarah as his wife. Fortunately, the Lord warned him in a dream that he was a dead man before he had ever touched her and commanded Abimelech to release her to the prophet, Abraham. Abimelech was momentarily worried that God would destroy his righteous nation and quickly released Sarah to Abraham and gave him gifts of oxen, sheep, servants, and silver. Abraham prayed for Abimelech’s wife and female servants to be healed of the infertility that resulted from taking Sarah.
Today the land of Israel is also referred to by many throughout the world as Palestine where the Palestinians are believed to be none other than the Philistines. The Bible teaches that Israel’s enemies will form a confederacy against them to take the land (Ps. 83:1-8). These people include the Ishmaelites, the Edomites, the Philistines, and others of the Middle East. The primary thing they have in common is the fact they serve the god of Islam—a god unknown to their ancestors during Biblical times (Daniel 11:38).
Just as Abraham kept trying to hide the identity of Sarah from the wicked people around him, many members of the Bride of Christ may try to hide their identity from the Antichrist and his minions as the last days approach in order to avoid being killed. Eventually, the Father of the King – our heavenly Father will take the Bride that has been gathered from throughout the earth and give her to His Son, Jesus Christ. She will be holy, blameless, and above reproach.
There is a river described in Ezekiel 47 that will have trees growing on its riverbanks during the seventh millennium whose leaves will have healing properties and the water of that river will heal the waters that will become contaminated during the tribulation. This river and these trees are similar to the Tree of Life and the River of the Water of Life that will be in the New Jerusalem that is described in Revelation 22. The leaves of the Tree of Life will be used to heal the nations.
I find it comforting to know the end from the beginning. As life gets harder, we can focus on the fact that we who are called Sarai will one day be called Sarah. May you be blessed!