a sip to make you thirsty

Some waters just makes you more thirsty again.So far we’ve walked backward from Genesis 16:8 and seen how Hagar found herself in the desert. Let us move forward now from verse 1 to talk about Sarai and how she has more in common with Hagar than we thought.

Darkness And The Desert

Genesis 16:1-2

gives us an introduction into Sarai’s life. In fact verse 1 is in counterpoint to the the promise God made to Abram in Genesis 15:18-20. It would seem then that to have descendants, one must first have children. Sarai then concludes in verse 2, and maybe rightly 1 Sam 1:5, that God had prevented her from bearing children. The english word we have for Sarai’s condition is barrenness. Sarai feels like she is in a desert that is every bit as dry as the one Hagar later found herself in. In addition, her husband has received a promise from God and maybe she felt that she was not doing her part to make it happen.

Most of the time, as she later revealed in Gen 21:6-7, it is pressure and stigma from culture that makes us feel abandoned. In the case of Sarai, she had triple pressure. She wanted children and desired them and this was pressure enough. She also felt pressure from those around her because they looked down on her for not having children. Finally though, she probably also pressured herself because she wanted to be of service in the fulfilling of God’s promise. How often this is the case for us? We want to do good and so badly want to do even a necessary good but cannot. Sometimes, it is because the world restricts us and sometimes it is because God has restrained us. But the reason is often unclear. All we know is that we have a dream, even a dream from God, and cannot bring it into reality. We feel barren, childless, in the desert and in the dark. This.

There is a darkness of evil we should run away from. You can recognize the darkness of evil by how it makes you want to do evil against what God says in the Bible. Yet in the moments when all seems dark and we feel confused, let us remember that there is a darkness that must come before creation Gen 1:1-3 and the same darkness that must come before covenant Gen 15:12, Deut 5:22, Exodus 24:15, Matt 27:45-46 because this Holy darkness is where the Lord dwells 2 Chronicles 6:1-2. God is not evil since He is light and no darkness dwells in Him 1 John 1:5. He reveals everything yet He Himself cannot be seen. Our minds cannot fully comprehend Him and so He appears dark. Our eyes cannot see Him and so He is Invisible (biologically this is how vision works by the way, you can’t see what your brain cannot interpret). We can only relate to Him by hearing His Word and by praying to Him in love and faith.

Sarai By The Well

So far, as we can see, being in the desert, is not necessarily a bad thing. Sarai is waiting for God to show up and make everything bloom. But the Lord seems a long way off, even Invisible, and other springs do appear in the desert every now and then. And so through very cultural eyes, she sees Hagar, her maid, as the clear solution, the water that will quench her thirst and have her children Gen 16:2. Sarai is not the first to think this way. Saul thought this way 1 Sam 13:6-10 when his people were under attack. Nadab and Abihu did the same Lev 10:1-2 and died for it. Peter often and repeatedly did the same Matthew 16:22-23, John 18:10-11, 17, 25-26, 21:3 when he felt despair concerning his Jesus.

In each case, there is trouble or pressure or a dream to be fulfilled and in each case there are people who see a solution and grab it. The question I often wish I would stop and ask God is this: How big is the desert and is this spring, this solution that I see enough to make it bloom? It is not so much the question or the answer that matters but that I turn to God and ask Him. To Sarai, Hagar appeared to be a solution. But how can Hagar, a human being who could not even provide for herself, humanly be the solution for a problem as deep as an unfulfilled promise from God? And yet Sarai sees a solution, a spring named Hagar, and drinks her dry so that Hagar found herself in the desert right beside Sarai. Can we be surprised that Hagar came to resent and look down upon Sarai? Sarai’s barrenness, instead of being resolved, became double. Not only was she childless, Hagar her maid now threatened to usurp her position as Abram’s wife.

This is what always happens when we try to make other people the solution to our problems. We suddenly realize that these solutions to our problems are human beings that are already incapable of providing for themselves. How could we expect them to be an overflowing spring for us? Even if they should produce something similar to a solution, there then comes a risk for pride and resentment from them. This pride in turn produces a fear in us because someone we asked for help could now come in and run away with our dream. Its all a big mess. But we do it all the time. Ask yourself: how many times you have thought that this person or that boyfriend or that girlfriend will be the solution to fulfill your deep God given needs? How many times have I thought that money, or a job or a location will solve my problems? Maybe if I can just achieve that dream, everything will be okay. Ask yourself: how often disappointment and mistrust replaces the initial thankfulness you felt towards the friend whom you thought would be the solution to your problem?

The Fate Of Usurpers

This is not to say that God doesn’t use people to answer our prayers. In fact, He uses people to help us ALL THE TIME. But we’re supposed to trust in God first and then allow Him to reveal and lead us to whoever He has chosen to be our help. Instead, Sarai chose a solution that seemed clear and skipped over God just like I often find myself doing. All the while Abram was silent. Let’s be clear here. Sarai’s barrenness was purposefully created by God. There are needs in us, emptinesses and barrenessess, that God has purposefully created for Himself to come and occupy and fill. These empty spaces are huge and infinite because God is infinite and huge. Trying to stretch someone, or something small and limited into filling such a space is cruel and futile. In them lies the same emptiness that lies in me which they have not been able to fill!

Oh the person will try and try and when they fail, like Hagar, they will often come to hate me and I, like Sarai, will come to hate them because I tried to make them king or queen over a space they could never govern. Whatever and whoever, I choose to be my solution enters into my emptiness with me and they will fail if the Almighty God is not working through them 1 Kings 17:8-9. Not only do they have their own desert to deal with but as soon I make them the solution to my problems, they also suddenly have my own desert to water. In a reciprocal manner, I too enter into their desert as well and if I could not provide water for myself, will I not become to them an extra burden 1 Kings 17:10-12? Only the blessing of the Almighty God can make was not enough for one more than enough for many 1 Kings 17:13-16, Matt 14:17-21. But how can He bless or correct what I have not involved Him in? He’s too Humble to force Himself where He’s not wanted and yet, and yet, He is too Merciful to watch me die of thirst.

Where Faith Blooms Best

Sarai uses Hagar as a solution, as the well to quench her thirst, but without God they both walked away even more thirsty than before. Hagar finds herself alone in the wilderness by an unreliable spring and Sarai finds herself alone with her barrenness and the cold fear of losing a silent husband. No one can ever complete me except for God. He will use other people and other things but they can only be His servants after I have made Him Lord. Hagar’s flight into the wilderness is an outward expression of Sarai’s inner life. Hagar seemed to Sarai, like the spring in the wilderness and so Sarai fled from the barrenness created by God to find a solution in Hagar. What did Sarai find by her cultural, rational spring? She found contempt and pride and fear.

God used Hagar’s contempt to ask Sarai Gen 16:8, “Where are you coming from and where are you going?” Sarai fled from the barrenness which God had ordained for the creation of faith to a place completely barren of faith. She did not know that faith (establishing God as your Lord) must come first before any child, any dream is born. And so, Sarai fled and fled until the scorn of Hagar became to her a barrier like the desert of Shur. Having met the barrier, Sarai was forced to repent like Hagar did and return and submit herself to her Lord God. When everyone else failed her, she had to rely again on the promise of the Lord in her life and allow her faith to flower where it blooms best: in the barren place.

Faith is a desert rose, a rose of Sharon Song of Songs 2:1-2. She is the beautiful flower and she is the only oasis in the barren places. Today, the Lord asks you, asks me, “Where are you coming from and where are you going?” From what are you fleeing? Is the desert just up ahead, a place where God’s Presence is absent, better than than the weakness and faith behind you? For whichever water you rely on that is not from God will run out and you will become thirsty again but whoever believes will have water that wells up within him to eternal life and out of her will flow rivers of living water for all around her John 4:14, 7:38.

“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.”
- Colossians 2:3

Wanna reach out and ask me some ques­tions? Or do you want clar­i­fi­ca­tion on some­thing writ­ten here? If so, write me a let­ter. I’d love to hear from you and I’ll respond. I bet your hon­est ques­tion will pro­duce insights that will ben­e­fit other read­ers.