Sunday, January 07, 2007

Slow start, good finish?

So far, most of the actors in the Biblical story have been men, and for the most part they have not done a very good job. When God confronted Adam about the forbidden fruit, he took it like a man; he blamed his wife. To save his own skin, Abram (soon to be renamed "Abraham") said Sarai was his sister, and let Pharoah take her as his wife. Abram's nephew Lot took the path of greed and got himself kidnaped. In today's reading, two women get their turn.
Now Sarai, Abram's wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian maidservant named Hagar; so she said to Abram, "The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my maidservant; perhaps I can build a family through her." Abram agreed to what Sarai said.
Genesis 16.1-2
Though bizarre to modern eyes, Sarai's action was not all that unusual for the time and place. What happened next? Sarai's plan backfired completely:
So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian maidservant Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. He slept with Hagar, and she conceived. When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress.
Genesis 16.3-4
Sarai then blamed Abram (for following her advice!), he disclaimed all responsibility, and she mistreated Hagar. Hagar fled, with no idea of where she was going.

On first reading, this looks like a story with no heroes. Sarai gives bad advice to her husband, then blames him for taking it. Abram acts like a wimp. Hagar develops a bad attitude then acts impulsively, fleeing into the desert with no plan or provisions. What's the deal?

Here's what I think. I think the point is to understand clearly that God does not choose the honorable, the strong, the courageous, the gifted, the rational. He chooses people like you and me and pours his blessings upon them. Then they grow up in the faith, and when they finish well, as Hebrews says, he is proud to be called their God.

So I guess God is the hero in this story; more than that, he wants to make us heroes too, if we let him. Sounds like a good plan.

posted 1/8

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