OUR ACTIONS PRODUCE REACTIONS THAT AFFECT MANY GENERATIONS TO COME
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
20 JUNE 1993
By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
16:1-6, 9, 15-16
Most of the time, we fail to consider the full impact of our personal decisions and the effect such decisions will have upon our own lives and the lives of others, whether human or non-human – even upon many future generations.
As we're growing up, we make decisions about our behavior and the people and animals with whom we associate.
We make decisions about our schooling: the way we study, the way we apply ourselves, and whether or not we go on to college.
We make decisions about the kinds of jobs we seek, and also about the way we apply ourselves to them.
We make decisions concerning our faith in God and the lifestyle we live.
We make decisions concerning the person we wish to marry, and we make decisions about children of our own, and the course our marriage will take and even if it will last.
We make decisions about what we will eat and wear, and whether or not such decision bring harm to others.
And the way we raise our children will also determine, in part, their life decisions.
All of us make decisions that result in some sort of action on our part, and everything we do produces some sort of reaction from others, even well into the future, long after we have died.
Let's take a look at a Biblical example that began 4,000 years ago, and which is still producing some very serious reactions today.
In Genesis 15:2-4, we see the account of a promise that the Lord gave to Abraham, or Abram, as he was then called.
2. And Abram said, "O Lord God, what wilt Thou give me, since I am childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?"
3. And Abram said, "Since Thou hast given no offspring to me, one born in my house is my heir."
4. Then behold, the word of the Lord came to him, saying, "This man will not be your heir; but one who shall come forth from your own body, he shall be your heir."
But shortly after this promise was given, Abram had a conversation with his wife Sarai concerning this future heir. (Genesis 16:1-6)
1. Now Sarai, Abram's wife had borne him no children, and she had an Egyptian maid whose name was Hagar.
2. So Sarai said to Abram, "Now behold, the Lord has prevented me from bearing children. Please go in to my maid; perhaps I shall obtain children through her." And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai.
Neither Abram nor Sarai held their faith in God's promise very long, for they forgot a prior commandment of the Lord found in Genesis 2:24:
24. For this cause a man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.
It's not to be they and someone else. It's not to cleave to your wife and someone else.
God would never tell someone to go against His word.
And this is one of the easiest ways to discern whether or not a decision is coming from the word of God.
When God said that from Abram's seed would come children, He plainly meant from the union of Abram and Sarai, and from no one else.
But Abram and Sarai didn't believe that, either. Note the initial results, as we return to Genesis 16:3-6:
3. And after Abram had lived ten years in the land of Canaan, Abram's wife Sarai took Hagar the Egyptian, her maid, and gave her to her husband Abram as his wife.
It is quite obvious that Abram had no objection to this arrangement.
4. And he went in to Hagar, and she conceived; and when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised in her sight.
The reaction, or consequence, of this action on the part of Sarai and Abram has already begun.
And from this reaction, we will see a secondary reaction triggered:
5. And Sarai said to Abram, "May the wrong done me be upon you. I gave my maid into your arms; but when she saw that she had conceived, I was despised in her sight. May the Lord judge between you and me."
Now, not only is there dissension between Sarai and Hagar, but there is also some between Sarai and Abram, which in turn triggers another action and reaction.
The Lord is not going to judge between Abram and Sarai because they are both wrong, concerning this matter.
And while Hagar may have been innocent in the first place, she became guilty when she tried to supplant her mistress.
6. But Abram said to Sarai, "Behold, your maid is in your power; do to her what is good in your sight. So Sarai treated her harshly, and she fled from her presence.
It is not too difficult to see how one seemingly small act of loss of faith in God can lead to a much more complicated set of situations.
As Hagar goes off into the wilderness, an angel appears to her to comfort her and to tell her of her and her son's future, but the key to his message to her is in verse 9:
9. Then the angel of the Lord said to her, “Return to your mistress, and submit yourself to her authority.”
Hagar listened to the words of the Lord and did as she was commanded.
And in verse 15 we see the results:
15. So Hagar bore Abram a son; and Abram called the name of his son, whom Hagar bore, Ishmael.
16. And Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore Ishmael to him.
The Lord came to comfort Hagar, but what about Abram and Sarai?
The very next verse tells us (Genesis 17: 1):
1. Now when Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him,
"I am God Almighty;
Walk before Me, and be blameless.
As a result of Abram's and Sarai's actions, the Lord did not speak to them for fourteen whole years.
And shortly after this appearance, the three men we talked about last week came and spoke about the birth of Isaac, which was what God wanted in the first place.
But to tie together our understanding of actions and reactions, let's skip ahead to the time when Isaac was old enough to be weaned (Genesis 21:8- 21):
8. And the child grew and was weaned, and Abraham made a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned.
9. Now Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, mocking [or playing in a manner that appeared as mocking to Sarah].
10. Therefore she said to Abraham, “Drive out this maid and her son, for the son of this maid shall not be an heir with my son Isaac.”
Can you see the compounding of these actions and reactions, which have continued for at least fifteen years to this point in time?
And they continue to produce further actions and reactions:
11. And the matter distressed Abraham greatly because of his son [Ishmael].
12. But God said to Abraham, "Do not be distressed because of the lad and your maid; whatever Sarah tells you, listen to her, for through Isaac your descendants shall be named.
13. And of the son of the maid I will make a nation also, because he is your descendant."
Now, remember that none of this would have happened if Abraham and Sarah had listened to the Lord in the first place.
14. So Abraham rose early in the morning, and took bread and a skin of water, and gave them to Hagar, putting them on her shoulder, and gave her the boy, and sent her away. And she departed, and wandered about in the wilderness of Beersheba.
Although Abraham did obey the command of God, he sent Hagar and Ishmael away with very little regard for their safety or welfare.
15. And the water in the skin was used up, and she left the boy under one of the bushes.
16. Then she went and sat down opposite him, about a bowshot away, for she said, "Do not let me see the boy die." And she sat opposite him, and lifted up her voice and wept.
This is not what the Lord wanted to happen; so He intervened, in order that His promise would be fulfilled.
Additionally, I believe the Lord wanted us to see in a vivid manner how far- reaching the effects of our ungodly acts can become.
17. And God heard the lad crying; and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, and said to her, "What is the matter with you, Hagar? Do not fear, for God has heard the voice of the lad where he is.
18. “Arise, lift up the lad, and hold him by the hand; for I will make a great nation of him.”
19. Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water; and she went and filled the skin with water, and gave the lad a drink.
20. And God was with the lad, and he grew; and he lived in the wilderness, and became an archer.
He became an archer, and not a man of peace, as his father.
21. And he lived in the wilderness of Paran; and his mother took a wife for him from the land of Egypt.
Hagar took a wife for him from her native land, not a wife who would follow the Lord, even though He had shown Himself to her these two times, and had proven Himself to her on both occasions.
The descendents of Ishmael became the Arab people, and from their midst some
1,400 years ago arose Mohammad, the founder of the Moslem religion; and the
world changed, for he claimed that God's lineage went through Ishmael and not
And even until today we are still fighting over this action in and around Israel, in Yugoslavia, and in the southern portion of the former Soviet Union, and this strife will continue.
It is important that we learn to trust in God, and learn to wait upon Him to fulfill all His promises.
It is important that we weigh all of our decisions before we act, that we fully understand the immediate as well as the long range consequences.
It is important that we make every decision on the basis of true love and compassion, so that no one, whether human or non-human, would ever have to suffer because of us.
Your Comments are welcome
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