By Pastor Jessica Wang
14 Aug 2011 Sunday
Worship song: Above all
|Verse 1||Above all powers above all kings
Above all nature and all created things
Above all wisdom and all the ways of man
You were here before the world began
|Verse 2||Above all kingdoms above all thrones
Above all wonders the world has ever known
Above all wealth and treasures of the earth
There's no way to measure what You're worth
|Chorus||Crucified, laid behind the stone
You lived to die rejected and alone
Like a Rose trampled on the ground
You took the fall and thought of me
Scripture Reading: Genesis16:7-16
7 The angel of the LORD found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur.
8 And he said, "Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?" "I'm running away from my mistress Sarai," she answered.
9 Then the angel of the LORD told her, "Go back to your mistress and submit to her."
10 The angel added, "I will so increase your descendants that they will be too numerous to count."
11 The angel of the LORD also said to her: "You are now with child and you will have a son. You shall name him Ishmael, for the LORD has heard of your misery.
12 He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone's hand against him, and he will live in hostility towards all his brothers."
13 She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: "You are the God who sees me," for she said, "I have now seen the One who sees me."
14 That is why the well was called Beer Lahai Roi; it is still there, between Kadesh and Bered.
15 So Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram gave the name Ishmael to the son she had borne.
16 Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore him Ishmael.
Good morning my dear brothers and sisters, I’m very happy to see you here. We can hear from our God and we can worship our God. Let’s bow down and pray to our God:
"Dear Lord our God, we know you are the God who cares for us, we know you are the God who sees us, and we know you are the God who is still watching over us. God, thank you so much for calling us here, and to worship you, and to praise you. God, I want to lift up all my brothers and sisters here into your hands, and please be with us. Lord, we come to you. We want to ask you to purify us and be with us, because we know that God you love us, and God you want to show your love to us, and you want to show your wisdom and your words to us. Today we ask you to send Holy Spirit among us and strengthen us. Let us see your presence. We pray in Jesus name. Amen."
Several weeks ago, after one worship service, a young couple came to my office and asked me to pray for their child, their one-year-old daughter, because she developed a disease in her eyes. They had to have a surgery after the service. When I saw this little lovely girl, I felt very sad. She had very beautiful eyes, and because of this disease, she had to remove one of her eyes. At that time, I knew that there was no word that could comfort the couple and the young girl. I just held her hand, and prayed for her. I knew no matter what kind of situation they were in, God would be with them. Even though they could not feel God’s presence, God was still with them. So I just prayed that God could strengthen them, and that God could confirm their faith, and that God could heal them and be with them.
So many tragedies took place in recent weeks, such as the bullet train that crashed in Wenzhou, costing the lives of many. And also in Seoul, a mud-rock flow took away people’s homes and lives. Besides, just a week ago, there was a riot in the
Before I begin, I want to teach you the Hebrew word for “the God who sees”. Just now when Dong Hao was reading the scripture, we realized that there was a word which was difficult to pronounce. That was the word, “El Roi”. In the story, there is a servant named Hagar. She gives God one name “El Roi”, which in Hebrew means “the God who sees”. It means God is still watching us-this is one of God’s characteristics. Read after me please: “El Roi”. If you are to forget what I spoke today, I hope you can remember this very simple word, “El Roi”, “the God who sees”.
Genesis chapter 16 deals with a family’s problem of having no child. Although God has promised Abram that their offspring will be as many as the stars in the sky, Abram remains childless. So the family decides to take matters into their own hands in Genesis chapter 16. We know that in Genesis chapter 12, God calls Abram for the first time to follow him and to go with him. Then, in chapters 13, 14 and 15, God tries to build up
Today, we are going to focus on what happens then to Hagar.
I. For whom does God care?
Sometimes we think that it is the people who hear God’s will and obey that are watched over by God. That is true. Sometimes we feel that if we disobey and sin against God, He will never care for us and will abandon us. But according to this scripture, God not only takes care of those who obey him, but also those who are weak and who repent. This is the first message that I want to share with you.
II. How does our God care for us?
In 16:7, the angel of the Lord finds Hagar near the spring in the desert. Then they have a conversation. I find out from this conversation that God uses one special way to help us and to care for us-He uses his word. He speaks to us and his words can heal us, guide us, strengthen us and give us wisdom. His words can show us the right path and the key to our problems. In this conversation in the desert God takes care of Hagar with his words in three different ways: He reminds Hagar, guides Hagar and also makes Hagar a promise.
First of all, God tenderly reminds Hagar. He asks: “Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?” These are the first words that God speaks to Hagar. We know that by now the proud Hagar has escaped from Abram and his family. Hagar is the one who has sinned against God because of her pride. But when God finds her in the desert and when the angel of God comes to speak to her, the angel of God doesn’t start by criticizing her. God does not ask: “Why do you think you are here? Because you have sinned against me. If you repent, I will show you the way; but if not, I will never help you.” This is not the way that God speaks to Hagar. When God speaks, he just tenderly asks: “Hi Hagar, where have you come from? And where are you going?” God knows everything. Does God not know where she has come from and where she is going to go? He knows. God is the one who knows everything; he even knows our hearts and souls. But still God chooses to start the conversation by this question. I think this is the great method of God to heal the people who have sinned against him. God is a great counselor. Sometimes when we talk to people who sins against God, we tell them the problem directly; but then we find out that this is a useless way to persuade them. But God is a much greater counselor. He does not address directly Hagar‘s problem of pride, instead, he allows Hagar to realize on her own the result of her pride: she is out there in the desolate desert, trapped, homeless and with nowhere to go. This is a very good way which God uses to heal people-through his tender and gentle reminding.
Secondly, after Hagar confesses to God her awkward situation, the angel of God continues: “Go back to your mistress and submit to her.” I think this very short sentence is the order of truth. Now that Hagar has realized her arrogance, she is still unclear about what she should do next. So God points out a way for her: “Go back to your mistress and submit to her.” This is the order of truth. Go back. Turn away from your arrogance. And be obedient. If you do not want to die in the desert, you have to turn back. If you want to survive the wildness, you have to obedient and give up your arrogance. God guides us to safety by his words, which are the order of truth.
But sometimes people regard God’s order of truth as constraints, saying that they cannot feel freedom. Sometimes, people tell me that right after they become Christians, they feel that their freedom is there no more. There are so many things that they cannot do, and because of that they do not like the law of our God. Actually the law of our God is the truth, and the truth can set us free. In Hagar’s example, the freedom she seeks when she runs into the desert will eventually lead her and her unborn baby to death; while God’s seemingly restrictive order demanding her obedience will save her life as well as that of her son.
People may have other questions. Some admire Hagar’s luck because she can talk to God face to face. They are disappointed that they have never had that chance. They sigh and hope that when they face trails, problems and dark days, God could just tell them what to do directly. But my dear brothers and sisters, I want to show you another truth: that we are luckier than Hagar. Do you know why? Today, where does God’s word come from? I think most of us have the Holy Bible; maybe you don’t have the same edition as I have, but we have the same book, the Holy Bible. What is in the Holy Bible? God’s word. I don’t think God speaks to Hagar as much as he speaks to us. That’s why we are luckier than Hagar. So if we read the Bible, if we come to the church, if we have communication with other brothers and sisters, we can hear from God, we can know his words, his command, his law, and we can know what we should do. God offers the order of truth.
Moreover, God provides the promises of future. Because of Hagar’s contempt, she is mistreated by Sarai and she has to escape. So what happens then when she goes back and submits herself to Sarai? We don’t know. We don’t know the future; Hagar doesn’t know the future either. That is why the angel of God doesn’t stop the conversation there. He adds: “I will also increase your descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count.” The angel of the Lord also says: “You are now with child and you will have son, you shall name him Ishmael. For the Lord has heard your misery.” There are many words that God says to Hagar, among which this is the promise that God makes: “I will bless you, I will be with you, I will hear whatever you tell me, and you will have so many descendants. Just go back; I will watch over you, I will protect you.” Now Hagar can go back in peace.
It is very important to us that God promises what is in our future. Sometimes I and maybe all of you may have to go to a new place and start something new, and there is fear in our hearts. We don’t know what the result is going to be. But Hagar has the promise from God: God has told her what is going to happen. In
So God’s promise is really important for all of us, as it is for Hagar. That’s why Hagar’s problem was solved and Hagar was healed by God. She went back to Abraham and then gave birth to a boy.
Dear brothers and sisters, from this story we learn that even if we sometimes sin against God, or even if we face so many differences, difficulties and trials, we know that God has a name: El Roi, the God who sees. He sees it all. There is no place, no family and no one that God doesn’t know. So I want to encourage you as well as myself that despite the world and its problems that we face every day, our God is the God who sees, El Roi.
III. How to experience God’s Care
Our God is the God who sees and who is still watching over us. No matter who we are or where we are, He loves us. This is the truth.
Then how can we experience His care? We may learn that from Hagar. We need to listen to God’s order and God’s will. We need to read the Bible, come to church and share the words with others through our service. We need to keep in touch with God through our prayers. We also need to turn back. Turning back is a good sign of repentance. This is the way that we can feel God’s care and presence.
It is very simple; it begins with reading the Bible so as to know God’s words, with listening to the sermon and with communicating with other brothers and sisters.
Yet I know there is still a problem that troubles some of us. As a pastor, sometimes I heard from a brother or a sister that they had had really good dreams the previous night; they hoped that I could explain to them what God was trying to say through these dreams. Some told me that God talked to them the previous night and asked me to explain God’s will to them. Then I had to confess that I didn’t know. However I do know that God speaks to us through the Bible. I believe God can speak to us in other ways, but I am sure if God really wants to speak to you, He will let you know, but not the others, so you don’t need others to tell you what God’s will for you is.
We have to keep a conversation with our God-we have to pray. I believe that praying is powerful.
Praying is powerful: if we do talk to our God, just as Hagar did when she told God her problems and her sins, God will let us know His will and guidance.
Praying is powerful: I remember one day a schoolmate of mine from Nanjing Seminary shared with us his testimony. It was a very short prayer. He was on his way to preach in a church. Having no car, he chose to take the bus. It was a very cold day and the window of the bus was open. Taking into consideration that other passengers might still want to leave it that way, he hesitated whether he should close the window. So what could he do? He prayed. He prayed: “Father in Heaven, I am cold; it is so cold.” There were a father and his little boy sitting beside my schoolmate. A minute or two after the prayer, the little boy said to his father: “Father, I am cold.” And the father closed that window instantly. My schoolmate’s prayer was answered and his problem solved.
That is a simple example and a short prayer, but it shows us that praying is powerful.
We have to communicate with our God. We have to keep the conversation through our prayers.
C. Turning Back to God
If we want to experience God’s care, we have to turn back to Him. We have to turn back. God told Hagar: “Go back to your mistress and submit to her.” This is the way that God heals us and takes care of us: He asks us to turn back.
Let us turn back to our God, because we know arrogance is not what God wants in people. That’s also why God asked Hagar to be obedient. Dear brothers and sisters, turning back to God is what He wants us to do. Then we can experience His care and healing.
I know there are a lot of people who, before becoming Christians, thought that they were good. “I am a good person: I take care of others; I love others; I do my best to study; I do my best to take care of my family and to do my work. I am a good person.” But right after we accept Jesus as our Savior, we realize that we are sinners and that we need to turn back to our God.
Today I would like to challenge myself as well as all of us: there must be one thing that we need to turn away from so as to be back with our God. What is it? We should find out.
Dear brothers and sisters, today’s world is full of darkness, sorrows and disasters. We have to face them, but we are not alone, because our God watches over us and cares for us all the time; He is El Roi, the God who sees.
"Dear Lord, the God who sees, thank you. For you have let us known that no matter what happens in our lives and in this world, you are the God who sees. We know that you are our God who is still watching over us. Lord, we want to lift all of us into your hands, because you know all of us. You know our problems; you know our trials; you know all that happens in our lives. Please, strengthen us. Please, speak to us. We know that you healed Hagar. We know that you were with her and were her guidance. And today you will speak to all of us through your Holy Bible. You will also strengthen us and be our guidance. God, let us be strong in you; let us rely on you; let us focus on you. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen."
With strength and love in Jesus, summarized by Ray, Apple and Chong
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