Genesis 16:1-17:14; Matthew 6:1-13; Psalms 7:10-17; Proverbs 3:13-15
OT: “The angel of the Lord found her (Hagar) by a spring in the wilderness, the spring on the way to Shur. He said, “Hagar, slave of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?” She replied, “I’m running away from my mistress Sarai.” The angel of the Lord said to her, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her authority.” The angel of the Lord said to her, “I will greatly multiply your offspring, and they will be too many to count.” …So she named the Lord who spoke to her: “You are El-roi,” for she said, “In this place, have I actually seen the one who sees me?” …When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him, saying, “I am God Almighty. Live in my presence and be blameless. I will set up my covenant between me and you, and I will multiply you greatly.” Then Abram fell facedown and God spoke with him: “As for me, here is my covenant with you: You will become the father of many nations. Your name will no longer be Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I will make you the father of many nations. I will make you extremely fruitful and will make nations and kings come from you. I will confirm my covenant that is between me and you and your future offspring throughout their generations. It is a permanent covenant to be your God and the God of your offspring after you.” (Genesis 16:7-10, 13; 17:1-7 CSB)
Slavery was never a part of God’s destiny for mankind. Unfortunately, as mankind descended deeper and deeper into depravity, slavery became a big part of the world system. Hagar was Sarai’s slave, and through no fault of her own, Sarai began treating her harshly – so Hagar ran away. God met her there in the middle of the desert, saw her situation, and gave her a purpose and hope. The challenging thing for Hagar was that her purpose and hope would only be fulfilled if she returned to Sarai and submitted to her authority. After God confirmed His commitment to her, she called Him the God who sees… and she obeyed the Lord, submitted to Sarai’s authority… and God kept His promise. In the midst of Hagar running off with Abram’s only unborn biological son. God makes a lasting covenant with Abram… almost to say, stop making messes by trying to make my promises happen on your own. I will do it in My way and My time… you will be a father of many nations – and to prove it to you, I am going to establish an unbreakable covenant with you and your descendants… and I am going to change your name as a constant reminder of my promise. I will do it.
NT: “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. Otherwise, you have no reward with your Father in heaven… Whenever you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites, because they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by people. Truly I tell you, they have their reward. But when you pray, go into your private room, shut your door, and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. When you pray, don’t babble like the Gentiles, since they imagine they’ll be heard for their many words. Don’t be like them, because your Father knows the things you need before you ask him. “Therefore, you should pray like this: Our Father in heaven, your name be honored as holy. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not bring us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” (Matthew 6:1, 5-13 CSB)
It was common practice in Jesus’ day to perform religious rituals, not in an attitude of worship, but as an outward demonstration of one’s self-righteousness and piety… not to please the Lord, but to earn recognition from man. Not much has changed. Jesus taught to do your works unto and before the Lord and not for worldly recognition. The purpose of prayer is not to show off how well you can orate, but to develop an intimate and dependent relationship with God (this was revolutionary). So Jesus taught that the foundation of your religious life and the fountain head for your relationship with the Father is to be found in those “secret” times of intimacy where it is just you and God… and your prayers are to first exalt the Lord and submit to His authority and will. Once you come under His Lordship, then you ask for what is needed, and grace to walk in obedience to His will. The things that you do in secret, when no one else is looking, will be seen by the God who sees all, and He will reward you and answer your prayers.