Read Genesis 16, Nehemiah 5, and Matthew 11 and this devotional which is about Genesis 16.
Who is responsible for your life? Why did you make the decisions that you made?
From the fall of humanity in Genesis 3 until the judgment day, people have blamed other people for decisions that turned out badly. This means sinful decisions, of course, but also decisions that were reckless, unwise, or that just didn’t turn out well.
We humans have a strong tendency to deflect blame from ourselves by blaming others. We see that tendency here in Genesis 16.
Yesterday in Genesis 15, God repeated the promise to Abram that Abram would physically father a great nation. Here in chapter 16, Abram’s wife Sarai came up with a plan to make it happen. The text of this chapter tells us three timess that this was Sarai’s plan. Notice:
- Verse 2: “she said to Abram… sleep with my slave.”
- Verse 3: “Sarai his wife took her Egyptian slave Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife.”
- Verse 5: “I put my slave in your arms….”
What was Abram’s role in this? “Abram agreed to what Sarai said” (v. 2) and “He slept with Hagar” (v. 4).
The plan succeded in creating an heir because “she concieved” (v. 4b). The unexpected side effect of the plan, however, was that the master-slave relationship between Sarai and Hagar was disrupted. Verse 4c-d says, “When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress.”
This is the point at which Sarai began to blame Abram. She took some responsibility when she said, “I put my slave in your arms” in verse 5c. But before she said that she said, “You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering” in verse 5b. Then after she admittted her role she said, “May the Lord judge between you and me” in verse 5f.
Did you notice the blame sandwich Sarai made there?
- You are at fault: “You are responsible for the wrong” (v. 5b)
- I played a role in it, sure: “I put my slave in your arms….” (v. 5c)
- But you’re the one who is really at fault: “May the Lord judge between you and me” (v. 5f)
The implication of these statements is that Abram was ultimately responsible because he should not have agreed to Sarai’s plan.
And, she’s right; he should not have agreed to the plan. Abram is guilty for going along with a plan that took a shortcut to achieving God’s promise. But God did not instruct Abram or Sarai to follow this plan nor did the plan require any great amount of faith to see God’s promise fulfilled.
Instead of continuing to wait for God to keep his word, Sarai came up with her own way and Abram expressed no concern or refusal to cooperate. His passivity continued when Sarai complained about how Hagar was acting. “’Your slave is in your hands,’ Abram said. ‘Do with her whatever you think best.'” Abram was wrong to agree to the plan without consulting God and he was wrong to withdraw from the situation once it became a problem. The angel of the LORD told Hagar, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her” but those words should have come out of Abram’s mouth. He should have addressed the problem, taking responsibility for his part in it, and calling both Sarai and Hagar to do right.
But Sarai has to answer for this situation, too. It was her idea, after all. Despite her attempt to downplay her role when she said, “I put my slave in your arms,” she was still responsible for this happening.
So, let’s go back to the questions I opened this devotional with: Who is responsible for your life? Why did you make the decisions that you made?
God is gracious to us; he forgives our sins when we change our minds about them and he sometimes even withholds or minimizes the consequences for our sins and unwise decisions.
What he doesn’t do, however, is absolve us from responsibility. In fact, “he shows favor to the humble” (Prov 3:34, 1 Pet 5:5, Jas 4:6). The forgiveness you want from God and the road back to righteousness runs through the town of repentance and confession. When we step up and admit what we did wrong, we are ready to receive God’s grace.
When we blame others, however, and minimize our role, problems go unsolved and unresolved. There are always other factors that lead us to do what is wrong or to make unwise choices. Often, other people are one or more of those factors. But until we accept responsibility for what we decided and did, the situation will get worse, not better.
Are you in a bad situation that you’ve tried to blame on others? Humble yourself. Own up to your role and do the right thing now. God will meet you there with forgiveness based on the blood of Christ and he’ll give you grace to deal with the situation in the best possible way.