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THE CONVERSION OF HAGAR

(SERMON #63 ON THE BOOK OF GENESIS)

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Morning, October 23, 2011

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8).


This morning I will speak on the story of Hagar in the Book of Genesis. Hagar’s life gives a perfect example of the grace of God in the conversion of a sinner. It is a sordid and wicked story. It shows that all human beings in their natural state are sinners. When Adam sinned at the beginning of the human race, all of his descendants became sinners by nature, for “by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men” (Romans 5:12). Ever since the Fall all of us have been born “dead in sins” (Ephesians 2:5).

I am not going into all the terrible sins in the story of Hagar. She was an Egyptian. She was hired as Sarai’s maid. Abram’s wife Sarai sinned by not believing God would give her a son. Sarai sinned by telling Abram to father a child by Hagar. Then Abram himself sinned with this young woman. But Hagar herself was a lost sinner as well. She was an Egyptian who did not know the Lord.

I am going to focus on Hagar’s conversion, however, and not on the shameful side of these events. And I believe that the story of Hagar’s conversion may help some of you who are still unsaved this morning.

I. First, Hagar was saved in spite of the bad witness of Abram and Sarai.

Some of you who are unconverted are young people raised in the church. You saw many bad examples of those who claimed to be Christians. Often this causes “church kids” to think, “It couldn’t be true. Look at the way those people acted.” The rebellion of those who left the church leads you to think that the Gospel may not be real. The Devil uses their bad examples to tempt you to doubt the reality of conversion. Satan makes you think, “How could it be true?” Thousands of people in churches all over the world have lost their souls because of the bad example of church members. It is one of the main tools Satan uses to snare people and drag them down to Hell.

This is not only true of church kids. Young people who have only recently come into the church will have the same thing thrown at you by the Devil. Like Hagar, the young Egyptian girl who was Sarai’s maid, you will see the inconsistencies and wrongdoing of some who say they are Christians. Hagar saw the sin of Abram and Sarai. It must have confused her terribly.

When I was brought to the First Baptist Church of Huntington Park, California as a 13-year-old teenager, I saw so-called “Christians” do awful things to each other. I was thrust into the middle of a horrible church split. I saw church members curse each other, and even throw hymnbooks at one another, during a Sunday morning service! Nearly all the young people my age stopped going to church altogether after a time. Why did I stay in church? I can only say that I stayed because of the irresistible grace of God! Yes, the irresistible grace of God! The Bible says,

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8).

When I was a teenager, many of the Baptists I knew did nearly everything humanly possible to confuse me and keep me from becoming a Christian! Looking back, I am amazed that I was saved at all! I am amazed that I was ever saved, after seeing so many horrible things in that Baptist church! “Amazing Grace!” Sing it!

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
   That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
   Was blind, but now I see.
(“Amazing Grace” by John Newton, 1725-1807).

Like Hagar, I was saved by the sheer grace of God, in spite of the bad witness and downright meanness of many so-called “Christians” in that church!

There’s something else that I need to say. Hagar’s case was not unusual. Neither was mine. Every true Christian here this morning has gone through similar experiences. Every real Christian here this morning was saved by irresistible grace, in spite of the bad witness and sin of other church members. Not one that I know of has been spared the fiery trial of seeing the wickedness of false Christians! But I know from experience, if you go through that fire it will refine you. You will come forth as gold! An old hymn says,

When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
   My grace all sufficient shall be thy supply;
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
   Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.
(“How Firm a Foundation,” author unknown,
      “K” in “Rippon’s Selection of Hymns,” 1787.)

Parents can’t stop you! Friends can’t stop you! False Christians can’t stop you when they leave the church. They can’t stop you! They are fiery trials, but they can’t stop you. If the irresistible grace of God is drawing you to Christnothing can stop you from coming to Him! Hallelujah, Hallelujah! If you are irresistibly drawn, you will find Christ – no matter what they do to you! “Amazing Grace.” Sing it again!

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
   That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
   Was blind, but now I see.

II. Second, Hagar experienced God for the first time.

Sarai now did something even more horrible to Hagar. Sarai chased Hagar away and, “she fled from her face” (Genesis 16:6). Now Hagar was alone, pregnant, out in the wilderness, in the desert, where she would soon die of starvation. But the angel of the Lord came to her, alone there in that arid desert. I agree with Dr. McGee “that the Angel of the Lord [was] none other than the preincarnate Christ. This is characteristic of Him: He is always out looking for the lost” (J. Vernon McGee, Th.D., Thru the Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1981, volume I, p. 71).

Christ told Hagar to return to Sarai “and submit thyself under her hands” (Genesis 16:9). Please turn to Genesis 16:13-14. Stand and read those two verses aloud.

“And she called the name of the Lord that spake unto her, Thou God seest me: for she said, Have I also here looked after him that seeth me? Wherefore the well was called Beer-lahai-roi; behold, it is between Kadesh and Bered” (Genesis 16:13-14).

You may be seated. Hagar named that well where she was “Beerlahairoi.” The Hebrew means, “The well of Him that liveth and seeth me.” And Hagar said, “Thou God seest me.” She said, I have now seen the One who sees me.

Hagar had seen Abram go through ritual prayers and sacrifices to God. She had heard Abram and Sarai pray to God. But she had never experienced God herself. Now for the first time God became a real person to her. He was “Him that seeth me.”

Dr. Cagan, our deacon, had been an atheist all his life. He said, “I didn’t believe in the existence of God. Even though I had never read the Bible I was firmly convinced that it was full of errors. I thought that Christianity was for ignorant people who needed something to believe in. When I was twenty-one years old I met some evangelicals. They were kind to me, but I refused to believe in Jesus. I had my own plans. I didn’t want Him to interfere with my future. But I was now thinking about spiritual things. During this time I said to a friend, ‘If there is a God, He has to be the most important thing in the world’...Then in the fall of 1974 I had a very direct and sudden experience with God...The turning point came at 4:00 AM one night when I cried out, ‘God, forgive me.’ That was the first time I ever prayed in my life...I suddenly knew, deep down inside, that God was real...But I was not [yet] a Christian. The experience I had with God was very real to me, but I was not ready to believe in Jesus Christ. I was not willing to submit to Him. I wrestled inwardly with thoughts about Christ for two more years” (C. L. Cagan, Ph.D., From Darwin to Design, Whitaker House, 2006, p. 17).

I myself remember the moment when God became terrifyingly real to me for the first time. I believed in God before, but I remember the hour when I became terrified by the holy God of Scripture. I was fifteen years old. I fell on the ground in tears and God came down like a weight upon me, pounding me and pounding, and pounding me for my sin. I was there, way out under some trees, for hours. But, like Dr. Cagan, I did not become a Christian until several years later. During those years I was under heavy conviction of sin much of the time, but I was not saved.

This was also Hagar’s case. She could now say from her heart, “Thou God seest me.” God was now real to her for the first time in her life, but she was not yet saved. “Amazing Grace.” Sing it!

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
   That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
   Was blind, but now I see.

Most people pass through the church without any real belief in God. All they see is the people. They never feel that God sees them.

Have you ever felt the awful presence of God? Do you know that He sees you? Very few people jump from unbelief into real Christianity until they first know in their hearts that there is a God who sees them, and judges their sins, which He knows all about – in detail – recorded in His Judgment Books. Have you ever felt the presence of that Holy God, who knows your sins, and will damn you to Hell for them?

At this stage, a person feels inwardly that God is there. And they know that God sees them – sees them when they sin, sees the sin in their hearts, sees their sinful thoughts and wicked hearts, sees their lying, and cheating, and rebellion, and rottenness, and lust. One girl said, “I became disgusted with myself.” You will feel some of that when you realize, “Thou God seest me.” It is embarrassing when God sees every sin you have ever committed! Yet, until you feel the weight of your sin in the sight of a holy God, you will never feel your need for Jesus Christ. You will never feel your need for Jesus’ cleansing Blood until you feel, “Thou God seest me.” “‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear.” Sing it!

‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
   And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
   The hour I first believed!

III. Third, Hagar’s eyes were opened and she drank from the well.

Please turn to Genesis 21. Look up. For a second time Sarah kicked Hagar out into the desert wilderness. Now the food and water were all gone. Hagar prayed for God to spare her child. She was in deep despair. But Christ came to her again. Read verses 15-19 aloud.

“And the water was spent in the bottle, and she cast the child under one of the shrubs. And she went, and sat her down over against him a good way off, as it were a bowshot: for she said, Let me not see the death of the child. And she sat over against him, and lift up her voice, and wept. And God heard the voice of the lad; and the angel of God called Hagar out of heaven, and said unto her, What aileth thee, Hagar? fear not; for God hath heard the voice of the lad where he is. Arise, lift up the lad, and hold him in thine hand; for I will make him a great nation. And God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water; and she went, and filled the bottle with water, and gave the lad drink” (Genesis 21:15-19).

Oh, it was the grace of God that drew her, in spite of the horrible witness of Abram and Sarai. Oh, it was the grace of God that made her sense that “God seest me.” And now it was the grace of God that brought her out into the wilderness, alone, “And the water was spent in the bottle...And she sat...and lift up her voice and wept” (Genesis 21:15-16). Are there any of you in that condition this morning? Is the water spent in your bottle? Are your hopes of salvation dried up? Do you feel alone in the wilderness of this world? Have you lifted up your voice and wept over your sins, and your hopeless situation? Have you wept until there were no tears left? Are there tears in your heart this morning over your lost condition? Have you experienced any of that? If any of that is true, then there may be hope for you!

Christ came to Hagar in her misery, as she wept. “And God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water; and she went, and filled the bottle with water...” (Genesis 21:19). The child drank, and Hagar drank – and they lived!

Christ is the water of life. Christ said, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink” (John 7:37). Oh, come to Jesus and “take the water of life freely” (Revelation 22:17). Preaching on Hagar’s thirst, Spurgeon said,

      You know that the water of life is desirable; you know more than that; you [thirst] with an inward desire to drink of it. Your soul is now in such a state that if you do not find Jesus, you never will be happy without him...your constant cry is, “Give me Christ! Give me Christ, or else I die!”...
      I hope there are [some] of you who are just on the verge of salvation without knowing it. There has been much preparatory work in you, for you are brought to long after [the] Saviour, you [desire] to be saved by him. There he is, take him! Take him! The cup of water is put before you! Drink it! ...Drink it at once. Come to Jesus as you are. (C. H. Spurgeon, “Hagar: Eyes Opened,” The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, March 18, 1866, from Sermons on Women of the Bible, Hendrickson Publishers, n.d., pp. 32, 37).

Why didn’t Hagar see the well of water earlier? Dr. John Gill (1697-1771) said it may have been that her eyes were swelled shut by so much crying. God had to open them for her to see the well that was right in front of her! Could that be the case with you? Could it be that you have wept so long that the eyes of your heart are swelled shut? Whatever may have been the case, the passage tells us, “God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water” (Genesis 21:19). Oh, may the precious Holy Spirit open your eyes to see Jesus by faith this morning. Christ said, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink” (John 7:37).

Young George Whitefield (1714-1770) had tried everything to be saved. At long last poor Whitefield threw himself across his bed and cried, “I thirst! I thirst!” Almost immediately Jesus came to him and quenched his thirsty soul, and he was saved! Please turn to hymn number seven on your song sheet. Sing it!

Ho! every one that is thirsty in spirit,
   Ho! every one that is weary and sad,
Come to the fountain, there’s fulness in Jesus,
   All that you’re longing for, come and be glad.
I will pour water on him who is thirsty,
   I will pour floods upon the dry ground;
Open your heart for the gift I am bringing,
   While [you] are seeking Me, I will be found.

Child of the world, are you tired of bondage?
   Weary of earth-joys, so false, so untrue;
Thirsting for [Christ], and His fulness of blessing?
   List to the promise – a message for you.
I will pour water on him who is thirsty,
   I will pour floods upon the dry ground;
Open your heart for the gift I am bringing,
   While [you] are seeking Me, I will be found.
(“Ho! Every One That is Thirsty” by Lucy J. Rider, 1849-1922;
     altered by the Pastor).

Jesus said, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink” (John 7:37). Oh, come by simple faith to Jesus and “take the water of life freely” (Revelation 22:17). Jesus died on the Cross to pay for your sins. He rose from the dead and ascended back to Heaven. He is there to save you. He said, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me.” Will you come to Him? I pray that God will give you grace to do so this morning. “Child of the World.” Sing it again!

Child of the world, are you tired of bondage?
   Weary of earth-joys, so false, so untrue;
Thirsting for [Christ], and His fulness of blessing?
   List to the promise – a message for you.
I will pour water on him who is thirsty,
   I will pour floods upon the dry ground;
Open your heart for the gift I am bringing,
   While [you] are seeking Me, I will be found.

(END OF SERMON)
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write to him at P.O. Box 15308, Los Angeles, CA 90015. Or phone him at (818)352-0452.

Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Genesis 21:15-19.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Ho! Every One that is Thirsty” (by Lucy J. Rider, 1849-1922).


THE OUTLINE OF

THE CONVERSION OF HAGAR

(SERMON #63 ON THE BOOK OF GENESIS)

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8).

(Romans 5:12; Ephesians 2:5)

I.   First, Hagar was saved in spite of the bad witness of Abram
and Sarai, Ephesians 2:8.

II.  Second, Hagar experienced God for the first time,
Genesis 16:6, 9, 13-14.

III. Third, Hagar’s eyes were opened and she drank from the well,
Genesis 21:15-19; John 7:37; Revelation 22:17.