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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Robert Jeffress » Robert Jeffress - Two's Company But Three's A Crowd

Robert Jeffress - Two's Company But Three's A Crowd

Robert Jeffress - Two's Company But Three's A Crowd
TOPICS: Walking by Faith (Series), Abraham

Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to "Pathway to Victory". Do you ever get tired of waiting on God to answer your prayers? Maybe you've prayed and pled and yet it seems like God just isn't listening. Well, in those moments sometimes Christians take matters into their own hands. That's what Abraham and Sarah did when they were tired of waiting on God to give them a child. Today we'll learn some harsh lessons from their fateful decision. My message is titled, "Two's Company, But Three's A Crowd", on today's edition of "Pathway to Victory".

Edward Murphy was an engineer who worked with the air force in the late 1940s on the rocket sled experiments that were designed to test how human beings would relate to high speeds. In one particular case, the victim, I mean, the subject of the test was hooked up with 16 sensors. Then each sensor only had two ways it could go and be attached, but at the end of the expensive test it was determined that all 16 sensors had been placed in the incorrect way. Edward Murphy was so frustrated by it he developed an axiom, which you know as Murphy's Law. Remember it? Anything that can go wrong will go wrong. That came from Edward Murphy.

Throughout the years there have been other axioms attributed to Murphy, we don't know if he came up with them or not, but for example there is Murphy's Law of Belief. It says tell a man there are 300 billion stars in the universe, and he'll believe you. Tell him there is wet paint on a bench, and he'll have to touch it first. Or Murphy's Law of Copiers; it says the legibility of a copy is inversely proportional to its importance. And then I love this one, Murphy's Military Law: "Never share a foxhole with somebody braver than you are". You have to think about that, but it's true.

Now, there's no evidence that Edward Murphy developed any axioms about spiritual matters, but if he had, I'm convinced that at the top of his list would have been this one: Running ahead of God leads to bad decisions and painful consequences. You know who discovered that, first of all? Our subject, our friend named Abraham. He's living illustration of how bad decisions and painful consequences are always the result of running ahead of God. If you have your Bibles turn to Genesis chapter 16. Genesis chapter 16 as we discover why two's company and three's a crowd. Look at chapter 16, verse 1. We come to Abraham's problem. "Now, Sarai, Abram's wife, had born him no children, and she had an Egyptian maid whose name was Hagar".

Infertility is a common problem and it's a painful problem. The reason there infertility was so painful was it seemed to contradict what God had said to them. God had promised to make them parents of a great nation, and yet he made that promise when Abraham was 60, by the time we get to Genesis 16 Abraham is 85 years of age and there is no answer to the promise. Whenever our life situation doesn't line up with what we believe is God's promise there's a crisis of faith that tempts us to run ahead of God. There was no biblical command to do what he was about to do. In fact, the biblical command not to, but they plowed ahead.

Look at Sarah's proposal. "So Sarai said to Abram, 'We've been waiting here for 25 years for a child. It's not working. Now, behold, the Lord has prevented me from bearing children. Please go into my maid. Perhaps I will obtain children through her'. And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai". Now, listen. Sarah was a woman of faith. 1 Peter 3:5 says she was a woman of faith. But people of faith can have lapses of faith, and that was true for Sarah. She basically said, "We can't depend upon God to do what he promised. We need to help her out. So here's a plan". Now, you have to read this and think, "Sarah, what is wrong with you that you would come up with an idea to tell your husband to have sex with another woman? That's unbelievable. Have you been reading too many romance novels or visiting the internet sites you shouldn't go to? Where would you come up with such an immoral idea"?

Well, actually it was the law of the day. Law number 146 of Hammurabi Code that Abraham and followed and the people in Mesopotamia followed said if a man has a barren wife he can have sex with somebody else and the child born can be the heir of that man. It was perfectly legal in man's eyes, but it was immoral in God's eyes. Listen. God's plan is always been the same for marriage since the beginning. Genesis 2, a man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. That is always God's plan, one man with one woman in a lifetime commitment. And so what she was proposing was totally against God's law. So how did Abraham respond to Sarah's proposal? It says Abraham listened to the voice of his wife.

F.B. Meyer in his biography of Abraham says it's always hard to resist temptation when it appeals to natural instinct or to distrusting fear. Sarah's proposal did both. It appealed to Abraham's carnal instinct but also to his fear that God couldn't keep his promise, but there's another reason this temptation was especially potent. It came from Abraham's wife. Ladies, don't ever underestimate the influence you have over your husbands. Even when they're buried in a newspaper or in a football game on television and you're trying to talk to them and all they can do is grunt, don't forget they really are listening. You may not think they are. They're listening to you. You have great influence over them for good or for bad. Unfortunately, Abraham did not weigh the advice that Sarah gave to him, and he gave into it.

Verse 3 says, "After Abram had lived 10 years in the land of Canaan," that means he was 85, "Abram's wife Sarai took Hagar the Egyptian, her maid, and gave her to her husband Abram as his wife. He went in to Hagar, and she conceived". I'm sure when he got the news that Hagar was pregnant he probably was tempted to say, "Isn't God good? Okay, this wasn't his perfect will, but it's his permissive will and he allowed this to happen. Praise be to God". No. It was just the beginning of a tragic end. Look at Hagar's provocation. Verse 4, "And when she," Hagar, "saw that she had conceived, her mistress," that is Sarai, "was despised in her sight".

She had been a slave. She had been elevated to Abraham's wife, the same level, and now she was really above Sarah because she was able to do what Sarah couldn't do, and she'd begin to despise Sarah. She started prancing around the tent. "Look at me. Look at me. Look at what I have. I have the child you could not give to your husband". You know, there's an interesting Proverb I came across, Proverbs 30, verses 21 to 23. Men, look at this especially. "Under three things the earth quakes and under four it cannot bear up". Number one, under a slave when he becomes king, secondly, a fool when he's satisfied with food, third, an unloved woman when she gets a husband, and the fourth thing that will cause an earthquake is a maidservant when she supplants her mistress.

In other words, men, when your wife senses that you love anybody else or anything else more than you love her, there's going to be an earthquake in your home. Your wife is not going to put up with it, nor should she put up with it. Doesn't matter whether it's another woman, a child, a hobby. Anytime something or somebody else replaces the place your wife ought to have in your heart, it's going to cause trouble, and that's exactly what happened here. Look at verse 5. "Sarai said to Abram, 'May the wrong done to 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'". Translation: "Abraham, I can't believe you did such a thing. Look at what has happened. Oh, God's going to get you, Abraham".

And Abraham starts to say, "But, Sarah, you were the one". And then he thought better, I bet. He thought better or pointed out she's the one who came up with this idea. So what does he do? What most men do. He became passive. "But Abram said to Sarai, 'Behold, your maid is in your power. Do to her whatever you want to do'". In other words, "I'm tired of all this trouble and turmoil. I'm just going to let you have your way. Do with her what you want to do". That is not the right response. What he should have said as the spiritual leader of the house is, "Sarah, you're right. I was wrong. You were wrong. We were wrong. Let's go to the altar and kneel before God and confess our mistake and ask God to redeem the situation". But he didn't do it. He just told Sarah to do what she wanted to to keep peace in the tent.

"So Sarai," verse 6, "treated Hagar harshly, and she fled from her presence". As act two on this drama comes to a close, we see Sarah feeling betrayed, Hagar being mistreated, and Abraham absolutely miserable. Remember running ahead of God produces bad decisions and painful consequences. Fortunately, we serve a God who is able to work together for good all things, including our bad decisions. Let's see how he does that beginning in verse 7. The angel's promise. "Now, the angel of the Lord found Hagar by a spring of waters..." Remember she's pregnant, she's out in the wilderness. "By the spring on the way to Shur, and he says, 'Hagar, Sarai's maid, where have you come from and where are you going?' And she said, 'I am fleeing from the presence of my mistress...'"

Many people believe this angel of the Lord, the angel of the Lord, is a reference to Jesus Christ. Many times the angel of the Lord is what we call a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus, Jesus before Bethlehem. If that's the case here, the first person Jesus appears to on earth is an unwed, single mother who is a foreigner. That would make sense, that Jesus would choose an outcast to make his first appearance to. It's not that he doesn't know where she's been. He wants her to admit that she's left her mistress. And so the angel gives her a command and a promise. The command is, "Hagar, I want you to go back to Sarah and submit yourself to her authority". And then he gives her this promise. The angel says, "I will give you a son who will also be the father of a great nation".

As we'll see next time, that son Ishmael, meaning God hears, is the father of the Arab nations today. There's not an Arab in the world who doesn't trace his ancestry to Ishmael. Even though Abraham did have a son Ishmael and blessed him, the covenant blessing, Genesis 17:21 says comes through Isaac the son yet to be born, not through Ishmael. Look at verse 15. "So Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram called the name of his son, whom Hagar bore, Ishmael. Now, Abram was 86 years old when Hagar bore Ishmael to him".

You know, the whole basis of the conflict today between Israel and the Arab nations can be traced back to one couple that made a bad decision and ran ahead of God. Isn't that amazing? One couple 4,000 years ago made a bad decision, and that decision has had repercussions, worldwide repercussions, for thousands of years and continues to to this very day, but beyond explaining the conflict between Israel and the Arab nations, this story illustrates three timeless principles I want to share with you in closing today to help you avoid the temptation to run ahead of God.

Principle number one is this: Artificial deadlines produce unnecessary stress. Abraham and Sarah said, "By 85 we ought to have had children". That was an artificial deadline. God never told them when the baby was coming. He said, "The baby is coming". But they set this deadline, artificial. "Now we've passed the deadline. We better take matters into our own hands". Don't do that. Artificial deadlines produce unnecessary stress.

As we enter into this Thanksgiving season, I'm always reminded of something that happened to me more than 35 years ago on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, and I was in the coffee shop of the Houston Intercontinental Airport. My flight had been delayed, and so I took out my yellow tablet and I spent several hours sketching out what I believed were God's goals and plans for my life, and I had five specific goals, and I actually attached a date, a year to accomplish each of those goals by. And I felt like it was in keeping with God's plan for my life. When I got back to Dallas I plunged ahead in trying to achieve those five goals and by the date that I had selected.

You know all that did was it caused stress in our marriage, it caused stress in my work, it caused stress into every area of my life? And then a series of unrelated events came to pass that made me have to put aside my list and concentrate on other things for a while. It was decades before I picked up that list again. And after several decades you know what I discovered? Every one of those goals had been accomplished, but not by the date I had set. It was an artificial deadline. The point I'm making to you is don't give up your God-given goals, don't do that, but give up your manufactured deadlines. It'll make life a lot more pleasant for you if you do.

Second principle, God sees our situation and he hears our prayers. You know what the most significant verse in this old chapter is? It's verse 13 when Hagar says to the angel, "You are a God who sees". This Egyptian slave girl knew more about God than Abraham did. She said, "God, you see my situation. You know where I am". The same is true for you. When you think God has not kept his promise to you, when you're frustrated about your lack of progress, when you feel like you've been abandoned by God, remember God knows exactly where you are. He knows your situation and he will answer it in his way and his time.

And that leads to the third principle. Waiting on God produces spiritual maturity. There is a difference between belief and trust. You can believe in an instant like Abraham did. He believed God's promise and his faith was counted as righteousness. That was instantaneous. But there's a difference between belief and trust. Trust doesn't happen in a moment. It's developed over many, many years. Psalm 37, verse 5 says, "Commit your way to the Lord and trust also in Him, and He will do it". God wants to develop trust in your heart, and that only happens over a period of time.

Now, listen to this. You know how I would have ended the story if I were writing it? I would have said Hagar gave birth to Ishmael, and lo and behold, the next month Sarah discovered she was pregnant too, and 9 months later she gave birth, and they all lived under the same tent together forever and ever happily. That's not how the story ends. Yes, Ishmael was born when Abraham was 86, but Sarah wasn't pregnant. She didn't get pregnant the next year, the next year, the next year. After a decade she was still waiting. It was 14 years after Ishmael was born that the promise was finally fulfilled. Abraham and Sarah had to wait.

But never forget this. Waiting time isn't wasted time. God uses waiting time to prepare us for the future, and he was using those 14 years to develop Abraham's trust so that Abraham could respond to the greatest test he would ever face in his life in Genesis chapter 22, the offering of Isaac as a sacrifice. God's doing something in your life as well. Remember God is much more interested in what happens in you than what happens to you. There's not one circumstance happening to you right now that God couldn't change in an instant if he wanted to. No. He's interested in what's happening in you. Waiting time isn't wasted time. Isn't that what Isaiah the prophet said? Those who wait upon the Lord shall gain new strength. They shall mount up with wings as eagles. They shall run and not get tired. They shall walk and not become weary.
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