Walking Wounded

When (And it happened that) Abram was ninety-nine years old Yahweh appeared to Abram. And he said to him, “I am El-Shaddai; (God Almighty) walk before me and be blameless so that (and) I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you exceedingly (very, very)".  Then Abram fell upon his face and God spoke with him...

...And Abraham fell upon his face and laughed. And he said in his heart, “Can a child be born to a man a hundred years old ("to a man one hundred years old can he be born?"), or can Sarah bear a child at ninety? (“can ninety-year-old Sarah bear a child?)" And Abraham said to God, “Oh that Ishmael might live before you!” ...

 ...And they said to him, “Where is Sarah your wife?” And he said, “Here, in the tent.”  And he (Yahweh) said, “I will certainly return to you in the spring (at that time of life), and look, Sarah your wife will have a son.” Now Sarah was listening at the doorway of the tent, and which was behind him.  Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age (going in the days); the way of women (“the road according to women”) had ceased to be for Sarah.  So (And) Sarah laughed to herself saying, “After I am worn out and my husband is old, shall this pleasure be to me?”  Then Yahweh said to Abraham, “What is this that Sarah laughed, saying, ‘Is it indeed true that I will bear a child, now that I have grown old?’  Is anything too difficult for Yahweh? At the appointed time I will return to you in the spring ("at the time of life") and Sarah shall have a son.”  But Sarah denied it, saying, “I did not laugh,” because she was afraid. He (Yahweh) said, “No, but you did laugh.”
-Genesis 17:1-3, 17-18; 18:-9-15 (LEB) (Footnotes and literal in parentheses)
Illustration by Jim Padgett, Distant Shores Media, CC BY-SA 3.0 

Many Christ-followers, God-followers living in the second testament times, are walking wounded.  We are people who desperately want God's will for our lives.  We do not want to live as pagans or in a worldly fashion.

In our following of God, we make mistakes, have failures, and go down the wrong road.  Our detours end up hurting us and hurting others.  Instead of the abundant life, we end up being the walking wounded.

This is what happened to Abraham and Sarah.  About 15 years before the time quoted above, Abraham had an amazing experience with God, recorded in Genesis, chapter 15.  It was all about his son and the destiny of his son's offspring.

To put some more context on that encounter, Abraham had just rescued Lot and met Melchizedek (Gen. 14).  I mention this, to say that, by the time we get to the encounters in Genesis 17 & 18, Abraham had had several, and several more than most people, supernatural encounters.  Here is one lesson from reading Genesis 14 to 18:  Encounters with God do not make you mature or whole.

This is how we get the term, "immature prophet".  An immature prophet is a prophet who has not matured.  He or she has got the gift, but they do not have the stature, or the maturity, to carry that gift and use it effectively.  Every Christian is called to an, "on to maturity" life, where we become mature and "put away childish things".

Abraham's and Sarah's lives illustrate the maturing process required to receive the fulfillment of God's destiny for our lives.  I believe that they were not a lot more ready for the fulfillment in Genesis 17 & 18, than they were in Genesis 15, which is illustrated by their reactions.  The new word from God, which built upon the old word was, "Yes, it is still going to happen.  Partner with with me, to make you the parents that I have always had in mind for you to be."

This is the key from God:  "Walk before me and be blameless".  And I believe "blameless" means wholeness.  The wholeness comes from God.  He heals the shame that binds you.

Sometimes, our reaction to God showing up, is to run and hide in the bushes, because we are ashamed.  Who told you that you were naked?  Abraham and Sarah are not exactly like that.  They don't have crippling shame, but they are wounded from their prophetic journey.

Abraham (Abram) and Sarah (Sarai) are walking wounded, because they lost patience and decided that while God's word to them was true, that they needed to do something to make it happen.  They reasoned that because of their age and the long silence from God, that this must be the right thing to do.  Perhaps, they even reasoned, that it was not ideal, but it was the best they could do.

We are supposed to act on our faith, right?  Faith is an action, based upon the faithfulness of the person whom our faith is in.  So, within a year or two of Abram's last encounter, when Sarai was not conceiving, they decided that Abram should sleep with one of their slave women, and even take her as an additional wife.

And as soon as he did that, and Hagar became pregnant, something in Sarai went "tilt".  She did not like her idea, when it worked, and Hagar be came pregnant.  Sarai and Abram were now, with Hagar and Ishmael to come, going on a detour that was not going to be happy, especially for Sarai.

This is really sad, because not only was Sarai grieved, but her unhappiness would affect her husband and this lady, now pregnant.  Instead of repenting and taking full responsibility, Sarai hatched her plan "b".  Note that her plan "a", was to have Abe impregnate Hagar, and her plan "b", was to mistreat Hagar so badly that Hagar ran away.  Perhaps Sarai rationalized that Hagar got what she deserved, because Hagar began to be direspectful of her (Gen. 16:4).

Wait a minute.  She encouraged her husband to sleep with this lady and then after the lady had been sleeping with him and was pregnant and was enjoying herself, put in this strange (to us) position by Sarai, then Saria has the audacity to be mad at her?  What happened?

Abram and Sarai messed up really bad.  But, they were not in the "mess up" category of, for example, David, when he murdered a man (2 Sam. 12:9) so he could sleep with his wife.  They were also not like Esau, who God judged as not caring about something that was precious, his birthright (Rom. 9:13).  They also were not like king Saul, who infamously lost his patience and was called a rebellious person practicing witchcraft (1 Sam. 15:23), and who lost his inheritance, his sanity, and his life.

What was different about Abraham and Sarah, that makes them models for us?  Good question.  They had faith.  It was flawed, immature, and not patient; but they had some faith.  They made a mistake, a very big mistake.

What they did was not malicious or deceitful.  We have to consider the cultural context.  Polygamy seems to have been ok in that time, for cultural of social reasons we do not understand in modern, western society.

You can imagine, that because of wars and the harsh conditions in labor (at work), there might have often been more women around than men.  It is actually compassionate to allow polygamy in such times, so that women could have a roof over their heads and become mothers.

In this context, we can see that what happened to Hagar was in the realm of "normal".  She might have even thought herself lucky to become a second wife of the tribal leader.  In the midst of her good fortune and then misfortune, she gets her own visit from God, and some have said, that she in the first theologian in the Bible.

Hagar had a visit from God, after being mistreated by Sarai (and Abraham), and got to give God a name, "El-Roi", "the God of seeing" (Gen. 16:13).  God dialogued with Hagar who told him that she ran away from Sarai, because she was mistreating her.  God's response to Hagar, was to tell her to return to Sarai and submit to her "hand".  Then, the angel of Yahweh gave her a personal prophecy for her son, naming him, and telling her that his descendants would be great in number, wild, and have everyone against them and the hostility of all his brothers (Gen. 16:10-12).

Hagar returned to Sarai and Abram, gave birth to Ishmael, and they all watched him grow up, assuming that this was the child of promise, but he was not.  They settled into "second best", or "good, but not great".  They might have felt something uneasy, like when you realize that you made a wrong turn, and you keep going further into somewhere that does not look like where you wanted to go.  But you rationalize and make the best of it, perhaps going into some level of denial.

Thirteen years went by after Hagar returned and Ishmael was born.  Ishmael was 13 years old.  Maybe Abram noticed a wildness about him.

Do you know how we have the pejorative term "Ass" to describe someone who is a jerk or rude?  Unfortunately, that was the prophecy over Ishmael.  Asses or donkeys are good beasts of burden.  That is the positive side.  But the prophecy was that he would be,
A wild donkey of a man,
his hand will be against everyone,
and the hand of everyone will be against him,
and he will live in hostility with all his brothers.
"Wild donkey" is connotative of incorrigible, someone who does not take orders, is delinquent, or "a law unto themselves".  So, a "wild ass" person is worse than a "spoiled brat", although there is overlap.

So, into this context, about 15 years since Abram's last supernatural encounter recorded in Genesis 15, God shows up again, talking about the same prophecy, amplified version.  Abram and Sarai are now walking in or living with, what they thought was the answer to their prayers or the fulfillment of God's promise.

They are making the best of it and are living in woundedness, rather than wholeness.  They have self-inflicted wounds, that God is fully aware of.  In spite of what they have done, on God's calendar, it is time to talk to Abram again and tell him, "It's time".  God says, "It's time and here is how it is going to work out for you."

That is when God says, "I am El-Shaddai", which means "Your all-sufficiency".  Then he says, "Walk before me and be blameless".  God does not want them to "hide", in shame, or "do it for themselves", in self-righteousness.

No.  This means that God will cleanse them and make them whole.  It is just like John's word, "But if we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin." (1 John 1:7)  This is the good news.  He makes us whole.  We just have to be in relationship with him, walking before him.

When we don't walk before him, we are either hiding in shame or living self-righteously, even shamelessly, apart from him.  We can only become whole by walking before him.  It means an "Honest to God" and "Into-me-see" life.

The incarnational life of the king living his life through us, is the only authentic Christian life that there is.  Remember, "Apart from me, you can do nothing"?

The point I want to make, is that we can mess up and even mess up other's lives with our blunders, but God is still faithful.  We try to "do the right thing", just like Sarah and Abraham, and end up on detours from God's plan.  The crux of the story that I have been reiterating is, will we be flexible in letting God correct our course, when he comes along and gives us the grace we have been waiting for?

Imagine the feelings that Abraham and Sarah went through when God encountered them again, a year or so before Isaac was born.  Imagine the offer of your dream, from way back, coming true, that you gave up on.  You might feel great joy, and at the same time, you will feel the loss of that which you have built and convinced others, to build with you, that was not God's dream he gave you.

Do you know what awe and joy feels like, when your jaw drops and you have no words?  Do you know the feeling of joy expressed in laughing with uncontrollable tears at the same time?  That is the feeling or experience of the feelings, when Jesus does something for you that seemed impossible or you had wrestled with for years, maybe decades, and since he did not do it, you gave up on it, while still worshiping him as Lord, but with massive disappointment in your heart.

You learned that the highest form of worship is lament.  You learned that you will trust him no matter what.  And then one day, God visits you and says it is about to happen.  That thing you gave up on, he is going to give you.  You must open a closed, broken heart, and grieve the loss of your personal sand castles.  God, totally understands and is patient while we take in the good news that sounds unbelievable, but it true.

Abraham fell down with emotion.  He exploded with laughter.  Was it joy or incredulous laughter?  I think it was a flood of many emotions hitting the man at the same time.  It was "Joy unspeakable and full of glory" (1 Peter 1:8).

He probably told Sarah about the newest encounter, and when the angel of the Lord came and spoke to Abraham again, soon after, and just before the destruction of Sodom, Sarah overheard the Lord reassuring Abraham of the word about the baby, Isaac, coming in the next year.  And she laughed very out loud.

It was funny that the Lord chided her for laughing.  God's special messenger is standing there, reminding Abraham about the soon coming baby.  It is as if he was encouraging Abraham to get on with it and do his part to conceive.  Sarah eavesdrops on this conversation and bursts into laughter.

Does she not know who this person is, talking to her husband?  Maybe she does not.  She is honest about her incredulity and he says, in a sense, "Get with it.  You are about to be a mother".  Wow!  Sit with that thought or with what went through Sarah's heart.

Abraham and Sarah completely used their resources to make the life or destiny and calling from God, as they best knew it, come true.  Now God comes and says, "here it comes", and "now I am going to make it happen... through you two."  That is the laughter, that it is completely by grace.  We just get to be vehicles or carriers of it.

This story is an encouragement to those of us who are walking wounded, with promises on our lives, yet to be fulfilled.  God meets people who have faith, weak faith, flawed faith, and faith mixed with unbelief (Mark 9:24).  We are the walking wounded and when God comes, he will heal us and make us whole, restoring us and fulfilling all his promises (Hosea 6:1-3).