Happy Epiphany! Today is the day of Epiphany – you can listen to my sermon for Epiphany Eve here: http://www.buzzsprout.com/13231/140859-epiphany-2014
In Genesis 16, Abram and Sarai get impatient with God’s promise, and take things into their own hands. Sarai gives her Egyptian slave to Abram to bear a child for them. You have to have compassion on Hagar here. My Bible says that Hagar ‘looked with contempt’ on Sarai after she conceived, but the original may mean more that Hagar saw herself as an equal with Sarai. Certainly, Sarai’s harsh treatment of Hagar is not justified. Hagar flees into the desert, and she is met by an angel of God. God makes a covenant with Hagar, the Egyptian slave! Her son Ishmael became the ancestor of the Arabs. Muslims trace their genealogy to Abraham through Ishmael. This is important to note in the light of the conflicts in the Middle East. Every war is, ultimately, a family feud.
At the beginning of chapter 17, God makes another important, everlasting covenant with Abram and changes his name to Abraham (‘ancestor of a multitude’) and Sarai’s to Sarah.
The Sermon on the Mount continues. Jesus does not abolish God’s law. Instead, in some ways he heightens it. Following the law is not a matter of just fulfilling the bare minimum of the law. It is a matter of the heart and our concrete relationships with others; it is a matter of how we live every day.