ABRAHAM: The Dependable Phlegmatic
Scripture shows two sides of Abraham. He has dependable moments of empathy, cooperation, tolerance and genuine care. And yet, we also see phlegmatic moments of apathy, slowness to action and avoidance or risk and responsibility.
In Genesis 15, we read about God’s promise to Abraham. Moreover, we read about dependable Abraham responding with belief and righteousness.
“‘Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.’ Then he said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.’ Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.” (Gen. 15:5-6)
Dependable Abram was credited with righteousness because he believed the Lord’s promise.
Trouble On the Home-Front
Just when things are looking good, trouble’s brewing again for old Abram. In Genesis 16, his wife Sarai gets tired of waiting for God’s promise to be fulfilled. She decides to work an angle on her Phlegmatic husband.
“Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian slave named Hagar; so she said to Abram, ‘The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.’ Abram agreed to what Sarai said.” (Gen. 16:1-2)
Not a good plan Abram.
As we can expect, this was not the best idea. Starting in verse 4, we read the following:
“He slept with Hagar, and she conceived. When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress. Then Sarai said to Abram, ‘You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my slave in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the Lord judge between you and me.’ ‘Your slave is in your hands,’ Abram said. ‘Do with her whatever you think best.” Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her.” (Gen. 16:4-6)
Where did dependable, righteous Abram go?
What’s going on Abram? Why didn’t you trust in God’s promise? Have some faith! Now look what you have to deal with?
What’s interesting about this situation is that Abram’s phlegmatic nature really comes through in dealing with this problem. He doesn’t take responsibility as a husband or now, as a father. He’s response seems to be, “Whatever. She’s your slave; you deal with her!”
Thankfully, the Lord intervenes.
In verse 9 of chapter 16 we read about God’s intervention.
“Then the angel of the Lord told her, ‘Go back to your mistress and submit to her.” Verse 10, “…I will increase your descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count.” Verse 11, “…You are now pregnant and you will give birth to a son. You shall name him Ishmael, for the Lord has heard of your misery.” (Gen. 16:9-11)
But there is some bad news.
“He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers.’” (Gen. 16:12)
So, Ishmael will have lots of offspring but there’s going to be some trouble in that family.
Promise Without Faith
Instead of listening to his wife, trying to work an angle, Abram should have had faith in God’s promise. He should have focused on that promise.
Like Abraham, God has given us a promise of eternity in heaven. But He has also given us promises individually, through Scripture, a prayer or a time of worship.
Whatever that promise is, we need to keep asking ourselves, “Do I believe that promise? Do I have the faith to follow that promise? Will I speak, act and live like I believe that promise?“
Can I get your feedback?
In Genesis 15, God issues Abraham a promise of descents as numerous as the stars. What has God promised for you? How are you keeping your faith to follow that promise?