Sunday Gathering – Genesis – Making Mistakes – Karen Dunning
April 28, 2024

Sunday Gathering – Genesis – Making Mistakes – Karen Dunning

Passage: Genesis 16

Summary of Karen's Sermon: Making Mistakes


Karen starts the sermon by acknowledging the audience and explaining her method for preparing the sermon. She then introduces the passage she will be focusing on: Genesis 16, which tells the story of Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar.

Bible References: Genesis 15:6, Genesis 16

The Story of Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar

Karen outlines the story in Genesis 16:

  • Abraham is promised by God that he will have descendants as numerous as the stars (Genesis 15:6).
  • Ten years later, Sarah has not conceived a child.
  • Sarah proposes that Abraham have a child with Hagar, her maidservant.
  • Hagar becomes pregnant with Abraham's child, Ishmael.
  • There is conflict between Sarah and Hagar.
  • Hagar flees into the desert.
  • An angel of the Lord finds Hagar and tells her to return to Sarah.
  • The angel promises Hagar that Ishmael will have many descendants.
  • Hagar acknowledges God as "the God who sees me."
Key Points
  • Karen highlights that women are not portrayed positively throughout Genesis, but her perspective on this passage has changed.
  • Everyone makes mistakes, and the characters in this story are all facing difficult situations.
  • Even though Abraham and Sarah made mistakes, God did not abandon them.
  • God sees us in our circumstances and offers us grace.
Challenges and Choices
  • Karen talks about a personal situation where she feels stuck and is praying for guidance.
  • She emphasizes the importance of seeking God's will when faced with challenging circumstances.
  • We should pray about what our role is in difficult situations – is it to pray, or is it to take action?
  • Karen encourages listeners to reflect on the passage and ask God what He wants them to learn from it.
  • She reminds everyone that God sees us and will help us through our struggles.
Additional Notes
  • Karen mentions struggling with the concept of rescuing others and emphasizes that God is the rescuer.
  • She acknowledges that waiting for God's timing can be difficult.


Um, we're going to have a little bit of audience participation as well.
High, lovely people.
Is that okay?
You're not allowed to say no, by the way.
I don't know.
Um, and a rider is, you are not the people that you will be in today's story.
Is that okay?
So I went to see Graham, and I went morning Graham, and he went,
it's going to be trouble, isn't it?
And all I wanted was some verses up there, that's all.
So, um, we're doing Genesis 16 today.
If you like Genesis 15, 16 and 17 are all part of the same soap opera,
because it all goes together.
But before we start on it, I'm going to give you a little bit of my background
because it is relevant.
So, as Nick said, I've been married to Johnson for nearly 40 years,
as I've known him for 43 years.
Um, we started going out on February the 1st, 1981.
And we met at Bible College.
Or, as was commonly known at the time, London Bridal College.
Plus, there were lots of women there, and not that many men.
Um, and Jonathan was doing a diploma in theology, and I was doing a degree in theology.
And because I was doing a degree, that then meant that I could do a pastoral diploma
alongside my degree.
Which meant that you did extra lectures, but you also had to do various other things.
I had to do two summer schools.
I did one with Bob Gordon and Colin Erkart many years ago.
Um, and it also meant that you had to do so many preachers at churches over the two years.
So, you'd get a list, and you'd phone that church up,
and you'd say, hi, I'm your, hi, I'm your preacher for such and such a date.
And I would do this, and on a regular basis,
as soon as whoever picked the phone were up, and they heard a woman's voice,
they would say, no, you're not.
Okay? I'm talking 40 years ago.
The method is actually, we're very good. They always let me go.
Um, and that sort of embedded in me something that started when I was about 12.
So, I remember one day at home, my dad was painting, he was decorating.
And I went up to him, and I said, can I have a go, Dad?
Oh, no.
It's not for women, this is a man's job.
Now, I don't know whether this is something that God's placed in me,
or just whether it's a character flaw.
If somebody tells me I can't do something, I'm blooming well going to do it.
So, when I went to Bible college and lots of men, sorry men,
were telling me I couldn't preach in a church.
I was good enough to, I could do the children's talk.
I was good enough for the children, but I wasn't good enough for the congregation
because I was a woman.
So, that kind of set me on a journey.
And there was a lovely lecturer at Bible college called Mary Evans,
and she wrote a book called Women in the Bible, which I very much appreciated.
Because if you think about it, the Bible was written by who? Men or women?
Who is it mainly about? Men or women?
And then I started, as we've been going through Genesis,
my premise before I started living this chapter over the week was
women don't really come out in a good light in Genesis.
And I have to say, my viewpoint has changed because of living this chapter this week.
So, for those of you that have done the speaking course that has run a couple of times,
you'll know that how I get my talk ready is I'll read it,
and then I start living it, I read all about it, I read all the commentaries,
I have to go to speak to me, and that has been very challenging this week
in ways that I'm not going to go into before I'm ready to stand up and talk.
Now, when we start going through this, there are three characters.
There is Abraham, not Abraham at this point, there is Abraham.
There is Serai, not Sera, Serai, and there is Hagar.
Okay? These are our three characters, all right?
Now, what Erika talked about last week was the promise that was first given to Abraham.
And that promise was that he would have a child,
and the descendants of that child would be as many as the stars.
Okay? And he believed that promise.
It says in 15, verse 6, that Abraham believed the Lord.
Okay? So, chapter 16, we've skipped ten years, we're ten years later.
If I could have verse two, grey, and whenever you're ready, that would be marvellous, thank you.
Now, I'm not sure if when Abraham told Serai what he said,
what he said, hello wife, God told me you're going to have a baby,
and your baby is going to have lots of babies and so on.
So, was the promise first given to Abraham, or was it first given to Serai?
Abraham. So, Sera is getting it second hand.
It's the promise that's given to Abraham, but actually it's her that's going to fulfill that promise.
Ten years down the line, she's thinking nothing's happened here.
Is this my fault? Is there something wrong with me?
Am I not good enough? I don't know what she was thinking, but the bottom line was she was thinking nothing's happening here.
And yet, this is the promise that Abraham has said, God has given him.
So, I'm going to need to help out here.
The Lord has kept me from having children. Go sleep with my slave.
Perhaps, I can build a family through her.
The very important word there, perhaps.
She wasn't absolutely certain, but perhaps we can do it this way.
Next first, please.
So, Abraham has been given a promise that his descendants will come through Serai.
Did Abraham say that to Serai? Not really.
I don't know what he said, but he went ahead and did what she told him to, or suggested.
And he lay with Hagar.
Now, poor Hagar, servant slave, could she have any say in it?
No. Was it something she wanted? We don't know.
Did Serai think about the consequences of what she was asking of both Abraham and Hagar?
Often, we don't see the big picture, do we? We just see that little bit.
What was Abraham thinking? Was he thinking, well, she might be right. Nothing's happened yet.
This will, God promised me, I believed it. We'll give it a go. I don't know. Anyway, it happened.
Then, Hagar, who's been this servant to Sera, well, from being this subservient servant, she's now got something that Serai hasn't got.
Abraham's child.
That puts her in a position of power.
I don't think Sera quite thought that through, did she?
So then, Serai, oh, my word, my slave is standing there all haughty, talkty.
I'm carrying Abraham's child, something you haven't been able to do.
She got coke well with that, surprisingly. It gets a bit jealous.
I love this bit.
Then, can you carry on, Graham? I'll tell you when to stop.
This is it, I love this bit. She says to Abraham, you're responsible for this. This is your fault.
This is what I mean about Genesis, we mean it a bad light anyway.
But actually, she's not wrong, is she?
Is she?
Because Abraham could have said...
And he didn't.
And the promise wasn't given to her, it was given to Abraham.
She was trying to help out by saying, well, nothing's happening with me, let's try this another way, and he agreed.
The innocent victim, if you like it all of this, wasn't Abraham, wasn't Serai, it was?
Now, I've thought long and hard about this, and I'm going to be there, I'm even going to read the wording because...
There is something about our circumstances.
And I've thought very carefully and pray very hard about which circumstances I highlight, because we are all, if you like, victims of circumstances, at some point in our lives, to a greater or lesser degree, would you agree?
Sometimes, illness, whether that is a physical or a mental illness, we're not in control of that, we haven't asked for it, we don't want it, it becomes part of who we are, because it's a circumstance we live with.
Sometimes, loss, loss of a child, loss of a spouse, loss of a job can impact, and it isn't something we are in control of.
Sometimes, the inability to have a child, we're not in control of that.
Sometimes, to have a child with a difficulty or disability that impacts on our lives and who we are, again, we're not in control of that.
Sometimes, loss of reputation that we are not in control of, I was thinking about the post office scandal.
One of those poor women had to have, I was listening to her on the radio, and she begged not to have the baby in prison and actually had the baby in an ambulance on a roundabout, so that that baby was not born in prison.
Circumstances that we are not in control of can and are very impactful on our lives.
Greed? So, there's Hagar. Okay?
So, she's had enough.
Sarah is being absolutely horrible to her.
Abraham's walked away and said, not that far. Do what you want.
Hagar's had enough, so she thinks I'll take a walk. Can't do this.
Now, she's not supposed to because she's the possession, if you like, of Sarah.
And the thing is, when this baby comes, it won't be long to her, it will be long to her mistress.
Absolutely, these circumstances are outside of her control, so she takes a walk into a desert.
And keep going, Graham, and I'll tell you when to stop.
Stop there, please.
So, she's had a spring in the desert, fairly desperate.
And in verse 7, it says, the angel of the Lord found Hagar near a spring in the desert.
Okay, next verse, please, Graham.
And he said, Hagar, slave of Sarah, where have you come from or where are you going?
He knew all of that.
And she gives the bare minimum, I am running away from my mistress, Sarah. I carry on, Graham.
Then the angel of the Lord told her, go back to your mistress and submit to me to her.
What would you have said?
I don't think so. I'm not going to do that. Thank you very much.
It's not nice. I'm not having a nice time.
Next one, Graham.
Then, I will increase your descendants so much that they will become too numerous to count.
Where have we heard that before?
Oh, the previous chapter.
The promise that was given to Abraham about Sarah, and yet here it is again.
And he's promised it to this slave, Hagar.
Because she is bearing Abraham's son.
Next verse, please, Graham.
You are now pregnant and you will give birth to a son and you will name him Ishmael, for the Lord has heard of your misery.
Ishmael means God hears.
God hears.
The Lord has heard of your misery.
Next verse, please, Graham.
I love this description because, you know, you could have a baby.
It's going to have loads of descendants and it's going to be a wild donkey.
He'll be against everyone and everyone's hand will be against him and he will live in hostility towards all his brothers.
There's something about this particular verse because we are living as part of that now.
Next verse, please, Graham.
She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her.
Now, two verses earlier, it's been an angel of the Lord. This is really, really important.
Two verses earlier, it was the angel of the Lord who came.
Now, she gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her.
You are the God who sees me.
I have now seen the one who sees me.
This is really important. Tell me another woman in the Old Testament who has seen God.
Now, Johnson and I would did this for quite a while.
Please feel free to come and let me know afterwards.
We could find loads of women that had actually prophetesses that had heard from God.
But this says, you are the God who sees me.
I have now seen the one who sees me.
This woman was a slave and circumstances had put her in this position of misery.
And God, God came to her and said, I see your misery.
This is the promise that I will give you because you haven't done anything.
You are a victim of your circumstance.
And the more I thought about this, you see, then we get, who were the first to the tomb?
It was the women that went and said, he's not here. He's gone. He's risen.
So I get to the point of actually the Bible might have been written by men, about men a lot of the time.
But there is a equality in that I personally do not see that God prefers men.
That God prefers women. He prefers people who have a heart for him.
And for me, this woman was changed because she could say, I have been seen by God and I have seen God.
And she went back.
And when Ishmael was born, Abraham, if you like, honored the fact that Ishmael was his child.
So, I think it's entirely up to you what you take away from this passage.
I'm still working things through a lot in my head and my heart.
But for me, the biggest thing was we will all find ourselves in circumstances that are out of our control.
And we all have decisions to make about our approach then to those circumstances.
Now, when you read to the next chapter, does God abandon Abraham because actually he blew it a bit?
And actually, to be fair, he blew it a lot. If you look at what happens later in terms of the sons of Ishmael
and the adversity between the two half brothers, if you like, does God then abandon Abraham?
No, in the very next chapter, changes his name. And Sir I changes his name, her name.
So, from being the exalted father, which is what Abraham means, to the father of many, which is what Abraham means.
And Sir I, it's just like a little change. It still means princess, but I think it's almost a reconformation that you are a princess and you have born a son.
So, God doesn't actually hold this whole mistake against these two. He still does what he planned to do.
So, that tells me it's not a brilliant idea to make a mistake, but also is that going to ever stop God working in your life and doing what he needs to do?
So, therefore, for me, is this about our response? Now, I don't say this lightly, and I don't say this as this is what we should all do, because we are responsible for our own salvation.
The New Testament says you work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.
But my challenge to each and every one of us is when circumstances come along that we are not in control of.
And there's a particular situation at the moment for me, and I've been praying about it, and all I can see is a big, big block of concrete.
And I can't get over it. Can't get under it. It's a bit like the bear hunt. Can't get over it. Can't get under it. Can't get around it.
And all I'm asking God to do is show me the way through it, because at this point we have choices to make.
We try to do God's work for us, and even if we do, he's not going to stop loving us. His grace is sufficient.
But if you think about it and pray about it and say, OK, God, this is what I do, but do I do that? Do I not do that?
Now, can I make a distinction here? This is very different to you making plans for yourself, where you might say,
right, Lord, I'm going to open this door, I'm going to open that door, and you close the one that isn't right.
That's very different to being in circumstances that you are not in control of. Does that? Yeah?
So all I would like us to do is ask God to speak to you about which part of this has been relevant for you and what God wants to say to you.
Just because I've been going through all of this all weeks, I'm putting on you now, basically.
The other thing is, the very last thing is, it's almost like sometimes we feel the need, we can see people in these situations, can't we?
We can see people in circumstances that are hard for them, and it can be very easy for us to want to rescue them.
And that's the situation that I found myself in this week, in a situation that involves other people, and I just want to go and rescue.
And this has absolutely stopped me in my tracks, because now I've had to say, actually, it's not my job.
And that is really hard sometimes. You know, you love people, or you know people really well, and you know how hard it is for them, and there is a desire within us to rescue people.
And the thing that we then have to say to ourselves is, what is my role?
Jesus, and God our loving Heavenly Father, or the motherhead who loves to gather her chicks to herself, is the rescuer.
And therefore what we need to be praying is, what is my role?
Is my role just to be praying, or is my role to do something?
Does that make sense as well?
So, I'm sorry, it's been very different to yours last week, Erica.
But this is honestly, I've battled so much with this in terms of what has been the right thing to do and to say.
But all I would say to you is, God is the God who sees you, and sees you wherever you are, whatever situation you're in.
And he is the one that will make a difference.
Now, I'm sorry I'm going to go into the next chapter.
Abraham and Sarah didn't have a baby that next year.
I think it's something like another 17 years past.
So, it's a waiting game.
And as Christians, we're impatient, and we want stuff, and we want it now, and we want differences in situations now.
And that's when we start to rescue, and that's when we start to engineer things to happen.
So, sometimes we need to hold back, and we need to ask God for patience.
And I don't know whether that's what God means with this block.
He's saying, you need to stop, and put in a block in your way so you can't.
And then I'm working that through.
So, what I want us to do is simply, I'm not asking anybody to do anything other than perhaps go home, read that particular chapter again,
and ask God are you saying anything to me, and what do you want me to do?
And I'm done.
Thank you.

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