Return to your mistress and submit to her

The angel of the LORD found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, the spring on the way to Shur. And he said, “Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?” She said, “I am fleeing from my mistress Sarai.” The angel of the LORD said to her, “Return to your mistress and submit to her.” The angel of the LORD also said to her, “I will surely multiply your offspring so that they cannot be numbered for multitude.” And the angel of the LORD said to her, “Behold, you are pregnant and shall bear a son. You shall call his name Ishmael, because the LORD has listened to your affliction.
(Genesis 16:7-11)

Hagar was on the run. She was really treated poorly by Sarai, and felt the only option was for her to run away. God appears to her and speaks to her, and what does He say?

Go back home and submit yourself to Sarai. What? Sarai was really being harsh with Hagar. Sarai put her in a really bad situation and now is treating Hagar like an enemy. It doesn’t seem fair that God would send her home, but He did.

Three points about this:

  • God’s answers are not always easy to hear. Below you will see a passage from Peter about slaves and masters. How does a Christian behave when being mistreated? God’s answer doesn’t make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside, but remember what Jesus did when He was cruelly treated?
  • With that command came reassurance and comfort from God. The Lord was watching what was going on at home with Sarai and Hagar, and He was fully aware of the affliction Hagar was enduring. God’s blessings and provision were promised to Hagar even as she had to deal with a mistress who was very harsh with her.
  • Running away is not always the right answer. There was a time for people to flee and runaway. Christians fled from persecutions. Jesus fled to the other side of the Jordan to avoid the murderous attempts of the Jewish leadership. God told Jesus’ parents to flee to Egypt to avoid King Herod. There is a time to flee, but running away is not always the right remedy. For this situation, God wanted Hagar to go back home. Here’s another example. Onesimus was a runaway slave who ran into Paul while Paul was imprisoned in Rome. Paul taught him the gospel and Onesimus became a believer in Christ. But what did Paul do? He sent Onesimus home to his master, Philemon, with a letter. Paul did not keep Onesimus with him and only send the letter to Philemon. It may be that instead of running away from a difficult situation that God wants you to fight and stand for Him through that difficult situation.

Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
(1 Peter 2:18-25)

You Shall Not Rule with Severity

‘You shall not rule over him with severity, but are to revere your God.
(Leviticus 25:43)

‘…But in respect to your countrymen, the sons of Israel, you shall not rule with severity over one another.
(Leviticus 25:46)

‘Like a man hired year by year he shall be with him; he shall not rule over him with severity in your sight.
(Leviticus 25:53)

And masters, do the same things to them, and give up threatening, knowing that both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him.
(Ephesians 6:9)

Today, please consider the above collection of verses about how we “rule over” one another in the workplace.

Both in the Old Testament and the New, the Lord called His people who had servants to treat them with respect. Paul had to ask his Christian brothers to “give up threatening.” If it wasn’t happening then there would be no need to tell those men to give up threatening.

Some guys only have one way to communicate…bark out orders. They do not know how to sit down and reason with someone. The concept of looking at the other person as someone who has a brain and has value is foreign to them. Do what I say or else. It’s my way or the highway. If someone brings up an opposing idea or another way of doing things, they get defensive and blow up. Any one who dares challenge them is treated like dirt, shut down and cast aside. The volume goes up along with the intensity and then people just back down and cower from fear and give in to their ways. As long as you march in step with them, you have nothing to fear.

Have you worked for a boss like that? Have we treated others like that?

This is not the spirit of Christ, nor was it the spirit that God wanted of His people in the Old Testament.

Give up threatening. Don’t rule with severity. Think of what these passages teach, especially the one in Ephesians 6:9.

  • Remember that the people who serve you belong to God. All of us belong to God. Everyone of us is created in the image of God. One of the ways to help you give up threatening is to see the eternal value of the people you are trying to lead. We can get so consumed with our own importance or our own mission that we fail to see the relationships and the value of those relationships.
  • Keep in mind that you have a Master in heaven. He is watching. He will judge, and there is no partiality with Him. If we mistreat others, God is the one to whom we will report.
  • You should show the same attitude and spirit to them. Notice Eph. 6:9 says, “do the same things to them.” Those same things are laid out for you in Ephesians 6:5-8. The servants were to do the will of God from the heart with sincerity, and the masters were to do the same things. God asked the servants to keep their eyes on Him with a spirit of fear and trembling, and He asked the same things from the masters. There are not two sets of rules, but sometimes we can live that way. We would never accept the kind of treatment that we deal out to others. God says live by the same rules.

Masters, grant to your slaves justice and fairness, knowing that you too have a Master in heaven.
(Colossians 4:1)