In our study of the Gospel in Genesis we have seen Adam's representation of the human race, Abel's understanding of propitiation, Abram's justification by faith, and now we turn our attention to the sanctification of God's people by examining the actions of "The Angel of the Lord" in Genesis 16:7.
I. Sanctification means "to set apart" or "to separate."
The word sanctification is a synonym for the word "holiness" in the Bible. To sanctify means "to make holy." Both 'holiness' and 'sanctification' mean to 'set apart' or 'to separate.' It also carries with it the idea of being 'a cut above.'
"Holy" is prefixed to God's name more than any other attribute, and it speaks of the transcendent beauty of God's character and nature, separated from anything corrupt or evil. It is for this reason that "Without sanctification no one will see the Lord" (Hebrews 12:14).
Many Christians make the mistake of thinking that "justification" is God's gift to us, and "sanctification" is our gift to God. 'God saves me, but then I must work hard to live a holy life to show my gratitude for His salvation of me' is the way some think.
In my opinion, nothing could be further from the truth. Jesus Christ is as much a part of our sanctification as He is our justification. "But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who is made unto us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption" (I Corinthians 1:30).
The Bible tells us that pots and were sanctified (Numbers 4:19), the ground was sanctified (Exodus 3:5), a crown was sanctified (Exodus 29:6), a day was sanctified (Exodus 20:11), a mountain was sanctified (Psalm 2:6), and other inanimate objects were "made holy" (II Chronicles 35:3; Isaiah 66:20).
None of these objects 'did' anything. They were sanctified by the action of God.
This is also true of people. God sanctifies His people. He sets them apart for His purposes and His glory. He makes them 'a cut above' all others.
My wife used to own a quilt shop. She sold fabric. It was always interesting to watch people shop for fabric in the store. They would choose a bolt of fabric for themselves and set it aside for purchase. Invariably when they would take the cloth to the counter for purchase they would make a comment about how wonderful the material was compared to other bolts of fabric. It was a 'cut above.'
Hebrew linguists tell us 'a cut above' is the root of the word 'holiness' and thus something that is 'holy' is 'separated' out from other things because it is superior in quality or character.
Right here is where many Christians make a grave error. Like the Old Testament Israelites who began to focus on the outward ceremonial and religious rituals in order to make themselves holy, Christians throughout history have had the tendency to make the mistake of believing that it is what one does externally (or doesn't do) that makes him holy before God.
But the Bible says that God sets a person apart from others by making His child "a partaker of the Divine nature" (II Peter 1:4). It is "Christ being formed in you" (Galatians 4:19).
The Puritan Henry Scougal called this 'the life of God in the soul of man." When God imparts His life into a sinner, He has "separated that sinner for Himself," and "he who began a good work in you will carry it on unto completion" (Philippians 1:6).
God SHALL sanctify His people --- that's why we are guaranteed to see the Lord.
II. The 'Angel of the Lord' does the sanctifying of sinners.
A lot of people have a hard time that God would ever choose them for Himself. "What have I to ever offer Him?" "I'm too far gone for God ever to make anything of me!"
In Genesis 16:7 the Bible describes for us how a woman was 'sanctified' by God. This woman, named Hagar, had nothing going for her. She had committed the sin of adultery. She lost her job because of hatred for her boss. She had a child out of wedlock. She was kicked out of the place where she was living, and she had to cross a dry, barren desert to get back to Egypt, only to find herself unable to cross the border.
But the Lord had determined to sanctify her for Himself. He chose to set her apart and transform her life. He entered her life to change it and make it 'a cut above.'
Here's how He did it. The Bible says . . .
"And the angel of the Lord found her by a fountain of water in the wilderness, by the fountain in the wilderness, by the fountain in the way to Shur."
'The angel of the Lord' is a phrase used in the Old Testament to describe the Lord Jesus Christ. The definite article 'the' makes this a "Christophany" or an Old Testament appearance of the Lord Himself. Notice . . .
The Angel of the Lord found Hagar . . .
We are often fond of speaking of a person 'finding God,' but in terms of Biblical sanctification, God finds His people. When God determines to take someone for Himself, when He imparts His nature into the soul of an individual, He has a great deal invested. He won't let His child wander to far.
When I play golf with someone I will help my opponent look for his lost ball, but I promise you, when I put my initials on my ball before the round, and I lose my ball during the round, I look a ton harder for my ball than I do my opponent's.
God found Hagar because Hagar was "sanctified" by Him.
(A). He found her in a wilderness . . .
The wilderness (v. 7) is a picture of a person wandering from God. It is a place of isolation and desertion. This wilderness experience portrays the soul of Hagar. Sometimes the people of God find themselves in wilderness experiences, but because we are sanctified, God will always find us and bring us out.
(B). He found her against a wall . . .
Christ found her in the wilderness “in the way to Shur” (v.7). Shur means “wall.” On the southern border of Canaan and the northern border of Egypt there was a great wall built by the Egyptians. It protected Egypt from the rest of the world. It kept people out from the greatest civilization of the day. Hagar is attempting to get in. Our flesh will constantly fight for us to climb over the walls of the world and find our contentment in the things of this world. But God will find us. Some may be at various stages of climbing the wall, but He has separated us for Himself. He will find us.
(C). He found her at a well . . .
“By the fountain (well) in the way to Shur” (v.7). Wells in the Bible picture the blessings of God. God’s blessings follow His people all the days of their lives. "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life," the Psalmist declares.
Even in those times in our lives that we get ourselves in a pickle; on those days when we blow it miserably; God will find us --- and will turn our failures into blessings.
It is an axiom of Scripture that sin is destructive. It is also an axiom of Scripture that all of God's people will struggle with sin during their lives.
One must never forget the beautiful message of sanctification. Those who have faith in Christ have been set apart by God --- He will find us when we wander from Him.
And what will He do?
III. "The Angel of the Lord" progressively removes His people from experiential sin.
The people God “fetches” for Himself He blesses by removing us out of our sin and conforming us into the image of His Son. I know this word "fetch" is an old fashioned word, but it is used in the Bible. “David fetched him” (II Sam. 9:5), refers to the King’s removal of Mephibosheth from Lodebar, his place of hiding, to Jerusalem where Mephibosheth sat at the King’s table forever.
God fetched and separated (sanctified) Hagar for Himself, as He does all His children. When He separates us for Himself He takes us where we are and brings us to where He wants us to be. Again, His desire is to 'form Christ in us.'
But in practical terms, how does He bring us to reflect more of Christ?
God will use circumstances in our lives so that we ask ourselves two questions that penetrate to the core of the soul -- the same two questions He asked Hagar in Genesis 16:8.
(A). “Whence camest thou?” or in modern English “Where have you come from?
(B). “Whither wilt thou go?” or again, in modern English, “Where are you going?”
God uses accidents, tragedies, sickness, war, terminations, divorces, deaths --- all kinds of wilderness experiences to gently, but firmly, remind us of who we are. God brings us to these critical times in order for us to take an inventory of our lives. These two questions mature us. They help us see that we came from God, and we will soon return to God.
Paul Billheimer once wrote a book entitled "Don't Waste Your Sorrows." The theme of the book was simply to encourage all believers to see God in every circumstance of their lives. That was a book that really helped me early on in my Christian life.
But I would propose that even more important than seeing God in every circumstance of your life is to be assured that in every circumstance of your life God sees you. This is what guarantees your holiness. He will not leave you in your sin.
When the Angel of the Lord met Hagar in the wilderness and rescued her, she named the place "El Roi."
"El Roi" means . . .
"Thou God seest me."
Nobody can live an unholy life when"Thou God seest me." Nobody can settle for second when "Thou God seest me." Nobody who meets God and knows Him as "El Roi" will ever be the same.
So, my friend, if your heart is on fire for God, thank the God who has sanctified you. If your heart happens to be in a barren and dry wilderness, look up, for your sanctifying God is searching for you and He will find you, for He will not leave you in the wilderness forever. Though you may find yourself unfaithful at times, your God is always faithful.
He has sanctified you.
In His Grace,