Recently, I’ve been spending a good deal of time contemplating authority and submission to authority. Partly because my pastor has been doing a teaching that’s touched on it a number of times (last week’s message was awesome – it’s available online if you’re interested). But as I was reading Genesis 16, something caught my eye about submission. This is the story of Sarai (later Sarah) sending her servant (Hagar) into her husband (Abram/Abraham) to bear him a child on her behalf. Hagar gets a little uppity after she becomes pregnant and Sarai complains to Abram.
That is where we come in, beginning in verse 6 and going through 9 (I added emphasis):
But Abram said to Sarai, “Behold, your servant is in your power; do to her as you please.” Then Sarai dealt harshly with her, and she fled from 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.”
I find it interesting that though Sarai dealt harshly with her, the LORD sent her back. The Hebrew word for harshly here is anah (6031), which implies being humbled, depressed, afflicted, or humiliated. In other words, I don’t think we’re talking physical abuse here (I just want to be clear on that before continuing), but possibly some emotional abuse.
I see a parallel here to other areas of authority, like husbands. Often I hear women rebelling against husbands who don’t treat them kindly. I’ve heard some say that verses like Ephesians 5:22 and Colossians 3:18 that exhort us to submit to our husbands don’t apply in these situations, but I humbly suggest the Word says otherwise. Let’s look at 1 Peter 3:1
Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives,
And also consider Proverbs 15:1
A soft answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger.
I know first hand how much harsh words can hurt – I’ve experienced it firsthand, but I’ve also experienced firsthand what the Father does when you choose to submit to the authority you’re under – since according to Romans 13:1-2 ALL authority is from God, we actually honor Him by doing so! So when we honor Him and the authority He’s put in place He blesses us. Look at the promise He gives Hagar in verse 10:
The angel of the LORD also said to her, “I will surely multiply your offspring so that they cannot be numbered for multitude.”
The Father promised me as well, that if I would submit and honor the authority He had in place He would bless me as well. True to His word, He has… my marriage testimony says it all. 🙂
Father, I pray that You would show each person who reads this who the authorities are in their lives. I pray You would convict us of any areas we’re struggling to submit. And I thank You for giving us the grace to do so in our strength. Help us to pray for our leaders as You’ve exhorted us to do, to return hate with love, and to let our lives speak so loudly of who You are that we win those around us without a word. May our lives bring glory and honor to Your name!