Human Custom, Tradition and God’s Promises

Genesis 16

The Christmas Story would never be complete without an examination of the friction between human customs and traditions and the promises and ways of God. In our text, Sarai is getting old, yet she has never conceived a child. She knows that God has promised a son to her husband, but so far, God hasn’t come through with the heir. Custom in those days dictated that if an important person like Abram didn’t have an heir by his wife, then she could conceive a child through her slave girl, and Sarai encouraged Abram to use this option− to help God get the job done, one might say. Abram took his wife’s advice, and Hagar, the slave girl, became pregnant.

From this point forward, there would be no end of grief for Abram and Sarai; there are consequences to such things as they had done.

Hagar, realizing that her stock was rising, became unpleasant with her mistress, and Sarai complained of this to her husband who seems to have tried to wash his hands of the entire matter. Sarai sent the pregnant Hagar away into the wilderness… where Hagar had an encounter with the angel of the Lord. It would seem that God was disapproving of such treatment as Hagar had received at the hands of Sarai.

For our purposes in this survey, I will leave the details of this continuing saga for you to read on your own should you choose to do so. I must point out however, that there is a great lesson for us to apply as we celebrate Christmas, for in doing so, we must come face to face with the awesome promises of God, promises that have been fulfilled as well as a few which have yet to be culminated. At the same time, we deal every day with human custom and tradition, especially at this time of year, and sometimes these come into conflict.

I am curious to see if you have any thoughts on this: This Christmas season, when custom, tradition and God come into conflict− which will we choose? I know that in my personal case, I always say that I will choose God’s promises over tradition and custom, and yet I often find myself under pressure to compromise so that we can have both. There’s always a way to justify doing things, don’t you agree?

Yet this is what Abram and Sarai did, they compromised, and they came to regret that compromise, in fact it nearly tore them apart at one point.

Or… maybe you don’t see any conflicts at all. If so, I’m sure we’d be interested to hear about that view as well.

About Don Merritt

A long time teacher and writer, Don hopes to share his varied life's experiences in a different way with a Christian perspective.
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10 Responses to Human Custom, Tradition and God’s Promises

  1. Traditions and customs, such as getting together with loved ones and giving to others in need, if done in love and following Jesus’s example, are in line with God. They don’t have to be out of line. Intention means so much. Are we doing what we do for personal gain or to glorify the Kingdom?

  2. changeofheartjournal says:

    Hello there,
    The pagan customs of Christmas has really weighed on my heart this year and I have been convicted in the Spirit not to celebrate it anymore. Instead, every day is a celebration of my following Jesus Christ.
    My research into this controversial subject can be found here..

  3. This post comes at an interesting time for me. Just the other day, I was talking about Christmas church services with a family member, and they expressed sympathy for pastors who had to be at church for so long on Christmas week – especially Christmas Eve. It hit me as very paradoxical, as though worship were only a portion of Christmas rather than the whole of it. The cultural ideal here is that Christmas is about family, but shouldn’t it be about Christ?

    My response at the time was that if a preacher was truly called, the opportunity to share the Gospel with so many people who may not normally enter a church was a joyful part. They replied, “I guess you’re right. They’ll have their whole family around…” But even that sits wrong with me. If Christmas is about celebrating Christ, worship and service to Him should be the main course, not the side dish. I guess it really hit me how deeply ingrained the idea of gifts and family is even among Christians. . .

  4. Yes, we often ask God for his help/advise, then reject it when it doesn’t line up with what we want. I have done that on a couple occasions, and regretted it each time. Sometimes the consequences are quick and short, other times they drag on for a long time. In the case of Abram and Sarai we are still paying for that mistake, thousands of years later.

  5. Pingback: Human Custom, Tradition and God’s Promises — TLP – Affiliateclub

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