Real Freedom and the Listening Lord – Gospel in Life

Real Freedom and the Listening Lord

Tim Keller |  May 20, 2001

Download Agreement

By downloading this file, I confirm I understand Gospel in Life's Copyright & Permissions policies and agree to only use this file for personal usage and will not upload it to any third-party platforms.


  • God's Love
Genesis 16:1-14; 21:14-21
RS 129-4

Genesis 16:1–14; 21:14–21

Genesis narrates the story of Abraham, a man who was brave and full of faith, but also had his share of mistakes and weaknesses. This tale may seem to support slavery and belittle women, but if we delve into the experiences of the four main characters—an oppressed servant, a woman unable to have children, a man making foolish choices, and a mysterious companion—we can learn valuable lessons. Even though the story can be harsh and confusing, it’s essential to understand its message.

1. Oppressed servant

The book of Genesis shares the complex relationship between Sarai, Hagar, and Abram, especially when Hagar, a servant of Abram, gets pregnant. This story shows the imperfections of humans and our need for God’s grace, suggesting that the Bible is more than just a book of good examples to follow. It also highlights that God might ask us to do difficult things that lead to greater blessings, even when we can’t see the whole picture.

2. Childless woman

The tale of Hagar, Sarai, and Abram highlights how society can put pressure on individuals to define their worth, a concept that changes with time and place. Sarai’s desperation to have a baby, even though God promised her one, shows the spiritual danger of giving in to these pressures. It’s important to recognize what enslaves us and realize that our worth is not determined by society, but by the unconditional love we receive.

3. Foolish man

Abram’s choice between Sarai and Hagar in Genesis 16:2 represents the human struggle of relying on oneself versus relying on God’s grace. Choosing Hagar shows a dependence on personal abilities, which can lead to a life of chaos and bondage, while choosing Sarai symbolizes waiting for a miracle—a sign of the power of grace. The key to peace of mind is to accept grace, rather than trying to earn salvation through our actions.

4. Mysterious companion

The Angel of the Lord, a unique character in the Bible, appears as the hero who saves Hagar from despair and servitude, emphasizing the closeness and simplicity of God’s presence. The story points out that although we don’t deserve God’s salvation, we can achieve true freedom from worldly bondage through Jesus Christ. It encourages Christians to work for the freedom of those who are oppressed, stressing that real freedom comes from resisting societal expectations. The story concludes with a call for a deeper understanding of inner freedom and a greater concern for the marginalized.



The Healing of Anger

By Tim Keller

The God Who Is

By Tim Keller

Questions of Suffering

By Tim Keller

June Book Offer

Deepen and Strengthen Your Marriage!

Marriage is one of the most profound human relationships — but it can also be one of the most challenging. So Tim and Kathy Keller designed a devotional book for married couples to use together.