21 Abraham, Sarah, Ishmael

Please read Gen 16:1-16 beforehand

 A. UNBELIEF PLANTS AN ALIEN TREE (Gen 16:1-3)
  •  Sarai loses hope.

Now it was Sarai’s turn to let go of hope.  God never spoke directly to her, to encourage her and now, having waited for ten years, it became too much for her.  Her faith that she would have her own son, hit rock bottom.  She just became tired of waiting on the Lord to do something.  Her eyes were no longer fixed on God and her main desire was no longer to honour Him.  Her heart wanted a child, now, right now, not later on. 

“If God is unable, let me help Him”

She decided to make her own plan to get a child and involved her husband in it by handing her slave girl Hagar over to him to conceive a child for her. She rationalized (argued that she was doing right) by thinking, “My slave servant is my property; for that reason, her child is not hers, but mine.  In this way, I can have a child without waiting any longer and cuddle him in my arms as my own.”  She thought that she had devised a clever plan.  No one would dare to say anything about it for wasn’t she the farmer’s wife?

 Abram lead by the nose.

Without any resistance Abram agreed to follow Sarai’s plan, for he too was tired of waiting and believing and looking forward to the promised child that never came.  He also had had enough of looking at Sarai’s moody face day by day because she was unable to conceive a child.  (She might even have insinuated that he was to blame; who knows?)  So, he convinced himself that his wife got this clever, logical plan from the Lord.  What is more, they would now be able to test and see which of the two of them was barren.

Husbands, beware

A husband must stand firm in following God’s leading and not succumb to his wife’s misleading (and vice versa).  There must be a firm understanding between spouses in a Christian marriage that, if one would succumb to temptation and turn away from God, the other would not follow him or her but would continue in serving the Lord and pray for the one that went astray.

 B. THE ALIEN TREE BEARS BITTER FRUIT (Gen 16:4-16)
  •  Hagar’s pregnancy is a tree of thorns

Just like earlier in Egypt, Abram and Sarai’s conspiracy ended in disaster, their present scheming landed them in deep, troubled waters.

In no time, Hagar conceived but when she became aware that she was pregnant, she treated Sarai with contempt. 

Sarai’s was a humanly devised plan to ease her pain of barrenness but resulted in a worse situation and bitter regret because her slave girl now looked down upon her.

Adding insult to injury

Hagar really became a pain in the neck. She uplifted herself and looked down upon her mistress, God’s chosen servant, instead of humbly bearing her the child she coveted.  She congratulated herself of being able to give Abram a son which Sarai could not do and probably assumed that she, and not Sarai would now be Abram’s favourite woman. And, o yes, her son would now be the heir to his vast estate. Lastly, by showing that Abram was fertile, she had conclusively proven that Sarai was barren. The other slave girls in the camp must have envied her tremendously.

Oh, dear Sarai and Abraham, had the two of you not foreseen these consequences?

Playing the blame game

Sarai’s suffering became unbearable because there is no pain like that which you inflicted on yourself, for which you yourself are to blame. 

So, what she did to soften her own blame, was to shift the blame to her husband.  Can you believe it?  Abram must have been dumbfounded; “Woman, you will never understand them,” he possibly mumbled as he walked back to his tent, shaking his head. 

But she persisted that he was to blame for the whole situation. She might have argued that he should have known better; he should have known that she did not really mean it when she suggested that he should sleep with Hagar; that what she wanted was just for him to have sympathized with her, telling her how beautiful and precious she was,  but then he grasped the opportunity to go into her slave girl’s tent that very night! He must have been watching her for some time already.  Just couldn’t wait any longer!  Men!  They are all the same.

Abram again reasoned; “You made the bed, now sleep in it” and told her in no uncertain terms “She is your slave girl.  Do with her as you please” turned around and walked away nonchalant.  He would have nothing to do with this sticky problem and laid it right back at Sarai’s door flap (tent).

When a conflict like this arises between men, some would resort to their fists to resolve it, women however, do it in a more subtle way (or am I being unfair and unkind?). Sarai then treated Hagar so badly that she fled the camp in tears. 

Had Sarai ever prayed for Hagar and counselled her in a Christian way, like a mother, or did she just act in the flesh, saying in her heart, “You are my slave.  I will show you who is the boss in this home.”

 C. SARAI’S GOD IS ALSO HAGAR’S GOD
  •  Hagar pays dearly for her foolishness

Hagar’s sin to uplift herself above her mistress cost her dearly; it cost her, her job, her board and lodging and endangered the life of the child she was expecting.  Now she was an outcast like Cain.  And, in those days, there were no centers for unmarried mothers.

Even among men of this world, you will find many, “Hagars”.  Might you be one?  “I will not be shunted around by a boss,” is what you say, and you spit sideways, but tomorrow or the day after that, you crawl in under another man’s roof and the church has to take groceries home for your wife and children.  What has now become of your cocky attitude?

Time for God to step in

The Angel of the Lord (Our Lord Jesus, Who at that time, was known as, “the Angel of the Lord”),  came upon Hagar where she was resting at a fountain (well) in the desert and asked her something like the following: “But I seem to know you; are you not Hagar,  the slave woman of Sarai?  Where are you from and where are you heading?” 

“I am fleeing from my mistress Sarai,” she answered, stiffly, honestly.  It possibly pleased the Lord that she did not, like her mistress, shift the blame to someone else, but admitted her guilt openly, but He could not allow her to continue on this self-chosen way.

Fleeing from where God put you?

God has, for each of us, an appointed time, role and place in life, which is the very best for us.  It is not always an enjoyable place and we sometimes make it even more difficult for ourselves because of our wrong attitude.  But to flee from that place, He will not allow. He catches up with us, in the desert, at whichever fountain we are trying to find relief. 

Fleeing from your marriage?  Fleeing from your boss?  Fleeing from your calling like Jonah? Fleeing into the nearby desert?  Will God not find you there? If you do want to make a change, pray and wait on God to take your hand and lead you to green pastures and to peaceful waters.

God bails out Hagar

Let’s be fair, the whole idea of bearing a baby for Sarai, was not Hagar’s but Sarai’s. Hagar was not consulted but just had to play along. Nowadays Abram would have landed up in court on a charge of rape and Sarai too, for conspiring with him.

The Lord, the impartial Judge of mankind, knew all the facts pertaining to this court case. He did not sentence and punish her, like in a criminal case but as a loving God, did what was best for both parties.

He instructed Hagar to return to her mistress and to humble herself under her hand.  But Just note how lovingly and tactfully He handled her.  He did not send her back empty handed but sat down, chatting to her for a while (my imagination) as He would hundreds of years hence with the woman at the well of Samaria.  He told her about the boy that was in her womb, that she was to name him Ishmael; that he would grow up and that a great nation would come from him. 

When He had finished speaking to her and had returned to His heavenly home, Hagar was overcome with wonder that God had also appeared and spoken to her, a slave girl, and she named the well Beer-Lahai-Roi which means, “Well of the Living One Who sees me.”  He had given her hope for the future – something for which to live.

Yes, Sarai was not worth more to the Lord than Hagar; both of them were precious in His eyes.

Peace restored and lessons learned

In this way then, the Lord overruled the missteps of Sarai, Abram and Hagar and restored peace on their farm.

Just a pity the home coming of Hagar was not recorded for us. What was Sarai’s reaction? She had been gloating in the fact that she had driven her competitor away and that she had probably perished from thirst or was devoured by a lion. Her mistake was a carcass never to be found. She could now forget about the whole nasty business.

But then, perhaps early one morning, just after sunrise, in walked the missing girl, all smiles and twinkling eyes.

Sarai’s terrible shock was softened by Hagar’s humbling herself before her but what a testimony she had of meeting with God personally and of receiving such great promises from him; almost just like Abram had had many years before! The difference just was that Hagar would not have to wait many years for her son, she already was pregnant with him.

Yes, dear Sarai too, although she was God’s chosen vessel to be first in line to bear a nation for him, also had to learn deep lessons; being used by God does not allow you to do your own thing, no, God will deal with you even more strictly because you must be an example to others.

Hagar later on gave birth to a son and Abram called him Ishmael, in obedience to God.  When he was born, Abram was 86 years old.  Some eleven years had already passed since he had departed from Ur.

Not the last word on Ishmael

Ishmael’s conceiving was not God’s plan and although the Lord blessed him and his descendants and afforded them every possible opportunity of serving Him, they later on totally departed from the faith of Abram and set up their own religion.  Today we know them as the Muslims and their faith as Mohammedanism.  They are against Christianity and do not acknowledge the Lord Jesus as the Son of God.

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