Genesis 15:4-6 & 16:1-6
By Drew Zuverink
“Then the word of the Lord came to him: (Abram) “This man (one of Abram’s servants) will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir. Look up at the sky and count the stars - if indeed you can count them. So shall your offspring be.” Abram believed the Lord, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”
“Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had born him no children. But she had an Egyptian slave named Hagar; so she said to Abram, “The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her. Abram agreed to what she said. So Sarai his wife took her Egyptian slave Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. He slept with Hagar, and she conceived. When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress (Sarai.) Then Sarai said to Abram, “You are responsible for the wrong that I am suffering. I put my slave in your arms and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the Lord judge between you and me.”
“Your slave is in your hands,” Abram said. “Do with her whatever you think best.” Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her.”
I think it’s safe to assume that all of you who are reading this think that patience is a virtue. I doubt that there are too many people out there who think that being impatient is a sign of maturity. But even though almost every one of us believes that having patience is valuable, almost none of us wants life to give us reasons to practice patience. The old joke goes something like this, “Pray for whatever you want just don’t pray for patience or God will give you something to be patient with.” We all want to be patient - but do we?
God promised Abram a reward for his faithful obedience and trust in God. The reward would be a son who would become a nation of people who would live in a covenantal relationship with God himself.
I hope to be a father soon and I’m not sure if there would be a better reward that God could promise me. What could be better than to hear God himself promise me that my son will be loved by God and not only him but generations after him will never be forgotten by him either. There’s nothing better than that!
Abram believed God when he promised him this, and God was pleased by that, that is why it reads, “and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Abram trusted God and that was wise. But as time went on and Abram and his wife only grew older it seems that Sarai started to wonder if this would actually happen. Maybe Abram and Sarai first thought that God would bless them with their own child but as time went on maybe they began to wonder if it would happen another way. Maybe God only meant that he would reward Abram with a biological son. So Sarai and Abram could not handle the uncertainty of their situation any longer and so they become impatient. Instead of trusting in God’s promise to work itself out when the timing was right, they took things into their own hands and had Abram sleep with Sarai’s maid - Hagar. (Wow)
Don’t let the bizarre details of this story cause you to miss the point. Try to empathize with their situation. I think you would be struggling with anxiety and uncertainty too. What God was going to do was so unclear to them. In that kind of a situation all humans are more than capable of making unwise and bizarre life choices.
After Hagar (Sarai’s maid) realizes that she’s pregnant she begins to look at Sarai with contempt. Why does Hagar begin to despise Sarai? I’m sure commentators vary but I don’t think it’s hard to think of at least a couple of reasons. Perhaps she didn’t want to sleep with Abram in the first place. Now she’s pregnant with his child. Or perhaps now that Hagar has been blessed with pregnancy she begins to look down on Sarai for being barren. Either way the consequences of Sarai and Abram trying to take God’s timing into their own hands were not good ones. Relationships were damaged and things would never be the same between them again. In fact things eventually became so bad that Abram and Sarai sent Hagar and Ishmael (her son) away from them and into the desert where it seems like they almost died.
Uncertainty causes anxiety and it’s really hard to exercise patience and trust in God when we don’t see any progress or direction. I’m sure Abram and Sarai wished that God would have just told them from the start, “I will bless you with your own child and It’s not going to happen quick but it’ll happen when Abram’s around 100 years old. So don’t start to get anxious if it doesn’t happen right away ok?”
If they knew God’s step by step plan and the times and dates of when these things would happen, they probably wouldn’t have worried and they probably wouldn’t have taken the situation into their own hands.
Friends the same is true for you and me. God has given us parts of his eternal plan in the scriptures but he has not chosen to reveal to us the step by step details of how he is going to work in our lives. That can be tough sometimes. I know many young adults who really struggle because they always thought that they would find their spouse in college and now they’ve graduated and they’re worried that they might not find someone to marry. I empathize with that.
Life is sometimes uncertain and we don’t get to be a part of God’s inside plan to see when and how our lives are going to unfold. But the story of Abram and Sarai teaches us a valuable lesson: If we rush the timing of things there will be consequences.
For a young person the uncertainty of finding a godly spouse might lead them to rush God’s timing and they might marry an unbeliever. Or maybe they marry a believer but the person doesn’t really seem to treat them right. The consequences of rushing the timing of marriage could be devastating to their future unity and peace in the home. But what if this is the only person out there who would marry me? That is a real feeling and I empathize with that, but I would caution you against doing what Sarai did and rush God’s timing.
You know your own situation. You are well aware of the anxiety that comes with uncertainty. You want answers but God isn’t going to reveal all of them to you. He asks for your trust instead. Do not try to take the situation from God and deal with it yourself. It only complicates things. Sure, he can work to make things end up ok in the end, but we can sure complicate how he will be able to do that.
What we ought to do is believe God’s promise to work all things for the (eternal) good of those who love him and “It will be credited to us as righteousness.” God loves to be trusted and he blesses those who trust him with his intimacy. Yes the pains of uncertainty will still be there and they will sometimes feel unbearable, but the pain that is caused when we complicate God’s plan is much worse, because it leads to consequences that do not go away.
If this sounds like a warning it’s because it is. I want to spare us all of the negative consequences and devastation that we can bring into our lives and into the lives of other people when we rush God’s timing. But the story also leaves us with hope. Yes Abram and Sarai waited many years for God’s promise to be fulfilled, but it was eventually fulfilled. If what we are longing for is something that God blesses in his word, then we have good reason to believe that God will eventually give it to us. It might just look different than what we envisioned.