“Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne 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 Sarai said.” (Genesis 16:1-2)
Have you ever grown weary of waiting?
Do the promises of God seem just out of reach or maybe simply impossible?
Has God asked you to do something that seems to make no logical sense?
Here’s where we find Abram and Sarai. God had promised Abram that his descendants would outnumber the stars; they would be a great nation, but time ticked on and neither of them was getting any younger. I can only imagine that they must have thought maybe they missed God. Surely they must have misheard him. Why had nothing happened? Month after month, year after year…still no child.
Finally, one day Sarai decides she must take action. The only way to cope with the awful waiting was to help God get his plan into action. She couldn’t sit around doing nothing any longer. God needed her help, right?! She gives her servant, Hagar, to her husband. This was the only way she could figure out to give her husband the promised son. Abram agrees. Ishmael was created.
From that moment on things began to get worse in the household. Hagar resents Sarai and mistreats her. Sarai blames Abram. Abram washes his hands in the whole affair. The Lord tells Hagar in Genesis 16 that the son she will bear will be against everyone and everyone will be against him. What a disaster! Fast forward through biblical history and you find the Ishmaelites and the Israelites continually at odds.
We read this story and think, what is wrong with you? God promised you a son, he’ll do it. Time was the greatest test of their willingness to let God work in their lives. But here’s the thing, how many of us have created our own “Ishmael?” Have you run out of patience waiting for God’s timing and tried to “help” a little only to find out later if you would have just hung on a little longer God had better things in mind?
God still kept his promise to Abram and Sarai to give them their own son, but the consequence of their impatience affected lives for generations. Sarai reached the point of hopelessness because she couldn’t figure out a way. She was looking to herself and the limited point of view she had. God saw the bigger picture. The culture around her, the voices in her head dictated her actions. It was acceptable and common in that day to give your servant to your husband if you were unable to have children and raise them as your own. It was the only way. The only way minus God.
Sometimes in our lives we take God out of the equation and try to figure the problem out ourselves. Out of desperation we listen to what is cultural and make a decision, except we forget to put God in the equation. “Ishmael” is created.
The take away from this story is two-fold. First of all, waiting on God is best. Keep him in the equation. Be patient for his best, not just what culture says is ok. Secondly, God still works in messy situations. After Ishmael, Isaac was still born. Abraham was indeed the father of a great nation. God works all things for good. We mess up, but God is still God. Keep the faith and don’t give up.
Lord, thank you for your promises. May we wait patiently for your timing. Help us to keep our eyes on you not what culture tells us. Thank you for reminding us that you still work in messy situations and you work all things for good for those that love you.