Hagar and Ishmael
1Abram's wife Sarai had not been able to have any children. But she owned a young Egyptian slave woman named Hagar, 2and Sarai said to Abram, “The Lord has not given me any children. Sleep with my slave, and if she has a child, it will be mine.” Abram agreed, 3and Sarai gave him Hagar to be his wife. This happened after Abram had lived in the land of Canaan for ten years. 4Later, when Hagar knew she was going to have a baby, she became proud and treated Sarai hatefully.
5Then Sarai said to Abram, “It's all your fault! I gave you my slave woman, but she has been hateful to me ever since she found out she was pregnant. You have done me wrong, and you will have to answer to the Lord for this.”
6Abram said, “All right! She's your slave—do whatever you want with her.” Then Sarai began treating Hagar so harshly that she finally ran away.
7Hagar stopped to rest at a spring in the desert on the road to Shur. While she was there, the angel of the Lord came to her 8and asked, “Hagar, where have you come from, and where are you going?”
She answered, “I'm running away from Sarai, my owner.”
9The angel said, “Go back to Sarai and be her slave. 10-11I will give you a son, who will be called Ishmael, because I have heard your cry for help. And someday I will give you so many descendants that no one will be able to count them all. 12But your son will live far from his relatives; he will be like a wild donkey, fighting everyone, and everyone fighting him.”
13Hagar thought, “Have I really seen God and lived to tell about it?” So from then on she called him, “The God Who Sees Me.” 14That's why people call the well between Kadesh and Bered, “The Well of the Living One Who Sees Me.”
15-16 Abram was 86 years old when Hagar gave birth to their son, and he named him Ishmael.
If today’s reading sounds like a familiar story, it’s because it is. Abram and Sarai repeat Adam and Eve’s story… and make all the same mistakes!
Following Your Instincts
Eve believed God was withholding something good. She took matters into her own hands, and Adam said “Yes, dear” when he should have objected.
Sarai may have thought the same, or perhaps she thought God was taking too long to deliver on his promise or meant to fulfill it through someone else. Whatever, she took matters into her own hands and decided to get the promised child her way. Since she was now seventy-five years old, she gave her husband a young slave girl as a second wife, and just like Adam, Abram acquiesced.
Bring God Into Your Plans
What’s amazing is that neither Abram nor Sarai consulted the Lord. They just charged ahead using their best human wisdom to fulfill the promise. Unfortunately, human wisdom excludes the miraculous, which was precisely how God would show that he, and not natural processes, had fulfilled his promise.
The disastrous fallout from this lack of divine consultation still affects us four thousand years later! Hagar’s pride and hatred of Sarai, and Sarai’s mistreatment of Hagar, messed up their own families. The result was continuing conflict between the Arabs (Hagar’s descendants) and the Jews (Sarai’s descendants).
Let God Lead
If you have asked God for something, trust that he will do what is best, when it is best. Faith builds patience. Martha and Mary asked Jesus to come and save a dying Lazarus (John 11:1-44), but he delayed two days because he knew when just the right time was for him to take action.
Learn to discern God’s leadership so you know when to wait for him and when he’s waiting for you.
Eternal Father, for you a day is the same as a thousand years, and a thousand years is the same as one day. Teach me patience so that I am always within your plans, not mine. Through Jesus, who gave us your Spirit as our Counsellor, Amen.