47 The Folly of using Man’s Ways to Accomplish God’s Plans

Genesis 16v1-16

Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. She had a female Egyptian servant whose name was Hagar. And Sarai said to Abram, “Behold now, the LORD has prevented me from bearing children. Go in to my servant; it may be that I shall obtain children by her.” And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai. So, after Abram had lived ten years in the land of Canaan, Sarai, Abram’s wife, took Hagar the Egyptian, her servant, and gave her to Abram her husband as a wife. And he went in to Hagar, and she conceived. And when she saw that she had conceived, she looked with contempt on her mistress. And Sarai said to Abram, “May the wrong done to me be on you! I gave my servant to your embrace, and when she saw that she had conceived, she looked on me with contempt. May the LORD judge between you and me!” But Abram said to Sarai, “Behold, your servant is in your power; do to her as you please.” Then Sarai dealt harshly with her, and she fled from her. The angel of the LORD found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, the spring on the way to Shur. And he said, “Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?” She said, “I am fleeing from my mistress Sarai.” The angel of the LORD said to her, “Return to your mistress and submit to her.” The angel of the LORD also said to her, “I will surely multiply your offspring so that they cannot be numbered for multitude.” And the angel of the LORD said to her, “Behold, you are pregnant and shall bear a son. You shall call his name Ishmael, because the LORD has listened to your affliction. He shall be a wild donkey of a man, his hand against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he shall dwell over against all his kinsmen.” So she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, “You are a God of seeing,” for she said, “Truly here I have seen him who looks after me.” Therefore the well was called Beer-lahai-roi; it lies between Kadesh and Bered. And Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram called the name of his son, whom Hagar bore, Ishmael. Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore Ishmael to Abram. (ESV)


What Drama is here! We know that God was pointing in this covenant to Christ and Calvary, where He would be cleft for us. We like to think that if we had seen this we would never doubt again. Yet here, we see another failure in faith of Abram and Sarai.

  1. God’s Promise was rejected by Abram and Sarai.
    No doubt Abram and Sarai were feeling the burden of their age, Sarai’s barrenness and this promise. But the problem really wasn’t with Sarai’s barrenness, but with the clash of their plans against God’s sovereignty. Although the practise of a ‘rent-a-womb’ was widespread in that area and culture, it was wrong as it is today.
    Notice how this played out:
    a. A woman taking the lead – compromising another woman! Sarai did what Eve did.
    b. Abram was seduced. He didn’t take the stand he should have. They were wanting to use the means of the flesh to accomplish God’s promises.
    c. Hagar was changed for the worse by this. As in all families like this, it gets so complex. Hagar despises her mistress, and there is a rift between Abram and Sarai as well. Abram plays the helpless husband and let Sarai and us down. But when we are critical of him, would we have done any better?
    d. Abram was supposed to be a blessing to the nations, but here and previously in Egypt he had been more of a curse. Yet he is the Father of the faith. It reminds us how the best of us limp through life. There is nothing in us that makes us loved by God. That is why we need Him.

  2. God helps the one Compromised by Abram.
    The Angel of the Lord goes to Hagar. Though wretched, Abram didn’t care for her, the God of the Cosmos found her! Think also of the Gibeonites in Joshua 9 and again in the time of King Saul. When we mess up, God still looks after us and those we hurt. He does what is right! And Hagar also receives great promises.

  3. God ignores Sarai and Abram
    Don’t grieve the Lord in trying to use man’s ways to do His work. This is especially true in the new birth and in the work of the Church. Stay faithful to the means and methods of God – which He as prescribed. See how at the end of this, Abram is not one step closer to the fulfilment of God’s promise, but has so much more trouble and drama.

We must trust God’s promise and obtain it His way. Even when it is hard.