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October 17, 2021 | Doug Sauder
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“So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, 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. Then Sarai said to Abram, ‘You are responsible for the wrong 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.”—Genesis 16:3–6 (NIV)
There’s just so much wrong about this . . . it’s hard to know where to begin! Seriously, if there was ever a picture of what NOT TO DO in any situation, this area of Scripture just about sums it up.
So, let’s try to unpack this insanity: God tells Abram, a 75-year-old childless man, that He would make him the father of a great nation (Genesis 12:2). He reiterates this in Genesis 15:5, saying, “Look up at the sky and count the stars . . . So shall your offspring be.” And then the Lord seals the covenant while Abram slept, thus assuring the entirety of the covenant depended on Him. Abram didn’t have to have to do anything to make this promise come to fruition. But then Genesis 16 happens.
And so, as it often does with us, impatience with the “speed” at which God brings His promises to fruition clearly begins to set in, and Sarai instructs Abram to sleep with her servant, Hagar. Instead of waiting on the Lord and resting in the promises He had made, Abram and Sarai take God’s promise into their hands and make a big mess. How? Well now, a pregnant Hagar, the secondary wife, hates Sarai and thinks herself superior.
According to John Gill, she “thought herself above her, and treated her as her inferior, with contempt, and reproached her for her barrenness.” Unable to handle the way things turned out, Sarai blames Abram for the whole mess. And Abram? Instead of putting a stop to all this and seeking the guidance and forgiveness of the Lord, he tells Sarai that she can do whatever she wants with Hagar. So, she begins to treat her harshly. Gill even points out that many scholars believe she “laid hard service upon her she was not able to go through, especially in her circumstances.” This leads to Hagar running away.
Friends, whenever we try to take God’s promises or calling into our own hands, it always leads to problems and draws us to sinful behavior. Several of the deeds of the flesh described in Galatians 5 were on display here, from sexual immorality (polygamy) to jealousy, envy, dissension, fits of rage, hatred, and more.
I’ve learned the hard way that a blessing out of season can be a curse. God’s timing is perfect. We may not always perceive it that way in the moment, but it is. The evidence of this is clear when we look back at the times we didn’t wait on Him. A lot of consequences and brokenness can come from this. I pray we can learn from the mistakes of Abram and Sarai and find the strength, patience, and rest through the Holy Spirit to wait on God’s timing.
DIG: Why did Sarai instruct Abram to take Hagar as his secondary wife and impregnate her?
DISCOVER: Why is it always a mistake to take the promises of God into our own hands? How have you done this in your own life?
DO: Are you waiting on the Lord to fulfill something He promised or called you to? A dream He gave you? Pray for the strength and patience to wait on His timing. Have you become impatient and taken things into your hands? Seek the forgiveness and direction of God today.
Danny Saavedra has served on the staff of Calvary since 2012, managing the Calvary Devotional and digital discipleship resources. He has a Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling and Master of Divinity in Pastoral Ministry from Liberty Theological Seminary. His wife Stephanie, son Jude, and daughter Zoe share a love of Star Wars, good food, having friends over for dinner, and studying the Word together as a family.