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October 24, 2021 | Doug Sauder
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“Then the Angel of the Lord said to her, ‘I will multiply your descendants exceedingly, so that they shall not be counted for multitude.’ And the Angel of the Lord said to her: ‘Behold, you are with child, and you shall bear a son, you shall call his name Ishmael because the Lord has heard your affliction. He will be a wild man; his hand shall be against every man, and every man against him. And he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren.’”—Genesis 16:10-12 (NKJV)
Abram, Sarai, and Hagar all found themselves deeply involved in a serious dilemma. Rather than trusting God to fulfill His promise of a biological son, Abram and Sarah took matters into their own hands. They decided to forego God’s plan as Sarai instructed Abram to take Hagar as his mistress—hoping it would bring about the promised heir.
Unfortunately, when we choose to overrule God’s rightful place in our decision making, negative results can reach far beyond what we could ever imagine. Many disappointments and tragedies can be avoided by listening and waiting upon the Lord.
In this case, Hagar was severely distressed and hurt by these crippling events. She was used, abused, and pregnant with an illegitimate son. So, she cried out, and an Angel of the Lord, a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus Christ, appeared. This Angel instructed Hagar to name her son Ishmael, which means “God hears our affliction.”
Jesus met Hagar at her point of need. Psalm 46:1 (NKJV) says, “God is our refuge and strength. A very present help in trouble.” Hagar’s wilderness experience brought her face to face with the Son of God. Likewise, in our own wilderness experiences, God can speak to us very clearly. He is very present, a help in times of trouble. Isaiah 59:1 (NKJV) tells us, “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; nor His ear heavy, that it cannot hear.” You see, God hears the cries of the brokenhearted. God sees and hears our suffering.
The Angel goes on to tell Hagar the future plans for her son—how he will live, be perceived, and be received. This prophecy was correct; Ishmael became the father of the Arab nations, which has been in conflict with Abraham’s son, Isaac, and his descendants, the Jewish people, ever since.
Ishmael was born of the flesh. His birth was the result of man’s choice, not God’s choice. The flesh is an uncontrolled part of human nature. The flesh is untamed, wild, and contentious. In Romans 7:18, 20 (NJKV) Paul writes, “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find . . . Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.”
We can’t turn the clock back on our mistakes, yet we can certainly learn from them. Abram and Sarah did, and God forgave and covered over their bad decisions.
DIG: Are you living with repercussions of a self-made decision? What has the Lord taught you, and how has He helped you?
DISCOVER: Think about Hagar’s response in this story and what she learned. How are you responding, and what are you learning from disappointing events in your life?
DO: Read Galatians 5:22-26. Walk in the Spirit, and you will not fulfill the desires of the flesh.