Three people, one man and two women, their lives intricately woven together by love, sex, jealousy, pride, and deceit. The ultimate love triangle. Two of the three had been chosen by God for a very specific purpose – to build a nation, but they refused to wait for God’s plan to unfold. Such were the lives of Abram (Abraham), Sarai (Sarah), and Hagar.
Have you ever been promised something, but had to wait to get it? The interminable amount of time spent waiting for God’s promise to become a reality was more than Sarai could handle. Her husband was to be the father of a nation, to have descendants as numerous as the stars! She believed it, for God had given His Word to Abram. But didn’t God know that she was well past childbearing age, and that she was barren? They had no children. There was no close heir. Sarai and Abram had made their peace long ago regarding their childless state. Thank heaven Abram loved her, else he would have divorced her or taken another wife long age! She was responsible for the fact that her womb had not opened; therefore, she must make amends. And so Sarai pondered the situation…
Abram sat in front of his tent looking out over his land. He was a rich man by others’ standards. But oh, how he would give up every last piece of livestock for a son. He had long stopped praying for a child. He had witnessed the tears month after month, year after year – each time Sarai had discovered she wasn’t with child. He had seen the hurt, felt the withdrawal, although he had reassured her many times that he loved her. Abram’s mind drifted back to the vision, the cause of his turmoil.
Genesis 15 After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying,
“Do not fear, Abram,
I am a shield to you;
[a]Your reward shall be very great.”
2 Abram said, “O Lord [b]God, what will You give me, since I [c]am childless, and the [d]heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3 And Abram said, “[e]Since You have given no [f]offspring to me, [g]one born in my house is my heir.”4 Then behold, the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “This man will not be your heir; but one who will come forth from your own [h]body, he shall be your heir.”
Little did Abram know that Sarai’s mind was on the same vision…
Hagar glanced at Sarai as her hands efficiently kneaded the bread. Sarai was quiet this morning, distracted even. When Hagar stooped to clean up the milk that Sarai spilt, she noticed a faraway look in her eyes. Well, whatever thoughts Sarai were having would come out soon enough. Her mistress was not one to be silent for long. Hagar admired Sarai and Abram’s relationship. In a world where women were often treated as property (as she was), there was a camaraderie between Sarai and Abram. Abram often asked Sarai’s advice, and shared with her the events of his day. If she ever married, she hoped it would be to someone like Abram. Ah, but why dream? A slave she was, and although Sarai was good to her, Hagar was still a slave. Sometimes she imagined that she was in Sarai’s place. Little did Hagar know that Sarah was imagining that also…
Innocently enough. That’s how easily we take over God’s design for our lives. A thought here, a word there – and suddenly it becomes our plan rather than God’s plan. What happened next glaringly illustrates a human plan gone awry.
“That’s it!” Sarai exclaimed to herself. It was a brilliant idea! Surely she could convince Abram. Oh she would be heartbroken, but it was for the best. Quickly, before she lost her nerve, Sarai hurried outside. Abram listened incredulously as Sarah nervously spilled out her plan. Sarai wanted him, Abram, to take Hagar as his wife???? He stood up, suddenly agitated for some reason. Swirls of dust rose as he paced back and forth in front of the tent. “Is this the answer?” he muttered to himself. “Perhaps God has given Sarai this thought. If so, then so be it.”
Hagar didn’t know dreams could come true. How surprised she had been when Sarai told her that she would be Abram’s wife, and even more surprised when she realized that she was with child! She, Hagar, was going to give Abram something that Sarai could not – an heir. Forgotten was the kindness in which Hagar had been treated. Instead, feelings of superiority rose up in her. She began ridiculing Sarai. After all, Hagar was young, beautiful, and pregnant.
Sarai couldn’t take much more. It was bad enough that she had given her slave to Abram as his wife. But now that Hagar was expecting, she was overbearing and cruel with her words. Abram was of no assistance. He merely told Sarai to do whatever she wanted. Well Sarai knew what she wanted to do. She wanted to pull out Hagar’s hair, strand by strand! The more Sarai thought, the angrier she became, and it was reflected in how she treated Hagar.
Hagar knew she didn’t have a choice. By now she realized that Abram was not going to involve himself in female matters. Life had become intolerable. As a slave, she had no recourse but to flee. Sitting wearily by a spring, an angel appeared to Hagar.
Genesis 16: 9 Then the angel of the Lord said to her, “Return to your mistress, and submit yourself [h]to her authority.” 10 Moreover, the angel of the Lord said to her, “I will greatly multiply your [i]descendants so that [j]they will be too many to count.” 11 The angel of the Lord said to her further,
“Behold, you are with child,
And you will bear a son;
And you shall call his name [k]Ishmael,
Because the Lord [l]has given heed to your affliction.
12 “He will be a wild donkey of a man,
His hand will be against everyone,
And everyone’s hand will be against him;
And he will [m]live [n]to the east of all his brothers.”
And it was so. When Abram was eighty-six years old, he became a father. Hagar had a son, and named him Ishmael.
That would be the end of the story, according to Sarai’s plan. And for thirteen years, it seemed to be the end of the story. But when Abram was ninety-nine years old, he had another supernatural encounter.
Genesis 17: Now when Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him,
3 Abram fell on his face, and God talked with him, saying,
4 “As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you,
And you will be the father of a multitude of nations.
5 “No longer shall your name be called [d]Abram,
But your name shall be [e]Abraham;
For I have made you the father of a multitude of nations.
15 Then God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but [l]Sarah shall be her name.16 I will bless her, and indeed I will give you a son by her. Then I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations;kings of peoples will [m]come from her.” 17 Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said in his heart, “Will a child be born to a man one hundred years old? And will Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?” 18 And Abraham said to God, “Oh that Ishmael might live before You!” 19 But God said, “No, but Sarah your wife will bear you a son, and you shall call his name [n]Isaac; and I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant for his[o]descendants after him. 20 As for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I will bless him, and will make him fruitful and will multiply him exceedingly. He shall [p]become the father of twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation. 21 But My covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you at this season next year.” 22 When He finished talking with him, God went up from Abraham.
Abraham was astounded! Could it be? Could it be that he and Sarai – no, Sarah – would have a son? What would Sarah think?
Sarah laughed. Even if she hadn’t have been barren, she was certainly too old now. Besides, Abraham had a son, Ishmael. He had filled the empty spot in Abraham’s life, and she and Hagar had made their peace with each other. No, a baby was out of the question for her.
But what is out of the question for us isn’t for God, and one year later, Isaac was born. Sarah, at the age of ninety, had become a mother.
That would be the end of the story – except for the fact that there are always consequences when our plans differ from God’s plans. Remember Ishmael? At the time of Isaac’s birth, he was about fourteen years old. Ishmael had been the center of attention for those years, groomed to be Abraham’s heir. Sarah had not forgotten one moment of Hagar’s past behavior, nor had she overlooked Abraham’s devotion to Ishmael. Jealousy is an ugly emotion, and always stirs the pot. Sarah’s jealousy was no exception.
Abraham loved Ishmael! He also thought fondly of Hagar. What was Sarah asking him to do? How could he send them away? Yet that’s exactly what Sarah wanted him to do. She wanted no part of Isaac sharing his inheritance with Ishmael. He was so very troubled…
Genesis 21:12 But God said to Abraham, “[f]Do not be distressed because of the lad and your maid; whatever Sarah tells you, listen to her, for through Isaac [g]your descendants shall be named.13 And of the son of the maid I will make a nation also, because he is your [h]descendant.” 14 So Abraham rose early in the morning and took bread and a [i]skin of water and gave them to Hagar, putting them on her shoulder, and gave her the boy, and sent her away.
Sarah’s plan, although well-intentioned, took on a life of it’s own. As it spiraled out of her control, she had to continue dealing with the consequences, and lives were affected. Fourteen years passed between God’s first announcement to Abraham and the birth of Isaac. Honestly, who could blame Sarah for devising a plan of her own? Yet the Bible tells us to wait upon the Lord.
Let us leave this story with a lesson. Time is our enemy, but God is timeless. Don’t get ahead of God, as Sarah did. Trust Him to bring about that which He has designed for you, for His plan is the perfect one.