Then the LORD told Abram, “Leave your country, your relatives, and your father’s house, and go to the land that I will show you.
+“I will make you a great nation” (12:2) “Your descendants will be as numerous as the stars, I will give this land” (12:5) +”Look up into the heavens and count the stars if you can. Your descendants will be like that – too many to count!” (Genesis 15:5)
+“I have made you a father of many nations…I will make you exceedingly fruitful” (17:6).
God has a promise for each of us; a dream, a plan, a calling. It might not always be clear, even hard to grasp. But we can rest assured that whatever God says He will do…He will do…or will He? Sarah had a little trouble conceiving that she would conceive. How would it be possible?
Sarai’s Problem: She stopped trusting in God. “The Lord has kept me from having children” (Gen. 16)
Sarai was barren and well past childbearing age. She focused on her circumstances, physical inability, age, what she could perceive. Plus, Abram is pushing 99 years old. There was no Viagra back then—maybe the old guy was losing it. Children were considered a blessing, gift, and a sign of God’s favor. The inability to have children was a terrible source of shame and reproach, signifying punishment from God.
In our production based, success driven society, we buy into the same pressures: hefty bank accounts, massive houses, electronics galore. Even among ministers, people base success on the size of ministries and the amount of resources. If things are going badly, we believe God is punishing us or forgotten us. He won’t do it or can’t do it. God’s Promises are only good for other people. But what God wants is our humble obedience so He can reveal Himself to humanity. We hear all the time that God chooses the foolish things to confound the wise. In this passage, God chooses the old and sterile to confound the young and virile!
Sarah’s Solution: I better do something about it. “Go sleep with my maidservant”
It was customary for barren women to have their servants “stand in” for them with their husbands, so Sarah gave Hagar to Abram. She attempted to fulfill God’s will in her own way, taking matters into her own hands. Imagine, she was trying to HELP GOD! Yes, He is Omniscient, Almighty Lord Jehoveh…but he needs me to take care of things. “You are to name him Ishmael” (v.11). The child didn’t bring fulfillment, nor peace or joy, and created problems for the next 4,000 years. In her anger, Sarai kicks Hagar and Ishmael out of their camp.
Hagar and Ishmael become desperate while wandering through the wilderness with no food or water. She cries out to God and He helps her. Ishmael means God hears. This was not just a promise for Hagar but for all of us. God’s direction defies logic and often doesn’t make sense. Yet He constantly reminds us through His Word: “I will fight for you, provide, direct, guide, and take care of you”
How many of us can identify these issues in our lives?
• Impatience – Inability to wait for God to prove Himself. “When is God going to do it?”
• Insecurity – Inability to separate herself from others’ opinions. “I’m an outcast and cursed.”
• Inadequacy – Inability to provide results on her own. “I can’t do it.”
• Jealousy – Inability to rejoice in how God has already blessed her. “Why is Hagar fertile and not me?”
• Control freak – Inability to surrender. “Abram sleep with Hagar. How dare you do that? Get rid of her!”
• Blame Shifter – Inability to accept responsibility. “Abram this your fault! Now you’re gonna get it!”
• Frustrated – Inability to experience peace or contentment hearing God’s Word. “Woe is me!”
• Self-Deprecation – Inability to see herself through God’s eyes. “God has cursed me for FAILURE!”
• Mocker – Inability to experience joy hearing God’s Word. Three angels from God reaffirm to Abram that he will be the father of a great nation. Sarah starts to laugh. But the Hebrew word literally means to mock or scorn. The angels pick up on this and ask, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?”
God’s Answer: “When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him and said, ‘I am God Almighty; serve me faithfully and live a blameless life. I will make a covenant with you, by which I will guarantee to make you into a mighty nation’” (Genesis 17:1-2).
God makes a covenant with Abram and changes his name to Abraham (father of many). Sarai becomes Sarah (princess). And when she turned 90, Sarah gave birth to Isaac and started laughing, this time with JOY. This is the first time that God is referred to as El Shaddai meaning all powerful, with Whom nothing is impossible. It was His personal statement: I can fulfill my promises. Where no natural way exists, only I can work a miracle!
God’s greatest concern was not that Abraham and Sarah would have children. He wanted them to trust in Him and have relationship with Him. In the Old Testament, Abraham is used as the standard: God of Abraham. In the New Testament, all Israelites were referred to as children of Abraham. But his greatest title is God’s friend (Is. 41:8)
We need to do our part: live for Him, serve Him faithfully, obey, trust, have faith in the One Who created us. He will do His part: God always keeps His promises: in His time and in His way…even 6000 years later…
“What is impossible from a human perspective is possible with God” (Luke 18:27).
“…he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Phil. 1:6).
Think about these questions for a moment.
In what ways can you relate to Sarai’s (Sarah’s) struggles?
Which ones are you experiencing? In what ways are you trying to help God? Do you feel God has forgotten a promise to you?
Do you really believe that’s the case?