Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. And she had an Egyptian maidservant whose name was Hagar. So Sarai said to Abram, “See now, the Lord has restrained me from bearing children. Please, go in to my maid; perhaps I shall obtain children by her.” And Abram heeded the voice of Sarai. (Genesis 16:1-2)
In the culture of that day, to go childless was a tragedy to the family and typically brought disgrace upon the woman. In this particular case, God had made a specific promise to Abram and it is likely that Sarai was feeling the pressure to make something happen. So there came the day that the thought popped into her mind to involve the Egyptian handmaid she had acquired as a result of her abduction by the Pharaoh. Some traditions suggest that Hagar was, in fact, the daughter of the Pharaoh.
Because she was Sarai’s servant, Babylonian tradition permitted Sarai to obtain children by her servant without the servant being considered as equal to Sarai. Apparently Sarai’s plan was that if Hagar conceived and delivered a child, Sarai would adopt it as her own. When Sarai presented this plan to her husband, he “hearkened unto” her suggestion. Like Adam before him, who “hearkened unto” the voice of his wife, Abram made a decision that didn’t turn out the way everyone had hoped.
And so it is with all who try and “help” God bring something to pass — it never turns out the way it is supposed to. While He certainly expects us to trust Him and serve Him, He doesn’t need our help. It is written that, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12). While we more readily associate this passage with obvious wickedness, it is no less true where God’s people are concerned; we often choose the path that “seems right” only to find that it was wrong. Sometimes we discover this when the circumstances come crashing down on us.
Thankfully, our God is faithful and merciful to us even when we’ve made bad choices. It doesn’t mean we won’t have to endure the consequences of our choices — Abram certainly experienced much pain because of this incident — but it does mean that we can have hope for the future. One of the Psalms of Ascent says it best:
If You, Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with You, that You may be feared. I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His word I do hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning— Yes, more than those who watch for the morning. O Israel, hope in the Lord; for with the Lord there is mercy, and with Him is abundant redemption. And He shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities. (Psalm 130:3-8)
Blessings and Shalom,