Daybreak: Genesis 16:1-16
“And Sarai said unto Abram, Behold now, the Lord hath restrained me from bearing: I pray thee, go in unto my maid; it may be that I may obtain children by her. And Abram hearkened to the voice of Sarai.” (Genesis 16:2)
A number of years ago, our family desperately needed a house that would accommodate our growing needs; another baby was on the way. My wife and I began to study real estate ads and check out homes we thought sounded like good options. After many weeks of research — and a number of disappointments when properties that sounded promising proved to be less than described — we came upon what we thought was the perfect house. It was immaculate, attractively decorated, and in a nice neighborhood. We quickly decided this was the house for us, and without much deliberation, made an offer.
However, someone else also liked the house! To our dismay, the other offer was accepted instead of ours. We were disheartened to say the least, and our search resumed. Thankfully, God had the whole matter under control, as He always does. A few months later, my wife and I were able to purchase a much larger, well-built house for our family. Now we realize that the first house would not have been as comfortable for us.
We have probably all had occasions in our lives when waiting on God was hard and we took matters into our own hands, trying to work out situations according to what seemed right to us. That human tendency is clearly illustrated in today’s text. While Abram and Sarai believed God’s promise of a son, they were seemingly frustrated by the passing years. It was difficult to patiently wait until He fulfilled His promise in His own time and way! Sarai stated that “the Lord hath restrained me from bearing.” She was disappointed, and there was even a hint of blaming God in her attitude. Eventually, she took matters into her own hands and devised a strategy for “fulfilling” God’s promise. In doing so, she demonstrated doubt in God’s ability to provide the promised heir — and created some serious challenges for herself and her husband.
When we surrender and consecrate our lives to the Lord, we need to believe He will direct us as we remain committed to Him. It is our responsibility to allow Him to guide us in His own way and in His own time — even when that means waiting on Him. It is not necessary to present God with a list of options as to how He could meet our needs; He already has the perfect solution! And He does not require our help to bring that solution about. Our part is to simply trust and obey.
Today, let’s learn a lesson from Sarai and Abram’s experience. God has the solution for whatever faces us, and He will never be late. We can leave our concern with Him and know that He will work everything out in the best way at the best time!
At the beginning of chapter 16, ten years had passed since Abram and his family had arrived in Canaan. At this point, Abram was eighty-five years old, and Sarai was seventy-five.
Verses 1– 4 relate how Sarai contrived her own solution to her continuing inability to bear children. In accordance with the custom of the ancient Near East, Sarai provided her husband with an Egyptian servant woman, Hagar, as a substitute wife to produce offspring. Though Hagar did conceive, use of this legal provision resulted in friction between the two women. Verse 4 says that Sarai was “despised” by Hagar, indicating that the servant woman became arrogant toward her mistress and ignored the basic principles of respect that should have governed her conduct.
Verses 5–6 indicate that Sarai responded by blaming and upbraiding her husband. Abram declined to punish Hagar, but allowed Sarai to treat the servant woman as she pleased. Although the law prohibited the wife from expelling a substitute wife after she conceived, Sarai “dealt hardly” (humbled, afflicted, or mishandled) with Hagar, and this harsh treatment ultimately caused her to run away.
In verses 7–14, God shows His compassion and concern for Hagar and her unborn child. While Hagar was on her way to her homeland, Egypt, the angel of the Lord came to the servant woman at a fountain near the wilderness of Shur and counseled her to return and submit to her mistress. In return, she was promised multiple descendants through her child. He would be named Ishmael, which means “God hears” — a reminder that God had indeed heard her cry of desperation. Hagar responded with gratitude and worship, naming the well where she rested “Beer-lahai-roi,” which could be translated “Well of the One who lives and sees me.”
Verse 7 is the first reference to the “angel of the Lord” in Scripture. He is generally believed to be the preincarnate Christ, as He clearly exercises the characteristics and abilities of deity. He is mentioned frequently throughout the Old Testament.
The final two verses of the chapter record the birth of Ishmael, the father of the Arab nations. Abram was eighty-six years old at this time.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines – Used by permission per WORDsearch)
II. The early history of the chosen race
8. The birth of Ishmael (16:1-16)
a. Sarah’s defective plan (16:1-6)
b. Hagar’s flight (16:7-14)
c. Ishmael’s birth (16:15-16)
A Closer Look
- What action did Sarai suggest to her husband in verses 2-6?
- What do you think Hagar learned about God as a result of the events in our text?
- What might be some indicators that we are trying to devise our own solutions to the problems that face us?
At times we must wait on the Lord for resolution to the situations that face us. Let’s remember that no problem is too complicated for God if we are willing to let Him give us His solution in His time.