The world still bears the burden of their good intentions.
Lesson 28 from The HOPE Study Guide
Now Sarai, Abram’s wife had borne him no children, and she had an Egyptian maid whose name was Hagar. So Sarai said to Abram, “Now behold, the Lord has prevented me from bearing children. Please go in to my maid; perhaps I shall obtain children through her.” And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai.
– Genesis 16:1–2
But how could God’s promise to Abraham be fulfilled? For Sarah to have a child seemed impossible. Rather than waiting on God, and His timing, Sarah gave her servant Hagar to Abraham, and Hagar gave birth to a child named Ishmael. Eventually, just as God had promised, Sarah also bore a child from Abraham. They called him Isaac. And Sarah became bitter toward Hagar and Ishmael. Abraham was distressed.
– The HOPE, Chapter 5
OBSERVE & CONSIDER
In previous lessons we’ve seen Abraham’s faith in God, and in God’s promise to make him the father of a great nation and to bless all the nations through him. Today’s lesson looks at Abraham ten years after God first made that promise (Genesis 12:1-3). Abraham’s wife Sarah is about 75 years old, and still she has not born Abraham a child! So Sarah gives up what is a wife’s most cherished privilege, the right to her husband’s undivided affection, and she offers her maid, Hagar, to her husband that he might have a child by her and thus “fulfill” God’s promise. And of course Abraham could have said no, but he didn’t.
Not only does Sarah’s plan create turmoil within her marriage, but the epic conflict and human tragedy that has resulted from Sarah’s foolishness is still being felt today. Hagar’s son, Ishmael, would become the father of the Arab nations of our world, and the son that Sarah would later conceive would become the father of the nation of Israel. Hardly a day goes by that the news media does not cover some violent incident related to the Israeli – Arab conflict and the dispute over the right to the land that God promised to Abraham.1
Before continuing, recall that in our study of God’s story we have observed a recurring theme. What appears from our perspective to be a disastrous event is often a necessary part of God’s higher plan to accomplish His eternal purposes. For example, in response to the arrogance of the people at the tower of Babel, God confused their language. The result was chaos, and God scattered the people across the earth. But this was also the beginning of the nations as we know them today. And ultimately God will bring glory to Himself and blessing to humankind by doing something only He can do, namely bringing the nations together to live in perfect unity and peace with God and each other. Continue reading