In our study of Genesis chapter sixteen, we look at Abram's stumble in his faith and its lasting impact on our world today. We will see how going along with the ways of the world can have severe and lasting consequences.
Now Sarai, Abram's wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian maidservant named Hagar; so she said to Abram, 'The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my maidservant; perhaps I can build a family through her.' Abram agreed to what Sarai said.
Sarai did not have any children for Abram and so, as the normal thing of that day was to present your maidservant as sort of a surrogate, she did the same. Although it was the accepted way of the day, the practice was against the will of God. Abram had the promise of God that he was going to have a legitimate son but he went along with the popular custom and so begins his lapse in faith. When faced with the customs and accepted norms of our day, do we go along or do we stand on the word and promises of God? We notice that Abram did not take this matter to God in prayer so that he could be reminded of God's plan and His will. When faced with similar choices, do we seek the will of God through prayer and His word?
So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian maidservant Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. He slept with Hagar, and she conceived. When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress.
The number ten is the number of earthly completion and reminds us of man's efforts and responsibility for his actions. They had been in Canaan for ten years and did not see God coming through on His promise so they took matters into their own hands. Hagar became pregnant and this led to a sense of pride and looking down on Sarai. We also see that Sarai understood the biblical marriage and that by giving Hagar to Abram they would, in fact, be married. In our world today, it is common to sleep with any number of different people as if it doesn't mean anything but, according to God's word, it is in fact getting married. As we shall see, Abram's wrong marriage will have consequences for all of mankind. Likewise, the explosion of "wrong marriages" that we see today has had and will continue to have profound consequences on our society.
Then Sarai said to Abram, 'You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my servant in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the Lord judge between you and me.' 'Your servant is in your hands,' Abram said. 'Do with her whatever you think best.' Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her.
Now, we begin to see the consequences of Abram's lapse in faith. Hagar despises Sarai and Sarai mistreats Hagar. It is this very thing that is at the heart of many of the problems our world faces today. This hatred will flow through their children and even grow worse as we get to our world today.
Then the angel of the Lord found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur. And he said, 'Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?' 'I'm running away from my mistress Sarai,' she answered. Then the angel of the Lord told her, Go back to your mistress and submit to her.'
The Lord found Hagar as she was running away and told her to go back to her mistress. We might ask ourselves why God would have her go back into such a bad situation. The answer, as we will see, is that God is not done with her and the son that she is carrying and, in fact, it is better for them to be there. We may face some equally difficult times in our lives and wonder why God has us to remain in our situation. The answer, like that for Hagar, is that God has more to do with us where we are and it is for our own good.
The angel added, 'I will so increase your descendants that they will be too numerous to count.' The angel of the Lord also said to her: 'You are now with child and you will have a son. You shall name him Ishmael, for the Lord has heard of your misery. He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone's hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers.'
The Lord promised her that, through the son she was carrying, she would be blessed with many descendants. This promise has been fulfilled today as the Muslim people trace their heritage back to Ishmael. The Lord went on to predict the fact that Ishmael and his descendants would live in hostility to the Jews which is what we see in our world today.
She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: 'You are the God who sees me,' for she said, 'I have now seen the One who sees me.' That is why the well was called Beer Lahai Roi; it is still there, between Kadesh and Bered. So Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram gave the name Ishmael to the son she had borne. Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore him Ishmael.
Hagar met the One true God and she knew it. Out of obedience to Him, she went back and bore Abram a son which was named Ishmael. She must have told Abram what had happened out in the desert because, at that time, it was up to the man to pick the name for their children.