When We Take Matters into Our Own Hands
If you are able, read all of Genesis 16 on your own. Select verses are included here.
From Genesis 16 (ESV)
1 Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. She had a female Egyptian servant whose name was Hagar. 2 And Sarai said to Abram, “Behold now, the LORD has prevented me from bearing children. Go in to my servant; it may be that I shall obtain children by her.” And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai.
4 And he went in to Hagar, and she conceived. And when she saw that she had conceived, she [Hagar] looked with contempt on her mistress [Sarai].
6b Then Sarai dealt harshly with her, and she fled from her.
7 The angel of the LORD found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, the spring on the way to Shur. 8 And he said, “Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?” She said, “I am fleeing from my mistress Sarai.” 9 The angel of the LORD said to her, “Return to your mistress and submit to her.” 10 The angel of the LORD also said to her, “I will surely multiply your offspring so that they cannot be numbered for multitude.” 11 And the angel of the LORD said to her,
“Behold, you are pregnant
and shall bear a son.
You shall call his name Ishmael,
because the Lord has listened to your affliction.
12 He shall be a wild donkey of a man,
his hand against everyone
and everyone’s hand against him,
and he shall dwell over against all his kinsmen.”
13 So she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, “You are a God of seeing,” for she said, “Truly here I have seen him who looks after me.”
16 Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore Ishmael to Abram.
Digging into God’s Word
Abram and Sarai were imperfect people, just like us. They walked with the Lord, and as a result experienced an intimacy with God beyond every expectation, and yet they messed up–in big ways–on several occasions.
In chapter 16, we see one of those times when Abram and Sarai went disastrously off course. God had long ago promised them an heir, and Sarai had remained childless. They must have ached and wondered and doubted. Finally, it became too much, and Sarai took matters into her own hands, giving her maidservant Hagar to her husband.
Isn’t it just like us to try to fix things without waiting on God? We pray to Him and plead with Him, we tell ourselves that we are trusting Him, and then we soon decide we need to solve the problem ourselves. Our mouths open when we should keep them shut, we take on tasks we should leave for others, we play God instead of letting God work out His perfect plan.
When Hagar became pregnant, the women’s relationship descended into bitterness and jealousy. Sarai mistreated Hagar, and Hagar ran away. But God saw Hagar in her distress and provided for her, advising her toward stability. If you missed God’s tenderness to Hagar, reread the last few verses, and notice Hagar’s perception of her encounter with God.
Reflect on these questions. If you have time, journal your answers.
- What in your life are you taking into your hands instead of letting God work?
- Consider the consequences Sarai brought on herself and others by taking matters into her own hands. Consider the immediate consequences as well as those experienced in generations to come. Take this to heart. What consequences might your lack of trust mean for you or for others?
- God comforted Hagar, restored her to Sarai, and later blessed Sarai with a son of her own. Talk about forgiveness and restoration! How does that help you today?
God’s Word is so cool. We saw in Genesis 16:13 that Hagar called God “You are the God of seeing” (ESV) or “You are the God who sees me” (NIV). Genesis 16:14 says, “Therefore the well was called Beer-lahai-roi; it lies between Kadesh and Bered” (ESV). In chapter 25, Isaac and Ishmael come together to bury their father, Abraham. Check out where Isaac settled (verse 11)–near the well of Beer-lahai-roi, or “the well of the Living One who sees me.” Don’t you want to jump up and down at this! Here we have evidence that Isaac and Ishmael remained in contact as brothers and that the well named for Hagar’s encounter with God held significance in both boys’ lives.Print