One of my favorite songs is My Way by Frank Sinatra:
And now, the end is near
And so I face the final curtain
My friend, I’ll say it clear
I’ll state my case, of which I’m certain
I’ve lived a life that’s full
I traveled each and ev’ry highway
And more, much more than this, I did it my way
Did you catch yourself singing along with the words?
Do you have a favorite song? Do you have an “our song?”
As I was reading Genesis chapter 16 studying the interaction of Abraham (Abram) and Sarah (Sarai), I thought about that song. My cozy feelings of hearing Ol’ Blue Eyes sing, changed as I realized we too often do it our way and miss God’s perfect plan.
In Genesis chapter 15, Abraham is wondering if a relative will be classified as his offspring to continue his family line and fulfill God’s promise. Verse 4 says, “And behold, the word of the Lord came to him: ‘This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.’”
Genesis chapter 16 continues the dilemma. Verses 1-3 say, “Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. She had a female Egyptian servant whose name was Hagar. 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. So, after Abram had lived ten years in the land of Canaan, Sarai, Abram’s wife, took Hagar the Egyptian, her servant, and gave her to Abram her husband as a wife.”
How long had it been since God promised an offspring for Abraham?
Is it significant that “Abram listened to the voice of Sarai?”
Culturally, this was an accepted practice for a man to obtain a male heir. However, instead of going to God, they do it “their way.” They probably viewed it as if God needed help in keeping His promise.
How do we make the same mistake today?
Genesis 16:4-6 continue the story, “And he went in to Hagar, and she conceived. And when she saw that she had conceived, she looked with contempt on her mistress. And Sarai said to Abram, ‘May the wrong done to me be on you! I gave my servant to your embrace, and when she saw that she had conceived, she looked on me with contempt. May the Lord judge between you and me!’ But Abram said to Sarai, ‘Behold, your servant is in your power; do to her as you please.’ Then Sarai dealt harshly with her, and she fled from her.”
How was their plan successful and unsuccessful?
The word “contempt” is used twice in this passage. What feelings come to mind when you hear that word?
In verses 1-3, Sarah blames God that she is barren. In these verses, she blames Abraham that Hagar is pregnant. How do we distinguish when it is God’s plan, someone else’s fault, or our responsibility?
Hagar fled and is on her own. Her name means “stranger.” She must have felt like one at that point. Verses 7-12 record the beautiful truth of how God visits us when we are in our dark places: “The angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, the spring on the way to Shur. 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.’ The angel of the Lord said to her, ‘Return to your mistress and submit to her.’ The angel of the Lord also said to her, ‘I will surely multiply your offspring so that they cannot be numbered for multitude.’ 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.
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.’”
What instructions were given to Hagar? Why?
What promise was given to Hagar?
Ishmael means “God has heard.” How does this relate to the passage?
How does this relate to our lives today?
Who are Ismael’s offspring? Has the prophecy of this passage held true?
Genesis 16:13-16 concludes the chapter giving Hagar’s response, “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.’ Therefore the well was called Beer-lahai-roi; it lies between Kadesh and Bered. And Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram called the name of his son, whom Hagar bore, Ishmael. Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore Ishmael to Abram.”
What does this passage reveal about Hagar’s view of the angel?
“Beer-lahai-roi” means “Well of the Living One Who Sees Me.” What does this say about Hagar’s faith?
How does this relate to our lives today?
They were in the land for ten years before Ishmael was born. It will be another thirteen years until Sarah actually gets pregnant. What are some reasons why God allows His blessings to be prolonged?
God had a plan for Abraham to have a son and it included Sarah. I think we can feel their struggle with time and trying to understand everything, but they still tried to do things “their way.”
Proverbs 14:12 and 16:25 say, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.”
How do these verses relate to Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar?
What problems were caused then and now due to their poor choice?
“Remember this. When people choose to withdraw far from a fire, the fire continues to give warmth, but they grow cold. When people choose to withdraw far from light, the light continues to be bright in itself but they are in darkness. This is also the case when people withdraw from God.” Augustine