“And Abram said, Lord God, what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless, and the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus? And Abram said, Behold, to me thou hast given no seed: and, lo, one born in my house is mine heir. And, behold, the word of the Lord came unto him, saying, This shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir.”
Now before we move on, we have a couple of things to remember. God had been promising Abraham (Abram at the time) that the land would belong to his seed. His kids. His descendants. But Abraham did not have any children at the time. However, even though he believed God could provide the child, he allowed his reason to rule in other areas.
“Yes. I may have a child one day, but I’d like to live as trouble-free as possible until then. So, Sarah, (Sarai at the time) just tell any men who find you attractive that you are my sister, which you are, but don’t let them know I’m your husband.” Because of his fear, as they sojourned, Abraham set his wife up to have a baby with someone else. One such occurrence was narrowly missed when an Egyptian king thought Mrs. Sarah would make a lovely companion. But God intervened. And in doing so, shielded Abraham’s promise and protected Sarah’s could-have-been tarnished reputation. Some scholars speculate that Hagar was part of the offering the Egyptian king gave to bless Abraham and thereby remove the curse God had put on the pharaoh’s household to protect Sarah. If this is true, then, this decision Abraham made to protect himself and to jeopardize Sarah ultimately led to Hagar being Sarah’s maid.
And we know where Hagar ended up. Between the sheets with Abraham, pregnant with Abraham’s son, and at odds with the one God had gone to great lengths to protect.
I’m not sure Abraham was convinced Sarah was to be a mother-to-be. But there are some unspoken indications that God was guiding Abraham to believe in that possibility while simultaneously leaving enough unknown to require greater faith.
First, there was the Egyptian king incident. Surely, there should have been some merit in the miraculous way God saved Sarai from a sexual encounter with a pagan king. After all, Sarai was a woman. Why would God go to extremes for her—unless she was part of the plan He had for His promise?
Secondly, Abraham meets with God after a victorious battle and recovery of his captured nephew, Lot. God shows up and tells him, “Fear not.” Then they have the above conversation. Why would Abraham respond to “Fear not” with a conversation about his childlessness? Well, it requires inference…something Abraham seemed to expect from God but didn’t quite use himself. We can easily ASSUME that the conversation amounted to this: “Well, God. I want to be fearless, but You see, You’ve promised me fatherhood, and my servant is who is in line to inherit. I don’t have a son to carry on my name or to beget those descendants You mentioned. Still, I’m hanging on to that promise. Now You want me to be without fear as well?”
Note that God replied to the comment about Abraham’s SERVANT inheriting with His reaffirming that Abraham would have a son of his own. And then, God sealed the deal with a supernatural covenant in which God alone bore the weight of the contract. Now that should have erased all fear. But what happened next?
Mr. and Mrs. Abram got afraid that that childbearing wasn’t going to happen because of Sarai’s infertility. So Hagar a SERVANT and her son, Ishmael enter the picture. Abram had not gotten the implied message. Sure, Ishmael was Abraham’s son, but he was born of a SERVANT. Though it was an acceptable custom of the day, God’s promise to Abraham had been in the context of Abraham’s comments about his servant. There was an unspoken connection.” NO SERVANT will be a part of this promise. This promise will be conceived between you and the wife I protected.”
But they didn’t get the message; they got Ishmael and a bitter servant, and chaos reigned. Then God shows up again, promising, very specifically this time, that Sarai would bear Isaac. But what happens in the wait? They travel to the land of the Philistines and the king of Gerar finds Sarah attractive. Abraham again jeopardizes the promise.
Sarah, who has been given the promise that she will have a son within the year, is added to a king’s harem. Imagine the effort it would have taken to convince the world that Isaac was Abraham’s seed if the king of Gerar would have had his way with her. But again, God intervened and protected His promise. Again, they departed richer and their promise intact.
This couple was numbered among the faithful. Thankfully so. Can’t we be the same? Full of faith in God, yet failing to hear the unsaid, failing to trust God with those things that we believe are our responsibility, those things for which we feel a sense of responsibility to manage? Mercifully, as He did with Abraham and Sarah, God takes our Ishmaels, the things we have created, and weaves them into our promise. He takes our poor judgement and misguided efforts and protects us from potential demise. Only He can make something good of our poor choices and failed attempts to assist Him in His God work, while through it all keeping His promise.
Tip/tidbit: Faith sometimes leaves some things unsaid. What might be the “rest of the story” in what God is already speaking to you on your faith walk? What are your areas of faith? By the same token, where does fear perhaps influence you to make poor decisions?