“And Sarai said unto Abram, ‘Behold now, the Lord hath restrained me from bearing: I pray thee, go in unto my maid; it may be that I may obtain children by her.’ And Abram hearkened to the voice of Sarai.”
Genesis 16: 2
King James Version
“A Bad Idea Gets Even Worse”
(Our God is Just)
“We must first be made good before we can do good; we must first be made just before our works can please God.”
What does it mean to treat others “justly?”
“Men (and women) must pursue things which are just in present, and leave the future to divine Providence.”
She was an Egyptian girl. Most likely “used” as a gift from Pharaoh to pacify Abram on his way out of Egypt.
Torn from all that was familiar, from every family tie and the comfort of a country she called “home;” Hagar was assigned to be the “handmaiden” of the bosses’ wife. She was to be servant-girl to Sarai. As a “handmaiden,” her legal status at that time guaranteed her protection from hunger and violence. I guess that “violence” didn’t cover sexual exploitation by her boss and his wife. For it didn’t take long for Hagar to find herself in the middle of a hornet’s nest.
Feeling that God was again not capable of fulfilling His promise and giving them the child they were looking forward to calling their own, Abram and Sarai decided to help God out. This time it was Sarai who came up with a brain-storm. It was a cultural tradition at the time for women who were barren, especially if the woman was the “main wife,” to use a surrogate to conceive a child that she could then call her own. In this case, Sarai, without raising too many eyebrows could, provide her maid as a “sleep-over” partner for her husband and if a child were conceived, Sarai would call it hers.
What’s more, if the child were male, he would carry on the family name and inherit the family property and possessions. Simple and uncomplicated! You sleep with my husband and I take your offspring as my own.
Excuse me girls, but any woman who thinks this absurd plan could work without any hitches has to be crazy.
What astounds me even more is that after all Abram should have learned from God’s leading by this time, one mention of hopping in bed with the beautiful young chamber maid and he was ready to go. You don’t find the Bible even suggesting Abram raised a finger in protest. Instead, he took advantage of Sarai’s offer and before you know it, somebody was going to be a daddy and someone was going to be a mommy.
Now please – to all the girls in the garden – picture this in your mind.
Hagar awakes one morning with a twinkle in her eye and a song on her lips. Something is different and she tells her mistress Sarai, “I’m going to have a baby!” What should have been a joyous announcement – a fulfillment of God’s promised child becomes the thorn in Sarai’s side. Abram doesn’t help the situation! As we will find out later,Abram grew very fond of Hagar’s baby. We all do that with children. Can’t you imagine him taking a different attitude toward Hagar once he found out she was carrying his “promised” child, or so he thought. I can easily understand Sarai’s boiling jealousy as she watched her husband tend to the needs of “her servant.”
I want to share with you the descriptive, informative way author Virginia Owens describes this convoluted mess:
“Sarai (Abram’s) wife, the Scripture says, gave Hagar to Abram ‘to be his wife,’ using the same word to describe both women. By her own design, Sarai elevates Hagar from the status of maidservant to that of wife. This is a necessary concession if the child who comes from this union is to have the legal status as heir, but also a compromise that will have disastrous consequences. This, however, is the only time in the story that Hagar is called ‘wife.’”
I’m certain the slave girl Hagar, who had no say about having to use her womb to carry a child for Abram and Sarai, found a great deal of irony in the fact that she, this “lesser than,” could do for them what they obviously could not do for themselves.
But just reflect on this fact, if Sarai had waited for God to fulfill His promise rather than trying to manipulate the situation and if Abram had remembered God’s words to the first man on earth that a man should, “cleave to his wife,” the tragedy of a “do it yourself” solution would not be alive and well today.
I hate to tell you, but more times than I’d like to admit, I have found myself trying to arrange all the blocks that God has promised to lay out for me. And then when I’ve finished making a mess, I look up and say to my Heavenly Father, “Why aren’t You helping me?” With great kindness He replies, “I would if you’d let me.”
As we think today about Hagar and her life, I hope we will remember that it was God’s chosen people, Abram and Sarai, who treated Hagar, the foreign slave girl not only disrespectfully but also unjustly. God noticed their behavior. And in great compassion and justice He took the side of the downtrodden girl and protected her from the hand of the unjust.
May we as God’s children never forget – our God is just, especially to those who are overlooked and walked upon.
“Our heavenly Father, we commend to your mercy those for whom life does not spell freedom: prisoners of conscience, the homeless and the handicapped, the sick in body and mind, the elderly who are confined to their homes, those who are enslaved by their passions, and those who are addicted to drugs. Grant that, whatever their outward circumstances, they may find inward freedom, through him who proclaimed release to captives, Jesus Christ our Saviour.
John R. W. Stott
Dorothy Valcarcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
For more from Dorothy, please visit transformationgarden.com.