Detours That Brought Conflict
‘The detour is always worse than the main road.”
Genesis 16 records a painful detour that Abraham and Sarah made in their pilgrim walk, a detour that brought conflict not only into their home but also into the world. What today’s journalists call “the Arab-Israeli conflict” began right here.
But this account is much more than ancient history with modern consequences. It’s a good lesson for God’s people about walking by faith and waiting for God to fulfill His promises in His way and in His time. As you study the stages in the experience of Abraham and Sarah, you will see how dangerous it is to depend on your own wisdom.
Despite God’s promise, years went by. Still Abram’s wife Sarai remained childless. But she did have an Egyptian servant girl whose name was Hagar. Sarai had an idea so she approached her husband.
Genesis 16:1 (VOICE)
Abraham was now eighty-five years old. He had been walking with the Lord for ten years and had learned some valuable lessons about faith. God had promised Abraham and Sarah a child but had not told them when the child would be born. It was a period of waiting, and most people don’t like to wait. But it is through “faith and patience [that we] inherit the promises” (Heb. 6:12).
God has a perfect timetable for all that He wants to do. After all, this event was not the birth of just another baby: It was part of God’s great plan of salvation for the whole world. However, as Sarah waited for something to happen, she became impatient.
Why did God wait so long?
He wanted Abraham and Sarah to be physically “as good as dead” (Heb. 11:12) so that God alone would get the glory. At age eighty-five, Abraham was still virile enough to father a child by Hagar; so the time for the miracle baby had not yet arrived. Whatever is truly done by faith is done for the glory of God (Rom. 4:20) and not for the praise of man.
A willingness to wait on the Lord is another evidence that you are walking by faith.“Whoever believes need never be shaken“ (Isa. 28:16). Paul quoted this verse in Romans 10:11 and amplified its meaning: “Anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.“ (The same Holy Spirit inspired both Isaiah and Paul, and He has the right to make these changes.) Whenever we stop trusting God, we start to “be shaken” in the wrong direction and we end up being disgraced.
A third evidence of faith is that you are acting on the authority of God’s Word. So faith comes from hearing, that is, hearing the Good News about Christ.“ (Rom. 10:17). You can act by faith, and know that God will bless, if you are obeying what He says in His Word. Hebrews 11 records the mighty acts of ordinary men and women who dared to believe God’s promises and obey His commandments.
Finally, whenever you act by faith, God will give joy and peace in your life. “Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing” (Rom. 15:13). Conflict may surround you, but you will have God’s peace and joy within you.
These, then, are the evidences of true biblical faith:
- You are willing to wait;
- You are concerned only for the glory of God;
- You are obeying God’s Word; and
- You have God’s joy and peace within.
While Abraham and Sarah were waiting, God was increasing their faith and patience and building character (James 1:1-4). Then something happened that put Abraham and Sarah on a painful detour.
Sarah knew that she was incapable of bearing a child but that her husband was still capable of begetting a child. Abram’s whole purpose in life revolved around producing the promised seed. It would have been easy for him to have justified leaving Sarai and getting a wife that would fulfill his dreams. Or, as he did here, add a wife that would further his purpose. But that produced nothing but trouble for his family and the world ever since.
The end does not justify the means. This example from Abram’s life proves conclusively that there is a right and a wrong way to accomplish God’s directions. We not only need to know God’s will, but God’s plan for accomplishing that will.
God had specifically named Abraham as the father of the promised heir, but He had not yet identified the mother. Logically, it would be Abraham’s wife; but perhaps God had other plans. Sarah was “second-guessing” God, and this is a dangerous thing to do. Remember, true faith is based on the Word of God (Rom. 10:17) and not on the wisdom of man (Prov. 3:5-6), because “faith is living without scheming.”
The Walk Of Faith
Abraham is called “the father of faith”; true faith was exemplified through his life. In the life of this “friend of God” (James 2:23), faith is not defined as perfect character or behavior, but simply believing what God says. Abraham’s life also demonstrates how we may grow in believing God’s word and encourages us to persist though we may grow slowly or not see our faith’s immediate fulfillment.
Avoid striving to fulfill God’s promises in your own strength. Doing so always results in self-induced problems.