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.
Sarai (to Abram): You can see that the Eternal One has still not allowed me to have any children. Why don’t you sleep with my servant girl? Maybe I could use her as a surrogate and have a child through her!
Sarai’s solution to her problem is not unique. Ancient Near Eastern custom allows for these kinds of arrangements.
Abram listened to Sarai and agreed to follow her plan. After they had lived 10 years in Canaan, Abram’s wife Sarai took her servant girl Hagar, the Egyptian, and gave her to her husband Abram as a wife. So Abram slept with Hagar. It was not long before she conceived. But as soon as she knew she was pregnant with Abram’s child, Hagar’s attitude changed and she became haughty toward Sarai.
Genesis 16:1-4 (VOICE)
Sarai knew that she was incapable of bearing a child but that her husband was still capable of begetting a child. God had specifically named Abram as the father of the promised heir, but He had not yet identified the mother. Logically, it would be Abram’s wife; but perhaps God had other plans. Sarai was “second-guessing” God, and this is a dangerous thing to do.
Furthermore, Sarai was not concerned about the glory of God; her only goal was “to have a child through her” (16:2). Perhaps there is a hint of disappointment with God and even blaming God when she says, “the Eternal One has still not allowed me to have any children” (v. 2). It has often been said that God’s delays are not God’s denials, but Satan whispers to us, “God is holding out on you! If He loved you, things would be different! Blame Him!”
Abram’s taking Hagar as a second wife was perfectly legal according to the marriage code of that day. In later years, Jacob would marry his wives’ maids, Bilhah and Zilpah; and each would give him two sons. Moreover, the plan seemed to be successful, for Hagar conceived a child. Perhaps Sarai was right after all.
But not everything that is legal or that appears to be successful is approved by the will of God. God never accepted Hagar as Abram’s wife; the Angel of the Lord called her “Sarai’s servant girl” (16:8). Later she was called “this slave woman and her son” (21:10), not “Abram’s wife and son.”
Because “whatever is not of faith is sin” (Rom. 14:23). God rejected the whole enterprise because He had something far better in mind for Abram and Sarai.
When you review the four evidences of biblical faith that are explained below, you can see that Abram and Sarai did not pass the test.
- 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.
They were unwilling to wait on the Lord but rushed ahead with their own plans. They acted only to please themselves and not to glorify God. They were not obeying the Word, and what they did certainly did not bring joy and peace to their hearts or their home.
Scottish novelist George MacDonald was right when he said, “In whatever man does without God, he must fail miserably, or succeed more miserably.”