Summary: Abraham and Sarah think they know best how to fulfill Gods promise. Doing things our way can have unintended consequences.
What happens when God doesnt move fast enough for us? Do we wait patiently or do we start thinking - "maybe I was supposed to do something." In the end we muck it up by inventing answers to prayers.
Thats what happens to Abram and Sarai - and it almost ruins the family. Fortunately, God is in ultimate control.
Verses 1 - 2
It may seem odd in our day, but it was not that unusual for another to be a surrogate mother - then the child would be the child, the heir. This wasnt thought of as immoral.
Perhaps Sarai started to think - maybe since I wasnt mentioned in Gods promise that the baby will really be the product of Abram and Hagar! Whoops.
Verses 3 - 4
Hagar - now starts to cop an attitude. She thinks "well since Im Abrams wife and having his baby - maybe Sarai really isnt even part of the promise at all!"
Its sad that Hagar gets drawn into the plot - but she does go willingly. How many times do we complain about whats happening and blaming God or others when we ourselves made decisions that led us to this place.
Verses 4 - 6
Sarai starts to feel a little uncomfortable with this Egyptian servants attitude and now blames Abram - when it was Sarais idea in the first place.
Abrams problem was that he abdicated his responsibility. Kind of reminds you of Adam and Eve. Adam should have stood up to Eve - or instructed her better in the first place. Abram should have known better than to do this.
We should know better than to try to solve problems with our schemes. Yes, you pray and then walk in the way you think God is calling you to walk - but in this case God didnt give Abram any direction. Other times he told him - go to Canaan. This time He just said "Im going to give you offspring."
We shouldnt fill in details if we dont have direction.
Abram abdicates again, trying to placate Sarai - and Hagar leaves.
Verses 7 - 8
The Angel of the Lord - Jesus - comes after her. Jesus knew why she was running but wanted her to think it through and confess (like in the Garden).
As Jesus tells her to go back - it tells us what went wrong. She was to submit to the original agreement - have the baby and let Sarai raise it. "Ill stop competing with her. Im a surrogate mother and thats what I will be."
Verses 9 - 12
Notice that God gives much the same blessing to Ishmael as to Isaac - just not Gods promise.
They will love the wilderness. Wild donkey isnt insulting Ishmael - it means theyll love the wild rather than domestic.
He will be a strong leader but they will love freedom and will oppose other nations. Donkeys are also known for being stubborn and strong willed. That isnt necessarily a bad thing. This was a blessing not a curse.
Conclusion from Chapter 16:
Everybody blew it but the Lord. Thats probably what well all say before we go to the Lord.
You cant blow it so bad that Jesus cant fix it - if we give our hearts to Him. Even when we try we are going to make mistakes - but He can make something good of it.
Several things going on here:
1. God reveals a new name: El Shaddai - "God All Sufficient" from the Hebrew for "pour out" as in God will pour out blessings. (verse 1)
2. God tells Abram to be "blameless" - Abram, of course, could never hope to do that - but even in Gods name He hints that it is HE that will make Abram able to perform hi part of the covenant. Its God - the great I AM, the becoming one - who also makes us able to be perfect.
Romans 5:18-19 For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous .
3. God changes Abrams name (verse 5)
Abram means: exalted father. Abraham means "father of many" which is appropriate for what God promises in making him the father of many nations.
4. Didnt God already make a covenant in chapter 15? (verse 7)
Yes - that one stressed the land - this one stresses the descendants. Different aspects - same covenant.
Circumcision was a sign that Abraham belonged to God - that hed thrown his lot in with God.
Circumcision marked the person that they were entitled to this covenant with God - but it didnt necessarily follow that every one who was circumcised obeyed that covenant.