Faith Thrives When We Turn from Sin.

Have you ever acted impulsively and hurt those closest to you? Abram was a godly man of faith, but he still acted out of emotion on occasion. He was given God’s word seven times, yet in this chapter he deflects it and takes his own way.

As Christians, we will never be without sin, but our goal should be to sin less. As we persevere in our walk, like Abram, we will hopefully succeed more than we fail.

Sarai’s Impatient Suggestion

After waiting 10 years for God to fulfill his promise of an heir to Abram, Sarai got impatient and suggested they try another way. Allowing Abram another wife followed a cultural norm of their time, but it was not the way God intended marriage to be. Sarai and Abram were not trusting God. They took things into their own hands and let fear lead them into sin.

Even the most mature people can fall prey to their emotions. These were two distinguished servants of God, yet what they did was wrong all around. Abram abdicated his responsibility to lead; Sarai didn’t lead in trusting God either and didn’t wait to enjoy the fruit of God’s promise. Hagar was given no choice in the matter, and Ishmael, who was born of the union, had no choice over what kind of people would follow in his line.

Acting on Human Reasoning

Living by the facts is rare when we’re operating on emotions. Sarai and Abram followed a slippery slope: when they dwelled in impatient fear, truth took a back seat to emotions, and they thought up their own solution outside of God’s plan. They didn’t turn to God for grace to persevere, but turned to their own devices to ‘help’ His promise along. When we get impatient and rely on human reasoning, it’s usually because we want God to act for us; we’re not desiring His will and glory.

Trusting God is counter-cultural. We can demonstrate our faith by going against cultural norms in many areas – marriage, academics, finances, social situations. For example, our culture is enslaved to out-of-control spending and debt. But God promises to supply all our needs, so we don’t have to rush ahead of Him and decide we need more!

Long-Term Consequences

Abram and Sarai’s impulsive actions led to unnecessary separation in their family. The household was divided as Sarai was looked down on because another wife would give birth to an heir. Pride, jealousy, and cruelty caused immediate consequences. Ishmael who was born as a result was the forefather of a race of people who were anti-God and anti-Israel throughout history. When we act impulsively, we are acting again like we’re not saved and put ourselves in bondage to our own decisions.

The Wonderful Mercy of God

God superintends even our impulsive mistakes. The angel of the Lord, a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus Christ, found Hagar in the wilderness. He asked her a probing question: “Where have you come from and where are you going?” Jesus showed that He cared for all people, even a daughter of the cursed line of Ham.

The Lord did not acknowledge Abram and Hagar’s union as a legitimate marriage. He told Hagar to go back as Sarai’s maid. This is how she would show that His presence had really transformed her character. She had to do her part to restore domestic peace. This was a hard thing, but God never asks us to do what His grace won’t enable. Hagar’s relationships were reconciled through Jesus Christ.

Hagar responded to the Lord in faith. She called Him “the God who sees.” Her son’s name would be Ishmael, which means “God hears.” We know that God is omniscient and omnipresent, but we can also know that he knows all, sees all, and is everywhere for us. There is not one part of our everyday life He does not notice.

Application Points

  • Do you see yourself on the slippery slope of impulsive living? Have you stopped trusting God or turning to Him for grace to persevere? Do emotions rule your responses? This is the time to step aside and devote yourself to God in prayer. Let His truth and His promises rule your spirit instead of fear.
  • Do you think “I would never do what Abram did”? Take care. Temptation stands at the door of every faithful Christian to act from the same impulsivity. Keep walking in the Spirit, or you will fall to the flesh (Gal. 5:16).
  • Are you discouraged? Do you think God has asked too much of you? Know that He always gives grace sufficient for you to obey, and His Word is enough to settle any human spiritual issue. Take comfort in the God who sees and hears you wherever you are.

Tools for Further Study

Cross References to Explore:
  • Galatians 4:21-31 – Sarai and Hagar used as a metaphor for believers and unbelievers.
  • Romans 7:14-25 – Every Christian can fall to the sinful nature.
  • 1 John 2:1-3 – Jesus died for all people.
  • John 15:10-14 – Faith is shown in obedience.
  • 1 Peter 3:1-7 – God’s instructions to those with unsaved spouses.
A Hymn to Encourage: “Satisfied”

All my life I had a longing
For a drink from some clear spring,
That I hoped would quench the burning
Of the thirst I felt within.

Hallelujah! I have found Him
Whom my soul so long has craved!
Jesus satisfies my longings,
Through His blood I now am saved.

Feeding on the husks around me,
Till my strength was almost gone,
Longed my soul for something better,
Only still to hunger on.

Poor I was, and sought for riches,
Something that would satisfy,
But the dust I gathered round me
Only mocked my soul’s sad cry.

Well of water, ever springing,
Bread of life so rich and free,
Untold wealth that never faileth,
My Redeemer is to me.

Quotes to Ponder:

Abram was justified by faith, but this did not keep him from trying to do something in his own strength. God is seeking to bring us to realize our utter nothingness in order that we may be utterly dependent upon Him. Abram believed God, but he was not looking to himself and Sarai to fulfill the promise – he would look to Hagar. He had to learn to look at God. Sarai in her impatience was trying to help God to do something by human means. She did not comprehend that sterility or barrenness in the Christian life could be used by God to put us on our faces before Him, that we might bring forth much spiritual fruit.

Hagar’s slavery and humiliation were leading her to the grace of God. The roughest pathway often leads to a mountaintop where a magnificent panorama of grace lies before us.