- Susan Brown
Ladies’ Study #3 Sarah and Hagar
Sarah and Hagar
What are you supposed to do when God doesn’t seem to be keeping His promises? How can you escape crippling anger and bitterness when people treat you wrongly? How do you overcome depression and despair? We’ll look at the answers to those questions in our study today about Sarah and Hagar. First, let’s look at Sarah’s point of view:
Sarah’s Point of View
We saw Sarah following her husband. We saw her obeying and trusting God to help her when Abraham made a mistake. But, Sarah wasn’t perfect. In this lesson we will see how she failed in a way we do so very often. When it seemed like God wasn’t going to come through with His promise, she decided to help him out. She came up with a “Plan B.”
When we are planning, we say our original, best choice is “Plan A.” If that doesn’t work for some reason, we move on to “Plan B.” Sarah thought God’s plan wasn’t going to happen, so she came up with “Plan B.”
God promised Abraham and Sarah from the first that He would give them a son. Not only that, He promised that the son would be the forefather of a great nation. Through his offspring, all the nations of the world would be blessed.
But it didn’t happen. Each month passed with another disappointment. The months turned to years, and no child appeared. Abraham and Sarah grew older and older. It seemed it was too late for Sarah. God’s promise didn’t arrive. That’s when she came up with “Plan B.”
“It’s not going to happen,” she said. “We’d better take some action. You take my slave girl Hagar who we picked up when we were down in Egypt. You can have a child by her and I will adopt the baby. That way you will have the heir God promised.”
Have you ever done that? Have you ever given up on God to answer prayer and tried to figure out some way to take care of things yourself? I am so bad about that, myself!
So often I’ve gotten up from my knees where I have asked God to intercede and fix a problem — only to start thinking, “Now, what can I do to make this happen?”
Did Sarah need to help God? No, because He had the situation under His control. He planned to send Isaac to Abraham and Sarah after it was too late, humanly speaking. He wanted it to be obvious that this was no ordinary child. This was a miracle baby, given by God for a special purpose. He planned to create a people for Himself, and through those people would come the Messiah, who would save His people from every race and tribe. He didn’t need Sarah’s help — and it would up causing a lot of trouble!
It started before Hagar’s baby was even born. When she saw that she was pregnant, Hagar became proud and treated Sarah disdainfully. Sarah was jealous and she couldn’t handle that attitude from a slave. She beat Hagar and the slave ran away, carrying Abraham’s child with her in the womb.
No doubt Hagar had a wrong attitude, but the aggravation started because of Sarah’s bad idea. When people cause you problems, ask yourself, “Did I cause this in some way? Did I come up with a Plan B that wasn’t God’s will?” It may surprise you to find how often the problem began, not with other people, but with you.
Hagar’s Point of View
Now let’s look at the story from Hagar’s point of view. She was proud that she, a slave, was bearing the master’s child. She would be the mother of the heir to everything this very rich man had. Sarah was just an old woman who failed in what was her primary duty in that culture. She failed to produce a son for her husband. Hagar “rubbed it in.”
Her attitude caused Sarah to become angry and beat her. Sometimes it is our own bad attitude that causes people to speak harshly to us. If someone is gossiping about you or treating you badly, perhaps there is something in your attitude that is causing it? Do you love that person? Are you judging them, looking down on them, for something they have done? Are you being like Hagar?
What if Hagar had loved her mistress? What if she thought, “I’m very blessed to be able to have this baby who will be the heir to all these riches — but it must be very difficult for Sarah. I’ll try not to make it hard for her. I’ll be careful not to appear as if I am rubbing it in.”
That’s an attitude more pleasing to God. He doesn’t want us to gloat and be proud over our gifts and our successes. He doesn’t want us to try to make others look bad so that we will look better. If we do it, sometimes He allows us to be punished, as Hagar was.
She ran away from her problem, and found herself in the desert. When we run away from our difficulties instead of facing them, we find ourselves in a kind of desert, too. It is a terrible thing to be in a desert, away from fellowship with God. But God is merciful. He met with Hagar in the desert. “Return and submit to your mistress,” he said.
And that is His message to us when we run away from difficulties of our own making. He wants us to return and get our attitude right. And here is an important message to us — God is bigger than those who are against us. He is concerned more about our reaction to what happens to us than He is about the actions themselves. He will take care of the person who is wronging us. It is our responsibility before God to make sure we respond the right way to them — even when they are wrong.
And Sarah was wrong — no doubt about that! Hagar went back and submitted. She bore Abraham a son, who they named Ishmael. For a while all went well for them. Everyone thought this adopted child was the son of promise — but he was not the son God planned to send.
Then, once again, God visited Abraham and Sarah and promised them a son. Sarah laughed, because she didn’t believe God could do it. But there is no limit to what God can do! That is a message we see in this story, over and over. Don’t give up on God! Don’t think He is not able to keep His promises. He is all powerful — the Almighty God. Nothing is too hard for Him!
Why should we ever be discouraged? We are the children of God and we know He is able to give us every thing that is good for us. He only withholds those things that are not in His plan, those things that will not be good for us. Sarah found that God didn’t need her help. He gave her the promised son when she was too old to have a child.
But now she was stuck with her Plan B. Here was Ishmael. Abraham loved Ishmael. He was the first son, the adopted son. One day she saw him making fun of baby Isaac. She probably never did really like him, anyway, and now she really found him to be in the way. She demanded that Abraham send Hagar and Ishmael away.
He was sad to do it, but God told him to go ahead and send him away. And that is what happens when we try to help God. We have heartaches that God never intended us to have. It wasn’t Ishmael’s fault, but he was hurt, too.
Hagar was crushed — no longer the mother of the heir, but an outcast. She was back in the desert again, but this was a different type of desert. She wasn’t there because of her own bad responses to persecution. She was there through no fault of her own. And God saw her there. She had given up. She had been carrying her teenage son on her own back as he fainted from thirst and heat. Finally she could go no further. She cast him under a tree. She couldn’t bear to see her boy die, so she went a little way off.
There God met her. God knew that she was in the desert. When she was ready to give up, He came to her. He sent an angel to open her eyes to the spring of water that was there. Notice that it was there all the time — she just didn’t see it. She and her son lived, and God promised he would make a great nation from Ishmael, too. She named the spring “Thou God seest me.” She was amazed that God saw her in her trouble and saved her.
Sometimes things happen that are not our fault. Sometimes we find ourselves in a hard situation, and we did nothing to cause it. When that happens, it’s important we do as Hagar did. We must cast aside everything that matters most to us and look for God. He is there. Sometimes He is waiting until we get rid of all the wrong attitudes that keep us from Him. Sometimes He waits for us to give up things we hold more dear than our God. When we do, He is there, giving us refreshment in the wilderness. He sees us — and knowing that He sees us in our troubles and is there to help us makes all the troubles worthwhile.
But when we come up with a Plan B, as Sarah did, we can expect the consequences. She didn’t get rid of the results of her action when she got rid of Hagar and Ishmael. Maybe SHE wasn’t troubled by them anymore, but her descendants were troubled from then on. They are still fighting in the middle east, all these thousands of years later!
Have you ever come up with an alternate plan when it seemed God wasn’t going to answer your prayer? How did it turn out for you? What did you learn from the experience?
What types of things can land someone in a desert of depression and isolation today?
Have you ever been in the desert because of someone else’s bad attitude? How can you turn that desert into victory and peace?