Abraham’s Shortcut Leads to Family Strife

We are continuing from yesterday’s meditation about Sarai’s suggestion to Abram (Abraham) to use Hagar to birth a baby to realize Abram’s vision of being the father of a multitude. The passage we are looking at today begins with Abram sleeping with Hagar:

4He slept with Hagar, and she conceived. When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress. 5Then Sarai said to Abram, “You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my slave in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the LORD judge between you and me.” 6“Your slave is in your hands,” Abram said. “Do with her whatever you think best.” Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her. 7The angel of the LORD found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur (Genesis 21:4-7).

When Hagar, Sarai’s slave-girl, became pregnant, there were changes in the household and relationships. Things got messy! Hagar became proud and began to look down upon her mistress. Whatever the attitude of the younger Hagar to the seventy-five-year-old Sarai, it is one of suffering for Sarai who now blames Abram for his lack of leadership in letting the shortcut go ahead, and she is right. Abram was the leader of the home, the one who got direction from God to lead the family, yet his leadership was unsteady in not seeking God for guidance for his family and home. When Sarai brought the situation up with Abram, he should have been the one to sort it out, but instead, he threw it all back into Sarai's lap:

“Your slave is in your hands,” Abram said. “Do with her whatever you think best.” Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her (v. 6).

Abram should have dealt kindly with Hagar and counseled Sarai to do the same. After all, he and Sarai were the ones who came up with the plan in the first place. Unfortunately, Abram does not take responsibility for Hagar. In his response to Sarai, he does not even call Hagar by her name but calls her Sarai's slave (v. 6). It is as if he is distancing himself from the whole situation and from Hagar and the child Abram had brought into the world. It is a complete abdication. There seems to be little care taken for the soul of Hagar or Ishmael. Having been used as a commodity, Hagar was pushed outside the family and was a visible reminder of the failure of Abram and Sarai by trying to take a shortcut to God's purposes. Think of how many unwanted feelings and emotions this failed shortcut left. Hagar was left feeling that her unborn son will be unwanted by the family of Abraham, leaving her very insecure when she needs even more security with a baby on the way. Seeking solitude, Hagar ran away to a deserted place and sat down by a spring of water. In her brokenness, the Angel of the Lord visited her. Let’s talk about that tomorrow.

Have you ever had a family relationship that became broken? You thought you were doing the right thing, but the result was hurt feelings, insecurity, and emotional outbursts that brought separation in the family relationship. What to do? Learn a lesson from Hagar. Get on your own for a while, pour out your heart to the Lord, casting all your cares upon Him (1 Peter 5:7), and maybe, you too, will find the Angel of the Lord come to you in the desert place. Thank God that whenever we are in a dry, desert place, there is always a well of salvation, and our God is always watching over us. Keith Thomas

These thoughts come from a shortened study of a series on the life of Abraham. Go to All Studies, scroll down to The Faith of Abraham and click on study 3. Abraham’s Shortcut