Genesis chapter 16 almost reads like a soap opera. Sarai wants a kid, can’t have a kid, offers another woman to her husband in hopes of receiving a kid, and then, when said kid appears, all the resentful, jealous drama breaks loose. And though it would be easy to read this chapter with an air of judgment thinking “Pull yourself together, Sarai!”, if we were to pause and truly dig deeper into the scripture I think we will all find far more of ourselves tucked within these verses than any one of us would like to admit!
From the very beginning of this chapter we know something is amiss as verse 1 states “Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children.” Now, I think we all know historically that, during this time and in this culture, being able to conceive and bear children was a big deal. That, in fact, was the main desire and role of the wife - to have all the babies and bonus points if those babies are boys! So right out of the gate we get a glimpse into Sarai’s situation and state of mind - she is no doubt defeated, frustrated, and likely disappointed in herself, feeling like a failure for her inability to fulfill what she would have viewed as her main purpose in life - to bear children for her husband, her family line, her lineage.
But for Sarai, there was an added layer of expectation, and no doubt frustration, as the years passed leaving her still childless, because, if you will remember, she was living with God’s promise to her and Abram given back in Genesis 15:4-6 at the forefront of her mind. Here’s what it says:
“And behold, the word of the Lord came to him (meaning Abram)…”your very own son shall be your heir.” And He brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then He said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.”
There are definitely times when the Lord speaks and we are a little uncertain of exactly what is going to happen. However, this is NOT one of those times. The Lord states clearly - “your very own son will be your heir.” Not only that but “you are going to have so many descendants that they will be as numerous as the stars in the sky.”
I can only imagine the relief and peace that had to have washed over Sarai and Abram when they heard those words. After years of disappointment - wishing, hoping, and praying - the Lord comes and speaks clearly - I see you and I hear you. Please know, there is no need to worry. I make you this promise and I will provide!
I think I can almost hear Sarai’s sigh of relief even now all of these centuries later.
But then we quickly find Sarai here in chapter 16, seemingly right on the heels of God’s promise, offering her servant to her husband. Kind of makes us what to go “Woah! Hold your horses there Sarai! Are you so quick to forget what God just promised you?”
However, though chapters 15 & 16 are seperated by mear millimeters in our Bibles, the time between the two events actually totaled approximately TEN YEARS.
There are likely not many of us who have received a word from the Lord and then patiently waiting ten plus years for it to happen with no signs of it coming to fruition on the horizen. Many times we want to throw up our hand and give up in frustration after 10 months, 10 weeks, or even 10 days of waiting! After all, God said it, He can do it, so why isn’t it done???
And it is in this decade long time of waiting on God AFTER a lifetime of waiting before the promise was given that we find Sarai - having concocted a plan - offering her servant Hagar to her husband. I have no doubt over the years that Sarai not only felt defeated but also responsible. I imagine that the weight of the world rested on her shoulders as she secretly carried the blame for her home remaining childless and her husband remaining fretful of the possiblity of the end of his lineage coming at him quickly with no son to speak of and no heir in sight. And it was from this place of weariness, brokenness, desperation, and deep seeded personal guilt that we find Sarai starting to think “maybe I’m the problem”. And from there the wheels begin to turn and the plan begins to form.
Anyone else starting to see the glimmers of Sarai in their own hearts and lives? That part of you that says “God, I remember that promise you made and though I know you have a plan - because you always do - I just thought I’d put together this little plan B juuussttt to help you out.” Or “God, I remember your promise but it seems to be taking a lot longer than I thought it would and I’m starting to think maybe I heard you wrong or misunderstood so I’m just gonna try to do a bit of side work on my own to help speed things along.”
And it is in these moments of us trying to “help along” a supernatural promise with our natural plan and abilities that we forget that, though God chooses to make us a part of the process, He, in fact, does not need our help in making it happen! You see, it is when OUR wishes, hopes, and dreams are not kept in submission to God and HIS providence that our pursuits no longer reamin under His precepts. His plan. His promises. His timing. His will.
Was Sarai’s plan successful? Technically yes. Hagar did in fact conceive and give birth to a son - an heir for Abram. But along with that came a whole slew of consequences including a new level of bitterness and frustration - the very feelings Sarai was hoping to “fix” with her carefully considered Plan B.
In my study I read a quote that just spoke to this idea of “hurry up and wait” so perfectly:
“It is for want of a firm dependence upon God's promise, and a patient waiting for God's time, that we go out of the way of our duty to catch at expected mercy. He that believes does not make haste.” - Matthew Henry
Let me just read that last line again - He that believes DO NOT MAKE HASTE!
If you are waiting for that fultilled promise of God - can I just encourage you - keep on waiting! Wait patiently on His will, His plan, and His time. For when we wait on Him the result is full of unexpected blessings (as we will read more about in the coming chapters with the changing of Abram’s name and the birth of Isaac just to name a few) and void of the added and unnecesary frustrations that come along with the results when we go rogue - trying to help God along in the process.
So if you find yourself in a season of waiting - waiting on that miracle, that healing, that answer, that provision promised by the Lord - Keep faithfully and patiently waiting.
I know those are not the words ANY of us are wanting to hear! Because let’s be honest - waiting is the WORST when we are in the middle of it. But friends, the blessing on the other side- the reward of the Lord’s fulfilled promise - it is always, without exception, worth the wait! And while you are waiting, encourage your soul by reciting, memorizing, and praying scripture, God’s promise to us, over your eager, expectant, and, at times, weary heart. Here are a few you could start with.
Psalm 27:14 “Wait on the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait ont he Lord!”
Psalm 62:5 “For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from Him”
Psalm 46:10. “Be still, and know that I am God.”
And Lamentations 3:25. “The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him.”
Friends, I know wating can be a wearisome task. But can I encourage you once again - KEEP WAITING! And while you wait, as Lementations 3:25 said, continue to seek Him! Not seeking His hand or what He can give you - but seeking Him, His face, His glory, His presence. And it is in this seeking that He will bless you with His peace, His protection, His provision, and more of His presence in the waiting!
So “Wait on the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait ont he Lord!” (Psalm 27:14)