Our Way, or God’s Way?

KEY VERSE: “Sarai [Sarah] said unto Abram [Abraham], Behold now, the LORD hath restrained me from bearing; I pray thee go in unto my maid; it may be that I may obtain children by her. And Abram hearkened to the voice of Sarai.” —Genesis 16:2


GOD HAD MADE it plain unto Abraham that the promised seed would be his own offspring. (Gen. 15:4) And Sarah, Abraham’s wife, was keenly aware of her failure to bear him children. For this reason the Key Verse records her suggestion to Abraham that her bondmaid, Hagar, substitute for her so that Sarah could provide a child for fulfillment of the prophecy. Abraham thought well of her proposal, and therefore, in time, Hagar bore a son to Abraham, named Ishmael.

Sarah and Abraham had believed that perhaps God expected them to provide assistance in the fulfilling of his promise. Do we in our personal experiences also exhibit impatience, or do we wait patiently for God’s promises to be fulfilled in his own way and time? Later both Sarah and Abraham found out that God’s way was far better than their way, and this is our experience also!

Thirteen years after Ishmael was born, God spoke to Abraham once more, advising him that he did not accept Ishmael as the seed of promise, repeating again that a child would be born to Abraham, and that Sarah would be the mother! By this time, Abraham was 99 years old, and Sarah was 90! It was such a powerful test to Abraham’s faith that he laughed to think of it! This promise was different than any others God made, because he gave them a time to expect their son. The Lord said, that Isaac would be born the following year, and, indeed, he was!—Gen. 17:14-19,21

Just as Abraham had previously endeavored to have the Lord accept his adopted heir, Eliezer, so also he pleaded to have Ishmael accepted. His faith was surely tested! All that the Lord had previously told him was that he was to be the father of the promised seed. Now, although he was thirteen years older, the Lord would not accept his son, Ishmael. Abraham entreated the Lord, saying, “O that Ishmael might live before thee!”

But the Lord would not change. He said again that Sarah would bear the promised seed, and that her child was to be named Isaac: “I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him.” (vs. 19) The Lord promised to bless Ishmael and his descendants along other lines, “but,” he said, “my covenant will I establish with Isaac, which Sarah shall bear unto thee at this set time in the next year.”—vss. 20,21

The Lord did not forget Ishmael. In verse 20, we read: “As for Ishmael, I have heard thee: Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation.” The great nation spoken of is the Arabic peoples—Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Anglo Egyptian Sudan, North Africa. The angel had told Hagar that her son would be “a wild man; his hand will be against every man, and every man’s hand against him.”—Gen. 16:12

It is faith-strengthening to note the outworking of God’s Word, since the children of Ishmael down through their history have experienced very little peace, just as was prophesied. They have fought among themselves, and have waged ‘holy wars’ against ‘Christian crusaders’ and against Gentile nations, during the subsequent centuries.

Although it was difficult for Abraham to accept God’s way, how happy he will be when, in the future fulfillment of God’s promise, he will see Ishmael and his descendants find peace in the kingdom by the hand of Christ, the seed of promise.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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