Genesis 16, 21
[Women of the Word Series: 2]
A young girl named Sarai was no longer who she was. That young girl had dreams of being a doting wife and mother to many little ones. Sarai no longer existed. Instead, an experienced older woman with years of life behind her; was now called Sarah. Sarah, was indeed devoted to her husband Abraham (formerly known as Abram) so devoted that when God told her husband that they needed to pack up all their things and move their lives to another land where they would be strangers and keep going to a land that He promised them-she went along with him. Abraham means “Father of a Multitude” and Sarah means “Princess”. What a prophetic name! What an honor! Ladies, we know that a man can’t do it all by himself without his wife by his side! God had already made a promise to Abram, (Sarai was of course included) a promise that included land, descendants that would outnumber the stars in the sky and build a nation that would be a blessing to the entire earth. When God drastically changed someone’s life, He also changed their name.
A foreigner in a strange land, a maidservant to an older woman and her husband. Hagar was young and alone. Little did she know that she would be used by God, even though she manipulated by a human plan to populate the earth. A young slave girl, who would become a single mother. Given what she thought was a place of honor by one she trusted, her mistress and master only to quickly turn to jealousy and being rejected. Not only did God make a promise to Abraham and Sarah, but to Hagar as well. Let us imagine the situation from both women’s eyes…
For as long I can remember I’ve longed and ached to be mother. But for me, that dream was just a wish that to me, felt like it would never come true or even be possible. I simply cannot bear children. The only thing I was bearing was my pain. My, husband Abram…well Abraham now, had an interesting conversation with God. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Lord and I have faith in Him, but sometimes I think my husband is crazy. So, let me tell you what happened. One day, Abram comes in from the field all excited but had a perplexed look on his face. Abram said that the Lord told him that we were to pack up all of our belongings and move to a land that He has promised to us and our descendants. I’m standing here thinking: wait what descendants? We don’t have any children Abe. Then he tells me that the Lord said that his offspring would be “as numerous as the sands of the earth and numerous as the stars in the sky.” How is this possible? Did he forget that I can’t even get pregnant! But not only that I have to move away from our friends and family to some strange land, Abram doesn’t even know where we’re going! Oh yeah, to top it off…his name is no longer “Abram” but Abraham meaning “Father of a multitude”. So I kept my opinions to myself as I prayed for wisdom and understanding in the Lord’s will for us. I waited patiently to see how the Lord was going to give us children; I thought to myself apparently I’m not going to give birth so I crafted my own plan. My maidservant, Hagar was a little younger than I. She was in good health and could carry children. I gave her to my husband as a mistress, probably one of the hardest, most selfish and selfless things I’ve ever had to do. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. Hagar became pregnant by Abraham, and she began to get all his attention. She gave birth to a son Ishmael. Ishmael was Abraham’s pride and joy. Hagar just made me feel like I was the second wife. So I began to treat her like the servant and slave she was in my eyes. Jealousy, I couldn’t help myself. One day I had enough of her and her son, I made Abraham send them away! I didn’t care where to, I just wanted them kicked out of my house! One day, two strangers were passing through and needed to eat and drink, I invited them in our home. These two were no ordinary strangers; they were messengers of the Lord. I overheard the angels talking to Abraham, they said that I would give birth and have a baby, a son-by this time next year! Hah! I got my hopes up for a second, I couldn’t believe my ears. All I could do was laugh, not out of disrespect to the messengers or disbelief but I couldn’t fathom. Then reality set in, I was barren. I can’t have a baby. I laughed to myself and kept preparing their meal. Then the angels came and told me their prophetic news, and then asked me why did I laugh when they told Abraham? I tried to deny it, but they know the truth. I just couldn’t wrap my mind around the idea that I finally would be a mother. They said to not worry, just trust that the Lord would take care of me, the baby, and my husband. The Lord had made a covenant with Abraham, now I guess it was my turn to fulfill my part in the promise. My name also changed that day; I was no longer Sarai, a hopeless barren young wife. I was now, “Sarah”, meaning “princess”. Months flew by and sure enough the angels were right, I became pregnant! I was going to be a mama! I couldn’t contain my excitement; the laughter now was from pure joy! Then one day the time came, my greatest blessing entered this world, I felt the pain of childbirth and happiness from a newborn’s cry…my son was finally here! I named my sweet baby boy Isaac, meaning “laughter”. He brought so much joy to mine and Abraham’s life. I watched my beautiful boy grow into the handsome and faithful man God made him to be. Abraham and I made sure that his servant chose a wife for him from our homeland before I die. He married that beautiful Rebekah, Abraham’s great niece.
My life had been pretty close to normal, growing up in Egypt. Until I became a maidservant for the beautiful princess Sarah and her distinguished and handsome older husband Abraham. I was just a young teenage girl following my mistress and master’s needs and commands. Sarah was once young and beautiful, but carried a lot of pain inside her heart. To me, Sarah was still beautiful but she was older now and I could see the longing and yearning in her eyes. She had always so desperately wanted to be a mother, but she simply wasn’t able to carry children. I couldn’t even imagine the agony she must every time she sees a mother and child together. I thought many times, I gladly would carry for her, be a surrogate and let her raise the baby as her own. I was young enough and healthy enough to carry children. Abraham, as I mentioned he was very distinguished. Everyone had heard of Abe, the traveling man and his barren younger wife. Abraham had moved here from his home country, their God had promised to make him the “Father of many nations” but the man had no kids! They were an interesting couple to say but they were good to me. One day, my idea and dream that I had wished came true. I could tell Sarah had something on her mind and she wanted to talk to me. She said she had already discussed it with Abraham her husband. Sarah wanted me, Hagar her lowly maidservant to become his second wife and carry children for the family. She felt she could not fulfill the part of the promise from the Lord because she was barren. She knew Abraham longed to be a daddy and live out his name, she felt she was letting him down. So I agreed, especially since it meant helping her. I respected her. So I went to sleep with Abraham that night and shortly thereafter we found out I was pregnant. I was excited, scared, nervous, happy and still a little sad for Sarah all at the same time. Abraham was thrilled that he was finally going to have a son. Sarah’s plan had worked and we were going to be one big happy family…or so it seemed. Sarah was angry the moment she found out I was pregnant and kicked me out of the home! Pregnant, scared, and alone in the wilderness. While I was crying, an angel of the Lord spoke to me “Behold, you are pregnant and shall bear a son. You shall call his name Ishmael, because the Lord has listened to your affliction. He shall be a wild donkey of a man, his hand against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he shall dwell over against all his kinsmen” (Genesis 16:11-12) and told me to return to Sarah and Abraham and fulfill my duties. So from that day forward, He became “El Roi” the God who hears and sees me. He saw me in my despair and heard my cry. I called the well where I was, “Beer-lahai-roi” (the well of the Living One who sees me). Throughout my pregnancy, all I could think of is his name and what prophecy was spoken to me: my wild boy Ishmael. So I carried this little baby in me for 9 months, Sarah looked out for me and the health of the baby. But in her eyes said differently, her heart began to turn against me. Once I gave birth, we named our little boy Ishmael, meaning “God listens” (or God hears). He had heard our cries and fulfilled His promise. I had never believed in their God until now, faith became real to me finally! From that day forward Sarah treated me with contempt and jealousy. I was his wife too, and the mother of his only child! I deserved a little respect in that household; I was no longer just her servant. She treated me as a slave, as if I was less than her. I had always respected her, now I no longer knew what to think. Abraham cared for me, but he loved Sarah. Abraham absolutely loved our son Ishmael. This whole idea was all Sarah’s idea anyway, now she’s mad at me! No way! I couldn’t take it anymore, so I decided if she was going treat me this way and act jealous I would give her every reason to be jealous. It wasn’t my fault! But deep inside all I wanted was to be loved and cared for, to belong to a family. One day, Sarah made Abraham kick me and Ishmael out of the house! Where were we going to go?! We had nowhere to stay! I had no family nearby anywhere. I had never felt so abandoned and alone. How could Abraham turn his back on his own flesh and blood, my Ishmael! I was now a single mom, alone in the wilderness. We traveled until we were tired. I thought I was going to die; we had no more food or water. Ishmael was tired and complaining like boys do. I went away from him because I didn’t want him to see me crying and breaking down, I didn’t want my son to have to watch me die neither did I want to watch him die. I cried out to God. He heard my cry, told me to lift up my eyes and we found water to drink from a well! Imagine a spring in the middle of the desert! Only one God can do that, this Egyptian girl believed that day! Ishmael and I continued to live in that beautiful wilderness of Paran where God answered our prayers. I raised him on my own, with the Lord’s help of course. I was able to see him grow up and marry.
Dear Lord, I know You mean the best of intentions with Your plans for my husband Abraham, but God I’m having trouble understanding how I fit into Your plan, this plan? Why, Lord must we leave our family and the only place we’ve ever known? Why must You promise something that seems impossible for me?! Lord please open my womb! This emptiness and aching grief and longing for a child is sometimes more than I can bear! Help me to honor my Abraham and more importantly honor You. My future children will praise You. Forgive me of my doubt and laughter of Your will, for now You have turned my sorrow into laughter with my baby boy Isaac! Thank You Lord for my family!
Dear Lord, You hear my cry for justice. You see the treatment I face from Sarah. Help me to not be bitter, this whole plan was her idea anyway! Why is she angry with me?! She didn’t wait on Your promise to give her a child and she used my womb for her security. Lord please forgive me for my anger towards her, help me to be strong and respectful and to raise this child in the home with his father, Abraham. Lord don’t let me die in this wilderness, show me Your way. Thank You for hearing my cry and giving this thirsty soul a well to drink from. Thank You for my son, Ishmael. Your promises never fail!
Prayer & Reflection:
- Dear Lord, let this be my prayer. Help me to see how I fit into Your greater plan. Help me to be patient and not manipulate my own plan before Yours, no matter how much aching and yearning is in my heart. You hear my cries, You see me and my heart, You know the desires of my heart. Whatever my longing may be in this life; let it never come before my longing heart for You. I will trust in Your provision and Your promise. Amen.
- Have you ever felt as empty as Sarah? Whether its struggling with infertility, miscarriages, or just a longing to be a wife and mother, or it could be any other situation. Think and reflect on a time in your life where longing seemed bigger than your faith.
- Have you ever felt as lonely; forgotten, rejected as Hagar did in the wilderness?
- Sarah was childless and Hagar was the first single mom mentioned in the Old Testament. What are ways that you can minister to these ladies in your community or church in life around you?
- What are some situations in your life past or present where you have manipulated your own plan before waiting on God’s timing and what has it taught you?
- Has jealousy ever caused you to do some crazy things?
- If you’re a single mom, how does Hagar’s story speak to you in your life?
- If you struggle with infertility, how does Sarah’s story speak to you in your life?
- Take some time to think about the meaning of people’s names and how God drastically changed their lives. Think about the place where God heard Hagar’s cry….”Beer lahoi-roi” and “El Roi” the Lord who sees and hears me. Where are some places and times in your life where God has made Himself known in your life?