“If you want a job doing right, do it yourself.” So Napoleon Bonaparte is reputed to have said.
Waiting for something to happen and observing little or no progress can be frustrating. Worse still is when the desired goal appears to be drifting out of sight, carried away on a sea of impossibility. What do we do when what needs to be done isn’t getting done?
Four thousand years ago a not so young couple were waiting for a baby. In a clear prophecy they had been promised offspring. Specifically, the husband had been guaranteed an heir that would come from his own flesh and blood. But nothing happened. They waited. They grew old. Nothing.
In desperation the wife took matters into her own hands and decided to force a fulfilment out of the prophecy.
Sarai said to Abram, “The LORD has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my servant; perhaps I can build a family through her.” (Genesis 16:2)
In a scene reminiscent of a low budget soap opera, Sarai coerced Abram to produce a child through her slave girl, Hagar. As with all such scenarios, the result was disastrous. Abram obliged, Hagar had no choice, baby Ishmael was born, Sarai was jealous, and the outcome was something nobody wanted. Sarai learned the hard way that you cannot interfere with God and win. By seeking to do herself what only God could do she exhibited an ugly side of human nature.
She maligned God – “The LORD has kept me from having children.”
There can be little doubt that God has been the most maligned person in history. He seems to get the blame for most things that go wrong. Sarai was no different from any of us when she charged God for her troubles. But God is intrinsically good, and if Sarai had been patient she would have seen how he worked everything together for her good.
She manipulated Abraham – Sarai said to Abram, “Go, sleep with my servant.”
Exploitation is never right, whatever the circumstances. Emotional coercion and the employment of false guilt to control people is wicked. Sarai persuaded Abram to sin, taking advantage of his weakness. God’s way may take longer, require faith and test us to the limit, but it will never lead us into worldly scheming and murky behaviour.
She mistreated Hagar – “Sleep with my servant.”
Throughout history the strong have taken advantage of the weak and subjected innocent victims to untold suffering. Through no apparent fault of her own, Hagar found herself at the mercy of a conniving mistress. God hates injustice and will ensure that all who take advantage of the poor are called to account.
She messed up Ishmael – “Perhaps I can build a family through her.”
In providence every human life is created by God, not just circumstances. Nevertheless, the situations we put children in have a profound impact on their lives. Ishmael was undoubtedly blessed by God. But he also suffered and faced struggles in life, thanks entirely to Sarai’s selfish actions. Our impetuous behaviour can mess up other people’s lives.
She missed it for herself – “Build a family through her.”
Sin damages the sinner as much as it hurts anyone else. Every time we yield to temptation and do things our own way we erode our character. Sarai’s walk of faith took a decidedly wrong turn and as a result she complicated her own life. Despite her best efforts she could not get rid of Hagar, Ishmael or her own jealousy. Her sin found her out.
If only Sarai had trusted God, exhibited some strength of character and been patient. The fulfilment of the promise was closer than she realised. Don’t look to Hagar, look to God.
As the old quote says, “The best things come to those who wait.”