THE FAILING MAN
Abraham is best known for being a man of faith. He is known for his strong acts of faith – doing big, risky, scary things because God told him to.
But he didn’t always act with faith; sometimes he was a coward or took matters into his own hands. Today, we’ll look at a couple of stories that remind us just how human Abraham was.
At that time a severe famine struck the land of Canaan, forcing Abram to go down to Egypt, where he lived as a foreigner. 11 As he was approaching the border of Egypt, Abram said to his wife, Sarai, “Look, you are a very beautiful woman. 12 When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife. Let’s kill him; then we can have her!’ 13 So please tell them you are my sister. Then they will spare my life and treat me well because of their interest in you.”
14 And sure enough, when Abram arrived in Egypt, everyone spoke of Sarai’s beauty. 15 When the palace officials saw her, they sang her praises to Pharaoh, their king, and Sarai was taken into his palace. 16 Then Pharaoh gave Abram many gifts because of her—sheep, goats, cattle, male and female donkeys, male and female servants, and camels.
17 But the Lord sent terrible plagues upon Pharaoh and his household because of Sarai, Abram’s wife. 18 So Pharaoh summoned Abram and accused him sharply. “What have you done to me?” he demanded. “Why didn’t you tell me she was your wife? 19 Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ and allow me to take her as my wife? Now then, here is your wife. Take her and get out of here!” 20 Pharaoh ordered some of his men to escort them, and he sent Abram out of the country, along with his wife and all his possessions.
Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had not been able to bear children for him. But she had an Egyptian servant named Hagar. 2 So Sarai said to Abram, “The Lord has prevented me from having children. Go and sleep with my servant. Perhaps I can have children through her.” And Abram agreed with Sarai’s proposal. 3 So Sarai, Abram’s wife, took Hagar the Egyptian servant and gave her to Abram as a wife. (This happened ten years after Abram had settled in the land of Canaan.)
4 So Abram had sexual relations with Hagar, and she became pregnant. But when Hagar knew she was pregnant, she began to treat her mistress, Sarai, with contempt. 5 Then Sarai said to Abram, “This is all your fault! I put my servant into your arms, but now that she’s pregnant she treats me with contempt. The Lord will show who’s wrong—you or me!”
6 Abram replied, “Look, she is your servant, so deal with her as you see fit.” Then Sarai treated Hagar so harshly that she finally ran away.
7 The angel of the Lord found Hagar beside a spring of water in the wilderness, along the road to Shur. 8 The angel said to her, “Hagar, Sarai’s servant, where have you come from, and where are you going?”
“I’m running away from my mistress, Sarai,” she replied.
9 The angel of the Lord said to her, “Return to your mistress, and submit to her authority.” 10 Then he added, “I will give you more descendants than you can count.”
11 And the angel also said, “You are now pregnant and will give birth to a son. You are to name him Ishmael (which means ‘God hears’), for the Lord has heard your cry of distress. 12 This son of yours will be a wild man, as untamed as a wild donkey! He will raise his fist against everyone, and everyone will be against him. Yes, he will live in open hostility against all his relatives.”
13 Thereafter, Hagar used another name to refer to the Lord, who had spoken to her. She said, “You are the God who sees me.” She also said, “Have I truly seen the One who sees me?” 14 So that well was named Beer-lahai-roi (which means “well of the Living One who sees me”). It can still be found between Kadesh and Bered.
15 So Hagar gave Abram a son, and Abram named him Ishmael. 16 Abram was eighty-six years old when Ishmael was born.
Questions to Think About
10 years had passed since God had first promised Abraham a son, but Sarah was still not pregnant. So Sarah decided to take matters into her own hands.
Do you think Abraham and Sarah were justified in taking matters into their own hands, since 10 years had passed?
It was a total of 25 years before God’s promise of a son actually came to be. Why do you think God waited so long to fulfill his promise? What was his purpose in doing that?
Have you ever had to wait an absurdly long time for something to happen? Did you learn anything from waiting?
In Genesis 20:1-18, Abraham and Sarah are again on the move, and again Abraham tells the people there that Sarah is his sister. Does it surprise you that Abraham does this again?
Does it surprise you that God bails him out again?
What does this tell you about God’s character?