Try explaining the story of Abram, Sarai and Hagar from Genesis 16 to your children without mincing words. In fact, I would encourage you to:
God made a promise to Abram.
It seemed impossible. God told Abram that he and his wife Sarai would have a baby. But they were already as old as your grandparents. Maybe even your great-grandparents!
Abram and his wife Sarai waited a very long time for God to keep His promise. Finally Sarai had an idea! She thought, “Maybe God wants me to help!”
So Sarai asked Abram to marry her maid Hagar so that Hagar could have a baby instead. That wasn’t nearly as weird then as it is now. People did that then.
But it wasn’t God’s plan.
When we don’t follow God’s plan, things get messy.
Sure enough, Hagar got pregnant. She began to act like she was better than Sarai. That made Sarai angry and she wasn’t very nice to Hagar.
She also got mad at Abram. That didn’t make much sense but when we try to do God’s job, we don’t always make much sense.
Abram told Sarai she could do whatever she wanted about Hagar so Hagar ran away before she had her baby.
See, not so bad.
Lesson: God has a plan. Good people do bad things. Sometimes we mess up God’s plan.
But don’t leave out the best part.
If you ran away from home, your mom and dad would come looking for you. That’s what God did.
When Hagar was sitting out in the wilderness, God went after her. He loved her. He told her He knew that she was sad and scared but that she needed to go back home. He told her that her baby would be very special.
Hagar knew that God had come after her because He saw her problems. She said, “You are the God Who Sees.”
She knew God cared for her.
It’s a really good story. Lesson: Sometimes life is a little like a paper towel commercial. Life is messy. When we let Him, God cleans it up.
Sarai and Abram made up. We see testimony of their faith in Hebrews 11 and testimony to their relationship in 1 Peter 3.
But what about poor Hagar?
I can’t completely blame her for being a little smirkish. She went from servant to wife of a very wealthy man and pregnant with his child. A little like winning Homecoming Queen over the head cheerleader. But the situation wasn’t pretty.
So eventually she ran.
Homeless and pregnant, life was a big, fat mess. As is usually the case, some of that mess was caused by others and she brought some of it on herself.
But here’s the beautiful part. (Don’t forget to share this with your kids and don’t miss out on it for yourself.)
“The Angel of the LORD found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, by the spring on the way to Shur.”
See, if we ignore why she ran, we negate the fact that God found her.
“And He said, ‘Hagar, Sarai’s maid, where have you come from, and where are you going?’ She said, ‘I am fleeing from the presence of my mistress Sarai.'”
Why are you running?
“And behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and He said to him, ‘What are you doing here Elijah?’ So he said, ‘I have been very zealous for the Lord God of hosts…they seek to take my life.‘” (1 Kings 19:9-10)
He called Hagar by name. He called her by position. He gave her a chance to answer.
Are you running? Do you know why? Are you afraid? Ashamed?
He is calling out to you.
“The Angel of the LORD said to her, ‘Return to your mistress, and submit yourself under her hand.'”
Sometimes God calls us out of situations and on to new ones. In Hagar’s situation, He told her to return. While it was uncomfortable, it was one that was for her greater good.
He had a plan.
The chance of Hagar and her child surviving childbirth alone in the wilderness wasn’t very high. God not only promised her survival, He promised her a future.
“Then the Angel of the LORD said to her, ‘I will multiply your descendants exceedingly, so that they shall not be counted for multitude.'”
He multiplies. Exceedingly. More than we can count or imagine.
“Now unto Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us.” (Ephesians 3:20)
“‘Behold, you are with child, and you shall bear a son, you shall call his name Ishmael*. Because the LORD has heard your affliction.'”
*Ishmael: “God hears.”
We run. God pursues.
We cry. God hears.
The Angel of the Lord described what her son would be like. She didn’t blink an eye at His description “He shall be a wild man…” She went straight to recognition of the magnificent grace of God.
“Then she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, You-Are-the-God-Who-Sees; for she said, ‘Have I also here seen Him who sees me?’ Therefore the well was called Beer Lahai Roi*…”
I don’t know about you, but that’s a well I want to drink from every day.
“‘But whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.'” (John 4:14)
“On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.'” (John 7:37)
Here’s one more thing for you: Throughout this passage, reference is made to the Angel of the LORD. When you see LORD in all capitals in the Bible, it is God’s Hebrew name Yahweh. One easy-to-remember definition of Yahweh is that it emphasizes His position as “Covenant Maker and Covenant Keeper.
The same God who made a covenant with Abraham, pursued a runaway servant and made a promise to her in the middle of the wilderness. “Hagar, the Covenant Maker and Covenant Keeper has heard your cry and you are going to have a son. His descendants will be too many to count.”
A pregnant runaway servant, second wife and castaway, was seen by Almighty God, The Covenant Maker and Covenant Keeper.
Don’t skip over the messy parts of the Bible.
That’s where God’s gobstopping grace shines through.