The story of Abram starts out beautiful and hopeful, the promise of the impossible, life brought forth from a dead end. That’s Genesis 12 and 15. But the first line of Genesis 16 is a sobering punch of reality: “Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children.” Clearly the people of God walking in the promise of God are experiencing the human condition. Questions arise. And what is Sarai’s explanation? “The Lord has kept me from having children.” This seems to make no sense to a contemporary reader. Wasn’t it the Lord who promised a child even from your barrenness? But in the worldview of these characters we have to understand that everything was understood to be controlled and orchestrated by God. Indeed Job was rebuked for declaring of God, “You give and take away.” God’s rebuke is a message to us that there are other elements at play. We aren’t to give Him credit (sometimes in the form of blame) for things He doesn’t do or cause.
God has a plan, and it’s good. God is capable of making Plan B even better than Plan A. For example, when He gets His humans back into the Garden (Rev 22:1-5) there will only be one tree in the center, the Tree of Life. There will be no more curse, no more slithering lying snake in the grass, no presence of evil. The story of Sarai and Hagar is not one of those examples. This is a story about how Plan B can be full of pain and negative consequences even when redeemed. Why? Because it’s not God’s Plan B. Even Abram and Sarai deviated from the Plan. Yet redemption never ceases to be in God’s vocabulary. When you question the will of God or the way of faith, even after it has been made known to you, when you feel the urge to “help God along” taking His plan into your own hands out of fear, frustration, or some other emotion that is not from Him, you are not alone. Even Abraham, perhaps the character in The Great Story most known for His faith, faltered in sticking to God’s script.
Yet we continue to see the heart of God. In the very next scenes God shows compassion toward Hagar: “I have heard your misery.” She named the place of her pain and brokenness “The One who sees me.” God renews His covenant with Abram, giving him the new name of Abraham and the new sign of the covenant – circumcision. Three visitors, messengers of God Himself visit Abraham revealing that intimate relationship that he and God would continue to have.
Even Abraham had moments of inconsistency. Still, he believed in the One who is always consistent, never changing, and it was credited to Him as righteousness. Therefore, there is hope for us too.