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The Story of Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar
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The Story of Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar

Introduction

The story of Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar is one of the most well-known in the Bible. It is full of important lessons about faith, God’s promises, and learning to trust in God’s timing. In this Old Testament account, we see how God blessed Abraham and Sarah in their old age with the son He had promised them, and how they struggled with their impatience and doubts along the way.

Key Takeaways:

  • God keeps His promises, even when we doubt or try to take matters into our own hands
  • Waiting on God’s timing is difficult, but He is faithful
  • God cares for the oppressed and hears their cries
  • Nothing is too difficult for the Lord
  • God blesses us, even when we don’t fully understand His ways
The story of abraham, sarah, and hagar

The story begins in Genesis 12, when God calls Abram (later renamed Abraham) to leave his country and go the land that God would show him. God makes an important promise to Abraham here:

“I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12:2-3 NKJV)

This sets the stage for the rest of Abraham’s story. God has promised that, even though Abraham and his wife Sarah do not have any children, God will make Abraham into a great nation through his offspring.

Abraham believed God’s promise and followed His command to go to the land of Canaan. But as the years passed with no child, Abraham and Sarah start to doubt that she will be able to have a son due to her old age.

In Genesis 15, Abraham asks God how he can be sure he will inherit the land God promised, since he has no son of his own. God makes another covenant with Abraham, reassuring him that he will have a biological son and heir. Then God does something remarkable – he actually appears to Abraham in bodily form:

“Then He brought him outside and said, “Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” And he believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.” (Genesis 15:5-6 NKJV)

Still, more years go by without Sarah being able to conceive. The delay causes them to doubt God’s promise. So they devise their own plan, rather than continuing to wait on God’s timing.

In Genesis 16, Sarah tells Abraham to have a child with her Egyptian handmaid, Hagar. This was a common cultural practice at the time when a wife was unable to have children. But it was not what God had intended for them.

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Abraham consents to Sarah’s request, and Hagar conceives. When Hagar realizes she is able to bear a child for Abraham while Sarah cannot, she begins to despise Sarah. The situation causes hurt and conflict in their household.

Sarah responds by mistreating Hagar, and Hagar flees into the desert. But the Angel of the Lord finds Hagar and tells her to return and submit to Sarah. He also delivers an important message from God:

“I will multiply your descendants exceedingly, so that they shall not be counted for multitude.” And the Angel of the Lord said to her: “Behold, you are with child, And you shall bear a son. You shall call his name Ishmael, Because the Lord has heard your affliction.” (Genesis 16:10-11 NKJV)

So Ishmael is born, Abraham’s first son through Hagar. On the surface it seems like Abraham and Sarah’s plan has worked. But Ishmael was not the son God had originally promised them.

Thirteen years later, when Abraham is 100 years old and Sarah is 90, they receive another visit from God Himself. This time, God again promises that Sarah will have a son – and it will be through her own body.

Sarah laughs in disbelief that she could bear a child at her age. But God gently rebukes her:

“Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son.” (Genesis 18:14 NKJV)

A year later, God fulfills His promise, and Sarah gives birth to Isaac when she is 90 years old.

On the day Isaac is weaned, Abraham throws a celebratory feast. But during the celebrations, Sarah sees Ishmael mocking Isaac. This upsets her greatly, and she demands that Abraham send Hagar and Ishmael away for good.

This greatly grieves Abraham, since Ishmael is still his son too. But God reassures Abraham that Isaac is the son through whom He will establish His covenant. God promises to still make Ishmael fruitful and the father of a great nation also, since he is Abraham’s offspring.

So Abraham sends Hagar and Ishmael away with provisions. But when their supplies run out in the desert, Hagar resigns herself to the fact that Ishmael will die. Heartbroken, she sobs and cannot bear to watch him die.

But God hears Ishmael, and the Angel of the Lord calls to Hagar from heaven. God opens her eyes and shows her a well, which she draws water from to save Ishmael. God continues to be with Ishmael as he grows up in the desert.

Meanwhile, Abraham’s faith is tested again years later when God instructs him to sacrifice Isaac as a burnt offering. Abraham obediently takes Isaac to Mount Moriah, still trusting that God will fulfill His promises through Isaac.

At the last moment, the Angel of the Lord stops Abraham from sacrificing his son. God provides a ram for the burnt offering instead. Because of Abraham’s faith and obedience, God reaffirms His covenant:

“By Myself I have sworn, says the Lord, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son— blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies. In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.” (Genesis 22:16-18 NKJV)

This story powerfully illustrates several important truths:

  • God always keeps His promises, even when His timing is different than ours
  • Waiting on God’s plan requires faith and patience on our part
  • God cares for the oppressed and hears their cries, as with Hagar and Ishmael
  • Nothing is too difficult for the Lord – with Him all things are possible
  • God uses imperfect people and sometimes messy situations to accomplish His purposes
  • Obeying God, even when it seems difficult or painful, leads to blessing

The birth of Isaac when Abraham and Sarah are far past childbearing years is a miracle and testament to God’s faithfulness. The story of Abraham, Sarah and Hagar reminds us to wait on the Lord, trust in His bigger plan, and not give up hope. God keeps His promises.

Sarah Doubts God Can Give Her a Son

The first major event in this story is when God promises Abraham he will have a son, even though his wife Sarah is barren. At the time Abraham was 75 and Sarah was around 65. This happened right after God called Abraham to go to the land of Canaan (Genesis 12:1-7 NKJV).

Abraham believed God’s promise, even though it seemed impossible by normal standards. But as more time passed with no pregnancy, Sarah began to doubt. When Abraham is around 85 years old, Sarah proposes that he have a son with her handmaid Hagar instead (Genesis 16:1-6 NKJV). This shows that Sarah doubted God would fulfill His promise through her own body.

But God is not limited by normal human limitations – His plans cannot be thwarted. He reaffirms His promise to Abraham and Sarah that they will still conceive, even in their old age:

“Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son.” (Genesis 18:14 NKJV)

God remains faithful despite Abraham and Sarah’s doubts and attempts to fulfill God’s will through their own efforts with Hagar. Isaac is born miraculously when Sarah is 90 years old, just as God foretold.

Abraham’s Faith is Tested When God Commands Him to Sacrifice Isaac

One of the most dramatic scenes in Abraham’s story is when God commands him to sacrifice his son Isaac – the very son God had promised would carry on Abraham’s lineage!

This happened when Isaac was a teenager (Genesis 22:1-19 NKJV). God was testing Abraham’s faith and obedience by asking him to give up his most precious possession – the son through whom God’s promises would be fulfilled.

This makes Abraham’s obedience all the more remarkable. The New Testament says:

“By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, ‘In Isaac your seed shall be called,’ concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead…” (Hebrews 11:17-19 NKJV)

Abraham trusted that even if he sacrificed Isaac, God was powerful enough to raise him from the dead in order to fulfill His promises. Abraham chose to obey God no matter how devastating it seemed, believing God had good purposes he could not understand.

In the end, God stops Abraham from sacrificing Isaac, and provides a ram to take his place. This illustrates God’s mercy, and points forward to Christ’s substitutionary death for sinners. Through his obedience, Abraham receives even greater blessings from God.

Hagar Feels Mistreated and Runs Away, But God Sees Her Affliction

One of the most heartbreaking parts of this story is what happens to Hagar, Sarah’s Egyptian handmaid. After she bears Abraham a son, Ishmael, conflict arises and Sarah mistreats her harshly. Hagar flees into the desert to escape.

But the Angel of the Lord finds Hagar by a spring and reveals she is under His care. He promises her descendants will be too numerous to count, and tells her to return to Sarah and submit to her authority.

Even though Abraham and Sarah doubted God’s promises and treated Hagar unfairly, God did not abandon her. Instead, He heard her affliction and extended His blessing to her son Ishmael as well.

This shows how God cares for the oppressed and hears their cries. Even when people fail us, God sees our pain and shows us His loving kindness.

After Isaac is Born, Conflict Between Sarah and Hagar Continues

Even after Isaac is born, conflict persists between Sarah and Hagar’s offspring. At Isaac’s weaning feast, his half-brother Ishmael was seen “mocking” him (Genesis 21:8-10 NKJV). The Hebrew word used implies Ishmael was likely teasing and scorning Isaac’s legitimacy or inheritance.

Sarah is distressed by this and demands that Abraham drive out Hagar and Ishmael for good. This greatly grieves Abraham, since Ishmael is still his son too.

But God reassures Abraham that the covenant line will be preserved through Isaac. He promises to still make Ishmael fruitful and a great nation, but says Sarah’s wishes must be obeyed.

So Abraham provides food and water for Hagar and Ishmael and sends them away. When their provisions run out in the desert, Hagar resigns herself to watching Ishmael die. But God hears them, and the Angel provides a well for them to drink from and survive (Genesis 21:14-19 NKJV).

God continues watching over Hagar’s son, even when tensions and conflict arise between the two offspring of Abraham. God is compassionate and His blessings extend to both sons, though the covenant promises are reserved for Isaac.

Key Themes and Applications for Us Today

The story of Abraham, Sarah and Hagar is rich in meaning. Here are some key themes and lessons Christians can learn from it today:

God keeps His promises – A major thread throughout is God promising Abraham descendants and blessing, despite his old age. God fulfilled this miraculously through Isaac’s birth. We can trust God to keep His promises to us as well.

Waiting on God’s timing – Abraham and Sarah often doubted and tried to rush God’s plan. But Isaac was born in God’s perfect timing. We need to cultivate patience and faith as we wait on God.

God cares for the oppressed – Hagar’s affliction did not go unnoticed by God. He showed her mercy and compassion in her distress. God cares deeply when we suffer injustice.

Nothing is too difficult for God – Abraham and Sarah conceived when it seemed humanly impossible. As the Angel asked, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” God can accomplish the miraculous.

God works through our human weakness – Abraham and Sarah made poor choices, like using Hagar to produce an heir. But God worked through their mistakes, extending His blessing to Ishmael though the covenant came through Isaac.

Obedience leads to blessing – Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice Isaac reflected deep trust in God. His obedience led to greater blessings for him. When we obey God it brings blessing, even when it seems hard.

The story of Abraham, Sarah and Hagar is a testament to God’s faithfulness and mercy. We can take courage knowing that our weaknesses and doubts don’t thwart God’s plans. When we wait on Him and walk in faith and obedience, He will fulfill His promises in His perfect timing.

Pastor duke taber
Pastor Duke Taber

Pastor Duke Taber

All articles have been written or reviewed by Pastor Duke Taber.
Pastor Duke Taber is an alumnus of Life Pacific University and Multnomah Biblical Seminary.
He has been in pastoral ministry since 1988.
Today he is the owner and managing editor of 3 successful Christian websites that support missionaries around the world.
He is currently starting a brand new church in Mesquite NV called Mesquite Worship Center, a Non-Denominational Spirit Filled Christian church in Mesquite Nevada.