September 25 I Tuesday
Song of Solomon 6-8
“The LORD has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.” —Genesis 16:2
The birth of Isaac happened in God’s timing, but 10 years into their 25-year wait, Abraham and Sarah made a big mistake. Shortly after God reaffirmed His covenant with Abraham, Sarah suggested he sleep with Hagar, one of her slaves. This suggestion tells us something of Sarah’s mind. Culturally, she would have been ashamed of her barrenness, and the hope that God’s promise would have given her was starting to wear thin. The clock was ticking, but there was no baby and Sarah was only growing more worn out.
This is when Abraham and Sarah made their mistake: they committed themselves to do the will of God by their own enabling and ability instead of God’s. Rather than trust Him to produce a son through Sarah as promised, she tried to have her son through Hagar, a culturally acceptable practice in their day. This was not an act of rebellion but of cooperation based on what Abraham and Sarah knew of God’s purposes. They drew up their own strategic plan to implement what they thought was His will, but they left God out of the process. They separated their obedience to God from their dependence on Him. The result was Ishmael, but he was not the son of promise because he was conceived apart from dependence on God.
When we commit ourselves to the work of God rather than to God Himself, we will produce Ishmaels. Abraham loved Ishmael, but he was a stumbling block to Abraham in terms of God’s intentions for him. Years later, when God reminded Abraham that Isaac was still coming, Abraham responded, “If only Ishmael might live under Your blessing!” (Genesis 17:18). In other words, “God, if only You would use what I have done for You.” Sometimes we ask God to bless our pre-existing plans, perhaps even ones we have already begun to implement, instead of letting Him direct our paths. When we align ourselves with His agenda, we will not need to plead for blessing; instead, we can just thank Him for the blessing that will be inevitable.
Abraham and Sarah’s motivations were sincere, but sincerity does not make up for the fact that Ishmael’s birth was humanly motivated and accomplished. This was not the case with Isaac, whose birth could only be explained in terms of what God did for them. As God reminded Abraham, “I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you” (Genesis 17:5-6).
Obedience to God without dependence on God is a burden, but when we unite obedience with dependence, His activity becomes the source of our activity.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for the reminder that obedience to You must never be separated from dependence on You. May I experience a deeper realization of Your working in and through me.