The Foolishness of Helping God

Then Sarai, Abram’s wife, took Hagar her maid, the Egyptian, and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan. So he went in to Hagar, and she conceived. And when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress became despised in her eyes. (Genesis 16:3-4)

God promised Abram and Sarai what they desperately wanted and long waited for: a son. After waiting ten years, they decided to “help” God fulfill His promise by using an Egyptian slave woman as an ancient version of a surrogate mother. In this, Abram and Sarai both acted in unbelief. Abram did not actually marry Hagar, but he acted towards her as a man should only act towards his wife. This wasn’t the right path for Abram, the friend of God and the man of faith. God had a different way for him, but Abram and Sarai didn’t want to take that way.

The Foolishness of Helping God

Abram and Sarai were discouraged enough that they approached the problem of no children by leaving God out of the matter. It was as if they said, “If we remove God from this situation, how do we solve this?” This was wrong for many reasons.

– God is never removed from any circumstance.
– Men and women of faith must walk in faith, not in unbelief.
– Men and women of faith must live being mindful of the realm of the spirit, not only mindful of the material world.

When a believer impatiently tries to fulfill God’s promises in their own effort, it accomplishes nothing and may even prolong the time until the promise is fulfilled. Jacob had to live as an exile for 25 years, because he thought he had to arrange the fulfillment of God’s promise to get his father’s blessing (Genesis 28:1-5; 33:17-20). Moses had to tend sheep for 40 years in the desert after he tried to arrange the fulfillment of God’s promise by murdering an Egyptian (Exodus 2:11-15; 3:1).

It is better to receive God’s help than to try and help Him in our own wisdom and unbelief. When the servant woman conceived, things only became worse, especially for Sarai, the wife of Abram. Hagar’s pregnancy seemed to confirm that the inability to bear children was Sarai’s problem, not Abram’s. In a culture that so highly valued childbearing, mothering the child of a wealthy and influential man like Abram gave Hagar greater status, and made her appeared more blessed than Sarai.

This is a good reminder that results are not enough to justify what we do before God. It’s not right to say, “They got a baby out of it. It must have been God’s will.” The flesh profits nothing (John 6:63), but it can producesomething. Doing things in the flesh may get results, but they may be results that are soon regretted.

Whatever a man or woman attempts to do without God will be a miserable failure – or an even more miserable success.

Click here for David’s commentary on Genesis 16

Click Here for Daily Devotionals from David

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