Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. And she had an Egyptian maidservant whose name was Hagar. So Sarai said to Abram, “See now, the LORD has restrained me from bearing children. Please, go in to my maid; perhaps I shall obtain children by her.” And Abram heeded the voice of Sarai. 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.
Then Sarai said to Abram, “My wrong be upon you! I gave my maid into your embrace; and when she saw that she had conceived, I became despised in her eyes. The LORD judge between you and me.”
So Abram said to Sarai, “Indeed your maid is in your hand; do to her as you please.” And when Sarai dealt harshly with her, she fled from her presence.
Now the Angel of the LORD found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, by the spring on the way to Shur. 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.”
The Angel of the LORD said to her, “Return to your mistress, and submit yourself under her hand.” Then the Angel of the LORD said to her, “I will multiply your descendants exceedingly, so that they shall not be counted for multitude.”
[Genesis 16:1-10 NKJV]
This story is an important one, and although the interaction between Sarai (Princess) and Abram (exalted father) seems unusual in our eyes (Sarai requests that Abram has a child with her maid, and the child would then be hers), it appears that it was the practice in those days. However, once the maid Hagar (flight) bore the child Ishmael (God will hear), she turned against Sarai — and thus, this very human situation in one family sparked an enmity which has reverberated through the centuries and remains a conflict for many in the present day, for through Ishmael’s line we have the Islamic faith, and through Sarai’s child Isaac (he laughs), came the Judeo-Christian expression.
Then, in one of those quick scene changes at which the Bible excels (we cannot complain that the story takes too long to come to the point), the Angel of The Lord appears to Hagar at Shur (wall, from a root meaning to turn or travel about as a harlot or merchant) and tells her to return and submit herself to Sarai, in return for which “I will give you more descendants than you can count.” [NLT]
It is surely a wonderful mercy that the Lord will come to us in a time of wandering in sinfulness — when we are “digging ourselves deeper” — and promise such abundance if we will but submit and return. Our willingness to repent; submit our will to His, is the key to unlocking a deeper relationship with Him and opens the door to His manifold blessings.
Hagar’s reward was many descendants, but her son was not to be the one with whom God would make His everlasting covenant:
And Abraham said to God, "Oh, that Ishmael might live before You!"
Then God said: "No, Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his descendants after him. And as for Ishmael, I have heard you. Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly. He shall beget twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation. But My covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this set time next year."
[Genesis 16:18-21 NKJV]
A river touches places of which its source knows nothing, and Jesus says if we have received of His fullness, however small the visible measure of our lives, out of us will flow the rivers that will bless to the uttermost parts of the earth. We have nothing to do with the out-flow—This is the work of God that ye believe. . . .” God rarely allows a soul to see how great a blessing he is.