“Waiting wrongly: The promised son Isaac” Genesis 15 – 21

Someone once told me, “I don’t wait. I’m good at making things happen.” There comes a time in life, when God sits back and allows us to weave and coerce our lives and those around us for as long as we choose. So as a result, what may appear to be good that comes in our lives, really isn’t the good that comes from God. If you’ve experienced this you know what I mean. All who serve God can attest to these words, both the good and the bad.

Waiting wrongly. When we are determined to set out on our own and “makes things happen” we surely do. We humans do extremely well at making things happen. So much, that we can make a terrible mess. Sadly, we not only wreak havoc for ourselves but the lives of those we include in our self-made happenings. If you haven’t learned this lesson then the pain hasn’t been great enough. Greater pain awaits you still.

It is a delicate thing concerning waiting. We have to be able to discern what is waiting wrongly and waiting well. Do we remain lifeless and idle, or living and active?  How does it look in the life of a believer following Christ?

Genesis 15 – 21 is the story of the promised son Isaac. God had promised Abram and his wife Sarai a child. However, unbeknown to them the child would come in their older age. In Genesis chapter 15 we see the story unfold where God promised Abram an heir from his own body. However, in chapter 16 something happened that set things on a different course. Abram’s wife Sarai took matters into her own hands and decided to use Hagar, her Egyptian maidservant, as the surrogate to conceive the child with her husband Abram. Things got worse when Hagar became pregnant and then mistreated her mistress Sarai, mocking her. No doubt Hagar must have felt elevated in status to Sarai, after all, she bore Abram the son Sarai could not. How devastating to Sarai to witness the consequences of her hand, along with Abram’s consent. In what appears to be an effort by Abram to restore to Sarai her status and thus putting Hagar in her place as a servant, he stated (Gen 16: 5) “Behold, your maid is in your power; do to her what is good in our sight.” Sarai feeling the tension of the consequences by her own hand retaliated against Hagar who fled, but the Lord God had her return to submit to Sarai’s authority. More importantly, Hagar bore Abram a son named Ishmael which is a Semetic name meaning “God hears.”  The boy’s name an attestation of God hearing Hagar’s lamenting her affliction. God had a reason for Hagar to remain in the household. In verses 7 – 13 we see God’s divine intervention in Hagar’s life. She was sent back with instruction from God and an obvious faith experience  she needed in order to remain and live as a servant.

Meanwhile, between chapters 17 – 18 God renamed Abram to Abraham, Sarai to Sarah, and reminded Abraham of the covenantal blessings, as well as his future son Isaac to be born the following year. Thirteen years passed when the time came that Ishmael, Abraham and the men of his household were circumcised. Here, the progression of time has taken place and the details were much clearer with a timeframe given for the birth of Isaac.  Thirteen years is a long time to face the consequence of human impulses and persuasions rather than the faithful provision of God. Sarai, Hagar, and Ishmael had to learn to live together. Abraham was Ishmael’s father too. The years had to weigh on Sarah of her decision to arrange her life without waiting for God. The daily reminders had to set in at some point. It must have been painful for all involved. Finally, in chapter 21 the birth of the promised son Isaac takes place. Verse 2 states “So Sarah conceived and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the appointed time of which God had spoken to him.”

However, the consequences of waiting wrongly still lingered when Sarah once again turned against her maidservant Hagar, as well as the boy Ishmael for mocking, and had driven them out of the household for good. Interesting how it was Ishmael mocking. We don’t know whether he was mocking the baby Isaac or Sarah. Nonetheless, the threat, whether real or perceived was too much for Sarah, that she had Abraham send them out to the wilderness. The relationship was still in discord. We don’t know fully whether all lessons were learned in the thirteen years that passed. Hagar was caught up in the tangled web of Abraham and Sarah and so was Ishmael. Though Isaac was the promised child of God, Ishmael and his mother Hagar received blessings along the way.

Divine intervention came for Abraham and Sarah despite their waiting wrongly and impatiently taking matters into their own hands. It is not always the case for the rest of us. We cannot always expect to be rescued, especially without consequences. The length of waiting often represents the change required in us to guarantee the ultimate result. This time there could be no turning back to old thoughts or old ways. The renewal had to result in behavior aligned to God’s will to ultimately manifest in His will for the world. Did Abraham and Sarah understand the promise?  Could they have understood the magnitude of it to this day in time? Sometimes the heavy length of waiting is for the deeper purposes of God that is beyond our comprehension.

It is not our business to know everything concerning the matters of God in our lives or the lives of others. When left up to us we get it wrong most of the time. We read our human thoughts, experiences, and influences into such matters that we end up being led falsely by ourselves rather than by the One True God. We are not omniscient like God. It is the prerogative of the Father to keep things to Himself. Our focus should be obedience and faithfulness to Him.

Throughout the narrative of Abraham and Sarah age did not matter to God. In fact, it was of little concern. It was all about God’s timing, and Abraham and Sarah’s waiting.

Here are a few characteristics that cause us to wait wrongly:

  • Impatience: we choose too quickly too soon. We lose our perspective of time. We may think that we are being proactive. We resolve to take matters into our hands and set out on a course that is not intended for us. Impatience leads to hurtful results and we end up starting over in the waiting process.
  • Rebellion/disobedience: we choose not to follow scripture and make compromises and rationalize our thoughts and behavior. This often reflects on how deeply we believe in our Savior Jesus Christ. We often follow what we believe and have faith in. If we choose disobedience then we no longer hold to our faith in Him. We make Him “less than.” Your behavior reflects your faith in Christ.
  • Loneliness: our choices are often wrong because we don’t want to be alone. We are intimidated by isolation or seasonal, periodic aloneness and feel we have to have people in our lives to fill the void. We settle for those we might not otherwise give our attention to, or settle for behavior we might not otherwise accept. We lose our spiritual perspective.

In the end, Abraham and Sarah waited for their promised son Isaac. Through this they waited for God’s word to come to pass. However, in the course of God’s plan they waited wrongly because of Sarah’s self-made happenings in which she coerced the situation and brought Hagar into the equation. Sarah never took to Ishmael during the first thirteen years of his life.  So the good she had sought after wasn’t very good at all. We can wait for good things and in this case we can wait for bad things. When we have been bridled by waiting the rush to take matters into our hands is not so appealing. We consider the consequences in every step of our journey with God. The Lord is waiting for us to wait on Him and to do what only He does best to move in our lives.

 The Word in Motion: An Interactive

Is there such thing as “waiting wrongly?”

What does “waiting wrongly” mean to you?

Have you ever waited wrongly?

What are your personal risks in waiting wrongly?

Is redemption possible in a season of waiting wrongly?

Photo credit by the author. Location: overlooking the bay from the Mondrian South Beach Hotel, Miami, FL

 Copyrght 2013 by The Word in Motion