Up to this point, the Lord has told Abram he will conceive a son, but many years have passed without a child being born. So Abram and his wife Sarai do a very human thing. Since Sarai is old and beyond child-bearing years, they find a way for Abram to conceive a son, consistent with the custom of the day. Sarai offers her Egyptian maid Hagar to be a birth mother. To this point God had only promised that Abram would father a child, not that he would father a child from Sarai. So this fulfills the prophecy/promise of God.

The Bible does not criticize them for taking this action. He blesses Hagar as well as her son Ishmael. But God has something much better in mind. God later reveals that the child of promise will not be Hagar’s son, but will come from Sarai.

God gave humans the ability to choose. That is the way we are most like Him. And He encourages us to take action. But sometimes our actions are far inferior to what God has in mind. 

Once Sarai had passed child-bearing age, it wasn’t unreasonable for them to follow the custom of the day to allow Abram a means to father a son. It might be something like us adopting. But God gives them something much greater. Something beyond human comprehension. A miracle child will be the heir to the promise.

All along the way God is leading, teaching, empowering Abram to make choices, while holding the future completely in his hands. This is another kind of miracle. The miracle of a sovereign and loving God that encourages us to choose, then blesses us beyond what we can imagine just for trying.

Abraham’s story should be an incredible encouragement for us. He was an ordinary man who made choices we might not approve of, given hindsight. But Abram wasn’t reading a story. He was living a story. And it seems God blessed him just for trying. 

As we try to steward our actions and decisions, we can lean on the character of a loving God who desires us to grow and learn, and redeems our choices.

“So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian slave Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. He slept with Hagar, and she conceived.”
– Genesis 16:3-4