God hears and god sees our need.  are you praying and waiting in faith and birthing Isaac versus Ishmael

"Now Sarai, Abram's wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian maidservant named Hagar; so she said to Abram, "The LORD has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my maidservant." Victory produces vulnerability and Abraham had resisted the temptation of power and wealth in chapter 14 and God confirmed His covenant with him in chapter 15. So maybe he was over confident. Heed 1 Cor. 10:12: "If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall."

"Abram agreed to what Sarai said." As the famine was a test in Chapter 12, now Sarai's barrenness is a test here. God requires patience and fervent prayer (faith) for the fulfillment of His purposes in our lives and patience has to be developed in trials. We will need patience all the way to heaven yet, as seen here, God's people often rush ahead of Him and make costly mistakes. "He that believes does not make haste." (Isa. 28.16) Note that in both trials, famine and barrenness, Abraham did not pray and seek the Lord. He was very much like Adam was with Eve in the Garden temptation – spiritually passive and submitted to his wife's counsel and to worldly customs (versus Gen. 2:24 – one flesh). "Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God's will for you, who is good and pleasing and perfect." (Rom. 12:2 NLT) Robert Lewis says men are to be spiritual leaders and are to reject passivity, accept responsibility, lead courageously and expect God's reward (not temporal rewards).

When she (Hagar) knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress." Conflict breaks out between Sarai and Hagar and between Abraham and Sarai, and Hagar flees.  "Under three things the earth trembles, under four it cannot bear up:…  a maidservant who displaces her mistress." (Prov. 30:23) Note what the flesh (vs. the Spirit) produces that is seen here: "Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, envying." (See Gal. 5:19-21)

"The angel of the LORD found Hagar near a spring in the desert; the LORD has heard of your misery." Though Hagar wasn't a believer at this point God still heard her cry and came to her rescue. He told her to name her child Ishmael, which means, "God hears" and she later named the well, "You-Are-the-God-Who-Sees" as she realized she had encountered God.  God hears our cries and sees our need and sees to our need. It seems she came to faith in this encounter with the Living God (possibly the Pre-incarnate Christ).

"So Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram gave the name Ishmael to the son she had borne." Obviously Hagar told Abraham the whole story as he names his son per God's instructions. The message from God to Abraham and Sarah was in the name of his son – Ishmael – "God hears" and in a sense a rebuke to their lack of faith to pray to a God who hears. They moved ahead without seeking Him and brought great pain on themselves and Hagar and Ishmael with the worst yet to come. 

In the flesh we want to live by formulas versus faith but without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6) so we must always ask ourselves, "What requires more faith?"  Paul used this historical account to contrast the flesh versus the Spirit and law versus grace in Galatians 4:21-5:1



law (by works)

grace (through faith)



flesh (our efforts apart from God)


"ordinary" birth – born of the flesh (John 1:13; 3:6)

supernatural birth – born of the Spirit (John 3:3, 6)

persecutes God's true children

persecuted by the legalists (e.g., Judaizers)

no spiritual inheritance/blessings

spiritual inheritance/blessings

Mount Sinai

Mount Zion (heaven)


Heavenly Jerusalem/all believers



anxiety (no assurance of salvation)

joy – assurance of God's love and salvation

Hagar was Abraham's "second wife" and never married again. Likewise the law was added (was second – God began with grace) and was temporary and was not given to any other nation (never married again). It was a "servant" (slave) to serve as a mirror (to reveal our sin), a monitor (to control our sin and lead us to Christ) but not a "mother". The law cannot bring forth true life (spiritual life), the fruit or gifts of the Spirit, or give us a spiritual inheritance (law-based works have no eternal value – 1 Cor. 3:10-15; 13:1-3).

Even as true believers are persecuted by legalists and unbelievers (as we proclaim Jesus is the only way to God and heaven) our flesh (the unsanctified part of our lives) persecutes our spirit-man. It says, "try harder, do better, earn your salvation and self-worth through your own self-righteousness." So if we make the law our "mother" we will experience bondage – the tread mill of guilt and insecurity as we strive to earn acceptance with God and if not with God, with man.

Jesus says, "It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life." (John 6:63) Our own fleshly efforts, plans and actions always produce "Ishmaels" that have no spiritual or eternal value for others our ourselves. In fact they produce temporal and eternal consequences and loss. (1 Cor. 3:10-15)



What are some of the things Abraham did wrong by taking Sarah's advice?

Note the conflict that resulted between Sarah and Hagar and then between Sarah and Abraham. See the list of what the flesh produces in Gal. 5:19-21 and note some of them seen in this account.

What was the clear message the "Messenger" (possibly the Pre-incarnate Christ) sent to Abraham and Sarah through the name of Abraham's son – Ishmael which means – "God hears". What is the message to us as we get impatient with the Lord's timing like Abraham and Sarah did?

Paul used this historical account as an allegory to contrast the flesh and the Spirit to keep us from producing our own Ishmaels. See Gal. 4:21-5:1 Where may you be making plans and carrying them out in the flesh?


Scripture memory verse: "It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life." (John 6:63)

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