The Patience Test

We are continuing to think on the testing of Abraham’s faith, and how it relates to all believers being tested in similar ways. In the time of waiting God takes us through a patience test. This test happens to a man or woman of God when their expectations in God are not fulfilled “on schedule.” (Of course, we think in terms of our schedule, not God’s!) Patience is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 6:2). This word comes from a Latin word which means, “to suffer.” To pass the patience test a person has to yield to the Lord for His will to be accomplished His way and in His timing. Men and women of God down through the centuries have been given visions of what God wants them to do, but almost always they have had to wait for God to act. Why is this? God does not want His people to short circuit the process by jumping in and trying to fulfill the vision with their own strength and natural talents. He uses talents and abilities, which He has given to us, but it must be in God’s timing and not ours. Waiting on God’s timing is the hard part.

The testing time is different and unique to each of God’s servants. After all, The Lord knows each one of His children intimately. He knows what we need to experience in order for our character to be shaped so that we are ready for the task. For instance, Joseph was given a vision of his brother’s sheaves bowing down to him (Genesis 37:7). The interpretation was that his brothers would literally bow down before him, but the fulfilling of the vision would be many years in the future. In the waiting period, Joseph’s character had to be changed and made ready for his future as the vice president of the nation of Egypt. He had to endure years as a slave in Potiphar’s house, before being falsely accused and thrown into prison. While in prison, the dreams of two men of pharaoh’s staff were correctly interpreted, but Joseph short-circuited God’s work by pleading with the cupbearer to get him out of jail. God made him wait another two years before Pharaoh’s cupbearer remembered Joseph’s unique talent of dream interpretation to Pharaoh (Genesis 40:23 and 41:1). Sometimes God deliberately makes a man or woman of God wait until things are humanly impossible before He moves in our situation. This is what He did to Abram and Sarai. Fourteen years had gone by and it was now many years since it had ever been naturally possible for Sarai to conceive and bear a child.

Why The Wait?

We know that God was teaching Abram and Sarai valuable lessons in this waiting period. Why did it go on so long? Do we have a part to play and can we delay God’s promise by obedience or disobedience? It is impossible for us to know how long Abram and Sarai would have waited if they had never taken matters into their own hands and used Hagar to bring forth Ishmael. The “waiting time” is also a time of testing. We need to be alert and aware of the part we play in the waiting time.

The Lord shows up after a fourteen year wait, twenty-three years from the initial promise, and tells Abram that from now on he shall no longer be called Abram, which means exalted father, but his name from now is changed to Abraham, which means father of a multitude. The interesting thing about God’s word to Abraham was that the Lord spoke in the present tense and not the future tense. He said, “I have made you a father of many nations (Genesis 17:5). Abraham was asked to believe God’s Word about himself before it became a reality. Imagine what that was like going over to Mamre to see his friends, Eshcol and Aner, his allies in the war against the kings of the north (Genesis 14:13). How does a man tell his friends that his name has changed at ninety-nine years of age into father of a multitude? Do you think that Abraham corrected people every time they called him Abram? I wonder. Don’t you think that Eshcol and Aner would have laughed at him along with many others of his friends? Today we would consider a person like Abraham to be eccentric, but the Bible calls him the Friend of God (James 2:23). My prayer is for you and me to be a Friend of God. Keith Thomas

The God Who Sees and Hears Us

4He slept with Hagar, and she conceived. When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress. 5Then Sarai said to Abram, “You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my slave in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the LORD judge between you and me.” 6“Your slave is in your hands,” Abram said. “Do with her whatever you think best.” Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her. 7The angel of the LORD found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur.

When Hagar, Sarai’s slave girl, becomes pregnant, there were changes in the household and relationships. Things got messy! Hagar becomes proud and begins to look down upon her mistress. We don’t know what is said or the behavior of Hagar, but whatever the attitude of the younger Hagar to the seventy-five-year-old Sarai, it is one of suffering for Sarai:

5Then Sarai said to Abram, “You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my slave in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the LORD judge between you and me” (Verse 5).

Sarai now blames Abram for his lack of leadership in allowing this shortcut to go ahead, and she is right. Abram was the leader of the home, the one who gets direction from God and leads the family accordingly, yet his leadership is reactionary to go with the flow, rather than seeking God for His direction as to the strife that he has now brought upon his family and into his home. When Sarai brings the situation up with Abram, he should have been the one to sort it out, but instead he throws it all back into Sarai’s lap:

6“Your slave is in your hands,” Abram said. “Do with her whatever you think best.” Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her (Verse 6).

Abram should have dealt kindly to Hagar and counseled Sarai to do the same. After all, they were the ones who came up with the plan in the first place! Unfortunately, Abram does not bear responsibility for Hagar. Notice that in his response to Sarai, he does not even call Hagar by her name, but calls her ‘Sarai’s slave’ (Verse 6). It is as if he is distancing himself from the whole situation, and from Hagar herself, along with the child he is responsible for. It is complete abdication. Hagar is not asked how she feels about all that is going on, and Abram takes little care for her soul. Having been used as a commodity, she is now cast aside. Surely she must be, at this point, a visible reminder of the failure of Abram and Sarai in trying to take a shortcut to God’s purposes. How many unwanted feelings did this situation breed for all three involved? I’m sure Hagar was left feeling that this baby she is carrying will be unwanted by the family she has been a part of. Hagar must have felt very insecure at a time in life that a woman needs even more security with a baby on the way. Can you imagine her grief and state of mind as she ran away from home? We are told that she went to a deserted place where she sat down by a spring. A deserted place tells us that she wanted to be alone. It is possible she did not feel safe, having been badly treated by Sarai and not sure of their intentions toward her and the child she was carrying. She is retreating, licking her emotional wounds, so to speak, and seeking solitude when the Angel of the Lord comes to her. Thank God that whenever we are in a dry and desert place, there is always a well of salvation, and our God is always watching over us.

If you have not yet entrusted your life to the God of all comfort, it is time to cast your soul upon Him, for He cares for you. Keith Thomas