Let us look next at Abraham. What was the cause of Abraham’s grief with Ishmael? Alas, Abraham, the father of the faithful, failed in faith. As so often in our failures, there was quite a long story connected with it. The Lord had commanded Abram to go to the land of Canaan, and we know he came and dwelt there with his tent and his altar. But famine came, as so often it is allowed to come to those who walk the path of faith, and Abraham went down into Egypt (Genesis 12:10) instead of trusting in the Lord in the land to which He had brought him.
It was in the land of Egypt he was treated well for Sarah his wife’s sake, (a shameful affair), and for her sake “he had sheep, and oxen, and he asses and menservants, and maidservants and she asses, and camels.” (Genesis 12:16). Was Hagar the Egyptian (Genesis 16:3) who afterwards wrought such sorrow and mischief in his household, and became the mother of Ishmael,-was she one of those “maidservants” given to Abraham for Sarah’s sake in Egypt? It would seem very probable that such was the case.
But it took another step along the same pathway, of lack of faith before Hagar became the mother of Ishmael, and he the ancestor of the Arabs who have been such a scourge to God’s people from that day to this. And, remember, it was Sarah, not Abraham, who took the lead in the whole sad affair of Hagar, not alone in giving her to her own husband, but in treating her harshly so that she ran away, and finally it was Sarah who made the angry demand approved by God. But all through this matter Sarah seems to have been out of her place, and this seems to make the grace of God shine out all the more brightly in giving to Sarah the special commendation, already referred to, in 1 Peter 3:5-6.
But who am I to be pointing out the failure of such men and women as Abraham and Sarah? And yet, these things were written for our admonition; may the Lord help us to be admonished by them.