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It's Backfiring

because it succeeded.

Genesis 16:3–4

So, after Abram had lived ten years in the land of Canaan, Sarai, Abram's wife, took Hagar the Egyptian, her servant, and gave her to Abram her husband as a wife. And he went in to Hagar, and she conceived. And when she saw that she had conceived, she looked with contempt on her mistress.

The Bible doesn’t say how old Hagar is. She was probably acquired when Abram and Sarai were in Egypt ten years earlier. Thus, she is now probably in her 20’s. She doesn’t have the emotional skills to handle what’s happening to her. Specifically:

  • Hagar is an uneducated servant who has lived a totally subservient life.
  • Abram functions like a king in this household and can take her as a wife without her consent. The concept of consent might be completely foreign to her.
  • Artificial insemination hasn’t been invented yet. Hagar has what amounts to a honeymoon with Abram.
  • Sex has huge emotional consequences. Christian leaders such as Josh McDowell have worked hard to deliver this message to teenagers.
  • Hagar’s status is suddenly elevated from the absolute bottom of the pecking order to someone important.

Then Hagar gets pregnant. The plan succeeds. The whole household is celebrating. Hagar is eating for two and everyone wants to make sure she is well nourished. No poet has ever been born that could do justice to the emotional high Hagar is experiencing.

The Bible has few words for what happens next. Hagar, drunk with joy, isn’t thinking about Sarai’s feelings. Hagar’s spectacular rise in status, along with her success in doing something Sarai failed at, translates into less admiration for Sarai. Sure enough, Sarai will notice.

The plan is backfiring. The lesson here is that it’s backfiring because it succeeded.

Oh, the best laid plans of mice and men. We’re sinful. We rebel against God. Our plans blow up. We learn.

That’s the story, over and over. It’s the story of Abram’s life. It’s the story of everyone in the Bible. It’s your story. It’s my story.

And this story is most glorious when our best laid plans work perfectly, only to be revealed as lame brained later. That’s the ultimate teachable moment. That’s when the shock of being wrong blows right through our denial mechanisms, leaving us stammering, “But, but I thought …”

Because of our sinful pride, the best outcomes are not when our pride gets stoked, but when it gets thwacked. That’s why power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Thank God for our failures. Where would we be without them?

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These weekday DEEPs are written by Mike Slay. Saturdays' by Matt Richardson. Subscribe here:

The weekly study guides, which include questions for discussion or meditation, are here:

Scripture taken from the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.

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