Detours

I’ve been studying and teaching a lot on Abraham since the year began. I’m learning and relearning a lot of truths from the father of faith and God’s BFF. One thing that struck me and that I keep coming back to in my thoughts is how God deals with our detours.

Abraham detoured by hooking up with Hagar and having a son through her. It wasn’t part of God’s plan for his life, but God’s plan seemed to take longer than expected. Ten years after God had spoken to him about making him into a great nation, his wife Sarah thought it wise to make the promise happen themselves. She was barren and Abraham wasn’t getting any younger, so it made sense when she suggested they have a child using Hagar as a surrogate (see Genesis 16). But things got complicated once Hagar knew she was pregnant because she began giving Sarah a tough time. She began to despise Sarah.

“He went in to [the bed of] Hagar, and she conceived; and when she realized that she had conceived, she looked with contempt on her mistress [regarding Sarai as insignificant because of her infertility]” Genesis 16:4 (AMP)

Frustrated, Sarah complained to her husband, blaming him. Escaping the blame, Abraham pointed out to Sarah that she had the authority to do as she pleased with Hagar. So, she mistreated her, resulting in Hagar fleeing.
‘Good riddance’, Abraham must have thought. He was in a difficult position being caught in the middle between his wife and soon-to-be baby momma. We can tell it came as a sort of relief to him because we do not hear of him sending out a search party for her. But God was not about to let him off the hook that easily. An angel found Hagar and encouraged her to return.

I couldn’t understand why God was bothering. We know that Hagar and Ismael will have to leave eventually. God lead me to understand that He had to do it this way for Abraham to learn. If he let Hagar easily get out of their lives now, he would never know the impact of detouring and interfering with God’s plan for his life. Abraham and Sarah had to see how their human efforts couldn’t fit into the divine scheme of things God had planned, how it would actually hinder what God had promised. In Genesis 21 they come to the realization that that which they accomplished by their own doing couldn’t co-exist with what God had accomplished. They wouldn’t see this if Hagar ran away for good, they wouldn’t know that the honour to fulfil a promise rests on the One who made it, their role being only to believe.

“Now [as time went on] Sarah saw [Ishmael] the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, [b]mocking [Isaac]. Therefore she said to Abraham, “Drive out this maid and her son, for the son of this maid shall not be an heir with my son Isaac.” Genesis 21:9-10 (AMP)

This was a very difficult thing for Abraham to do. He even questioned Sarah’s advice but God pointed out that Sarah was indeed correct. He had to experience the pain of letting go so that, like a lamb that once strayed and was harmed, he’d never keep too far a distance from the Shepherd.

From this, we learn that when we offramp from the route God has destined for us, God will intentionally give us the opportunity to learn from the experience. He will not make things easily go away, even after we confess and repent. We see this with King David as well.

“Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” Nathan replied, “The Lord has taken away your sin. You are not going to die. But because by doing this you have made the enemies of the Lord show utter contempt, the son born to you will die.” 2 Samuel 12:13-14 (NIV)

God forgave David of his sin of adultery and murder, no question. But David still had to experience the pain that comes with disobeying God. He spent days in prayer and fasting for his young son but like Abraham, he too had to let go of a life and relationship that was deeply connected to him.
This is a very uncomfortable truth about how God deals with our waywardness, but it is only out of love that he takes us the painful way around. In the process, we learn to trust him and his ways, we learn to wait on him to fulfil our hearts desires instead of trying to do it ourselves.

The main reason I appreciate these narratives so much is because they prove that God’s plan for our lives truly cannot be thwarted, even by us. When we choose to return to the path of obedience, no matter how far we strayed off, God is faithful and just to fulfil the promises He made us. So take heart, your disobedience is not the end of the road, just a detour, you can still return to the right path, and God will meet you there.

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