"The LORD has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my maidservant; perhaps I can build a family through her" (Gen 16:2).
Have you ever felt that you were supposed to receive something from God
but it just hasn't materialized? You wait and wait until finally you
decide that maybe God wants you to help out the situation. This is
exactly what happened in the case of Abraham and Sarah.
God had promised them a son, but as years passed by they were still
without a child. They took their eyes off the One who had made the
promise and decided to take matters into their own hands. So, Abraham
lay with Sarah's maidservant, Hagar, and she bore a son, Ishmael (see
Genesis 16). The son of promise, Isaac, came later through Sarah, just
like God had promised. However, the modern day conflict between the
Arabs and Israelis is the fruit of this act of disobedience that
occurred centuries ago.
I recall a time when I launched a business enterprise only to fall on my
face. It had all the hallmarks of a Godly venture, but I was premature
and guilty of presumption instead of faith. The resulting financial
losses are lasting reminders of a decision that was based on a
horizontal choice instead of a vertical dependence that required
patience until God said, "Go."
The way to avoid making "Ishmael" decisions is to seek God fully on the
matter in prayer, be in an accountable relationship with your spouse and
close associates who know you well, and gain agreement through two or
more people. The Bible says, "The heart is deceitful above all things
and beyond cure. Who can understand it?"(Jer 17:9).
Whenever we want something strongly, it is a dangerous place because we
no longer look at the matter objectively with a willingness to change
our viewpoint. We have to approach a matter as being "dead" to the issue
in order to fully see God's perspective.