"Sarai, I have something to tell you."
Abram and Sarai were eating lunch together. Sarai popped a piece of bread in her mouth and looked at her husband.
"God has told me that I am going to have as many descendants as there are stars in the sky." Abram announced.
Sarai choked on her piece of bread.
"I'm sorry, I don't think I heard you right. God said that you are going to have lots of children?" Asked Sarai incredulously.
"Yes. And grandchildren and great-grandchildren." Smiled Abram.
"How exactly is God going to give you all of these children and grandchildren? He does realise that you are old and I am post-menopausal, doesn't he?"
Sarai believed in God but this was ridiculous. And if He really wanted them to have children, why would he make them wait until they were very old? Why not bless them when they were healthy 20- or 30- somethings? Even if they did have a child now, who would look after it when they died of old age? It didn't make any sense.
"Abram," she said, "that's great that you have so much faith in God. But can't you see that it's just an impossible dream for us now? Maybe if we'd have been younger. You know how we longed for children for so many years. But we decided that God had other plans for us, other ways to bless us. Why bring this up now?"
Abram finished his drink slowly.
"I haven't brought it up, God has. He has made me a promise. And I believe Him. He's God - he can do anything! Now, I need to get back to work. One of the shepherds has been causing problems again and I need to have a word. See you later."
Abram kissed his wife on the forehead and ambled out of the house. Sarai noticed that he was walking slowly these days, not with the energy that he had as a young man. And his once-lustrous hair was now grey and thin. She stood up to clear the table. How dare God make her husband a promise that he didn't intend to keep? She did love God, but this had really upset her. It would just get Abram's hopes up.
Sarai woke up one morning with the idea. If God was to bless them with many descendants, but she could no longer bear a child, what He'd probably meant was that Abram was to impregnate a much younger woman. That made a lot of sense. She had watched how Abram now walked with a spring in his step, often thanking God for his promise and talking about what it'd be like to have a baby in the house. She didn't think her husband noticed how much this saddened her. But, if their Egyptian slave Hagar was to bear Abram a child, then God's promise would be kept! Abram would be such a proud father, and she, Sarai, could raise it as if it were her own. Well, besides the nursing, she couldn't do that. And she was a bit too old to be woken in the night - she needed her rest. Perhaps Hagar could look after the child herself.
Hagar would do as she was told. But she had to think of a way to convince her husband that this was a good idea.
That night, Sarai prepared a feast for her husband. It contained all his favourite food - freshly made bread, lamb, and delicious vegetables. She made sure that Hagar was well dressed as she served them that night.
"Thank you." Said Abram. "That was delicious. What's the special occasion? Have I forgotten our anniversary again?"
"No Abram. Hagar and I prepared it together. I just wanted to show how much I love you. I have a suggestion. I would like you to listen to it carefully before responding. You and I both love God, and would love to see his promise come true about our having a child."
"Yes, I can't wait!" Responded Abram happily.
"Well, don't you think that what God actually meant was that you would have a child, and I would simply raise it as my own? I mean, it's obvious that I am far too old to conceive and safely carry a baby now! My suggestion is that you sleep with Hagar. That way you can have all the descendants that God promised you."
"What? No! I am sure that God meant for us both to become parents." Replied Abram.
"But how? How can you be sure that this is what God meant? Can't you see that I am too old? This way makes a lot more sense, I'm sure you will agree."
Sarai placed her hand gently over her husband's.
"It wouldn't be infidelity, you know. Just fulfilling God's plan."
Abram continued to disagree with his wife, but eventually she wore him down with her arguments.
So Abram and Hagar slept together, and soon she conceived a child.
When Hagar realised that she was pregnant, she was filled with guilt. She had known that it was wrong to sleep with another woman's husband. What now? Would Sarai be filled with jealousy and order her baby to be killed? And Abram, would he really see their child as his own?
She began to hate her mistress for putting her in this awful position. Every time she served Abram food or asked if he needed anything, Sarah would stare at her. As her belly grew, she found it more difficult to perform household tasks.
"This is Sarai's fault." She thought to herself after another sleepless night of leg cramps and rushing to the toilet.
Sarai noticed that Hagar was unhappy and treated her differently. One day, the pregnant slave snapped when Sarai asked her to lift something.
"Do it yourself!" She cried. "Can't you see I am heavy with child?"
That night in bed, Sarai said to Abram, “This is all your fault. 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.”
Abram replied that Hagar was Sarai's slave, and she could do what she liked with her. Sarai mistreated Hagar and soon the slave ran away.
An angel found Hagar in the desert and asked why she was there.
"I have run away from my mistress because she hates me." Replied Hagar.
"Return to her and look after her. God promises that you will be blessed with many descendants. You are going to have a son. Call him Ishmael, which means 'God hears'. He will have many enemies, even his brothers will be hostile towards him."
So Hagar returned to Sarai.
When Abram and Hagar's son was born, they named him Ishmael. Abram was 86 years old.
Thirteen years later, God appeared to Abram.
“This is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you.”
God gave Abraham the covenant of circumcision, and also renamed Sarai Sarah.
Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?”
And Abraham said to God, “If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!”
God said, "Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac. And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation. But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year."
That day, every man in Abraham's household, including Ishmael, was circumcised.
Later, three men visited Abraham and told him that this time next year, Sarah would have a son. Sarah was eavesdropping on their conversation, and couldn't help but laugh. She just couldn't believe it.
Soon Sarah started being sick every morning and whenever she was hungry. One of the young ladies she was talking to, said
"That's weird. I only ever get sick like that when I'm pregnant. I knew she was on her way when I started feeling nauseous all the time, and couldn't keep down my breakfast."
She smiled and kissed the top of her baby daughter's head.
Sarah stopped what she was doing. Could it be true? Could she finally be pregnant? It couldn't be possible, surely. She tried to shrug it off. But when she felt a sharp kick against her belly one morning, she knew that God had kept his promise. She was going to have a baby!
Sarah rushed to find Abraham and tell him the good news.
Soon she gave birth to a son who they called Isaac.
Sarah could not believe that finally, after so many years of barrenness, God had blessed her with a child of her own. He had kept his promise! She couldn't understand why He had made them wait for such a long time, but at last, their beautiful son was here.
Sarah cradled her newborn in her arms.
She said, “God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.” She added, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.”
Abraham watched his wife and son together and thanked God for his faithfulness. He had never felt more proud.