God’s promise to a husband-wife union could be revealed through the husband or wife and will be fulfilled to them as a unit. Because the husband and wife are one, a promise to one is a promise to the two-in-one and will be fulfilled to them together. God interacts with husband and wife as one and illustrates the relationship through his covenant with Abraham-Sarah: a conditional promise to be God to all that worship and serve him.
We discuss God’s interaction with Abraham regarding his conditional promise to be God to all that worship and serve him. The promise was for Abraham-Sarah as a union, their descendants, and all humanity. However, God revealed the promise to Abraham as an individual. The context of the interaction enables an understanding of aspects directed at Abraham or Sarah individually and aspects directed at Abraham-Sarah as a union. God provides a message through the interaction: that his promise to a husband-wife union could be revealed through the husband or wife but will be fulfilled for them together as a unit.
Abraham understood the message but doubted the promise could be fulfilled for him and Sarah considering their age. He appealed for Ishmael in an apparent attempt to “help” God find a path to fulfillment of the promise [Genesis 17:17–18]: “Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said in his heart, ‘Shall a child be born to a man who is one hundred years old? And shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?’ … ‘Oh, that Ishmael might live before You!’” Then God clarified the promise: “No, Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his descendants after him” [Genesis 17:19]. Thus, God explained to Abraham that the promise is for Abraham-Sarah and will be fulfilled to their descendants through a son of their flesh. He spoke to Abraham to convey a conditional promise for Abraham-Sarah.
It is perhaps easy to understand that the promise of a child to a husband or wife is a promise to the husband-wife union. However, we may need greater consciousness of the message to appreciate its other implications. Whether in regard to wisdom or knowledge, physical possession, child bearing, or any other areas of human need, God’s promise to a husband or wife belongs to the husband-wife union and will be fulfilled to them as an indivisible unit. They need to be functionally together and interact with God as one in order to receive fulfillment of the promise. They could lose the promise if one person should become greedy and seek to claim individual ownership of any part.
We discuss God’s interaction with Abraham as described in Genesis 17 to understand the message of the covenant as it relates to husband-wife interactions and relationships.
Abraham and Sarah sought to have a child through their maid Hagar because of anxiety about God’s promise regarding their offspring. They were old and losing hope of child bearing. Hagar conceived but tried to use the pregnancy to disrupt their relationship. They resisted her successfully, choosing their union over the possibility that the child of Hagar might be the key to their promised offspring expansion.
God promised Abraham and Sarah a great expansion of their offspring and blessing for them and all humanity through their offspring. As we discuss in a previous bible study under Husband-Wife Leadership from Abraham-Sarah, God spoke to Abraham alone but the promise was for Abraham-Sarah union. They were anxious about the promise because they did not have a child and were old and losing hope of child bearing. They explored the possibility of having a child through Sarah’s maid, Hagar, in accordance with their custom. Abraham impregnated Hagar as permitted under agreement with Sarah.
Hagar was to remain subservient to Sarah and bear the child for her according to their custom. But she displayed a different aspiration as she sought to displace Sarah from her husband’s love. However, Abraham and Sarah valued their union more than the possibility that Hagar was carrying the child of their promise. They resisted Hagar and sought to impose Sarah’s authority over her. But Hagar would not submit. She instead fled from the household.
The attempt to have a child through Hagar was a temptation that potentially could have disrupted the Abraham-Sarah union and maybe fulfillment of God’s promise to the union. They overcame the temptation because of their belief in the supremacy of their union. In this bible study, we discuss: (1) their initial succumb to the temptation because of anxiety to receive fulfillment of God’s promise; (2) their recovery to overcome the temptation because nothing mattered enough to them to disrupt their relationship; and (3) aspects of their history to understand they built their marital bond through longevity of several decades of respecting, honoring, and caring for each other.
Interactions at the call of Abraham illustrate God considers husband and wife as one and relies on husband’s leadership and effective communication with his wife to guide them toward his purpose. He spoke to Abraham alone about a mission and promise for his family and relied on him to share the information with wife Sarah to lead their unity of purpose and obedience to God toward accomplishing the mission.
We continue our study of God’s purpose for husband-wife interactions through a mini series on Abraham and Sarah. The biblical accounts of Abraham and Sarah are more often about God’s interactions with Abraham, which intertwine with Abraham-Sarah interactions to tell us about God’s view of their relationship, thus adding to understanding his purpose and expectations for husband-wife interactions and relationships. In a previous study on Adam and Eve (Union of Seamless Complements), we saw that God considers a husband and wife to be one and inseparable. We see more evidence through Abraham-Sarah interactions, based on God speaking to Abraham alone during most encounters when he provided instructions and promises directed at Abraham-Sarah family.
Our study of Abraham-Sarah interactions is divided into four parts in order to focus enough on some of the details. We learn through the four-part series that God considered Abraham leader and representative of the Abraham-Sarah union (therefore, family). Secondly, he considered them as “one in God” such that his promise to one is a promise to the union and any commitment from one is a commitment from the union. Although subtle and at times easy to overlook, the lesson about God relating to Abraham-Sarah as one appears central to his relationship with them. He spoke promises to Abraham that were really promises to Abraham-Sarah and got commitments from him that really were commitments from the husband-wife union.
He gave directions to Abraham, spoke promises to him, and received commitments from him: all on behalf of Abraham-Sarah union. His communications with Abraham applied equally to Sarah as if he spoke to Abraham-Sarah when he spoke to Abraham. For example, when he instructed Abraham to relocate to “a land I will show you” [Genesis 12:1], he was calling Abraham-Sarah to a mission. Abraham’s responsibility to obey God included effective communication with his wife so they could work seamlessly together to accomplish the mission.