Recap | Sons

This past weekend, Bill White taught from Genesis 21:1-21.

When Abraham was 100 years old, Sarah bore him a son they named Isaac, or “laughter”, as the Lord commanded.  Abraham made a great feast the day that Isaac was weaned, but during the celebration, Sarah saw Ishmael laughing at Isaac.  In her anger, she charged Abraham to send Hagar and Ishmael away.  The Lord instructed Abraham to listen to the voice of his wife and promised to make a great nation of Ishmael because he was also Abraham’s son.  And so, though it grieved him greatly, Abraham sent Hagar and his firstborn son into the wilderness with a skin of water and some bread.  When the water was gone, Hagar left her child beneath a bush and then sat down some distance from him so as not to see him die.  But the Lord heard Ishmael’s cries, and He called out to Hagar.  God provided water for Hagar and Ishmael, and the boy grew up in the wilderness.

The ideas of promise, fulfillment, and covenant keeping are heavy in this passage.  Through the unique relationship that God entered into with Abraham, He is fulfilling each and every promise He made.  God continues to be completely faithful to Abraham, despite Abraham’s attempts to fulfill the covenant in his own way.  However, there is inescapable tension between Isaac, the child promised by God, and Ishmael.  God will not accept Ishmael in the same way as Isaac because he is not a part of His plan, and Abraham is grieved for his firstborn son.

Throughout the text, there are five main ideas that become apparent and are applicable for our lives in the present day.

First, it is Yahweh who is the hero of the story.  God has a specific purpose in store for Abraham’s life, and His own sovereign commitment secures the result. Though Abraham and Sarah attempt to take matters into their own hands and secure a son for themselves, they cannot disrupt the purpose God has set out to accomplish in Abraham’s life.  His complete commitment, demonstrated in the covenant He made with Abraham in Genesis 15, ensures that His plan will ultimately come to fruition.  Like Abraham and Sarah, we often attempt to take responsibility for things that are not our own; we try to take God out of the center of the story and make our marriage, our children, our singleness, our job, or our deficits about us.  In the end, all we do is invite chaos into the situation.

Second, loyalty to God trumps every other responsibility and relationship in our lives.  We are unable to separate our faithfulness to God from any moral or ethical choice we face because every aspect of our lives is deeply entwined with our relationship with Him.  Though Abraham is devastated to send his first born son into the wilderness, he understands that there is no higher law than being faithful to God; therefore, he must entrust his son to the Lord.  It is undeniable in this situation that God is not afraid or ashamed to ask for anything from His people; He is not ashamed to ask for complete loyalty from Abraham.  We find this reality hard to accept because we expect God to be like us. But God is our Creator, the Giver of our own life and purpose.  He shed His own blood so that we would not have to shed ours, and He has the right to ask for anything from us.

Third, we cannot ignore a lesson from God and get away with it in the end.  God offers us opportunities and situations to trust Him and draw near to Him.  In sending Ishmael away, God is training Abraham in what it means to be in a relationship with Him, to trust Him, and to be satisfied in Him.  Like Abraham, we also need to learn to be content and humble and dependent upon the Lord.  This is not a way in which God punishes us, but rather disciplines and trains us out of love.  Though it is easy to be fearful of God’s training, His purpose is to give us something better than the world could ever offer us.  He wants to make us faithful and wholly His.

Fourth, Abraham’s actions reveal his faith and trust in God.  Abraham’s faith is concrete when he sends Hagar and his son into the wilderness, because he must entrust them wholly to God.  Abraham cannot deceive himself with a false faith at this point. In our world today, it is easy to hide behind our resources and comforts and believe that we are faithful.  But in a moment of crisis, when our securities are stripped from us, we may find that our faith is actually only theoretical.

Lastly, God’s mercy is always there for those who cry out.  Even Ishmael, who was outside of God’s plan, and Hagar, who was an Egyptian born outside of God’s people, were heard by the Lord.  God answered Ishmael’s cries exactly where he was, and He blessed him.

We are able to see here that the Lord delights to hear to from those who cry out to Him.  In any situation, wherever you are, you can cry out to the Creator, and He will hear you.  He will give you purpose, direction, and a place in His future.  We do not have to fear the God who is not afraid to ask for anything from us, because this is the God who took on the covenant of Genesis 15 entirely by Himself.  He is the God who hung on a cross to endure our judgment so that rather than being under judgment, we would be invited into a relationship with Him.

-Katie Gural