Friday, April 22, 2011

Genesis 21:8-13

In today’s passage, most appropriately on Good Friday, we see the long reach of the consequences of sin.

The child grew and was weaned, and on the day Isaac was weaned Abraham held a great feast. But Sarah saw that the son whom Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham was mocking, and she said to Abraham, “Get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.”

The matter distressed Abraham greatly because it concerned his son. But God said to him, “Do not be so distressed about the boy and your slave woman. Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned. I will make the son of the slave into a nation also, because he is your offspring.” (Gen 21:8-13)

We’ve moved ahead here to the time when Isaac must have been between three and four years of age. What a precious age! I think of my grandchildren at this age (Lucy’s 3 1/2), and there is nothing sweeter! They still have the soft cheeks and hands that you love to kiss! It’s the day of Isaac’s weaning party, and the proud papa is throwing a grand feast in his honor. In the corner stands a sullen, pimply-faced teenager, Ishmael, the half-brother, who is about 17 at this point. And this wonderful family celebration quickly turns sour! Beth Moore writes, “Have you ever noticed how family celebrations filled with high expectations have an uncanny way of bringing out less-than-desirable family dynamics? I think it is safe to say that by the end of this merry day, no one had a good time.”

We’re told in verse 8 that Ishmael was mocking Isaac. This is not innocent, brotherly teasing. In fact, Ishmael was probably ticked off seeing Isaac, who was going to be the heir of Abraham, getting all of this attention. So he laughs with scorn. Truly he is mocking the promise of God here. You can imagine how Sarah’s hackles went up and her claws came out! There must have been some bitterness in Sarah’s heart that had been fomenting all of these years as she saw lived out before her eyes each day the result of her trying to help God along. And the sight of Ishmael picking on her boy was the last straw. “That slave woman and her son” have to go! Sarah can’t even bring herself to say their names!

Did you see that Hagar is referred to as Hagar the Egyptian in verse 9? This would indicate that, even though Hagar was visited by God and lived in a faith-filled home, she had not made it her own faith, but had clung to the culture and beliefs of Egypt. In the same way, by mocking Isaac, the son of promise, Ishmael was indicating the same lack of faith. And there is not room in one household for faith and disbelief.

Now, think of Abraham’s dilemma and pain. Ishmael, now a young man, had been his joy and companion for years. Beth Moore points out that Ishmael probably had many of his father’s features and mannerisms. Even though the Bible only gives us a few words to describe this scene,”greatly distressed” doesn’t adequately convey what Abraham was feeling. So, our gracious God reminds Abraham, that even in what looks like tumult and chaos, God is sovereignly at work carrying out His plan: I will make the son of the slave into a nation also, because he is your offspring. (vs. 13) 

God is still in charge, and telling Abraham, “Trust me!” This is a perfect Romans 8:28 moment! Beth Moore brings in Ephesisan 1:11 here, and I’m adding vs. 12, because it explains the “why”:

In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory.

God will work everything (that includes your circumstances and mine) out according to His plan and for His glory (not ours). Hagar and Ishmael will be driven out of this household, but Ishmael will gain a nation. What an emotional scene! And all of it traces its source back to that decision of Sarah and Abraham to take matters into their own hands to provide an heir. Don’t we all struggle with consequences from our past? Let’s remember today, on Good Friday, that Jesus bore even those sins on the cross. When He said , “It is finished,” he meant it. The payment for all of our sins, even for Sarah’s and Abraham’s, has been completely paid and is no longer counted against us. And it cost God His Son. This scene in Genesis makes me want to cry, and so does the thought of what Christ had to pay because of the things I have done and continue to do! LORD, help me remember to trust you and to let you have YOUR way in my life!

Thankful for the joy of Easter that follows the sorrow!

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