Genesis 21:1-21

July 31, 2013 Adam disobeyed God bringing sin and death into the world, but God promised a Redeemer, and Abraham’s story reveals a little of how that promise comes to pass. At the age of 75 he left Haran (Gen. 12:4) to go to a strange land where he was promised a son; he waited about 10 years (Gen. 16:16) before growing tired of waiting and he had a son on his own, but God’s plan and promise didn’t change and Abraham’s son was rejected (Gen. 17:18-21). He endures another long period of 14 years until he’s 100 years old and finally the moment comes: And the LORD visited Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did unto Sarah as he had spoken. 2For Sarah conceived, and bare Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him. God’s promise was right on God’s time—Abraham couldn’t rush it, and God wouldn’t delay it. And there was a reason for the wait: the son of the promise had to be born under supernatural circumstances. It was no miracle when Hagar got pregnant, but for 90 year-old Sarah to have a child is something only God could do. And Abraham called the name of his son that was born unto him, whom Sarah bare to him, Isaac. 4And Abraham circumcised his son Isaac being eight days old, as God had commanded him. 5And Abraham was an hundred years old, when his son Isaac was born unto him. 6And Sarah said, God hath made me to laugh, so that all that hear will laugh with me. This is the name God told him to give him (17:19), and it means “he laughs.” It’s appropriate since Abraham and Sarah both laughed when they heard the promise, and Sarah now laughs in joy and all who hear will join her. It’s important to remember that this is part of the promise of a Redeemer who will remove the curse. Everything is done in sorrow for the time being (Gen. 3:16-17), but when the true Son is given there is much reason for joyous laughter! And she said, Who would have said unto Abraham, that Sarah should have given children suck? for I have born him a son in his old age. No one would have thought this was possible a year ago (not even she had believed it), but God made it happen. No one would have thought that Sarah would be able to nurse a child, but, yet again, God made it happen.
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Even though these two had grown old, God was able to give them the pleasures of parenthood because nothing is impossible with Him. When we think of this relation to the promise it’s easy to see that God is able to give us what we can’t do for ourselves. And the child grew, and was weaned: and Abraham made a great feast the same day that Isaac was weaned. 9And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, which she had born unto Abraham, mocking. By now Ishmael is about 16 and Isaac is probably about 2. It doesn’t tell us how or why Ishmael mocks, but in Galatians 4:29 Paul calls it persecution; the persecution faced by the early church was the same as what Isaac faced from Ishmael. It’s not just a little brotherly teasing—Ishmael hated and despised Isaac, and this too was promised of God (Gen. 16:12).
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Wherefore she said unto Abraham, Cast out this bondwoman and her son: for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, even with Isaac.

Hagar had also despised Sarah (Gen. 16:4) and there’s no indication that anything’s changed. Ishmael should get some of the inheritance, Sarah won’t stand for it. Instead she commands Abraham to get rid of her and Ishmael so that Isaac will have it all to himself. This all sounds very harsh and maybe even impulsive, but we must keep the allegory in mind. In Galatians 4:22-31 Paul explicitly says that Hagar and Ismael are an allegory of those who are born of the flesh and Sarah and Isaac are an allegory for those who are of the promise. The sons of the promise receive the inheritance, but the sons of the slave woman are cast out. There is laughing and joy for the sons of God, but there is only sorrow and trouble for the world. But that doesn’t make things easy for Abraham:

And the thing was very grievous in Abraham's sight because of his son.

It’s easy to forget that Abraham saw Ishmael as his firstborn son, and he loves him. It wasn’t too long ago that he asked God to let Ishmael be the son of the promise (17:18). He would have been just fine without Isaac, so this is a cause of heartache for him, and he doesn’t want to do it.

And God said unto Abraham, Let it not be grievous in thy sight because of the lad, and because of thy bondwoman;

This is God’s will, and though it might be tough, Abraham shouldn’t let it bother him. in all that Sarah hath said unto thee, hearken unto her voice; for in Isaac shall thy seed be called. This is the main point right here. Isaac is the son of the promise. Ishmael isn’t part of the plan, and he can’t be, so he has to be put out. The flesh can never accomplish the spiritual. But for Abraham’s sake, and for the purpose given in Galatians 4, God promises to provide for Hagar and Ishmael: And also of the son of the bondwoman will I make a nation, because he is thy seed. Now don’t get confused here. It says of Ishmael “he is thy seed” which seems to go against everything we’ve just said. But notice that of Isaac He says “in Isaac shall thy seed be called.” One is technical; the other is spiritual. Technically Ishmael is Abraham’s seed (he has his DNA), but spiritually Isaac is the son God promised, and all who live by faith will come through that spiritual line. We’re the seed of Abraham even without sharing in his DNA, and just having his DNA doesn’t make us his children.
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And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and took bread, and a bottle of water, and gave it unto Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, and the child, and sent her away: and she departed, and wandered in the wilderness of Beersheba. 15And the water was spent in the bottle, and she cast the child under one of the shrubs. 16And she went, and sat her down over against him a good way off, as it were a bow shot: for she said, Let me not see the death of the child. And she sat over against him, and lift up her voice, and wept.

So Hagar and her teenage son are put out of the house, and they wander around in the desert. When the water runs out, Ishmael gets too weak to carry on, so his mother puts him under a bush and goes off a little ways so she doesn’t have to watch him die.

And God heard the voice of the lad; and the angel of God called to Hagar out of heaven, and said unto her, What aileth thee, Hagar?

He isn’t asking because He doesn’t know, but because of what He says next: fear not; for God hath heard the voice of the lad where he is. 18Arise, lift up the lad, and hold him in thine hand; for I will make him a great

nation. 19And God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water; and she went, and filled the bottle with water, and gave the lad drink. God has determined that Ishmael will be made into a great nation, and because God always accomplishes His purposes, He delivers Ishmael from death.

And God was with the lad; and he grew, and dwelt in the wilderness, and became an archer. 21And he dwelt in the wilderness of Paran: and his mother took him a wife out of the land of Egypt.

Well, there you have it. Isaac is born and Ishmael is moved away. In just a few chapters the story will focus on God’s dealings with Isaac and then on Jacob and then on Joseph. We’ll see how God kept His promise to make Abraham’s name great and to bless all nations through him and how He redeemed His own from the curse of death. Until then let’s close with a few thoughts: #1- Waiting on God is often difficult, but He always proves to be faithful. Abraham had a tough time while he waited, but God came through. Think of some of the promises He’s given us—we’ll be conformed to Christ’s image, we’ll be raised from the dead, and we’ll go to be with Him for the rest of eternity. We’ve all been waiting for these things to happen, and we’ll have to keep waiting until His time. In the meantime we’ll struggle with sin and doubt if we take our eyes off the promise. What we need to learn to do is look at our lives the same way God does— everything is already finished. I think sometimes we see God kind of like we see that guy trying to fix the leaky dam. He’s hopping from one leak to the next trying to patch it before the whole thing falls apart. But God has known His plan from the beginning, and nothing ever takes Him by surprise. Study His promise written in His word, cast your burdens on Him, and wait for Him to answer. The wait may be long and the answer may be death, but we have a certain hope: “The wicked is thrust down by his wrongdoing, but the righteous has a refuge when he dies” (Prov. 14:32). Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might (Eph. 6:10). #2- Obedience often means making difficult choices. Abraham didn’t enjoy sending his son away, but it was the command of God. Later he’s even asked to sacrifice the one son he has left. Jesus tells us that we must hate everything else (even our own lives) if we’re going to follow Him (Lk. 14:26). It’s one thing to read it—it’s something else to walk it. It’s no joke, and it’s not easy. #3- Everything God does is for His glory. Do you know why Adam was permitted to fall? Do you know why Abraham was called? Do you know why he had to wait so long for a son? Do you know why Ishmael was cast out, saved, and raised into a

great nation? Do you know why hell exists? So that God might glorify Himself. He’s glorified whether through His love and mercy or through His strength and might or through His justice and holiness. It’s all been planned to glorify Him. You know what this means for us? “He must increase and I must decrease” (Jn. 3:30). We walk in a manner worthy of our calling and everyone sees how God changes sinners. We love and forgive and edify and serve which shows His power. We declare His holiness and His grace so that He is glorified as the sovereign and just Judge and the One who has mercy. He alone is worthy of worship, and my prayer is that He will be glorified through us. I pray we’ll be like Isaiah: These things said Isaiah, when he saw His glory, and spake of Him (Jn. 12:41).

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