8 Isaac grew. The time came for his mother to stop breast-feeding him. On that day Abraham prepared a big celebration. 9 But Sarah saw Ishmael making fun of Isaac. Ishmael was the son Hagar had by Abraham. Hagar was Sarah’s Egyptian slave. 10 Sarah said to Abraham, “Get rid of that slave woman! Get rid of her son! That woman’s son will never have a share of the family’s property. All of it belongs to my son Isaac.” 11 What Sarah said upset Abraham very much. After all, Ishmael was his son. 12 But God said to Abraham, “Do not be so upset about the boy and your slave Hagar. Listen to what Sarah tells you, because your family line will continue through Isaac. 13 I will also make the son of your slave into a nation. I will do it because he is your child.” 14 Early the next morning Abraham got some food and a bottle of water. The bottle was made out of animal skin. He gave the food and water to Hagar, placing them on her shoulders. Then he sent her away with the boy. She went on her way and wandered in the Desert of Beersheba. 15 When the water in the bottle was gone, she put the boy under a bush. 16 Then she sat down about as far away as a person can shoot an arrow. She thought, “I can’t stand to watch the boy die.” As she sat there, she began to sob. 17 God heard the boy crying. Then the angel of God called out to Hagar from heaven. He said to her, “What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid. God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. 18 Lift up the boy and take him by the hand. I will make him into a great nation.” 19 Then God opened Hagar’s eyes, and she saw a well of water. So she went and filled the bottle with water and gave the boy a drink. 20 God was with the boy as he grew up. He lived in the desert and learned to shoot a bow and arrow. 21 While he was living in the Desert of Paran, his mother got a wife for him from Egypt.
As I read this ancient historic narrative, I find myself feeling the pain of Abraham, Hagar and Ishmael as they find themselves in an awkward and messy situation. One truth here for me is that when family is concerned, even things in ancient history can still hurt!
One thing hangs in my mind regarding my application of this passage:
Why did God allow them in to this mess?
It was God’s will for Abraham and Sarah to have a Son who would lead to the fulfilment of the promises that God has already made to Abraham about his lineage. Earlier in Genesis, I read Abraham and Sarah making a decision to do things their own way (which was a pretty logical approach) and the result is the birth of Ishmael.
God had spoken to Abraham many times throughout his life, so surely he could have said “no Abraham, that’s not what I meant… stick to the plan” when he was preparing to sleep with Hagar.
I wonder if maybe God did try to warn Abraham, but in the moment, perhaps Abraham was too sure of his own plans to really listen to God. I know that this can be true in my life!!
Whatever happened, God’s mercy in the situation that arises is not straightforward. He allows Hagar and Ishmael (and perhaps Abraham) to go through a good deal of suffering before he makes His mercy known.
I wonder if God is working in similar ways in this present time in relation to His mercy. I often find myself frustrated when I am enduring any kind of suffering (for me at the moment it’s chronic sleep deprivation from having a young family). I know that God wills good for my life and he wants to answer my prayers with a “yes” when I ask him to grant me more sleep, but perhaps his mercy is just working in a less straightforward way?
Lord, I know your ways are higher than my ways. Please help me to see a glimpse into your mercy plan so that I might know you more.
Written by Ps. Justin Ware