Now the LORD was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did for Sarah what he had promised. Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him.” Genesis 21:1-2
You may read Genesis 21:1-21 here: Bible Gateway.
Finally! After doubting repeated promises over the years, 90 year-old Sarah now has tangible evidence that God keeps His promises.
Can you picture Sarah cradling her newborn’s warm body against hers as she studies her son’s tiny features in adoration? In joy and awe she exclaims: “God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me. . . . Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have born him a son in his old age,” (vs. 6-7).
Abraham, at the ripe age of 100, responds to his son’s birth with obedience: 1) He names the baby Isaac (17:19; 21:3). Isaac means “he laughs,” or “may [God] smile”; 2) He circumcises Isaac on the eighth day (21:4).
Hagar and Ishmael Sent Away
The ripple effect from Abraham trying to jump-start God’s plan by previously sleeping with Hagar now hits him with hurricane force.
After 14 years of Ishmael being Abraham’s only heir, Ishmael despises the crowding of this new addition. His bitterness boils into mockery of Isaac at his weaning party. Sarah’s joy and laughter flee as fury steps in. She demands Abraham get rid of Hagar and her son.
Aware of Abraham’s angst, God tells him: “Do not be distressed about the boy and your maidservant. Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned,” (vs. 12).
God encourages Abraham, “I will make the son of the maidservant into a nation also, because he is your offspring,” (vs. 13).
So Abraham sends Hagar and Ishmael into the desert of Beersheba with some food and water. As the water empties, Hagar—unwillingly to watch her son die—puts Ishmael under a bush while she sobs several yards away.
But God hears the boy’s cries. (Ishmael means “God hears”.) He remembers His promise to greatly multiply Hagar’s descendants (16:10). God not only provides a well of water, but also fathers Ishmael as he grows up in the desert and becomes an archer. This section ends with Hagar retrieving a wife for Ishmael from Egypt when he lives in the Desert of Paran.
Who are Ishmael’s descendants?
“Ishmael became ruler of a large tribe or nation. The Ishmaelites were nomads living in the Desert of Sinai and Paran, south of Israel. One of Ishmael’s daughters married Esau, Ishmael’s nephew (28:9). The Bible pictures the Ishmaelites as hostile to Israel and to God (Psalm 83:6).” – NIV Life Application Study Bible
It seems a long stretch in reaching Genesis 21 with the birth of Isaac. Abraham and Sarah’s 14 year wait for their promised son probably felt like an eternity.
But God’s timing is not our timing. His ways are not our ways.
Who could have guessed that God would use a barren elderly couple to birth and raise a boy whose descendant would be Jesus the Messiah?
But our compassionate God is in the business of doing the impossible. He sees all of our problems. He hears all of our cries. Where we only see a piece of the puzzle, He sees the whole picture.
God’s timing and ways are perfect.
Let’s not forfeit God’s peace through worry as Sarah did. Instead, let’s bring our burdens before God and leave them with Him. Then let’s not forget to thank Him for loving us and acting on our behalf.
Have a great week!