Birth of Issac, Genesis 21:1-21

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

448a6f4851a49cefb57ca43866da6c79Reflect

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!

Hagar and Ishmael, Genesis 16

Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian maidservant named Hagar; so she said to Abram, ‘The LORD has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my maidservant; perhaps I can build a family through her.’ Abram agreed to do what Sarai said.” –Genesis 16:1-2

Genesis 16 is bittersweet.

Bitter from the consequences of Abram and Sarai’s efforts to “help God by helping themselves”, which have snowballed into the Israeli-Arab conflict we see today. (The Arabs descended from Ishmael.)

But this chapter is not without some sweet spots. In compassion, God reaches out to Hagar—who is forced into an ugly situation—and graciously promises that her son, Ishmael, will also have many descendants.

You may read Genesis 16 here: Bible Gateway.

The Back Story 

“So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised.” – Hebrews 10:35-36

Abram and Sarai, now 85 and 75 respectively, have demonstrated great faith in God’s promise of many descendants. But after years without conceiving—not to mention the human impossibility to birth babies in their old age—the thin scraps of their faith finally snap.

Unwilling to forfeit the possibility of having a family, Sarai proposes a last-ditch effort that aligns with the common practice of their day.

Go, sleep with my maidservant; perhaps I can build a family through her.”

Since Hagar is their own personal property, any children she might bear to Abram would belong to Sarai (according to customs).

Abram concedes. And Hagar conceives.

Naturally, sparks begin to fly between Sarai and Hagar with this newly arranged marital affair. As tension builds, Sarai—who instigated this plan—blames Abram. So Abram allows Sarai to handle Hagar however she pleases.

The result? Sarai’s burning anger and frustration—against Abram, herself, and Hagar—boil into harsh mistreatment. In desperation, Hagar runs away.

El Roi: The God Who Sees

As the journey through the wilderness (probably towards her home in Egypt) would be tough, the “angel of the Lord” meets Hagar and tells her to go back to Abram.

This is the first use of the “angel of the Lord” in the Bible. The context (vs. 13) implies that this “angel” was God Himself, another preincarnate appearance of the Messiah.

I love that God addresses Hagar by name. Although He gave special promises to Abram, His love and concern for individuals are shown here. And though it wasn’t God’s will for Abram and Hagar’s union, He promised Hagar a son who would also have many descendants. God gave him the name, Ishmael, which means “God hears”. Hagar would likely remember how God met her need. She also named the well where God spoke to her “the well of the Living One who seeth me” (Beer-lahai-roi), and called God El Roi: “the God who sees”.

God also reveals Ishmael’s future disposition to Hagar: “a wild donkey of a man” who will live in hostility toward all his brothers (vs. 12).

Hagar Returns

Encouraged from her encounter with God, Hagar returns to Abram. She must have told Abram her experience because when their baby is born, Abram (86 yrs.) names him Ishmael.

Reflect

  • Sometimes our biggest test is waiting for God to act. The temptation to fix things is strong, but even our best intentions—apart from God—interfere with His plans. Although our motives may begin with a pure heart, God never justifies sinful means.
  • Anger, if left unchecked, can be dangerous. . . . Instead of blaming others, do we need to fess’ up and ask forgiveness in an area?
  • God often wants us to face our problems head-on instead of running away (even though it may be justified) . . . . Do we need an attitude adjustment? Which promise(s) of God do we need to stand on?