Summary: The birth of Ishmael

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Genesis 16:1-16

John Shearhart

December 5, 2010

Genesis is a book about God and His dealings with His creation.

In the beginning He created the heavens and the earth. He put a man named Adam in the garden and commanded him not to eat of the tree of knowledge. When Adam disobeyed, sin was introduced into the world and all of Adam’s descendants were born dead in their trespasses.

On the day of the fall God put into action His eternal plan to redeem His children from their slavery to sin and death. He promised a Son who would crush the head of the serpent, and the rest of Genesis (and the rest of Scripture) is an accounting of how His promise is fulfilled.

This morning we’re looking again at God’s dealings with Abram (whose name will later be changed to Abraham). Abram was an idol worshipping Gentile who lived in Ur (Josh. 24:2), but God called him to move to Canaan where He would bless him and make his name great (Gen. 12). He obeyed and went, but he had no son, so he was afraid that his servant would inherit all his possessions.

So God appeared to him again and promised not only a son but innumerable descendants who would possess the land. Abram believed God, and to establish the covenant formally, God walked the blood path saying, “If I am unfaithful, then may what happened to these animals happen to Me.”

But a lot of time passes, and Abram (who is 85 years old at this point) and his wife, Sarai, aren’t getting any younger. They slip into a sort of panic as the batteries on their biological clocks are quickly going dead.

So in this panic Sarai forms a little plan to help God accomplish His purposes, but her plan backfires and a son is born to Abram who is not promised by God.

In Galatians Paul tells us the meaning of this story, so I want to start there:

Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law? 22For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman. 23But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise. 24Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar. 25For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children. 26But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all. 27For it is written, Rejoice, thou barren that bearest not; break forth and cry, thou that travailest not: for the desolate hath many more children than she which hath an husband. 28Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise. 29But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now. 30Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman. 31So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free (Gal. 4:21-31, KJV).

Hagar and Ishmael were not saved: “cast out the bondwoman and her son for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the free woman.”

In Romans it’s said,

For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel: 7Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called. 8That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed. 9For this is the word of promise, At this time will I come, and Sarah shall have a son (Rom. 9:6-9).

Later (Gen. 17:18-21) Abram asks God to make His covenant with Ishmael instead of giving him another son, but God refuses saying, “My covenant I will establish with Isaac.”

The whole point of this story we’re about to read (according to the Apostle Paul in the New Testament) is to make a distinction between the children of the promise and the children of the flesh. These two women and their descendants are allegories or symbols of God’s choice.

So, with this explanation in mind, let’s begin:

Now Sarai, Abram's wife had borne him no children, and she had an Egyptian maid whose name was Hagar. 2So Sarai said to Abram, "Now behold, the LORD has prevented me from bearing children. Please go in to my maid; perhaps I will obtain children through her" (NASB).

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