Summary: All of a sudden Ishmael isn’t smiling anymore. THE LAST LAUGH WAS ON HIM.
Part 2 - Genesis 21:8-13 - THE LAST LAUGH!
It was a boring job packing books and I remember we would look for ways to have a bit of fun in the warehouse. When people found other work and left the warehouse they were BINNED!
Usually it was TIM who organised a BINNING with everyone, and he would LAUGH THE LOUDEST. We would gang up on the unfortunate victim and lift them into a large industrial rubbish bin and stand around laughing at the shocked look on his face, then just walk away and leave him to climb out. I know it sounds a little cruel but it was all in good fun.
When I announced that I was leaving to Pastor a Church in the Whitsundays, I found out that Tim was planning to BIN me! So I decided to turn the tables on him. I would secretly arrange for Tim to be binned instead. I organised the whole thing with all the guys and planned it meticulously. It would be kind of like COLLECTIVE REVENGE.
I was so excited that day as we snuck up on Tim and I shouted "NOW!" but so totally shocked when they PICKED ME UP INSTEAD and binned me. The laughter and smirk on Tim’s face told me that he GOT THE LAST LAUGH. To this day I can’t work out how he did it.
There was a lot of laughter surrounding the birth of Isaac. Even Ishmael got in on the act with another dimension.
Genesis 21:8-10 (NLT) says that "When ... Sarah saw Ishmael-the son of Abraham and her Egyptian servant Hagar-making fun of her son, Isaac, .. she turned to Abraham and demanded, "GET RID OF that slave-woman and her son. He is not going to share the inheritance with my son, Isaac. I won’t have it!"" All of a sudden Ishmael isn’t smiling anymore. THE LAST LAUGH WAS ON HIM.
The rift between Sarah and Hagar leads to Hagar being DIVORCED by Abraham (Genesis 21:9) and sent away. At first glance this seems so wrong and must have had a profound impact on Ishmael as the last ties to his father were broken. Abraham was as upset as any loving father would be and most likely prayed about the situation which was causing such conflict, but surprisingly in Genesis 21:12 (NLT) "God told Abraham, "Do not be upset over the boy and your servant. Do whatever Sarah tells you, for Isaac is the son through whom your descendants will be counted." It seems God agrees with Sarah!
Why is God OK with the jealous rage of Sarah in wanting to get rid of Hagar and Ismael? Is Sarah going to get away with this kind of attitude? It seems as if she will. Nowhere are we told that Sarah went to God to pray about this situation.
As the laughter disappeared from Abraham’s face too, God reminds him that Isaac’s descendents are the key part of God’s purposes (Jesus will eventually come from this line). But God tells Abraham "I will also make a nation of the descendants of Hagar’s son because he is your son, too."
When I am most conflicted, and the devil seems to be having the LAST LAUGH, God’s Word speaks to me and I am reminded that HIS PURPOSES are bigger than MY CIRCUMSTANCES. It may not seem to make sense at the time, but God knows what He is doing. I can trust Him. Abraham has learned this lesson several times already.
Ishmael was Abraham and Sarah’s idea of how to fulfil God’s promise, but when it comes to the crunch, you have to make a decision. The question that Abraham and I must decide on is "Will I respond to my circumstances in such a way that I live by the power of His Spirit or will I rely on my own good works?" I will never gain God’s approval until I am willing to put away my HUMAN EFFORT and trust in Him.
Galatians 4:21-31 uses this story as an illustration. Two Mothers, two sons, two covenants and two ways of living. You can’t live in harmony by trying to live by HUMAN EFFORT and still hope to LIVE BY THE SPIRIT and inherit the promises of God.
God bless you Church when you decide to put away a life based on human effort which will enslave you and you embrace a life of trusting in the promises of God which will release you to live how God intended. When you do, the last laughter of sheer delight that you will hear will be from heaven’s corridors.