Summary: The Patriarchs The Joys and Pains of the Journey Genesis 21:1-21 David Taylor June 26, 2016
The Joys and Pains of the Journey
June 26, 2016
The overarching story of Genesis is the promise of a Deliverer whose mission will be to bless the nations by rescuing them from their sinfulness. This comes into focus when God chose Abraham to be the one through whom he would bless the nations. We have seen how God has Abraham on a journey, just like the rest of us, of molding and shaping us. The journey is often filled with both joy and pain as we see today in the life of Abraham and Sarah. Let’s look at that today.
Genesis 21 starts on a high point, the promise of a child has finally been fulfilled (1-2). The underlying tension of Sarah’s bareness is finally relieved (11:30). Three times we see that the conception and birth is because of God – as “he had said;” “as he had promised;” “as he had spoken.” This birth is the result of divine interventions, a supernatural work of God. God says something will happen because God makes it happen even if he is in no hurry to do it. God’s purposes, God’s coming Deliverer, can only be fulfilled by God. The promise was fulfilled by faith, not a perfect faith but a faithfulness to the hope of the promise. “The faith of Abraham was a faith in the promise of God to make him the father of many nations. This faith glorified God because it called attention to all the resources of God that would be required to fulfill it. Abraham was too old to have children, and Sarah was barren. Not only that: how do you turn a son or two into “many nations which God said Abraham would be the father of? It seems totally impossible. Therefore Abrahams’ faith glorified God by being full assured that he could and would do the impossible.” As Abraham hoped in the future promise he was strengthened with grace in the present to fight unbelief. God’s normal means of strengthening our faith is through trials, circumstances that give us the opportunity to trust him. His normal means is to strengthen our faith so we can make it through those circumstances, not to remove those circumstances. Too often we want God to change or remove difficult circumstances, but God is more concerned about changing us than making us comfortable! Abrahams faith is based upon God’s word, not his desire nor what he wanted God to do for him, or what he perceived God to promise to be. Many of us have been hurt and disappointed unnecessarily because we believed something God never promised. So God made good on his promise. God is big, he is powerful, he is almighty. There is nothing my God cannot do. He upholds the universe and rules history from his throne in the center of heaven because he is the center of everything; everything revolves around God! And he does whatever he pleases.
Look at how Sarah and Abraham respond to this miracle child. By faith, Abraham names him Isaac, circumcises him according to covenant requirements. Sarah’s joy overflows with laughter, in God’s faithfulness to them. They had waited twenty-five years for the promise. Who would have thought that she would give birth at her age (7). The point is again, that this is not just an ordinary birth. It is such a joyous occasion for those with faith, who have the faith of Abraham. But God’s faithfulness is not a joyous occasion for everyone. When Isaac is weaned, Abraham throws a party (8). “But Sarah saw the son of Hagar, the Egyptian, mocking Isaac (9).” She reacts like a mamma bear, telling Abraham to “get rid of the slave woman and her son; as he will not be an heir with my son Isaac (10).” Culturally the first born was the rightful heir; we also know that in the past Abraham wanted Ishmael to be his heir (17:8). Yet Ishmael was born because Sarah and Abraham were not trusting God for a son. This is not just sibling rivalry; this is the conflict of Genesis 3:15, enmity between two the seeds that started with Cain and Abel and climaxes with Christ and Satan. By mocking Isaac, Ishmael was rejecting the son of promise and therefore God’s covenant, the means by which God would bless the nations. Sarah’s demand troubled Abraham (11) because he loved Ishmael. Our sins may be forgiven but the consequences of our sin can impact us for years to come. What will he do? God graciously speaks to him, “do not be troubled but do as Sarah says, because it is through Isaac that your offspring shall be named (12).” Doing the right thing can be difficult at times and even create heartache. It can be interpreted as harsh and unloving. All because Abraham and Sarah sinned thirteen or so years prior. Ismael was rejecting the covenant and so Abraham must make a painful choice and send them away. So early the next morning Abraham gives them supplies and sends them away (14). Yet God is merciful, because he is Abrahams offspring God promises to make him into a great nation (13). God spares their lives, and Ishmael lives and marries.