Gems from Genesis: Chapter 21

I must say, as we near the halfway point in this foundational text, that the richness of Genesis is overwhelming me. I’ve been a Christ-follower for over fifty years. I’ve read the Bible through many, many times. I know the stories; I cling to the truths, but I don’t think I’ve ever learned so much as I have this past year in this treasure trove. I encourage you to pull out your shovel, devote concentrated time, and discover the riches God provides in his Word.

As I struggle to choose in today’s chapter, I’m reminded of a contrast we recently saw in the eighteenth chapter. Remember how the Lord combined the fantastic news that Sarah would give birth to the son of the promise within the coming year with his revelation of Sodom and Gomorrah’s destruction? It was such a contrast in futures.

Today, I see the same emotional rollercoaster as a reader when I examine how God fulfills his promises. He does fulfill them, but not always in the way we expect. Let’s look at the verses for today:

The Lord visited Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did to Sarah as he had promised. And Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age at the time of which God had spoken to him. Abraham called the name of his son who was born to him, whom Sarah bore him, Isaac…And the child grew and was weaned. And Abraham made a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned. But Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, laughing. So she said to Abraham, “Cast out this slave woman with her son, for the son of this slave woman shall not be heir with my son Isaac.” And the thing was very displeasing to Abraham on account of his son. But God said to Abraham, “Be not displeased because of the boy and because of your slave woman. Whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for through Isaac shall your offspring be named. And I will make a nation of the son of the slave woman also, because he is your offspring.”

Genesis 21:1-3, 8-13 ESV

The Lord visited Sarah.

The promise of a son was fulfilled, not because Abraham was perfect in his obedience, but because God was faithful to his word. There was nothing typical about this son of the promise. God opened Sarah’s womb at the time he chose, allowing this elderly couple to welcome a son in their old age. It makes me think of Paul’s word on salvation:

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Ephesians 2:8-9

God’s grace is all over Genesis, and it’s clearly evident in the birth of Isaac. It’s so apparent that it makes us laugh at God’s ways, which is what Sarah did. This is the happy ending to a long twenty-five-year wait.

God takes care of the details.

The Lord visited Sarah at the time of his choosing, making the way for the fulfillment of his promise, despite failings on the part of both Abraham and Sarah along the way. One of those failings, however, involved a woman who was a victim of their sin—Hagar. This led to a conflicting emotional struggle for Abraham because now he had an older son, Ishmael.

Unlike the first time Hagar felt the abuse of her mistress, this time, God told Abraham to listen to his wife and let her go. Much like it took the ire of pagan kings to make Abraham move away from Egypt and then Gerar, it now took the ire of Sarah to put a distance between Abraham and his first-born son.

Perhaps God did not want Abraham to have a backup plan with his heir. He needed to trust God to use the son of the promise as his sole heir and perpetuator of the covenant. When God has a plan, he takes care of the details, even those surrounding our poor decisions. Thankfully, he does so with grace.

The God who saw Hagar enables her to see.

 And God heard the voice of the boy, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Fear not, for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is. Up! Lift up the boy, and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make him into a great nation.” Then God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water. 

Genesis 21:17-19a

Hagar was not forgotten. Ishmael was not forgotten. Both were loved by God and cared for by him. As the offspring of Abraham, they too would be blessed.

The contrast of futures in the life of two mothers could not have been more different, but God saw them both and through his grace, blessed. This same God sees you and has plans to prosper and not harm you—to give you a hope and a future. Rest in him.

Grace and Peace

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