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Wednesday in the Word

Second Baptist Church

January 6, 2016

Genesis 21:1-24

  1. Verses 1-2. The events of 21:1-7 can be seen in three different dimensions. In 21:1-2, we see the divine dimension in the birth of Isaac. Verses 3-5 record the response of Abraham to the birth of his son. Finally, in 21:6-7, we have the jubilance of Sarah over the arrival of the long-awaited child, who is the joy of her life. After 25 years, God fulfills His Word to Abraham and Sarah—the miracle child is born (cf. 17:16; 18:14). 21:1a). This phrase focuses on God's supreme care and concern. God “was gracious" to her (NIV). So here we see God's grace and compassion showcased. Notice the phrase "the LORD" is repeated twice in the first verse. The point is that this is all God's work. In addition to God's grace, there are three important truths that will build our confidence in the Lord.

    1. You can trust God's Word. Three times in these two verses there is a reference to God's Word: “as He had said” (21:1), "as He had promised" (21:1), and “of which God had spoken" (21:2). It may have taken 25 years for this promise to come to pass but the Lord did for Sarah what He had promised—just as He always does. But the promise of a son was not fulfilled because Abraham was perfect in his obedience...he wasn't. The promise was fulfilled because God was faithful to His Word.

    2. You can trust God's power. The birth of Isaac was a precise, empirical validation of God’s power. God defied nature and biology. He intervened in the bodies of Abraham and Sarah and performed a miracle. God still performs miracles today, yet many of us are not seeking God’s supernatural intervention. God wants us to trust in His miraculous power instead of always trying to cover all of our bases.

    3. You can trust God's timing. God is never early...God is never late...God is always right on time. In the case of Abraham and Sarah, God did what He promised, not a year early or a year late, not a day early or a day late. His timing may be personally inconvenient for us and it may not make sense, but it is always "at the appointed time."

  2. Verses 3-4 emphasize Abraham's obedience. The key phrase is “as God had commanded him." Upon the birth of Isaac, Abraham immediately obeyed by calling the boy "Isaac" (21:3; cf. 17:19). Isaac means, "he laughs" or "may He [God] smile." The name Isaac was to stand out on the pages of history as a constant reminder to the world that, on the one hand, God's promises are no laughing matter. On the other hand, this was a promise that was going to be a “laughing matter"— a hilarious event because of its impossibility from a human perspective. Abraham also obeyed God by circumcising his son "when he was eight days old" (21:4). This was God's command to Abraham and His covenant with him (see 17:7-14).

  3. Verse 5 concludes by emphasizing Abraham's age (cf. 17:1, 24). The writer of Hebrews says that Abraham was “as good as dead" (11:12). And you may think you're old! When Abraham could have been drawing Social Security payments for 35 years, he became a parent.

  4. Verses 6-7, the scene shifts to Sarah who says, ”'God has made laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh with me.’ And she said, ‘Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age."' I imagine that every time Abraham and Sarah called “laughter" in for supper, they remembered how God had turned their laughter of disbelief to laughter of joy! Sarah becomes a ninety-year-old, nursing mother and Abraham becomes a father at 100!

  5. Verses 8-9. Fourteen years earlier, Hagar had given birth to Ishmael and for most of the intervening period Abraham had treated Ishmael as the heir. By now Ishmael was a teenager (15 or 16). Bitterness and anger began to well up in Ishmael as Isaac, little by little, began to replace him. And no doubt the great feast and the glad speeches in Isaac's honor caused these feelings of bitterness to reflect themselves in ridicule and persecution (21:9; cf. Gal 4:29). Therefore, Sarah forcefully gave Abraham an ultimatum: “Drive out this maid and her son, for the son of this maid shall not be an heir with my son Isaac.” Sarah was ticked off! She doesn't want to share her husband with her servant girl. Sarah recognizes that it is impossible for a man to enter into an intimate relationship with a woman and then simply walk away. The relationship that Abraham had with Hagar was more than just physical. Abraham and Hagar became one. Sex is more than a physical act; it is a spiritual act that affects the mind, emotions, and soul. The evidence of the sexual union between Abraham and Hagar was Ishmael. Not only did Sarah not want to share her husband, she also does not want to share Isaac with Ishmael. Sarah recognizes that Isaac is the promised seed (Rom 9:6-9), so she doesn’t want anything or anyone to adversely affect him. Of course, all of this "distressed” Abraham (21:11-12). Yet, God reassured Abraham that He was divinely guiding Sarah's counsel.

  6. VI. Verse 14. Abraham sends Hagar and Ishmael away with very little to survive. This parting must have been excruciating.

  7. Verses 15-16. Here we find the record of a single mom. Like other single moms, she is without child support. All that she was given was a few gallons of water and a picnic lunch. She is now at the end of her rope. So she lifts up her voice and cries.

  8. Verses 17-19. Notice, it was not Hagar's cries that arrested God's attention, but the boy's. It is no coincidence that the name "Ishmael" means "God hears" (cf. 16:11). As a descendant of Abraham, Ishmael was the object of God's special care. His cries brought divine intervention. God loves children and He also desires to be the God of the outcast, the rejected, the abused, and the dying. When you have come to the end of your own resources, and you sit down to sob, remember God has a lot of options left—He hears, He calls, and He opens. I love the fact that Hagar saw the well that had been there all along. Only her tears and her fears kept her from seeing it. God does provide but often we don't see it. Often, we're too busy crying or complaining. We're not looking with any hope or faith that God provides. Those of you who are being emotionally or physically abused and continue in the relationship because you are afraid of the financial, emotional, and physical wilderness, pay attention to Hagar's situation. Even though she suffered greatly, her need for support was supplied (17-21). God did not forget Hagar. Nor did He forget His promise to greatly multiply her descendants (16:10). God had compassion on Hagar's plight and became like a father to Ishmael.

  9. Our story closes in 21:20-21 with these encouraging words: “God was with the boy, and he grew; and he lived in the wilderness and became an archer. He lived in the wilderness of Paran, and his mother took a wife for him from the land of Egypt." God demonstrates His sovereignty and His compassion.

  10. Verses 22-24. When we last saw Abimelech, Abraham prayed that his wives and slave girls could have children again (20:17-18). This time Abimelech brought his enforcer “Phicol" along and wants to sign a peace treaty with Abraham. King Abimelech proposes to enter into a treaty because he realizes that God's hand is upon Abraham. In fact, he says to Abraham, "God is with you in all that you do." In other words, Abraham enjoyed special, divine provision and protection. Now please understand that Abraham was far from perfect. He had his faults and hypocrisy. He committed his fair share of sins. Yet, Abimelech knew that God was with Abraham. As a result, he wanted to have a treaty with Abraham in order to protect himself and his people from being on the wrong side of his God. The good news for Abraham is that he failed in the past with King Abimelech (20:1-18), yet God now gives him another chance. This is sweet redemption! Believer, even if you have failed God in the past, God can raise you up in the present. Yesterday, you may have been a disgrace but today you can be a display of God's glorious grace. Don’t give up on your failed testimony. Don’t count yourself out! God wants to use you today. He wants to give you an opportunity to redeem yourself.

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