Genesis 21:8-13: Reaping what you sow.

“8 The child grew and was weaned, and on the day Isaac was weaned Abraham held a great feast. But Sarah saw that the son whom Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham was mocking, 10 and she said to Abraham, ‘Get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.’  11 The matter distressed Abraham greatly because it concerned his son. 12 But God said to him, ‘Do not be so distressed about the boy and your slave woman. Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned. 13 I will make the son of the slave into a nation also, because he is your offspring.’” NIV UK

No doubt Sarah saw Ishmael as a dangerous potential rival to her son Isaac. The norm was for the firstborn son to get the inheritance (10).

As I read this passage today, my thoughts go back to the choice Abraham and Sarah made, that Abraham should sleep with Hagar. As I keep saying, at that point they were not trusting but scheming. God had promised a child, but the baby was a long time coming. Instead of combining faith with patience, they took matters into their own hands. They tried to bring about what God intended, their own way. As a believer, you know your sins can be forgiven. But you will not necessarily avoid their consequences. To some extent here, Abraham and Sarah were reaping what they had sown.

You can feel for Abraham. You can empathise with him. He loved both boys. Ishmael had been around for a while, and no doubt there were strong bonds between dad and son. God was merciful, in spite of the wrong steps previously taken (11-13). (By the way, this time it was okay for Abraham to listen to his wife, because it was what God wanted. But on another occasion, doing so had led him astray. It shows that we have to try to keep in step with God, moment by moment. He doesn’t always do things the same way).

We find in the Bible that there are two lines running through the human race: the line of the Spirit (or promise), and Isaac represents this. But there is also the line of the flesh, represented by Ishmael. The point to emphasise here is that those belonging to the line of the Spirit can expect persecution from those of the flesh. Mockery may be the least of it.

‘Be of good cheer.The Lord has prepared laughter for you also, some few miles ahead on life’s journey…But in those hours think kindly of others, and do not forget that some, like Hagar, may be disappointed by what gives you joy!’ F.B. Meyer: ‘Devotional Commentary’, p.22.

PRAYER: Lord, give me the courage I pray, to take persecution for righteousness’ sake. If I am despised, scorned, ridiculed and ostracised for your Name’s sake, help me to count it all joy.