What would you grab and take out of your house if it caught on fire? Staggering statistics for women that say- family photo album. All your memories, your celebrations, your holidays, your parents, your siblings, your spouse, your children captured in the photos. Step back pick the most important of those photos, probably the birth of a baby, whether it’s your baby, grandbaby, your niece, nephew, godchild-baby pictures are so precious. Here are some of our new babies that have been born recently during our study this year. That day, that day the baby is born, nothing like it, excitement, the joy, the pride, the long waiting is over and the dream of the future begins. A new baby is just magical. I want you and I to capture that emotion, height of that feeling, because that’s exactly what happens in our lesson today. We have other snapshots of this family to look at today but they take backseat to the birth of Isaac, the laughter, the joy, the total happiness that this baby brought to Abraham and Sarah- the son of the promise is born. This lesson is also about God and His interventions into our lives and the lessons we can learn about His character and His promises.
I. Preservation of the Promise in Gerar Gen 20
II. Promised Son Isaac is born Gen 21:1-7
III. Expulsion of Hagar and Ishmael Gen 21: 8-21
IV. Peaceful treaty at Beersheba Gen 21:22-34
A.Setting READ Gen 20:1 MAP Gerar. Why did he move? Not sure, possible depletion of grazing lands in Hebron area, exact location of Gerar is in doubt, but we believe it’s about 40 miles southwest of Mamre, 11 miles southeast of Gaza. Moving south, it is still within the land that has been promised to Abraham, new city, new place but Abraham reverts to old ways of handling danger- he lies about Sarah, he she’s my sister.
There’s a sense of déjà vu here, haven’t we read this before? The details are so different we know this is another story than what we read back in Gen 12. But after all that Abraham and Sarah had been through, their maturing walk of faith, learning to trust and believe in the power of God, it seems Abraham would know not to pass her off as his sister again. But that’s exactly what he does, and then the king sends for her she is taken into his harem. She’s 89, maybe she’s just plain ageless and beautiful or perhaps this would be a political marriage, marriage of alliance- by now Abraham is quite wealthy powerful, but whatever the reason for the king taking her, this situation is a threat to the promises of God. Once more, to protect Abraham and the promise.
B. God intervenes and in a dream alerts Abimelech that he has taken another man’s wife and he is good as dead. Look at Abimelech’s response READ Gen 20:4 I’m not guilty God says I know I have kept you from sleeping with her, but now return her to her husband and if you don’t you’ll all die.
C. Early next morning Abimelech confronts Abraham in front of all his officials. Talk about “coverup blown” READ Gen 20:9,10 Abraham tries to defend himself= I was sure this was a godless place and you would have killed me because of my wife, listen she is really is my half-sister, we made this deal, prove your love for me, if you go along with this plan, just say you’re my sister.
Derek Kidner observes “ on the brink of Issac’s birth-story here is the very Promise put in jeopardy, traded away for personal safety”
The king gives Sarah back to Abraham with parting gifts, and the catastrophe is prevented. Don’t you love the ironic humor READ Gen 20:16 “brother”.
Despite this situation Abraham, the prophet, is called on to pray for God mercies on behalf of Abimelech and his Kingdom. God miraculously restored gift of fertility.
Certainly this is a story of Repeated Sin and we all can relate to making mistakes, sinning the second time around. Not only that but we see in the Life of Abraham that
This story is another warning to us of how seriously we need to avoid repeated sins and how carefully we need to act around others especially unbelievers.
But I think this story also teaches about God and His involvement in our lives.
God kept Abimelech from sinning against Sarah and Abraham’s marriage, wants to protect our marriages too.
Ps 139 God created us, knew us even in the womb, all our days on earth are pre-ordained by Him, Jeremiah 29:11 He has a plan and a purpose for our lives. Jesus tells us God knows all about us, even the number of hairs on our head. We are personally known by God. There are Stories after stories in bible, this is one of them, where God steps in to the story and protects, defends, changes the direction of the storyline to fit His plans. Why would it be different today? You and I need to see the “stops” and “starts” of our lives as potentially God interventions, maybe these seemingly tough circumstances are God protecting His purposes for us.
When you think back on your life, can you see when and where God has intervened?
25 YEARS have passed since Gen 12:1,2 and we READ Gen 21:1-5 The laughter of
skepticism had been turned to the laughter of pure joy and happiness. This birth fulfills God’s Word, confirming that He is trustworthy and true, fulfills His promise of a child to Abraham and Sarah even in their old age. See how Sarah gives God the glory READ Gen 21:6,7. She has that same joy we saw in the faces of the mothers and fathers new baby. As we celebrate with her, we learn:
This is what we see God doing, but we have to ask is there some participation on our part to realize and experience His promises. Do they just drop down from heaven? God part/is there an “us” part?
Scriptures teach us, the life of Abraham teaches us, 3 things essential to realizing, appropriating the promises of God.
Faith, Patience, Perseverance.
We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised. When God made His promise to Abraham, since there was no one greater to him to swear by, he swore by Himself, saying “I will surely bless you and give you many descendants. And so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised. Heb 6:12-15
So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. Heb 10:35,36
The incredible joy at the birth of Isaac, the wonder and mystery of the miracle came at a price: faith, patience, perseverance.
Are you believing in faith, waiting in faith, persevering in faith, trusting, that God is good, His promises are true, He has a plan and a purpose uniquely designed for you and He will fulfill it. Living a life characterized by patient and persistent waiting is a choice that demands a decision accompanied by great courage. After 25 years Abraham would say its worth it to trust God.
Our scene shifts from celebrating Isaac’s birth to celebrating his weaning, bless her heart, Sarah at 92,93 has been nursing this boy for a couple years, big day. Now weaned, probably potty trained too, time to celebrate, they throw a party.
A. READ Gen 21:8,9 We’re not exactly sure what is meant by the word “mocking” because in the Hebrew it can mean ridiculing or playing with. Either way Sarah didn’t like it and saw Ishmael as a threat to her son and she demands Abraham banish them. For her there could be no rivals to her son’s inheritance.
2000 years later Paul would look back on this story of separation and see in it a foreshadowing of the difference between the slavery of the law and the freedom of the Gospel. Galatians 4:31 contrasts the two and states “We are not children of the slave woman but of the free woman” he agrees with Sarah, they cannot co-exist.
This divine approval of sending away Hagar and Ishmael was a sign not of divine abandonment of Ishmael but of protection for Isaac Allen Ross
B. Can you imagine how broken hearted Abraham must be, this is his son, first born, how could he send him away? Here God intervenes and tenderly reminds him that Isaac is the son of promise but he also reassures Abraham of His promise to take care of Ishmael, to make his son into a great nation.
C. Next day READ Gen 21:14-16
Seem that instead at attaching themselves to a caravan, they just stayed together and got lost in the relatively uninhabited northern Negev where water is scarce. Their provisions were gone, looked like the end had come, Hagar pushed or pulled this boy under a bush to protect him from the broiling sun and because she couldn’t stand to watch him die she went a “bowshot” distance away, that’s 100 yards, that’s a football field away, sat down she started to cry, I would too, wouldn’t you?
D. And God heard Gen 21:17 comforting 3 words. Angel of God called to her and reminded her of God’s promises= “I will make him a great nation” he can’t die, he will live” water is provided for them. READ Gen 21:20 God keeps His promise, He was with Ishmael as he grew up, living in the desert of Paran MAP..east central region of the Sinai peninsula and the area south of the Dead Sea.
Scriptures are clear that God’s heart is for the poor, needy, disadvantaged, abused, weary, broken, downcast, those whose lives are desperate for Him to intervene. How many different ways we find ourselves in the wildernesses of life: broken relationships, financial basements, physical and emotional illnesses, job distresses, old fears that take new shapes. What a comfort to think of the God that hears, of the God that heard Hagar a football field away. He heard a young boy under a bush, He hears you and me when we cry out for He protects and provides for those in the wilderness.
The truly good news is that God is not a distant God, a God to be feared and avoided, a God of revenge, but a God who is moved by our pains and participates in the fullness of the human struggle Henri Nouwen
In our narrative we see a shift from the focus on the child of the promise to the land of the promise as Abraham makes a treaty with Abimelech and acquires the rights to a well that he has dug.
READ Gen 21:22-24 Abimelech has been watching Abraham and has observed that God seemed to prosper him in everything he did. Since Abimelech is a God-fearer he wants to protect himself and his people he asks Abraham to make a treaty of friendship, Abraham agrees but before they conclude the covenant Abraham brings up a problem that has arisen over a well that his people have dug but Abimelech’s servants had seized. We know in the desert that wells, water is essential to survival. When Abimelech said he didn’t know anything about it, Abraham took steps to resolve this issue. He gave him sheep and cattle and added 7 ewe lambs that were intended to verify the fact that Abraham’s servants had dug the well and they now belonged to him. The site of the treaty became known as Beersheba= name= “well of seven” or “well of the oath” Abimelech goes home but Abraham stays READ Gen 21:33 Planting of the tree assumed that there would be water provided the area and it indicated that he was going to stay for a long time, which he did. He called on the name of the LORD, the Eternal God= Everlasting God= EL OLAM.
Abraham the promise believer was also Abraham the peacemaker.
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone Romans 12:19
Make every effort to live in peace with all men Hebrews 12:14
Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called the children of God Matt 5:9
How are you doing in making peace in your family, your neighborhood, your world?
Scriptures tell us there is a time or season for everything.
A time to weep and a time to laugh. Ecclesiastes 3:4
For Abraham the birth of his son Isaac brought both. Finally the son of the promise was born, no greater joy could that bring. He and Sarah laughed and laughed over this impossible birth. God fulfilled his promise.
But we see too that Isaac’s birth meant Abraham would have to say goodbye to Ishmael for these two sons could not live together. But greater than weeping and laughing was the undergirding FAITH in a God who is trustworthy to keep His Promises, an unswerving trust in a God who is eternal, a total dependence on the God who is always with us.
Prayer: God Most High we worship you today, you created the heavens and the earth and are Sovereign over all things including our lives. You have shown us how you are a shield and a reward, you protect us and guide us. You are truly the God who sees us in our need and meets us right where we are. How grateful we are that You keep Your promises to us, never leave us or forsake us. We continually ask that You make us your women of faith, promise believers for Your glory. Amen.