Genesis 21:8-21 Psalm 17:1-7, 15 Romans 6:1b-11 Matthew 10:24-39
How do things work out? Does God have any part to play in how things end up? Or does fate or karma decide how things are going to be?
We are looking into Hagar’s life to see how things work out. The story of Hagar’s life is not the most glamorous part of the Old Testament. We see jealousy and spite from the people involved in the story. There are implications for the rest of the Old Testament found in Hagar’s story. There are even implications for the New Testament in Hagar’s story.
I hope we find two ideas in Hagar’s story that can help our faith in God. First, we have the idea that God hears. When life is giving us a beat down, God hears. God hears, even when our trouble sounds like, “My kid isn’t going to hang out with that troublemaker.” Second, we have the idea that God is with us. As life is giving us that beat down, God is with us. God with us sounds like, “God helps us, even when cannot help ourselves.”
1. “My kid isn’t going to hang out with that troublemaker.” (Genesis 21:8-14)
We find Hagar’s history with Sarah in Genesis 16. Here we find that Sarai could not get pregnant (a woman’s problem in OT times). For about 10 years after God made a promise to her & Abram about having children, she could not conceive. So, Sarai gives her slave-girl to Abram as a wife! Yet, Sarai dealt harshly with Hagar while Hagar was pregnant. So, Hagar ran away & an angel told her to go back to Sarai! In this instance, Hagar calls God – “El Roi” – ‘God who sees’. The place in which she met the angel, Hagar calls the place Beer-lahai-roi = ‘Well of the Living One who sees me.’ This is in the northeast part of the Sinai Peninsula.
So, Sarah’s idea of having a child for Abraham by the slave girl makes Ishmael a troublemaker? This was a play on words – “Isaac” means laughing; Ishmael was laughing (?). This is a curious spot in the OT, because the Septuagint adds “with her son Isaac”. Was the teenage Ishmael having a good time with Isaac? Or was Ishmael abusing Isaac? Though we ask these questions, they add too much to the content. It is better to read it as Sarah did not like Ishmael (or his mother).
Isaac, age 3, is being weaned & Abraham is celebrating the occasion. Yet, Sarah does not like Ishmael being near her son. So, Sarah protests to Abraham & he reluctantly agrees to send Hagar & Ishmael away. This is after God tells Abraham that he will make a nation of Ishmael also. The next morning, Abraham sends Hagar & Ishmael away, with very little to eat (They wondered in the wilderkness around Beer-sheba (SW of Hebron)).
Sarah had some issues. She was jealous of Hagar, whom she gave to her own husband! She was spiteful to Hagar, because Hagar had a child before Sarah did. To be honest, Hagar had shown contempt toward Sarah after Hagar had given birth to Ishmael. Even though it was harsh for Abraham to send Hagar & Ishmael away, God permits it to happen. Why does God allow this to happen? Because, God know things will work out for Ishmael. Is that because God helps those who help themselves? I believe the opposite is true.
2. “God helps us, even when we cannot help ourselves.” (Genesis 21:15-21)
The skin of water runs out & Hagar becomes despondent – even casting Ishmael aside! God heard the voice of the boy (he was crying due to a lack of water). “God who sees” hears “God hears” (El-roi hears Ishmael). An angel tells Hagar not to be afraid & to take the boy in her arms. God opened Hagar’s eyes to the well of water nearby.
Things work out for Ishmael (and Hagar). He became an expert with the bow. He lived in the wilderness of Paran – eastern side of the Sinai. He married an Egyptian woman. He has 12 sons (Genesis 25:12-18)
The implication for the Old Testament is that God blesses the child of the covenant (Isaac) and God blesses the child of the promise (Ishmael). The implication for the New Testament is that the children of the covenant (Israel) have a savior (Jesus) and the children of the promise (Gentiles, you & me) have a savior (Jesus).
When life seems to beat us down, God brings us through it. The God who sees us in our trouble also sees ahead of us. God knows that there will be a time beyond our current troubles. God made promises to Hagar about Ishmael, and God has kept that promise. So, as we have times of despair, may we also see and hear from God like Hagar did. For it is when we cannot help ourselves that we are most likely to find that God sees and hears us. Then he will open our eyes to how we are going to get out of our despair.
People can be ruthless. Even people who have faith in God can be ruthless, much like Sarah was toward Hagar. People will say and do things to us to drive us away. And we can get beat down in the process.
But God sees us. And he also hears our cries. We need not be afraid. God has good in store for us. He knows things will work out. He even sees the way out and will point it out to us. Will you trust God, like Hagar did?