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Scripture Reading: Genesis 21:10-14a

“‘Cast out this bondwoman and her son; for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, even with Isaac. ‘ And the thing was very grievous in Abraham’s sight on account of his son.” (Genesis 21: 10-11)

Abraham was shocked when Sarah told him to banish his son Ishmael. He and his son were very close. Abraham had taken him along on small outings. He had taught him how to hunt and told him many stories of his life. Every time he looked at his son Ishmael he saw himself in him, for he had many of his father’s features. They were pals. Abraham had plans for him. Ishmael wasn’t a little baby with whom he could not communicate; he was a youth. Men understand and are comfortable with lads in their teens; they don’t know what to do with babies. Babies make them uncomfortable, even if they are their own.

And now Sarah, her eyes blazing with anger, demands that Abraham banish his son and the mother out of his heart and home! Doesn’t Sarah realize that Ishmael is as much his son as Isaac is? He too is his flesh and bone. A man doesn’t love his own flesh and blood less because of who the mother is. And besides, what about Hagar? She had laid in his arms many nights. Hadn’t the angel sent her back to him when she had run away earlier? (Genesis 16:9) How could God ever  ask him to give up these two precious treasures of his life?

Then God speaks: “And God said unto Abraham: ‘Let it not be grievous in thy sight because of the lad, and because of thy bondwoman; in all that Sarah saith unto thee, hearken unto her voice; for in Isaac shall seed be called to thee”‘ (Genesis 21:12).

When a human being (even one as dear to you as your wife or husband) asks you to do something that is grievous, it is difficult, if not impossible; but when God asks you to make a sacrifice, even a great sacrifice that will tear away a part of your heart, He will give you the strength and courage to do it. God’s commands are His enabling. He is a mighty loving Father. He knew what was best for Abraham, and He knows what is best for you. The sacrifice you make will be for your best and for the best of those whom you love —even those with whom you must sever your relationship.

God knew that as Ishmael would see Isaac grow up and win the admiration of his father, he would be constantly tormented with jealousy. It might become so bad that he would be tempted to harm Isaac — maybe even kill him. Others have killed family members out of jealousy. It would be less painful for Ishmael to grow up and live separated from his brother where he wouldn’t suffer daily the pain of jealousy, for it is as cruel as the grave (Song of Solomon 8:6).

So it was an act of love, and not one of cruelty, when God told Abraham to do all Sarah demanded.

You may not understand why God asks you to do what the Holy Spirit is dealing with you about, but because you love God you will obey Him.

Sure it will tear your heart in two, it will hurt for many days — maybe you will feel the pain of that separation for the rest of our life. Your separation from the one whom you loved and lost will leave a gap in your life for a long time. No one will be able to take that beloved one’s place in your heart. And that is the way it is meant to be, for God teaches us, trains us, and makes us great through our suffering. Without traveling the Via Dolorosa (Path of Suffering) there can be no new life, no resurrection, nor Glory.

Give God your “Ishmaels” and your “Hagars”! Abraham did! He rose early in the morning, filled a bottle with water, packed a few day’s supply of bread, loaded them on Hagar’s shoulder, and with tears streaming down his cheeks, bid them good-bye.

The only biblical account that we have of them ever being together again was at Abraham’s funeral, when Ishmael and Isaac came together to lay their father to rest in Hebron (Genesis 25:9). By that time Sarah was no more, and there is no mention of Hagar.

Life goes on — even after we say our sad good-byes.

 

 

In the Beginning by Gwen Shaw
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