Foreword:

Ever wonder what God might have to say to YOU today? Here are things to ponder, and things to receive into your heart. If you have a question, put it in the comments. I respond as much as I can.

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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Faith and Failure.

This section of Genesis records great blessing and great tragedy.  It's a bit long, but as you read, you'll see the point.  God had promised Abraham a son, who had even been named before the fact. This son of Abraham's was to be the next one in the line that eventually created the Jewish nation, and then the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ.  It's an important birth. However, even our heroes have faults, and Abraham had a very large one.  It's recorded here, and so is what God did to repair the damage Abraham did.

Genesis 21: Isaac!
1 And the LORD visited Sarah as He had said, and the LORD did for Sarah as He had spoken.
2 For Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him. 3 And Abraham called the name of his son who was born to him --- whom Sarah bore to him --- Isaac.

God fulfilled the promise He made to Abraham, exactly as He said.  This is how God does promises.  When He makes one, He keeps it, and He keeps it AS promised. God fulfilled His promise when Abraham could no longer have naturally sired children, nor Sarah borne them.  It was entirely miraculous, and things were truly wonderful for them.

However...
8 So the child grew and was weaned. And Abraham made a great feast on the same day that Isaac was weaned. 9 And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, scoffing.
10 Therefore she said to Abraham, "Cast out this bondwoman and her son; for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, namely with Isaac." 11 And the matter was very displeasing in Abraham's sight because of his son. 12 But God said to Abraham, "Do not let it be displeasing in your sight because of the lad or because of your bondwoman. Whatever Sarah has said to you, listen to her voice; for in Isaac your seed shall be called. 13 Yet I will also make a nation of the son of the bondwoman, because he is your seed." 14 So Abraham rose early in the morning, and took bread and a skin of water; and putting it on her shoulder, he gave it and the boy to Hagar, and sent her away. Then she departed and wandered in the Wilderness of Beersheba.

It was evidently God who planned the separation of Hagar and Ishmael from Abraham's family.  But every time I read this, it strikes a terribly discordant note.  Abraham was a man of faith, a man of God.  Does such a man treat his servant-girl, who bore his son, this way?  Evidently he did. Send her away? Yes, that's the command.  Send her away with a skin of water and a loaf of bread?? I don't think so.  The fact that he had so little regard for his concubine and his son speaks volumes about Abraham's weakness, and little about his faith.  Yes, he was a giant of faith.  He also made some terrible mistakes. Abraham simply refused to "do the right thing" by these two.  He abandoned them. Behaviors like this don't call into question God's work with us as much as they point out that men and women of faith are sinful, and this was a great sin.  This was a woman he had taken, and a son whom she had borne.  I doubt Abraham would have done things this way except for Sarah's influence, but do it he did.  When you are faced with a choice like this, and you can't avoid it, always try to do it right, so that you do not cause unnecessary suffering.  You are responsible for that, even though your faith may be strong.  Always remember that mercy is a command of God, as well as faith. 

15 And the water in the skin was used up, and she placed the boy under one of the shrubs.
16 Then she went and sat down across from him at a distance of about a bowshot; for she said to herself, "Let me not see the death of the boy." So she sat opposite him, and lifted her voice and wept.
17 And God heard the voice of the lad. Then the angel of God called to Hagar out of heaven, and said to her, "What ails you, Hagar? Fear not, for God has heard the voice of the lad where he is.
18 Arise, lift up the lad and hold him with your hand, for I will make him a great nation."
19 Then God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water. And she went and filled the skin with water, and gave the lad a drink.
20 So God was with the lad; and he grew and dwelt in the wilderness, and became an archer.

Where Abraham failed, God did not.  In her extremity, God opened a way for Ishmael and Hagar to get the things they needed.  It must have been terribly hard--from a part of a rich family to a poor, beggarly, existence.  And really, she was due the respect (in their culture) of a secondary wife.
We can take some valuable lessons from this. God may direct us to do a thing, but He does not normally call us to abandon needy people in the process. He also never tells us to show no mercy.  It is NOT an act of faith to send someone out "with a waterskin and a loaf of bread." It is an act of abandonment.  Perhaps this has happened to you.  You are going through a horrible time. You've been forsaken, dropped off the face of the earth.  God has a way for you.  He loves you, even if it seems those closest to you have forsaken you and left you to die.  I can't tell you how He will take care of you.  Only you will know, He will show you when you cry out to Him with all your heart.  It was in her extremity that Hagar called out to God, and God responded with just the help she needed, at just the time she needed it.  He will do the same for you. 

Abraham learns from his mistakes, and from his sins: Genesis 25:1-6:
1 Abraham again took a wife, and her name was Keturah.
2 And she bore him Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah.
3 Jokshan begot Sheba and Dedan. And the sons of Dedan were Asshurim, Letushim, and Leummim.
4 And the sons of Midian were Ephah, Epher, Hanoch, Abidah, and Eldaah. All these were the children of Keturah.
5 And Abraham gave all that he had to Isaac.

6 But Abraham gave gifts to the sons of the concubines which Abraham had; and while he was still living he sent them eastward, away from Isaac his son, to the country of the east.

You'll see that Abraham learned. He didn't abandon the sons of Keturah (and apparently other women he took as his concubines)--he provided for them, even though he sent them away from Isaac, who was his true heir.  This final passage is "Abraham doing it right."  God had commanded him to make Isaac his heir, and so he did.  But God never told Abraham to mercilessly abandon any of his children. I am grateful God does not abandon US. He is full of mercy, and always thinks of us.