Sarah Has a Son
1The Lord was good to Sarah and kept his promise. 2 Although Abraham was very old, Sarah had a son exactly at the time God had said. 3Abraham named his son Isaac, 4 and when the boy was eight days old, Abraham circumcised him, just as God had commanded.
5Abraham was 100 years old when Isaac was born, 6and Sarah said, “God has made me laugh. And now everyone will laugh with me. 7Who would have dared to tell Abraham that someday I would have a child? But in his old age, I have given him a son.”
8The time came when Sarah no longer had to nurse Isaac, and on that day Abraham gave a big feast.
Hagar and Ishmael
9-10 One day, Sarah noticed Hagar's son Ishmael playing, and she said to Abraham, “Get rid of that Egyptian slave woman and her son! I don't want him to inherit anything. It should all go to my son.”
11Abraham was worried about Ishmael. 12 But God said, “Abraham, don't worry about your slave woman and the boy. Just do what Sarah tells you. Isaac will inherit your family name, 13but the son of the slave woman is also your son, and I will make his descendants into a great nation.”
14Early the next morning Abraham gave Hagar an animal skin full of water and some bread. Then he put the boy on her shoulder and sent them away.
They wandered around in the desert near Beersheba, 15and after they had run out of water, Hagar put her son under a bush. 16Then she sat down a long way off, because she could not bear to watch him die. And she cried bitterly.
17When God heard the boy crying, the angel of God called out to Hagar from heaven and said, “Hagar, why are you worried? Don't be afraid. I have heard your son crying. 18Help him up and hold his hand, because I will make him the father of a great nation.” 19Then God let her see a well. So she went to the well and filled the skin with water, then gave some to her son.
20-21God blessed Ishmael, and as the boy grew older, he became an expert at hunting with his bow and arrows. He lived in the Paran Desert, and his mother chose an Egyptian woman for him to marry.
Imperfect people. Dysfunctional families. God chose strangely (or so we imagine) when selecting those who became the backbone of a people to call his own.
But it’s a messy business, building up a people of faith. Always has been, always will be. And when we assume that God operates on human time—and within human limitations, it’s also a slow business.
The consequences of Abraham and Sarah’s agreement to hurry along God’s plan to provide an heir through the slave woman, Hagar, have reverberated throughout history. Every media report of Palestinian/Israeli and Islamic/Christian conflict gives evidence to its heritage: strife between the descendants of Isaac and Ishmael.
How easy to criticize this first family of faith. But would we have done things any differently? Sadly, what was true with the first nation of faith is often still true in communities of faith and families of faith: God, the architect of the ages, sets a vision. We embrace it, run with it. But when his plans don’t follow our timeline, we fire the architect. Draft our own plans.
In God’s family, recruiting the perfectly credentialed board member or project coordinator is only a great idea if that person is God’s choice, not only our own. Forever, our better ideas and consequential “Ishmaels” have complicated and delayed God’s perfect plans. They cannot, however, foil his ultimately perfect ends. To this day, our God of everlasting love is working on a parallel plan for Ishmael’s descendants. “But the son of the slave woman is also your son, and I will make his descendants into a great nation (v 13).” And “God blessed Ishmael (v 20).”
God never presses “Delete” on our bad choices. Working with love, sorrow and infinite creativity, he weaves them and each of us (dysfunctions, imperfections and all) into his Master Plan. (http://www.christian-oneness.org/essays/ishmael.html)
Architect supreme, we rise from a history of flawed nations, groups, families, and individuals. Thank you that through Jesus Christ, you can transform even our worst mistakes into something that reflects your glory.