Learning a Lesson from Hagar and Ishmael

Good Morning,

On the Lord’s Day in the first service we’ve been spending time in the Sermon On the Mount and at present are in Christ’s section on prayer. An illustration I used yesterday involved the story of Hagar and Ishmael not long after they were excised from Abraham’s camp in Genesis 21. She and her son are on their own, and despite the rations given to them they soon run out of water. Given the predicament and Hagar’s lack of understanding about where she was going or what she was to do when they got there, little hope was on the horizon. Rather than hear the hunger and thirst cries of her child she placed him under a shrub in the wilderness of Beersheba. It was a pitiful scene, something that never ceases to cause me to tear a bit, especially when I think of the heartbreaking situation Hagar found herself in. Yet, even in the midst of it there is a work of the Spirit that is helpful for all people to pay attention to.

It’s not as simple to say that Sarah exhibited some kind of jealousy, and this caused her to use her position to cast out the pair from her presence. Ishmael, as the Bible recounts, had mocked Isaac in some way that was more than childhood teasing. The first chronological son of Abraham was born when the Patriarch was eighty-six. If Isaac was born when he was ninety-nine, then we’re dealing with a young man who would be in high school in today’s reckoning of things. Too many of the artistic depictions make Ishmael out to be an elementary aged boy, even a toddler. That doesn’t lighten the difficulty of the state of affairs, but it does put things into a little bit more of a proper perspective.  

In many ways the whole scenario was Abraham’s fault, as his doubting the promise of a child to come from his wife had led to the birth of Ishmael. However, he’s not the only one who has been reticent in remembering the word of the LORD. Back in Genesis 16 when Hagar fled from the household where she lived God had then appeared to her in the desert and told her a few things about her son: 1) That he was going to live to a ripe old age, 2) He was going to be a “wild man”. She names the place Beer Lahai Roi which means, Well of the One Who Lives and Sees Me. You’d think if Jehovah showed Himself and spoke to you that it would stick in around in your memory banks for such a time as this, yet we need to be a little careful in directing aspersions toward this young lady. We often find ourselves in far less intimidating situations than Hagar and Ishmael and we forget the promises God in Christ has made to us. That being said we also need to be watchful that the compare/contrast game not unhelpfully swallow us up in its wake.

The big picture lesson we need to take from Genesis 21 is the mercy of God to sinners. He knows, He hears, and He acts for these people who while outside the visible covenant are not outside the love of God for His creation. The rain falls on the just and the unjust, and many times the mercies provided even when the act of faith has not taken place yet are the providential preparations used by Jehovah to bring His people unto Himself. Sadly though in the case of Ishmael it is only another thing that hardens his heart. The details provided at the end of the chapter illustrate that Ishmael’s life was one of wilderness wanderings until his last days. So many who live in accordance with the flesh find themselves in similar straights. The mercy of God is present in their lives over and over again and they refuse to just look and see the hand which provides those things which are a blessing to eat and give life. It’s the same mindset that led Adam and Eve to forsake all the goodness of the garden only to desire that which brings death. If we are living in the wilderness, it is foolishness to not take advantage of the oasis.  

The pouring out of the call of the Lord is offered in the words of the angel who appears to remind Hagar of the presence of the water to succor their need. The Bible tells us that her eyes were opened to see the answer. There is much imagery there that should humble and move the heart of the believer. Consider afresh the way that describes the movement of the Sprit in the free offer of the gospel found in Christ. People know they are without hope, they scratch around in the dark grasping at those things which cannot help, and it is not until their eyes are opened to see the fullness of the blessings of the Redeemer that they gain the flourishing fulfilment found alone in Jesus. We need to remember the power of word to bring understanding.

I am sure that there are many in your lives who fit the description, not just of Hagar and Ishmael, but Abraham and Sarah. To close our time today we are going to go back and think again about a purpose of prayer that applies to what we have talked about today in this prayer and worship help. Those who are alienated and lost need our mercy. We exhibit this primarily in the way we do not stop seeking Christ’s intercession in the lives of those we love. |That is especially true of those who have received at some point in their lives the sign of the covenant. How much more so do they have hope in the midst of the darkness into which they have gleefully walked?

Augustine’s mother Monica is well-renowned in church history for never failing to ask the Lord’s help for her wayward progeny. In due time (not quickly for sure) her prayers were answered when this son of her womb came to faith in his 30s. It was in the mercies of God’s work in his life that Augustine came to know his Savior, but it was especially the case that we see Jehovah use Monica in His predestinating election to bring back her son into the house of glory.

Be encouraged as you struggle, either in the wilderness of life, or in witnessing the sin of offspring. God is faithful to His promise. Rest in Him, and know His plan is perfect.

Here is an ending word:

At this link

Blessings in Christ,

Rev. Benjamin Glaser

Pastor, Bethany ARP Church

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