Abraham faces a dif cult situation. The mothers of his pre- cious children are jealous of each other, and he knows he cannot maintain the situation—a distressing time. The teller of the story does not belabor the point, but Abraham’s choices will in uence the path of this story of God’s intervention in his life and the formation of a great nation.
Abraham, risking everything, has been faithful to God. In the most surprising, even laughable ways, God has kept the divine promises. Abraham has wealth and fruitfulness, and here are two boys who perhaps will father the great promised nation. But Sarah states that Abraham must cast Hagar and Ishmael out. Abraham, who has demonstrated his love for Ishmael and has included the child in his family, turns to God and receives comfort. God makes another promise: “I will make a nation of him also.”
This story pulls at our heartstrings. How can Hagar’s life be so devalued, and how can a child of promise be sent away with meager provisions to die in the desert? I nd myself out- raged that because Isaac is the more “legitimate” heir and that this story is written from the perspective of the “chosen ones” —descendants of God’s direct intervention—it seems OK for Abraham to make this horrendous choice. However, I am pulled back to reason when I realize that God’s grace pervades every episode in this great saga. God’s reassurance is there for Hagar and Abraham, and the nurtured Ishmael grows to adulthood with both strength and skill. I need to read this story with an eye not on human injustice but on God’s intimate interest not only in the grand plan but in every precious life.
God of the big picture and the grand plan, help us to see your grace at work in the challenges of our small stories and in every detail of our lives. Amen.
Implicit in the story of Hagar and Ishmael is the threat to Isaac and to God’s promises to Abraham and Sarah. The psalmist captures the terror by unnamed forms of destruction that may threaten an individual or people. Paul raises the specter of that most universal threat—death—but does so within the context of the new life won by Christ’s resurrection. Matthew describes various ways in which the enemies of Jesus threaten his disciples because of their association with him.
• Read Genesis 21:8-21. When have you felt burdened and outcast? What was your experience of God’s hearing you where you were?
• Read Psalm 86:1-10, 16-17. Do you pray in the confidence that God hears and will answer your pleas? If not, how could you learn to pray in that manner?
• Read Romans 6:1b-11. Paul speaks of dying to self and rising with Christ. How has your Christian faith given you a sense of freedom from sin?
• Read Matthew 10:24-39. What makes God’s presence real to you? How does God’s intimate knowledge of you—the number of hairs on your head—make you feel?
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