Longing for Home: An Advent Journey, 2016 — Day Twenty-Four

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1 Samuel 2:2-10
Genesis 21:1-21
Galatians 4:21-5:1

Genesis 21:1-21

The Lord dealt with Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for Sarah as he had promised. Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age, at the time of which God had spoken to him. Abraham gave the name Isaac to his son whom Sarah bore him. And Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him. Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. Now Sarah said, “God has brought laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh with me.” And she said, “Who would ever have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.”

The child grew, and was weaned; and Abraham made a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned. But Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, playing with her son Isaac. So she said to Abraham, “Cast out this slave woman with her son; for the son of this slave woman shall not inherit along with my son Isaac.” The matter was very distressing to Abraham on account of his son. But God said to Abraham, “Do not be distressed because of the boy and because of your slave woman; whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for it is through Isaac that offspring shall be named for you. As for the son of the slave woman, I will make a nation of him also, because he is your offspring.” So Abraham rose early in the morning, and took bread and a skin of water, and gave it to Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, along with the child, and sent her away. And she departed, and wandered about in the wilderness of Beer-sheba.

15 When the water in the skin was gone, she cast the child under one of the bushes. Then she went and sat down opposite him a good way off, about the distance of a bowshot; for she said, “Do not let me look on the death of the child.” And as she sat opposite him, she lifted up her voice and wept. And God heard the voice of the boy; and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, and said to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Do not be afraid; for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is. Come, lift up the boy and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make a great nation of him.” Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. She went, and filled the skin with water, and gave the boy a drink.

God was with the boy, and he grew up; he lived in the wilderness, and became an expert with the bow. He lived in the wilderness of Paran; and his mother got a wife for him from the land of Egypt.

Talk about your weird stories. This is one of the wildest ever. Abraham casts out the son of his heart and he does so in obedience to God. God . . . who seems to have listened to Sarah in this small story.

Yes, I get Sarah’s discomfort, even her jealousy. But. BUT. This casting aside business makes me distinctly uncomfortable! And yet I love the rest of the story. The lonely wandering, the mother moving away from her child, her tears. And God’s response? Strange, isn’t it? TWICE, the passage tells us that God ‘heard the cries of the boy.’ Yet the narrative itself mentions nothing about the boy crying, only his mother. And God converses with Hagar, not with Ishmael. Small details, ones I hadn’t noticed before. Yet they’re here. They tell us so much about the time, the emotional betrayal Hagar felt, the raw need of the young Ishmael. And they tell us about God, too.

God agrees that the primary begetter in the tree of Abraham will be Isaac. Isaac will take God’s dream forward. But Ishmael will not be forgotten. No, another ‘nation’ will rise from him. And we see the barest beginnings of that at the tail end of this little story.

The brothers are still at odds, aren’t they? All these centuries later.

God does not forget the children. ANY of the children. Ishmael is moved off center stage, but he is not abandoned. Chesed is shown to him, too. Lovingkindness, faithfulness . . . yes, God’s chesed extends to surprising people in surprising ways. Even to what might seem to us to be ‘the least of these,’ eh?

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