Accompanying sermons by Ray Pritchard: God's Good vs God's Best and How to Make Peace With Your Enemies
Accompanying sermon by Bob Deffinbaugh: What Happens When Christians Mess Up
Accompanying sermon by Ray Stedman: Ishmael Must Go! and This Thirsty World
This passage definitely could've been split into at least two days, but we'll try to cover it all relatively quickly!
First, the miraculous birth of Isaac.
Notice these phrases in the first few verses....
as he had said
as he had promised
at the time of which God had spoken
This was all God's doing in God's perfect timing. And it comes to pass with little fanfare - simply matter of factly. God said this would happen and so it happened.
It's interesting too that Abraham's response to this miracle could be described as dutiful, not exuberant like Sarah. It could be reading too much into the text, but we already know that Abraham would've quite content for Ishmael to have been the son of the promise.
We see in this passage that Abraham's attachment to Ishmael was so great, that it took a huge confrontation to force Abraham to acknowledge that Isaac would be his heir, and not Ishmael.
Sarah is, once again, not at her best in this passage. This is also a low point in Abraham's spiritual life. In our previous passage, which occurred in the very near past to today's passage, we never see Abraham repent of his lie. Things are not going well for these two spiritually. But God blesses them anyway. Isn't His grace amazing?
Deffinbough also points this out....
Sarah, like every Christian I have ever known, had moments she would just as soon forget entirely. This is surely one of those times for her. Peter’s use of Sarah as an example of humility and submissiveness overlooks this event as an exception to the normal rule. In a similar fashion the writer to the Hebrews spoke of Abraham and Sarah as those whose faith we should imitate. Their mistakes and sins were not mentioned because they were dealt with once and for all under the blood of Christ. Furthermore, their sins are not the point of the author’s purpose in Hebrews, but rather their faith. Men’s sins are recorded in Scripture in order to remind us that the men and women of old were no different than we are and to serve as a warning and instruction to us not to repeat their mistakes
Though Sarah's motives were completely wrong, Ishmael did need to leave Abraham's camp.
Ishmael was the result of Abraham and Sarah's interference in God's plan. Ishmael was not the child of the promise. As long as Ishmael remained, he would be a threat to Isaac and to God's plan. God's intention was not to allow Ishmael and Hagar to die in the wilderness. He took special care of Ishmael and fulfilled the promises He had made to Hagar concerning her son. But, oh, how hard are the consequences of sin! Abraham had to send his son away, and he never saw his again. Our choices are not without consequence. When we step outside God's plan for our lives, when we think He needs our help, when we think we know better, the consequences are far reaching and long lasting, and almost always involve far more people than just ourselves.
Another important reason for Ishmael to be completely gone is that it was necessary in order for God's upcoming test when He asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac who, at that point, would be Abraham's only son.
The birth of Isaac is filled with joy while the dismissal of Ishmael speaks of sorrow, pain and human failure. Yet God is intimately involved in both stories. He is the One who brought forth Isaac after a 25-year wait. He is the One who ordered that Ishmael be cast out and then took care of him in the wilderness.
He’s the same God in both cases. He’s the God of great promises. He’s the God of great patience. He’s the God of great wisdom. He’s the God of great mercy.
That God is our God today. The God who made and kept the promise is the God we worship this morning. And the God who cast out Ishmael and then protected him is the same God who watches over you and me.
If you want it in one sentence, here it is: He is the God who works out His own plan in His own time and in His own way.
It's also interesting to note how the NT uses Ishmael and Isaac as a spiritual analogy...
the Apostle Paul made reference to our text in Galatians 4 where he draws an analogy between Sarah and Hagar and between Ishmael and Isaac. The women, he says, represent two covenants. Hagar stands for Mt. Sinai where God gave the law. And Ishmael represents everyone who is trying to get to heaven by keeping the law. Sarah stands for the New Covenant, which comes down to us from heaven. Isaac therefore represents true believers in Jesus who are saved entirely by God’s grace. Listen to the words of Galatians 4:31, “Therefore, brothers, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman.”
There are only two ways to get to heaven: The way of Hagar and the way of Sarah. Hagar and Ishmael stand for all the lost people of the world who think they can work their way back to God. Sarah and Isaac stand for true believers who are trusting Jesus Christ alone for salvation.
On the basis of this story, I need to ask the question, are you a child of Hagar or a child of Sarah? Are you a modern-day Isaac or a modern-day Ishmael?
The last half of our passage deals with peacemaking. Here Abimelech, the king Abraham deceived and in front of whom he was called out and humiliated by God, made a treaty with Abraham.
We can learn several things from this peacemaking transaction.
First - peacemaking required humility. Someone has to make the first move. Here is was Abimelech. We need to be humble and willing to make the first move in peace making.
Peacemaking required courage because you never know how the other party will respond. It's true that initiating contact is risky. But not doing so guarantees failure because broken relationships do not repair themselves on their own. It takes courage to take that first step.
Peacemaking requires honesty. Abraham brought up the matter with the well, instead of sweeping it under the rug and allowing the issue to fester. The longer you let issues fester, the more difficult it becomes to resolve them.
Peacemaking requires patiences. Attitudes and actions generally don't change overnight. We need to be patient and allow God to work - both in our lives and in the lives of the other party involved.
Peacemaking also involved kindness. Abimelech reminds Abraham of the kindness he's already shown him. But the greatest example of kindness is Jesus Christ.
We see a much greater glimpse in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. Romans 2:4 tells us that it is the kindness of God that leads us to repentance. Ephesians 2:7 says that God showed kindness to us in Jesus Christ. Titus 3:4 declares that Jesus Christ is the ultimate demonstration of the kindness of God.
Go with me to bloody Calvary. Gaze on the disfigured body of the Jesus of Nazareth. Listen! Can you hear the howling mob? They scream for his blood, they cheer his pain, they laugh at his suffering. Chanting, laughing, jeering, mocking, the mob enjoys every moment of this tragedy. A man dies and the world cheers. The Son of God offers Himself and humanity mocks his pain.
And from the Cross come the words that have echoed across the ages, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Now we know. If we never knew before, now we know. We know the price, we know the pain, we know the agony.
The Prince of Peace came to the earth and was murdered for his trouble.
If you want to see the real face of love, look to the Cross. If you want to see kindness, gaze on the contorted face of the crucified Redeemer.
Jesus said, “Love you enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). First he said it, then he showed us how to do it when he died on the Cross.
Would you like to make peace with your enemies? You can, but it won’t be easy. If you would rather live in anger and bitterness, that option is always open to you.
Or you can follow Jesus to the Cross and die there. The choice is yours.
Monday's scripture focus: Genesis 22
Sunday's passage: 2 Chronicles 1-2
Monday's passage: 2 Chronicles 3-4, Psalm 119:121-128, 1 Corinthians 1