Read Genesis 21:1-21
Having left Gerar with gifts from king Abimelek, the time has come for Abraham and Sarah that the Lord spoke of a year ago when He said, “I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son.” (Genesis 18:14) The Lord was gracious to Sarah, as He had said that He would be. Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him. (v. 2) As God said to Isaiah, “…so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire…” (Isaiah 55:11) What God says in His word will never return to Him empty. Although His timing seems nearly always to be significantly longer than we would like. In Sarah and Abraham’s case, they waited twenty-five years.
Abraham names the newborn Isaac, which means laughter. Abraham laughed with joy when he received God’s promise of a son in Genesis 17. And unlike her cynical laughter in Genesis 18, Sarah now responds with joy and laughter at the fulfillment of God’s promise. She says, “God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.” (v. 6)
She also said, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children?” (v. 7) Funny — I was thinking the same thing. Abraham one hundred and Sarah ninety, having a child, it’s miraculous. But as the Lord told Abraham and Sarah a year ago, in Genesis 18:14, “Is anything too hard for the LORD.”
And, in obedience to God’s command, Abraham circumcises his son when he’s eight days old.
Isaac grew and was weaned, some say that Isaac was between three and five years old at this time, and Abraham held a great feast to celebrate the weaning.
What a blessing it is when our children are weaned. When they’re weaned from the need to receive their spiritual nourishment from their parents. My son Gabe and his wife Charise have a six month old baby boy named Andrew who has a rare congenital deformity of the skull called Bilateral Isolated Frontosphenoidal Craniosynostosis. If nothing is done about it, it’s likely that the left frontal lobe of his brain won’t have enough room to grow. So he needs surgery, but the problem is that there aren’t many around who can handle this sort of surgery. This surgery requires that they cut off most of his skull, remove it, reconstruct it, and then suture or staple it back in place. If it’s not done with great precision Andrew could be blinded. Johns Hopkins is looking like they won’t be able to help him. The Mayo Clinic says they’ve never seen this type of craniosynostosis in the twenty-two years they’ve been taking cranio patients. But in spite of all this Gabe and Charise maintain a strong faith in the future that the Lord has planned for Andrew. It’s remarkable to watch their relationship with Christ grow as they pray through this trial. They have been weaned. While it’s heart wrenching to think about the surgery that awaits my grandson, watching Gabe and Charise grow in their faith causes me to want to celebrate.
But at Isaac’s celebration Ishmael, who is around eighteen at this time, mocks Isaac which prompts Sarah to say to her husband, “Get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.” (Genesis 21:10)
Now Abraham’s very distraught because he loves his son Ishmael. He’s between the proverbial rock and the hard place. He doesn’t want to hurt Ishmael and Hagar but he doesn’t want to grieve Isaac and Sarah either. Should he listen to Sarah? The last time he listened to Sarah she told him to take Hagar and…
Here we have God’s model for a man when it comes to whether or not he should listen to his wife. God’s model goes like this: you should always listen to your wife. Always. Without fail. Listen every time she speaks. Every time she tells you to do something, listen to what she says.
Then, after listening, ask the Lord if He would have you act on what she’s said!
While you will be amazed at how your wife will respond to you if you can make her feel satisfied that you have listened to her and have understood where she’s coming from, you absolutely must run it by the Lord afterwards. And you can only do what He would have you do and nothing more, regardless of your wife’s wishes. Had Abraham done this when Sarah told him to, “Go sleep with my slave…” he wouldn’t be in this jam! But this time, concerning Sarah’s desire for Ishmael to go, God confirms what Sarah has said.
The Lord says to Abraham, Don’t stress out about the boy and your slave woman. Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it’s through Isaac that your offspring will be counted, and named.
So the next morning Abraham took some food and a skin of water and gave them to Hagar. He sent her and Ishmael on their way in the Desert of Beersheba.
When the water in the skin was gone Hagar put Ishmael under a bush and went a bow shot away to sit down. The New Living Translation calls a bow shot about one hundred yards or about ninety meters. She thought, “I cannot watch the boy die.” And she sat there and began to sob. (v. 15-18)
But God heard Ishmael crying, and the angel of God told Hagar to take him by the hand and lift him up, for, God said, He will make him into a great nation.
Then Hagar’s eyes were opened by God and she saw a well of water nearby. So she filled the skin and the boy drank and lived.
And the scriptures say that God was with the boy as he grew up. He lived in the desert and became an archer. Eventually his mother arranged a marriage for him — she found him a wife from Egypt.
The Flesh and the Spirit:
Paul tells us in Galatians 4 that Hagar and Sarah represent the two different covenants. Hagar represents the covenant from Mount Sinai, that is the covenant based of the law. Hagar the slave woman represents the covenant that enslaves people — to the law.
But Sarah the free woman represents the new covenant, the covenant based on the son of God’s promise. God promised Sarah a son, Isaac. And God promised us His Son Jesus. Sarah the free woman represents the covenant that keeps us free from the law. Those in Jesus Christ are free.
That which is born of the old covenant is of the flesh. The plan to conceive Ishmael was produced from the flesh of Sarah and Abraham without consulting the Most High. The plan to conceive Isaac was produced from God’s Spirit. (Galatians 4:21-27)
Interestingly Paul continues in Galatians 4 pointing out that even as the son born according to the flesh, persecuted the son born by the power of the Spirit, it’s the same today. Today those born of the flesh mock and persecute those born of the Spirit. (Galatians 28-31)
So what are we to do about it?
The Lord makes it as clear as can be when He says that “…he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. (Galatians 6:8 NKJV)
When we sow of the flesh, there’s a price to pay. It’s as though you have inside you a black dog and a white dog. The black dog is your flesh and the white dog is Christ’s Spirit within you. When you feed your flesh the black dog grows larger and stronger and meaner. He can begin to dominate the white dog. Giving attention to, nurturing, and nourishing the black dog will result in changes in your life. Sin awaits.
My pastor tells of a law enforcement officer in Southern California who asked him to share his story. He has a beautiful family and he had a beautiful marriage up until recently. While spending time on Facebook he encountered an old high school flame who had relocated to Colorado. They shared back and forth via Facebook for a while until she commented that she would be out in his area on business. They decided to meet for a cup of coffee to catch up. Then they decided to meet again. Eventually they began an affair. Awhile more and the old flame decided that she wanted a divorce. She told her husband in Colorado of her relationship with her old Southern California high school classmate. He committed suicide.
Now she wants to make the relationship with the law enforcement officer permanent.
He who sows to his flesh…
But, there’s good news. You have a choice, you can feed the white dog. As you partake of God’s word, as you attend church, as you pray for direction, you’re giving attention to, nurturing, and nourishing the white dog. He’ll grow larger and stronger. Your love for God will grow. Your love for others will grow. And the black dog will become weak and small.
I’m not talking about working your way to heaven. God is faithful even when we’re faithless. With Christ as your savior you’re going to go to heaven regardless. But 1 Corinthians 3 tells us that though we may get to heaven, by living for our flesh we can suffer loss. God’s word tells us that those in Christ who live for their flesh will still be saved but as one escaping through the flames. Upon your arrival into the afterlife those things born of the flesh will be revealed with fire as well as those things in your life that are born of the Spirit. On that day, I guarantee you, you’ll be wishing you had more fruit of the Spirit and less fruit of the flesh.
So for today, just for today, for just one day, feed your Spirit. Live your life for Christ.
You’ll never regret it.
For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.
1 Corinthians 3:11-15
Now the LORD was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did for Sarah what he had promised. Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him. Abraham gave the name Isaac to the son Sarah bore him. When his son Isaac was eight days old, Abraham circumcised him, as God commanded him. Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.
Sarah said, “God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.” And she added, “Who would 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 on the day Isaac was weaned Abraham held a great feast. But Sarah saw that the son whom Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham was mocking, and she said to Abraham, “Get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.”
The matter distressed Abraham greatly because it concerned his son. But God said to him, “Do not be so distressed about the boy and your slave woman. Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned. I will make the son of the slave into a nation also, because he is your offspring.”
Early the next morning Abraham took some food and a skin of water and gave them to Hagar. He set them on her shoulders and then sent her off with the boy. She went on her way and wandered in the Desert of Beersheba.
When the water in the skin was gone, she put the boy under one of the bushes. Then she went off and sat down about a bowshot away, for she thought, “I cannot watch the boy die.” And as she sat there, she began to sob.
God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation.”
Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. So she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink.
God was with the boy as he grew up. He lived in the desert and became an archer. While he was living in the Desert of Paran, his mother got a wife for him from Egypt.