Reading: Genesis 21: 8-21
Verse 17: What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid.
Today we find the culmination of the story of Abraham and Hagar and Ishmael. It is the story of ignoring God’s promise and taking matters into ones own hands. It is the story of jealousy, anger, abuse, betrayal, abandonment, and rescue. Sarah has asserted herself and Abraham sends Hagar and ‘the boy’ off into the desert. Isaac is Sarah’s son and the answer to God’s promise. He will be the rightful heir. It will be how the story unfolds as we read on in Genesis.
Yet a part of Abraham is conflicted, troubled. Ishmael is his son, his flesh and blood. Sending him off into the desert probably will not end well. God speaks to Abraham and gives him assurances that ‘the son of your maidservant’ will also one day be the head of a nation. ‘The boy’ will not die in the desert. He has a future. This reassurance allows Abraham to send them off into the desert, out and away from them forever.
This, however, is not quite the end of the story for Hagar. Recall that she had been rescued by God once before. Hagar would name God “the God who sees me”. That God sees her again. Just as she resigns herself to dying of thirst just yards from her son as he dies of thirst, God once again intervenes. God calls out to her, “What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid”. She too hears God’s promise for Ishmael and then God opens her eyes to see the water well that He has provided. The passage ends with God’s continued care and provision through childhood and even into marriage.
Our God of love cares for those who are not ‘chosen’. Hagar and Ishmael were part of Abraham and Sarah’s impatience and lack of trust in God. On our human level, we would maybe want to see them off too. They would remind us of our sin. I am grateful that God loves all people, not just those who love or worship Him. God’s love is constant; it is universal. It is a love that Jesus would call us to follow and live out. So when the Holy Spirit leads us to love the other, may this story remind us that God loves all of humanity so that we can go and do likewise.