HOPE CHAPEL - Sunday, February 28, 2021
Teaching Series - “Our Family Tree–Through the Bible in 2021"
Weekly Topic - “The Offering – God’s Test” – Communion & Sharing Sunday
Text – Genesis 18, 21-22; Hebrews 11:17-19
What does it mean to trust God with utter abandon? To give up all illusion of personal rights and simply allow your faith to be directed by God alone—no matter your circumstances; regardless of your feelings; even when His directions appear to be nonsensical? This week, God has been challenging me anew about what it means to trust Him absolutely and obey Him unreservedly. Today, we’re going to continue with Abraham’s story and I suspect many of you will be challenged this morning as well…
In chapter 18 of Genesis, God assures Abraham that in a year’s time, when Abraham is 100 years old and Sarah is 90, they will have a son who they are to name Isaac. In Genesis 21, 25 years after God’s initial call on Abraham’s life, Sarah gives birth to Isaac. All is well and Abraham’s line of succession seems set. But after a significant passage of time, by which point Isaac is likely a teenager even approaching adulthood, God once again speaks to Abraham.
GOD TESTS ABRAHAM – Genesis 22:1-2
“Some time later, God tested Abraham’s faith. “Abraham!” God called. “Yes,” he replied. “Here I am.” 2 “Take your son, your only son—yes, Isaac, whom you love so much—and go to the land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will show you.”
Abraham had had to wait 25 years for the fulfillment of having a son through Sarah. Now God wants him to sacrifice Isaac. Is this a joke? What must have gone through Abraham’s mind?
You may remember that in chapter 18 we read how Abraham had pleaded with God for the lives of the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah. “Will you sweep away both the righteous and the wicked? Suppose you find fifty righteous people living there in the city—will you still sweep it away and not spare it for their sakes? Surely you wouldn’t do such a thing, destroying the righteous along with the wicked. Why, you would be treating the righteous and the wicked exactly the same! Surely you wouldn’t do that! Should not the Judge of all the earth do what is right” (Genesis 18:23-25)? Abraham believed God to be a Judge who ruled with justice.
How could sacrificing his son, the one through whom God had promised to bless the nations, be the demand of a just God? Child sacrifice to other gods was not unknown in Abraham’s day; did the God he served now require the same? We don’t know what went through Abraham’s mind, just what he did next…
ABRAHAM OBEYS UNHESITATINGLY – Genesis 22:3-10
“3 The next morning Abraham got up early. He saddled his donkey and took two of his servants with him, along with his son, Isaac. Then he chopped wood for a fire for a burnt offering and set out for the place God had told him about. 4 On the third day of their journey, Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. 5 ‘Stay here with the donkey,’ Abraham told the servants. ‘The boy and I will travel a little farther. We will worship there, and then we will come right back.’
6 So Abraham placed the wood for the burnt offering on Isaac’s shoulders, while he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them walked on together, 7 Isaac turned to Abraham and said, ‘Father?’ ‘Yes, my son?’ Abraham replied. ‘We have the fire and the wood,’ the boy said, ‘but where is the sheep for the burnt offering?’ 8 ‘God will provide a sheep for the burnt offering, my son,’ Abraham answered. And they both walked on together.
9 When they arrived at the place where God had told him to go, Abraham built an altar and arranged the wood on it. Then he tied his son, Isaac, and laid him on the altar on top of the wood. 10 And Abraham picked up the knife to kill his son as a sacrifice.”
Abraham doesn’t even appear to flinch. Early the next morning—before Sarah was up and before she could ask where he was going and try to stop him—he was saddling his donkey, chopping wood for the sacrifice, getting servants to make preparations for the long journey and waking his son for the trip ahead.
The book of Hebrews in the New Testament gives a little clue as to why Abraham may have been willing to obey this latest of God’s commands. “17 It was by faith that Abraham offered Isaac as a sacrifice when God was testing him. Abraham, who had received God’s promises, was ready to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, 18 even though God had told him, ‘Isaac is the son through whom your descendants will be counted.’ 19 Abraham reasoned that if Isaac died, God was able to bring him back to life again. And in a sense, Abraham did receive his son back from the dead” (Hebrews 11:17-19).
Even if God intended to raise Isaac from the dead as Abraham hoped, it still required Abraham to kill him as a sacrifice first. What a horrendous prospect! And even though he may have been hopeful that God would raise Isaac back to life, there was certainly no guarantee.
But it does appear that he may have been hanging onto that hope when he tells the two servants to wait at a distance, while he and Isaac make the sacrifice after which they would ‘both’ return; however, this may have also been meant simply to put the servants’ minds at ease. They too must have recognized the fact that causes Isaac to question, ‘where’s the sacrifice?’ To which Abraham responds, God will provide, though at this point he doesn’t know whether it will be his son or if another miracle will take place.
The altar is prepared and the ‘test’ must be answered—will Abraham pass or fail? The scripture tells us that Abraham bound Isaac. It’s at this point that I want to suggest that Isaac has become fully aware of his father’s intent, yet does not resist. Unlike Sunday school flannelgraph depictions, Isaac was not a little boy easily restrained against his will by his elderly father. He had just finished carrying the chopped wood for the sacrifice on his back up Mount Moriah. He is at the very least a strapping teenager. Attempting to tie him up without his consent would have in all likelihood led to the elderly Abraham unsuccessfully trying to catch his fleet footed son. Isaac may not have understood the necessity of this sacrifice, as I’m certain Abraham was equally uncertain, but father and son chose to obey together.
Isaac is then laid on top of the wood. At each step of obedience—the building of the altar, the arranging the wood, the tying up of his son and then putting him on the altar—I wonder if Abraham was hopeful God would tell him to stop, that Abraham had passed the test, that the final act of killing his son was no longer required. But all that he hears from heaven is silence. With no last-minute intervention from God, Abraham is intent on obeying God and pulls out his knife…
FORESHADOWING OF CHRIST – Genesis 22:11-18
“11 At that moment the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!” “Yes,” Abraham replied. “Here I am!” 12 “Don’t lay a hand on the boy!” the angel said. “Do not hurt him in any way, for now I know that you truly fear God. You have not withheld from me even your son, your only son.”
13 Then Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught by its horns in a thicket. So he took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering in place of his son. 14 Abraham named the place Yahweh-Yireh (which means “the Lord will provide”). To this day, people still use that name as a proverb: “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”
15 Then the angel of the Lord called again to Abraham from heaven. 16 “This is what the Lord says: Because you have obeyed me and have not withheld even your son, your only son, I swear by my own name that 17 I will certainly bless you. I will multiply your descendants[a] beyond number, like the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will conquer the cities of their enemies. 18 And through your descendants all the nations of the earth will be blessed—all because you have obeyed me.”
Talk about leaving things to the last second! God’s test may seem cruel to our eyes. But the angel of the Lord (who you may remember from our lesson last week is the second person of the trinity), who would himself become the God-man, Jesus, in order to die as the perfect sacrifice for us and all of humanity—including Abraham—tells him to stop and sacrifice the replacement God has provided instead.
There are times in our history as recorded in the Bible, when God has called upon an individual to obey what may seem like a wrong-headed request which ultimately serves a far greater purpose. Do you remember the story of Hosea? God told him to marry a prostitute, a woman who proved to be an unfaithful wife and to buy her back, on a number of occasions. Hosea understood that God was using his life to serve as a metaphor of God’s relationship with Israel—His chosen beloved, who proved incapable of faithfulness. Or what of Ezekiel? God had him lie on his left side for 390 days, then flip and lie on his right side for 40 days as a sign against God’s chosen people during the years immediately preceding the Babylonian captivity.
These ‘tests’ would have proven incredibly difficult, but both Hosea and Ezekiel obeyed. They understood that God was calling them to live out a greater purpose, notwithstanding the inconvenience, betrayal and even seeming futility of their compliance. Whether they understood what God was attempting to do through their lives is not always clear; but that was ultimately not their primary concern. Obeying God’s clear call was.
The testing of Abraham works much this way and serves as a metaphor for one of the greatest events in human history. God himself would allow, would in fact plan, for his Son to be sacrificed. Jesus would go willingly to his death and carry his own wood for the execution. Abraham’s trip to Mount Moriah took three days, after which time ‘he received his son back as though from the dead” (Hebrews 11:19); which of course is the same amount of time Jesus spent in the grave, prior to his resurrection from the dead.
Without Abraham’s ‘test’ we might not be able to even begin to fathom the anguish, the resolve, the extent of the sacrifice God experienced when He sent His One and only Son to die in our place. Before we accuse God of being cruel for putting Abraham through this test, it would be appropriate to reflect upon our own cruelty that made Jesus’ sacrifice necessary in the first place. And the demonstration of God’s incredible love for us in spite of our utter corruption.
MODERN DAY FAITHFULNESS – Barb’s Story
*Barb's story is not being included in the Sunday notes to respect her privacy and to protect from potential misuse in electronic format.*
Those of us hearing her story and how it has turned out are often quick to judge…she should never have quit her job! With that sort of thinking, we would also be quick to judge Hosea…he should have married a respectable woman. Or Ezekiel…wouldn’t his time have been better spent preaching a warning rather than just lying around. And Abraham…sacrificing his son? Well, that’s just pure nonsense! Yet they all have one thing in common—they chose to trust God with utter abandon, refusing to hold onto the illusion of personal rights and simply allowed their faith to be directed by God alone.
What are our takeaways from today’s lesson?
· To what degree are you prepared to obey God?
· Do you have limitations—personal rights—that even God is not allowed to infringe upon?
· We cannot expect the ‘perks’ of Christianity without dying to self.
· What if God came to you with a command that required personal sacrifice—of a son, of a happy marriage, of a respectable ministry, of the stability of a home and/or regular income? What would you do?
For further study:
“Why did God ask Abraham to sacrifice Isaac?” by Andy Patton (retrieved on February 25, 2021 from https://bibleproject.com/blog/why-did-god-ask-abraham-to-sacrifice-isaac/)
Sunday, March 7, 2021- “Our Family Tree - Through the Bible in 2021"- “Isaac & Rebekah” (Genesis 24) - ONLINE Only
Pastor Jane Peck, Hope Chapel
(Collingwood EMCC Church)
"Learning and Living the Way of Jesus!"
Daily Devotional February 25th
“I will sing to the LORD as long as I live. I will praise my God to my last breath! May all my thoughts be pleasing to him, for I rejoice in the LORD.” (Psalm 104:33-34)
Reading through the Psalms again, it is easy to skim over the psalmists’ words as they often waver between effusive praise of God and His gracious work to anxious filled sentiments pleading for rescue from enemies; however, one phrase caught my attention this morning, “May all my thoughts be pleasing to him.” David’s concern is not simply for an ability not to slip up in his words and actions in an unguarded moment. His desire is to have a thought-life that pleases God as well. Far easier said than done.
Sure, it’s easy to have good and pleasing thoughts when all is going well, but what of times when all is not going according to plan? Take this scenario for instance…You’re exhausted, but your brain refuses to shut down, so rather than drifting off into a sound sleep you find yourself waking repeatedly through the night. The next morning, you have to wait too long for your turn in the bathroom, the toast burns and you discover you’re out of coffee. You’re late for school or work and every street light seems determined to slow you down. You forget your facemask (yet again) and have to find another before you can enter the building. Only then to find out that a classmate or co-worker has not completed their portion of an assignment or task for your group project that is to be presented later in the day. You may have managed to keep from saying anything that you may later regret, but how’s your thought life? Still pleasing to God?
A God-pleasing thought life is definitely a goal to strive for, but it is not something that we just wake up and *presto* all our thoughts will now never go awry. We need to continually put our focus on things that are worthy of our time and attention and refuse to dwell on things that drag down rather than lift up our thought processes. Philippians 4:6-8 serves as a great reminder, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” Pray instead of worry. Let God know what you need. Express gratitude. Allow His peace to infuse your day. Deliberately fill your mind with God-pleasing thoughts. All of these require us to intentionally focus our attention on God and our relationship with Him; we need to actively refuse to allow worry, anxiety, impatience and ingratitude to drag us down the paths that lead to dark places in our minds.
Even if today has begun a little on the rough side, it is not too late to turn it around. Ask God to help you flip the switch. Might I suggest that a good place to begin is to write down some of the things you are truly thankful for and then focus your attention on those. Let’s all work on allowing God to transform our thoughts into God-pleasing ones, even when things do not go as planned.
~ Pastor Jane
Daily Devotional February 23rd
“Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” (John 13:16-17)
Immediately prior to speaking these words, Jesus had just completed one of the most menial and humble of tasks—He had washed the disciples’ feet. To understand how significant this act was all we need do is consider Peter’s reaction. “No, Lord! You can’t wash my feet.” And then when Jesus insisted, Peter still argued, “Not just my feet!” The lesson Jesus was teaching His disciples at that moment, smacked against everything they thought they knew. Jesus was the Messiah, God’s promised Christ, God himself. Washing feet was servants’ work. And that was exactly Jesus’ point. As His followers, some of us may be great leaders (as I’m certain each of the Apostles viewed themselves), but we are first and foremost to be servants.
While the rest of the world is running around trying to get the most out of this life, Christ-followers are to be busy doing God’s business. We are to be following the example set for us by Jesus, spending our lives in service of Him. Jesus doesn’t want us striving for power, influence or even a good reputation. His first concern is that we become like Him, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:45).
How are you serving? Whose feet have you washed recently…not literally, but figuratively? Are some jobs, service and ministry beneath you? Then you haven’t learned the lesson that even Peter struggled with. Jesus came to serve. His followers are called to do the same. No job is too humble for anyone seeking Jesus’ blessing.
~ Pastor Jane
Daily Devotional February 22nd
“No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.” (Matthew 5:15-16)
A lamp that stands in a corner of a room with no energy source remains dark and lifeless. No matter how beautifully crafted, it will remain useless until connected to an energy source. But a lamp—once the wick is lit, batteries inserted or plugged into the electrical socket—can give a tremendous amount of light and comfort to all those previously enclosed in the dark. And well it should. It is what lamps are created for. Jesus used the analogy of lamp to explain how His followers should live their lives. A good question for us then is whether or not we light up the room when we walk through the door? Does our presence bring comfort to those sitting in the ‘spiritual darkness?’ We should. Why? Because we are now connected to the power source.
But Jesus knew that His followers, those who lived during Jesus’ time on earth right on through to the present day, would need a reminder. He points out how inappropriate it is to cover up a lit lamp. What’s the point of turning it on if you’re just going to hide the light now emanating from it? Why profess faith in Jesus, unless you allow that new reality to be tangibly expressed in and through your life. We are not to simply keep the power source within us—unused and unseen. It should transform our lives! It should be visible to everyone.
God is the power source of each person who believes in the work of the Son on humanity’s behalf. Now that we have been given the amazing gift of the Holy Spirit within us, our energy source, it is up to us to ‘let our good deeds shine out.’ So that people can see how good we have now become? No! So that they will ‘praise your heavenly Father.’ Our lives are to be lived in such a way that there is to be absolutely no question about what motivates and inspires us to do good to others. God’s love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control should literally ‘beam’ from our lives, providing desperately needed light to those struggling to live life in the dark.
So, again I ask, do you light up the room, with the very presence of God who lives within you, when you walk in the room? If not, you best check your energy source and remove anything that may be covering up the light that God wants to share in and through you to others. We ought to be ‘beaming for Jesus’ each and everyday!
~ Pastor Jane
Hope Chapel - Sunday Notes February 21
Teaching Series - “Our Family Tree–Through the Bible in 2021"
Weekly Topic - “Hagar – Caught in the Middle”
Text – Genesis16, 21
Our knowledge of Hagar is often based around Abraham and Sarah and God’s promise of a vast family. Hagar herself has been given far less attention. But Hagar’s story holds some incredible truths and encouragement for anyone who has found themselves misused, abused and/or generally taken for granted.
While generally treated poorly by people, there is no doubt as to God’s care for Hagar. Of all the characters of the Bible, she is one of the handful that are granted a theophany, a visible manifestation of God—she was one to whom God spoke with and revealed Himself to. And not just once did God come to her direct aid, but twice!
But to Sarah and Abraham, Hagar was nothing more than a slave. As her masters, she was simply expected to obey whatever they commanded. Her feelings or what she might think, never entered into the equation of Sarah’s proposal and Abraham’s agreement. To this great patriarchal couple’s way of thinking—as well as the society of the day—they were entirely within their right to treat her as a ‘walking womb’ rather than an individual with any sort of rights.
NOTHING MORE THAN AN INCUBATOR – Genesis 16:1-6
“Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had not been able to bear children for him. But she had an Egyptian servant named Hagar. 2 So Sarai said to Abram, ‘The Lord has prevented me from having children. Go and sleep with my servant. Perhaps I can have children through her.’ And Abram agreed with Sarai’s proposal. 3 So Sarai, Abram’s wife, took Hagar the Egyptian servant and gave her to Abram as a wife. (This happened ten years after Abram had settled in the land of Canaan.)
4 So Abram had sexual relations with Hagar, and she became pregnant. But when Hagar knew she was pregnant, she began to treat her mistress, Sarai, with contempt. 5 Then Sarai said to Abram, ‘This is all your fault! I put my servant into your arms, but now that she’s pregnant she treats me with contempt. The Lord will show who’s wrong—you or me!’
6 Abram replied, ‘Look, she is your servant, so deal with her as you see fit.’ Then Sarai treated Hagar so harshly that she finally ran away.”
Hagar had probably come into Abraham and Sarah’s household during the time that Sarah had found herself given away and married to the Egyptian pharaoh about ten years earlier. We don’t know how old Hagar was when she came to be Sarah’s slave but at this point in the story she is of marriageable age. There is the very real possibility that she was in her teens or early twenties and she was being forced to allow the 85-year-old Abram to impregnate her so that she could bear a child for her barren mistress. I can’t help but think that the idea may have been repulsive to Hagar who had no choice but to obey.
If she had had any earlier sympathy for Sarai’s situation it soon vanishes. Once pregnant, she may have had hopes of seeing her situation elevated to that of concubine or even second wife. She may have resented the fact that she was being forced to carry a baby that would not be considered hers and that she would have to watch be given away. She began to ‘despise’ her mistress and who can blame her?
Sarai, as the mistress of this ‘ungrateful’ slave, is angered by Hagar’s contempt. Who does she think she is? Sarai goes to Abram and accuses him of being the cause of this unacceptable treatment. Abram’s response? She’s your slave, do whatever you see fit. Dangerous advice to give to a woman who feels like she’s been insulted by an inferior. She sets about putting Hagar back into her rightful place. Sarai begins to abuse Hagar so harshly, despite or maybe in spite of her pregnant condition, that Hagar runs away.
The prospects of a pregnant runaway slave were not good, but staying to be abused by her mistress had become intolerable. It’s at this point, that the angel of God shows Himself to Hagar.
INCLUSION IN THE PROMISE – Genesis 16:7-16
“7 The angel of the Lord found Hagar beside a spring of water in the wilderness, along the road to Shur. 8 The angel said to her, ‘Hagar, Sarai’s servant, where have you come from, and where are you going?’
‘I’m running away from my mistress, Sarai,’ she replied.
9 The angel of the Lord said to her, “Return to your mistress, and submit to her authority.’ 10 Then he added, ‘I will give you more descendants than you can count.’
11 And the angel also said, ‘You are now pregnant and will give birth to a son. You are to name him Ishmael (which means ‘God hears’), for the Lord has heard your cry of distress. 12 This son of yours will be a wild man, as untamed as a wild donkey! He will raise his fist against everyone, and everyone will be against him. Yes, he will live in open hostility against all his relatives.’
13 Thereafter, Hagar used another name to refer to the Lord, who had spoken to her—El-roi. She said, ‘You are the God who sees me.’ She also said, ‘Have I truly seen the One who sees me?’ 14 So that well was named Beer-lahai-roi (which means ‘well of the Living One who sees me’). It can still be found between Kadesh and Bered.
15 So Hagar gave Abram a son, and Abram named him Ishmael. 16 Abram was eighty-six years old when Ishmael was born.”
The angel of the Lord begins a conversation with Hagar that starts with a question. He makes it clear He already knows who she is, but wants her to acknowledge her lack of options. He asks, ‘where have you come from and where are you going?’ She can only answer the first, ‘I’m running away.’ But it is obvious she has no plan and no real prospects. God’s next advice may have felt like a bit of a slap to Hagar’s face, ‘Go back to Sarah and submit to her authority.’ For her own well-being and for the well-being of the child she now carries, God’s advice to her is to go back to a place of safety with Abraham and Sarah, continue to submit to her mistress and wait.
Yes, wait. But then comes the incredible part; He includes Hagar, a slave, in the Abrahamic blessing, ‘I will give you more descendants than you can count.’ God tells Hagar to call her son ‘Ishmael’ (which means ‘God hears’) as a constant reminder that God has indeed heard her cries and will reward her as promised with many descendants. Then, he proceeds to tell her what she can expect of this son of hers…for the baby she is carrying is a boy—no ultrasound required! Ishmael will be no one’s servant, but will be like a ‘wild ass’ known for their untamable nature. He would take orders from no man and would even live in opposition to his family—Hagar’s current masters.
Could it be that she herself would someday be free of her forced servitude? It certainly appears that is one of the things the angel of God is alluding to. But now is not the time. She must be patient. She must wait. She must cooperate with the larger plan that God is working out. For now, she must go back and submit; but it will not be forever.
She believes God and this meeting leads her to return to Sarah with a new hope, purpose and resolve. She is one who has not simply heard of Abraham’s God, she has now herself met with Him. El-roi has seen her, acknowledging her worth in His sight, despite her societal position as a slave.
Hagar gives birth to a boy and Abraham names the baby Ishmael, obviously aware of Hagar’s encounter with the angel of God. And Ishmael would have grown up as the ‘heir apparent’ until God shows up again and confirms to Abraham that he will have a son in a year’s time through Sarah. So, at the age of 13, Ishmael, along with his 99-year-old father, are circumcised as a sign of God’s covenant blessing on Abraham and his descendants. But what happens next in the story, turns both Ishmael and Hagar’s worlds upside down.
NO SPARE REQUIRED – Genesis 21:1-13
“The Lord kept his word and did for Sarah exactly what he had promised. 2 She became pregnant, and she gave birth to a son for Abraham in his old age. This happened at just the time God had said it would. 3 And Abraham named their son Isaac. 4 Eight days after Isaac was born, Abraham circumcised him as God had commanded. 5 Abraham was 100 years old when Isaac was born.
6 And Sarah declared, “God has brought me laughter. All who hear about this will laugh with me. 7 Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse a baby? Yet I have given Abraham a son in his old age!”
8 When Isaac grew up and was about to be weaned, Abraham prepared a huge feast to celebrate the occasion. 9 But Sarah saw Ishmael—the son of Abraham and her Egyptian servant Hagar—making fun of her son, Isaac. 10 So she turned to Abraham and demanded, “Get rid of that slave woman and her son. He is not going to share the inheritance with my son, Isaac. I won’t have it!
11 This upset Abraham very much because Ishmael was his son. 12 But God told Abraham, ‘Do not be upset over the boy and your servant. Do whatever Sarah tells you, for Isaac is the son through whom your descendants will be counted. 13 But I will also make a nation of the descendants of Hagar’s son because he is your son, too.’”
We don’t know the exact age of when Isaac was weaned, but even if we put him at an age of two or three, Ismael would have been sixteen or seventeen. He had lived long enough in his father Abraham’s house to be able to assume some security and may have wondered why so much fuss was being made about his little brother, Isaac. He may have even been a little jealous of this toddler who was taking up so much of his father’s time and attention and of his position as the ‘true heir.’
Sarah catches an unguarded moment when Ishmael makes fun of Isaac (no one knows exactly what he may have done); but this first son of Abraham finds himself caught in the sight line of Isaac’s mother, Sarah, who will tolerate no insolence or threat to her son’s inheritance. In Sarah’s mind, Ishmael may be Abraham’s son, but he is still just the son of a slave. He is simply the product of one of her most regretted life choices. Sarah chooses this moment to wipe her slate clear of the both of them. She has now provided Abraham with his promised son; there is no longer any need to tolerate either of them.
Sarah tells Abraham in no uncertain terms to get rid of them, both their slave Hagar and Abraham’s son, Ishmael. Understandably, Abraham is upset, but God appears to side with Sarah. He promises to make a great nation from both of Abraham’s sons, but Abraham must leave the future well-being of his son Ishmael and his mother to God’s care. I personally don’t think that God is siding with Sarah because He agrees with her, but because it is necessary to the next stage of His plans for both Abraham and Hagar.
But, before we read our last section of scripture this morning, I want us to put ourselves in Hagar’s sandals. She is about to be evicted from the only ‘family’ she has known for more than a quarter of a century…with nothing more than a small amount of water and enough food for a couple of days, for both herself and her teenaged son. How do you process this? What goes through your mind? Her slavery was not ideal, but she had been protected. Now she finds herself thrust out into the wilderness—no plan, no protection, no anything.
BLESSING OUT OF HARDSHIP – Genesis 21:14-21
14 So Abraham got up early the next morning, prepared food and a container of water, and strapped them on Hagar’s shoulders. Then he sent her away with their son, and she wandered aimlessly in the wilderness of Beersheba.
15 When the water was gone, she put the boy in the shade of a bush. 16 Then she went and sat down by herself about a hundred yards away. ‘I don’t want to watch the boy die,’ she said, as she burst into tears.
17 But God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, ‘Hagar, what’s wrong? Do not be afraid! God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. 18 Go to him and comfort him, for I will make a great nation from his descendants.’
19 Then God opened Hagar’s eyes, and she saw a well full of water. She quickly filled her water container and gave the boy a drink.
20 And God was with the boy as he grew up in the wilderness. He became a skillful archer, 21 and he settled in the wilderness of Paran. His mother arranged for him to marry a woman from the land of Egypt.”
All of Hagar’s hopes were gone. She had wandered aimlessly in the wilderness. Had she hoped that Sarah would relent and Abraham would send for them to come back? If that was what she waited for, she waited in vain. Both their food and water ran out; she was at a complete loss. There was nothing left for her to do.
She resigned herself to the fact that both she and her son would die in the wilderness. Without water, at the very minimum, they had no hope for survival. She leaves Ishmael under the shade of a bush, and goes off by herself; she cannot bear to watch her son die. It is at this point of utter hopelessness that God steps in. El-roi has come to remind Hagar of His promise to her and to rescue them both. He tells her to go to Ishmael to comfort him and while doing so, Hagar spies a well full of water. Had she simply missed it earlier in her distress, or had God caused a miracle to occur on her behalf? We don’t know, but either way, God provides the water they so desperately need.
Many years earlier, God had told her to wait, but now her waiting was over. The event that had led to their current hardships, their eviction from Abraham’s camp, was also the very same event that had given her freedom. Now here in the wilderness, they were free to begin a new life under the watchful eye of the One who had met Hagar in the wilderness, the One who heard her and cared for her—cared enough to act on her behalf. Ishmael grew to be a skilled archer, a necessity for one living in the wilderness and when he was old enough, Hagar arranged for Ishmael to marry an Egyptian woman. She may have experienced God first hand and may have even enjoyed a relationship with El-roi, but I imagine she had had her fill of Abraham and the rest of his family.
What are our takeaways from today’s lesson?
· Can you relate to Hagar? What hope does the story of Hagar contain for people who are abused and/or deemed of less worth by others?
· Contrast Abraham and Sarah’s attitude and actions toward Hagar, to God’s. How should we respond to this?
· Have you ever found yourself at the proverbial end of your rope? How can Hagar’s story encourage us?
For further study:
“Who Is the Angel of the Lord” by Carissa Quinn (retrieved February 18, 2021 from https://bibleproject.com/blog/who-is-the-angel-of-the-lord/)
Daily Devotional February 18th
“Save me, O God, for the floodwaters are up to my neck. Deeper and deeper I sink into the mire; I can’t find a foothold. I am in deep water, and the floods overwhelm me. I am exhausted from crying for help; my throat is parched. My eyes are swollen with weeping, waiting for my God to help me.” (Psalm 69:1-3)
David finds himself, yet again, in a life and death situation. The crisis is escalating and he feels helpless to extricate himself. He cries out to his only sure source of help, begging for God’s intervention: “Rescue me from the mud; don’t let me sink any deeper! Save me from those who hate me, and pull me from these deep waters. Don’t let the floods overwhelm me, or the deep waters swallow me, or the pit of death devour me” (69:14-15). At this point, there is no rescue in sight and David is desperate.
Maybe you can resonate with David’s frantic prayer. “Where are you God? Can’t you see that without you, I am lost!” While David’s situation has deteriorated to the point of needing divine intervention, he still clings to God. He knows that you don’t throw out the life jacket just because your boat has sprung a leak. He is fearful of ‘going down,’ but it causes him to cling all the more tightly to God. In our desperation, however, I think we are often guilty of worsening our situation because rather than clinging to God, we become impatient and panic. We try to produce our own rescue and often find ourselves making the trouble worse or living to regret decisions we made in our frantic state.
David knew what it was like to be in a life-threatening situation—from bears and lions as he tended sheep; from jealous King Saul and his supporters; from enemy nations; even from his own family. And while we hear David’s melancholy, his anxiety and desperation in many of his psalms, we also hear his unwavering confidence in God and his exuberance as time and again he experiences God’s faithfulness.
If you find yourself in deep water, with the floods threatening to overwhelm you, please don’t throw away your life jacket. God promises to help us when we call out to Him; but like David we must be willing to allow God to thoroughly examine us, point out areas in our lives that need readjustment, confess our disobedience and our need for Him, then wait for His answer…and when He provides the solution be ready to move in response. And don’t be surprised if His answer is not exactly what you were expecting, because our God “is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20). But first, you must turn to God like David did time and again, confident that He was the only One able to provide the needed solution. Your situation is not a reflection of God’s love for you. His love for you is, and will always be, tremendous. That is why you and I, like David, can cling to God with confidence!
~ Pastor Jane
Daily Devotional February 16
“My heart has heard you say, ‘Come and talk with me.’ And my heart responds, ‘LORD, I am coming.’” (Psalm 27:8)
Lent begins tomorrow. It is a time to prepare our hearts to commemorate the events of Easter and, in many Christian traditions, believers will choose something to live without for forty days…representative of the forty days Jesus spent in the desert prior to beginning His ministry.
Would you be willing to give up chocolate, coffee, television, social media, or________ (you fill in the blank) for the sake of demonstrating your commitment and devotion to God first? Or maybe, rather than giving up something, you might choose to begin a new pursuit or set a goal for the forty days to help others.
Ideally, what is given up or new activity undertaken will help you bring intention to how you spend your time—spending a greater quantity and quality of time with God, focusing on your relationship with Him. Pray about how you might participate this year and what God is speaking to you that is presently given too much or too little focus in your life.
~ Pastor Jane
Teaching Series - “Our Family Tree–Through the Bible in 2021"
First licensed for pastoral ministry in 1994, Pastor Jane Peck has served in camp and church ministries in three denominations, five provinces and in a variety of roles. Her most recent position is that of Pastor at Hope Chapel which she began in 2020. She is excited to see what God can and will do in the days to come!