Proper 7/ June 22, 2014
8The child grew, and was weaned; and Abraham made a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned. 9But Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, playing with her son Isaac. 10So 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.” 11The matter was very distressing to Abraham on account of his son. 12But 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. 13As for the son of the slave woman, I will make a nation of him also, because he is your offspring.” (Genesis 21:8-13)
Is it too simple a thing to suggest that Sarah is solely responsible for the millennium long conflict between Christians and Muslims? Wouldn’t our world be much better off if Sarah had never thought of giving her maiden to Abraham to bear him a child that divided their happy tent?
Of course and of course. It is too simple to just make this a text that fills in the blanks on our Religion 101 test and it is too simple to say Sarah should have never preempted God’s promise to provide a child of promise through her. She did, Abraham participated, Hagar seems to be a total victim here, and a male heir is not only cut out of the will, but is made an outcast. Shame, shame, shame.
Two obvious points for living by faith:
- God does not want us to do His work for Him. He is capable of taking care of His business. So let him be God. If He promises a child, He will deliver, but on His terms. Be patient. Trust in Him. Wait with anticipation of what is to come. Only God can make us whole, happy, and assured.
- When we sin, there will be consequences so don’t make it worse with a cover up or an attempt to eradicate the act or its memory. It is what it is and we will live with it. But know this. God does not turn His back on the unwanted child. He loves Him and promises to be a provider of the child despite him not being the child or promise. Neither does he drop the bigger plan of making Abraham and Sarah his people of promise because of their sin. He still loved them and still kept them at the center of the story He is telling. Wow!
I do not believe that this was a part of God’s plan. No way he compels Abraham to father this child so that He can show how benevolent He is by caring for him once the jealous Sarah has him cast out. The good news is that God takes what we have messed up through our sin and attempts to mold it for His good – even in Abraham’s stupidity and Sarah’s jealousy. It is up to us to make room in our life for God to work for working in us is His desire. The heart of the gospel is that through Christ sin and death have been conquered both in eternal reality and in practical choosing. We do not have to live in or bound by sin. Through Christ we may be free from active willful sinning AND being cast as a sinner in this life. None of this is our doing. It is all God’s work who forgives, redeems, restores, and renews us for holy living and fruitful ministry.
Sarah, Abraham, Isaac, Hagar, Ishmael all walked in the grace of God from this day forward and made their choices to allow Him to be their God or not. Religious history reveals those choices and the world has never been the same.
What will religious history reveal about the way we walked in the grace of God who calls us to leave the life we know and follow him?