Today, we’re going to continue learning from the life of Abraham in our series in Genesis entitled Hearing God’s Call. Just as Abraham heard and followed God’s call for his life, so we need to hear God’s call for our lives. God desires to speak to each one of us and guide our lives in His plan. God guides our lives through His promises, as we are obedient to Him.
This morning, we’re going to be looking at Genesis 21 for our message “Promise Fulfilled.” Let’s review where we began back in Genesis 12. God first spoke to Abraham 25 years before the time we’re going to be talking about this morning. At that time, Abraham was 75 years old. At that time, God made a promise to Abraham.
Genesis 12:1-3 (ESV) Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. … and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
So we see first of all God’s command to Abram, to go from his country to a new land that God was going to show him. Then we see the promise, that God would make Abram a great nation and bless him. Why? So that he could be a blessing to the entire world. In time, God revealed His plan to bless Abram and Sarah with a son. The problem was that Sarah was barren, past child-bearing and Abram was old. As time went by, Abraham and Sarah decided that God needed some help in fulfilling His promise to them. So, Sarah gave Abraham her maidservant, Hagar, and a son, Ishmael was born. But Ishmael was not the son that God had promised to Abraham and Sarah, he was not the son of promise.
Galatians 4:22-23 (ESV) For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman. But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, while the son of the free woman was born through promise.
So, we see that God’s purposes are not achieved through human effort according to the flesh. God purposes are achieved only through faith in God’s promises.
Hebrews 11:8, 11 (ESV) By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. …By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised.
So God also calls us to have faith, faith in God, faith in God’s promises and plan and faith in God’s Word. This morning, allow God to speak to you about His promises for your life and how He is calling you to obey. Let’s begin our story from Genesis 21.
Genesis 21:1-2 (ESV) The LORD visited Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did to Sarah as he had promised. And Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age at the time of which God had spoken to him.
In Genesis 18, the Lord visited Sarah and Abraham and told them that the promised son would come within a year. The Lord kept His promise by visiting Sarah and enabling her to conceive a child in her old age. Not only did she conceive, but she bore a son in the time frame the Lord had announced, a year later. Abraham was careful to …
Genesis 21:3-4 (ESV) Abraham called the name of his son who was born to him, whom Sarah bore him, Isaac. And Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him.
God had commanded Abraham to name their son Isaac long before he was conceived. Abraham remembered and obeyed by naming him Isaac. As part of the covenant that the Lord had made with Abraham, all Abraham’s children and household were to be circumcised. Again, Abraham remembered his responsibility and had Isaac circumcised at the time God commanded. Finally, after waiting 25 years for the promise to be fulfilled, Abraham and Sarah were able to …
Genesis 21:5-6 (ESV) Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. And Sarah said, “God has made laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh over me.”
The name Isaac means laughter in Hebrew. The laughter that Sarah was experiencing was a laughter of joy and amazement. First of all at the joy of a new baby coming into the family after so long. Secondly, laughter at the impossibility of a woman of 90 and a man of 100 conceiving a child. Despite 25 years of long waiting, finally the promise had arrived in the son of promise, Isaac.
God has promises for your life, just as He did for Abraham and Sarah. The Bible is full of promises, waiting to be claimed and believed. Most of the promises in the Bible are for anyone who chooses to meet their conditions and believe God to fulfill them. As you read your Bible each day, take time to look for a promise in your Bible reading. Pray and believe God to fulfill that promise in your life. Oftentimes, I will write out the promise on a notecard or you can put it on your phone to remind yourself. Sometimes, God will give you a specific promise by speaking to you, either directly through the Spirit or indirectly through another person. Believing God’s promises are how you can grow and mature in your faith. Through God’s promises, you can believe God for greater and greater things in your life. When you are seeking God for His plan and promises …
We have seen various kinds of opposition, both from without and within, through our story of Abraham. The purpose of the opposition from Satan, is to stop you from having your promises fulfilled. Now, surprisingly, even after Isaac was born, opposition continued and had to be dealt with.
Genesis 21:9 (NIV2011) But Sarah saw that the son whom Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham was mocking,
On the day of Isaac’s weaning, his parents held a great feast. However, Ishmael did not join in on the celebration. This verse indicates the Ishmael, who as a teen at this time, was mocking Isaac. The Hebrew word for mocking is difficult to translate, as it can have very different meanings depending on the context. The word can mean laughing, mocking or even to sexually abuse.
Genesis 21:10-11 (ESV) So she said to Abraham, “Cast out this slave woman with her son, for the son of this slave woman shall not be heir with my son Isaac.” And the thing was very displeasing to Abraham on account of his son.
Again, we see marriage problems in Abraham’s household because of the presence of the second wife, Hagar and her son Ishmael. Sarah is very upset with the behavior of Ishmael towards Isaac. So, we can infer that the behavior of Ishmael was beyond just simple teasing. Sarah demanded that Hagar and Ishmael be put out of the house, so that only Isaac would be their heir. Abraham was very displeased with Sarah’s request to get rid of his son, Ishmael. It seems that Abraham had thought that the promise would be fulfilled through Ishmael and had become very fond of the boy. Abraham’s emotions were leading him to keep Hagar and Ishmael and ignore Sarah’s direction. He needed to learn to …
Genesis 21:12 (ESV) But God said to Abraham, “Be not displeased because of the boy and because of your slave woman. Whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for through Isaac shall your offspring be named.
By taking Hagar as a wife and conceiving the son Ishmael, Abraham’s household was not in God’s will and we see continued problems. In fact, Galatians 4 indicates that Ishmael persecuted or abused Isaac. So, God has to step in and instruct Abraham to do what Sarah told him to do. To put Hagar and Ishmael out of the house. The purpose was that Isaac would be the one through whom the future nation of Israel would be named. It was Isaac son Jacob whose name was changed to Israel. Once again, Abraham needed to listen and obey God’s instructions, which we contrary to what he wanted to do. Abraham was undoubtedly fond of Ishmael his son and didn’t want to send him away.
Again and again through the story of Abraham, we see God instructing Abraham to do things that he didn’t want to do. And the same is true for you and me. Our own emotions and desires are often the way that we plan our lives. However, our own plans lead us to conceiving Ishmaels. Oh, not literal children, but things that cause discord in our homes and lives because they are not part of God’s plan. We must learn to hear God speak, even when He is speaking contrary to our emotions and our own desires. Oftentimes, God will speak to us through the counsel of others, especially those in authority over us. God wants to teach us to listen to and obey when He speaks to us. To set aside our own desires and make it our aim to simply please God. Finally, God wants us to …
Abraham obeyed God again, against his own desires and expelled Hagar and Ishmael from his home. He gave them some water and bread and sent them out into the wilderness. At this point in the story, we might be led to think that Hagar and Ishmael are simply on their own and out of God’s will and protection.
Genesis 21:15-16 (ESV) When the water in the skin was gone, she put the child under one of the bushes. Then she went and sat down opposite him a good way off, about the distance of a bowshot, for she said, “Let me not look on the death of the child.” And as she sat opposite him, she lifted up her voice and wept.
The situation was dire and Hagar thought that Ishmael was dying from lack of water. So she began to weep, not knowing what else to do. Yet …
Genesis 21:17 (ESV) And God heard the voice of the boy, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Fear not, for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is.
It appears that Ishmael was crying out to God for help as well. God heard his cry and an angel spoke to Hagar. The angel told her not to fear, for God had heard their cries and was going to rescue them. We see God’s mercy, both for Hagar and Ishmael in a hopeless situation.
Genesis 21:18 (ESV) Up! Lift up the boy, and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make him into a great nation.”
The angel instructed Hagar to lift up the boy, for he was going to survive. Not only would Ishmael survive, God promised to make him into a great nation. As we read on in the passage, we see that God opened Hagar’s eyes to see a well of water. They went to the well and quenched their thirst. The Scripture goes on to say that God was with Ishmael and he grew up in the wilderness as an archer. Scripture records that Ishmael returned to help in the burial of his father Abraham. So, perhaps, Ishmael was a believer who followed God in his life. It was not until hundreds of years later that the Ishmaelites originated the false religion of Islam through Muhammad. We see God’s mercy in His care for Hagar and Ishmael.
What can we apply from this part of the story this morning? Don’t write anyone off, either yourself or someone else. Life is never hopeless, it’s never too late for God to bring hope into someone’s life. Perhaps you or someone else has missed God’s plan for your life. You know that you’re on the wrong track. However, with God, there is always a plan B, there is always a next step to get back on track with God. How does a person get back on track with God? You cry out to God in your trouble, just as Hagar and Ishmael did. God will hear your cry and come to help you as you seek Him. God is a merciful God and we must be merciful as well.
Finally, after 25 years of waiting, Abraham and Sarah receive the gift of a son. An amazing miracle from God, a child at the ages of 90 and 100 years old. Truly, with God, all things are possible, nothing is impossible. This morning, what is the need in your life? Whatever your need is, God has a promise that will meet that need. That promise is part of God’s plan for your life. The fulfillment of God’s promise will take place in His timing, not yours. Sometimes, things happen quickly, oftentimes, it takes a long time of praying, believing and waiting. Yet, this story of Abraham and Sarah’s faith should encourage you to believe God for everything that He was planned for you. Never give up on God, He won’t give up on you.