TEXT: Genesis 21:1-34 (KJV)
God called Abraham for the purpose of being a channel of blessing to the whole world. In the call, He promised that “in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed” (Genesis 12:3). God planned to raise through Abraham, a nation that would know and keep His ways. From his family would come forth a chosen people through whom Jesus Christ, the promised Seed of the woman would emerge (Genesis 3:15; Galatians 3:8, 16,18).
To fulfil God’s promise, Abraham needed to have a son. But Sarah, his wife, was barren for more than twenty years. At a point, Abraham seemed to have lost hope about the fulfilment of the promise. “And Abram said, Behold, to me thou hast given no seed: and, 10, one born in my house is mine heir” (Genesis 15:3). He was in doubt whether the seed God had promised should be a son of his loins or a son in his house. But the Lord cleared his doubt and assured him that the heir to his house would come (Genesis 15:4). In spite of this assurance, Abraham accepted Sarah’s suggestion to take Hagar, their Egyptian handmaid, and go in to her (Genesis 16:1-3).
Abraham fell into the temptation and its consequences still remain with us today. It takes a resolute faith and strong conviction to know when a suggestion is from an enemy and to reject it. Children of God should be wary of ungodly counsels, pressures from parents or friends and stand resolutely with the word of God. They should wait patiently for the Lord to fulfil the promises He has made to them. The text under consideration shows that, no matter how long it takes for God to fulfil His promise, in due time, it will come. “For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself, And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise” (Hebrews 6: 13, 15). God’s promises are true and reliable, regardless of any opposing circumstances.
BIRTH OF ISAAC IN FULFILMENT OF GOD’S PROMISE (Genesis 21:1-8; 17:17; 18:10-14; Romans 4:19-21; 2 Corinthians 1:20; Luke 1:37)
Isaac was the promised heir born to Abraham and Sarah when they were very old in fulfilment of God’s promise. Abraham was 100 years old while Sarah was 90 years. “And the LORD visited Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did unto Sarah as he had spoken” (Genesis 21:1). Once God has promised, He will surely fulfil it, no matter the delay. It is often said that “God’s delays are His appointments”. Therefore, believers should see delays in getting married, childbearing, securing a dream employment, financial breakthrough and healing, among others, as stepping stones to wonderful testimonies that would bring glory to God. Abraham named his child whom Sarah bore to him Isaac, meaning laughter because “…God hath made me to laugh, so that all that hear will laugh with me” (Genesis 21:6), said Sarah. Though the couple had laughed as a result of doubt, God, at last had turned their laughter of doubt to joy (Psalm 126:1-3; Job 8:20,21). Christians should always rest upon God’s promises and not be swayed by contrary opinions of men.
The New Testament made reference to the faith of Abraham, who “…being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah’s womb: He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform” (Romans 4:19-21). In line with his covenant with God, Abraham circumcised Isaac on the eighth day. Flesh circumcision was a token of the Abrahamic covenant. No matter how difficult and painful to the flesh, believers should learn to obey God.
THE BONDWOMAN AND HER SON SENT AWAY (Genesis 21:9-21; 25:1-3,5,6; Galatians 4:22,23,25,28-30; Mark 12:6-9)
Ishmael, Abraham’s first son through Hagar, was fourteen years older than Isaac (Genesis 16: 16) and the only heir apparent until Isaac came. After Isaac was weaned, probably at age three according to Jewish culture, “…Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, which she had born unto Abraham, mocking. Wherefore she said unto Abraham, Cast out this bondwoman and her son: for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, even with Isaac” (Genesis 21:9, 10). Sarah’s stance at this time must not be mistaken for the cruel jealousy of a woman who did not want a rival. The point is, Ishmael was persecuting Isaac, the child of promise; and that amounted to an opposition to the covenant God made with Abraharn. The New Testarnent sheds light on this in Galatians 4:22-30. “And the thing was very grievous in Abraham’s sight because of his son.
And God said unto Abraham, Let it not be grievous in thy sight because of the lad; and because of thy bondwoman; in all that Sarah hath said unto thee, hearken unto her voice; for in Isaac shall thy seed be called” (Genesis 21:11, 12). God sanctioned Sarah’s demand to send Hagar and her son away, though it was grievous in Abraham’s sight. Ishmael was sent away in order to fulfil the promise God made concerning Isaac: “…for in Isaac shall thy seed be called” (Genesis 21:12). Abraham obeyed the Lord speedily and sent them away with provisions for their journey, as much as they would need, until they reached the next well or oasis. Believers should learn from Abraham’s attitude of prompt obedience to God’s command (Genesis 21:14; 22:3). As Hagar and Ishmael travelled, the water they took got exhausted, Ishmael fainted under the hot desert sun and Hagar abandoned him in despair. But “God heard the voice of the lad; and the angel of God called to Hagar out of heaven, and said unto her, What aileth thee, Hagar? fear not; for God hath heard the voice of the lad where he is” (Genesis 21:17). The Lord is benevolent towards all the inhabitants on the face of the earth. Despite the fact that Ishmael was born outside the divine covenant God made with Abraham, He still took care of him. This shows that God cares for all His creatures on earth, especially man that was created in His image.
Moreover, He is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). Christ died for the whole world; and all that come to God through Him will be saved. Hagar was ignorant of God’s care and concern for her and the young lad. While she despaired and hoped that they would both die of hunger and thirst, “God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water; and she went, and filled the bottle with water, and gave the lad drink’ (Genesis 21:19). The Lord was with them and protected them from all dangers in the wilderness. There is always solution to man’s problem no matter the condition and situation we find ourselves.
BEERSHEBA COVENANT BETWEEN ABRAHAM AND ABIMELECH (Genesis 21:22-34; Psalm 86: 17; Hebrews 12:14; Matthew 18:15)
“And it came to pass at that time, that Abimelech and Phichol the chief captain of his host spake unto Abraham, saying, God is with thee in all that thou doest” (Genesis 21:22). Abraham’s favoured disposition is traceable to his decision to forsake the idols of his fathers and cleave to the God of heaven whom he had served with deep devotion. The testimony of Abimelech and Phichol is a confirmation of God’s promise to protect preserve and defend him wherever he went. “And I bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed” (Genesis 12:3). It is no wonder that even the heathen perceived the divine presence with him. There are important lessons from the covenant between Abimelech and Abraham.
One, it was a reflection of God’s favour. God sometimes shows His people tokens for good that their neighbours cannot but take notice of (Psalm 86:17). Two, it is good to be in favour with those that are in favour with God. “…We will go with you, for we have heard that God is with you” (Zechariah 8:23). We do well for ourselves if we have fellowship with those that have fellowship with God. Abraham and Abimelech proposed that there should be a firm and constant friendship between the two families, which should not be violated. This bond of friendship must be strengthened by the bond of an oath, in which God was appealed to, both as a witness of their sincerity and an avenger in case either side were treacherous (Genesis 21:23). Three, Abimelech requested that the covenant should extend to his people and posterity. Good men should secure alliance and communion with the favourites of heaven, not for themselves only.
Abraham was ready to enter into a covenant with Abimelech after finding him to be a man of honour, good conscience and one who fears God (Genesis 21:24). It is however necessary to note that New Testament believers are to be careful of going into covenant relationships with others to avoid unequal yoke. Abraham prudently settled the matter concerning the well about which Abimelech’s servants had quarrelled with him (Genesis 21:25). What an instructive lesson to believers that when our brother trespasses against us, we should settle the rift with meekness of wisdom (Matthew 18:15). Abraham accepted Abimelech’s exoneration of himself in this matter: “…1 wot not who hath done this thing” (Genesis 21:26). Many are wrongly suspected of injustice and unkindness who were innocent of the act, and we ought to accept when they clear themselves.
The faults of servants should not be imputed to their masters unless they know and justify them. Satan-motivated misunderstanding among brethren can be settled with love and humility. When a similar event happened between Abraham and Lot his brother, he settled it with maturity devoid of covetousness (Genesis 13:7-9). The strife that would have probably ended in battle against each other turned to a covenant relationship that brought joy to their generations. God calls us to “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14).
Abraham took care to have his title to the well cleared and confirmed to prevent any disputes or quarrels in the future. He presented to Abimelech that which was valuable and useful — sheep and oxen — in gratitude for his kindness and hospitality as a token of a hearty friendship (Genesis 21:27). Eventually, they ratified the covenant by an oath and registered it by giving a new name to the place — Beersheba, the well of the oath — in remembrance of the covenant (Genesis 21 :31). Believers should always remember that they are in covenant relationship with God. Being conscious of this, they should live soberly, righteously and godly in this present world.