Wondering While Wandering
“I did not want to go to prayer service that evening; I wanted to stay home and make a dish of candied fruit from a new recipe. But the recipe called for three oranges, and I had none.
Reluctantly, I decided to go to church, thinking that if I got the oranges that night, I could make the dish first thing in the morning. As I drove through the city to church, I stopped at every corner store along the way, looking for oranges. Unfortunately, all the stores I passed were out. I arrived at church feeling disappointed but determined to keep my mind on the service until the end.
As I was leaving, a teenaged boy asked for a ride home, and I agreed to take him. When we pulled into the public housing project where he lived, my headlights landed on a loaded pick-up truck. As we drew in closer I shrieked, ‘Oranges!’ There, spotlighted by a street lamp, stood a truckload of oranges, boxes and boxes of large, beautiful oranges.
‘Where is the driver?’ I asked aloud.
‘Here he comes now!’ replied the teenager. Reaching hurriedly in my purse and finding one dollar, I gave it to the teen and told him to ask the man if I could buy three oranges. He jumped out as I craned my head out the window trying to see around the truck. I was still holding my breath when the boy came around the truck with as many oranges in his arms as he could carry.
‘He didn't have any bags!’ called the boy.
Awed and overjoyed, I took the fruit, returning several to the grateful teen. That night, I made my candied fruit, knowing I had put God first, and he had met my needs.”
Source: Margaret D. Pagan, Baltimore, Maryland.
Moving from Florida
We were living in Florida at the time
We were expecting our first child and we decided to live off my income only and save Judy’s income
We knew that after the school year was over and our baby was born, that we were going to be moving back to Ohio from Florida
The savings we accumulated was just what we needed to survive until I started serving with Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF)
It took us a little bit of time to raise our personal finances with CEF
God provided for us while we were wandering
Moving from California
He did the same thing when we moved from California
We put everything in storage and started back across the country not knowing that we would finally settle down in Pennsylvania
We spent time with Judy’s parents in Florida and my parent’s in Alabama
We even spent time with Judy’s grandma in Ohio
Eventually, God called us to serve Idaville UB Church in Pennsylvania
God had provided the income we needed while we wandered across the country and He provided places for us to stay
We knew that He was with us while we were wondering what the next step would be
Wondering while we wander
Perhaps each person here today understands what it’s like to wonder while we wander
My guess is that we have all seen God provide during a transition
Maybe He prepared us ahead of time or provided throughout the transition
The great thing is that He was with us the whole time
Family tensions came to head at a feast Abraham had held in Isaac’s honor. The result caused Hagar and Ishmael to wander through the desert with minimal supplies. God was with them through their wanderings and He provided for them as they wondered what was going to happen to them. Through this important narrative today, we will learn that . . .
BIG IDEA – God is with us even in our wanderings.
GOD (Genesis 21:8-21)
Deride (vv. 8-10)
Approximately three years have passed from verse 7 to verse 8
“In traditional societies mothers nurse children for longer than is customary in the West; in 2 Macc. 7:27 a mother refers to having nursed her son for three years.” [Goldingay, Baker Commentary on the Old Testament, Pentateuch, Genesis, 331]
Hannah waited until Samuel was weaned before taking him to the temple to serve for the rest of his life (1 Sam. 1:22-24)
Gomer waited until Lo-Ruhamah was weaned before having another son with Hosea (Hosea 1:8)
We are not told if Abraham held a great feast for Ishmael when he was weaned
In the ancient Near East, it was something to celebrate when a child made it to the age of three, because the infant mortality rate was so high
We see here that Abraham prepares a great feast to celebrate Isaac turning three and moving on from milk to solid food
Even though Sarah was no longer barren, it appears as though there was still tension between her and Hagar
Goldingay highlights the fact that family gatherings have the ability to bring to the surface underlying issues that are not resolved, but are festering [Goldingay, 331]
How many of us can relate to that reality?
Perhaps yesterday brought some things to light
Maybe there was tension during the family Christmas gathering
Some of us were probably not looking forward to getting together with our family
Can I encourage you, today, to forgive your family members, whether or not they ask for forgiveness?
Just tell the Lord, right now, that you forgive them
Don’t end 2021 and begin 2022 with a rift behind you and another family member
Isaac has been weaned and the family is having a party for him, but Sarah is worried
Sarah was acutely aware that Ishmael was actually Abraham’s first-born son
Because of the miraculous nature of Isaac’s birth, Sarah is probably guessing that she will not have any more children
Imagine how protective she probably was of Isaac
She was not going to let anything happen to him, physically
She would not tolerate others mistreating him verbally
I know how protective I am of my own children, as most parents are
During the celebration for Isaac, Sarah noticed that Ishmael was mocking Isaac
The Hebrew root word for mocking means “to laugh” [Waltke, Genesis, A Commentary, 294]
Some people believe that Ishmael was just laughing together with Isaac – playful laughing
But, it would seem that Sarah would not react the way she does, if they were simply playing together
The Apostle Paul perhaps helps us to understand the seriousness of what Ishmael is doing
Galatians 4:29, At that time the son born in the ordinary way persecuted the son born by the power of the Spirit.
In the Piel form of the verb it means to laugh in bad taste, with the intent to verbally harm
Perhaps Ishmael is using Isaac’s name in a way that is making others laugh at him or to ridicule him
“Isaac, the object of holy laughter, was made the butt of unholy wit or profane sport. He [Ishmael] did not laugh, but he made fun. The little helpless Isaac a father of nations! Unbelief, envy, pride of carnal superiority, were the causes of his conduct. Because he did not understand the sentiment, ‘Is anything too wonderful for the Lord?’ it seemed to him absurd to link so great a thing to one so small” (Hengstenberg).” [Keil & Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, Volume 1, The Pentateuch, 156]
As a protective mother and the first wife of Abraham, Sarah will not stand for this
She demands that Abraham get rid of that slave woman and her son
Sarah’s demand is not a friendly request
“Her entreaty is strongly worded: “get rid” (gārēš) describes the evictions of Adam (3:24) and Cain (4:14), the removal of Moses by Pharaoh (Exod 10:11), and the dispossession of Canaan’s population (e.g. Exod 23:29-30; Josh 24:18).” [Mathews, The New American Commentary, Volume 1B, Genesis 11:27-50:26, 269]
This verb in the Piel form means to “throw out, drive out, get rid of”
The same verb in the Qal form means “divorce” [Goldingay, 332]
Sarah does not want anyone to be in competition for Abraham’s inheritance
She wants Isaac to be the only heir
“According to the legal practices of that time, she [Sarah] had no genuine cause for worry. The Nuzi documents . . . imply that just as the inheritance rights of a son born to a man and his servant girl take precedence over the rights of an adopted son, so also do the inheritance rights of a son born to a man and his wife take precedence over those of a servant girl’s son. To summarize the matter in the context of Abraham’s family, just as Ishmael’s rights superseded those of Eliezer, so also Isaac’s rights would supersede those of Ishmael (Youngblood, 181).” [Gangel & Bramer, Holman Old Testament Commentary, Genesis, 184]
The demand from Sarah, concerning Hagar and Ishmael, is distressing for Abraham
Distress (vv. 11-13)
Abraham is emotionally attached to Ishmael – how can he not be, since Ishmael was his only child for around 11-12 years
Sarah is demanding that Abraham cut all ties with Hagar and Ishmael
There is a high probability that Abraham will never see Ishmael again
The Hebrew word can also be translated as “displeased, very wrong, grievous”
“The word translated ‘grievous’ means ‘to shake violently,’ like curtains blowing in the wind.” [Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, Pentateuch, 102]
Abraham is physically upset
But the Lord comforts him in his distress
God tells him not to be distressed about Hagar and Ishmael
He tells Abraham to listen to what Sarah is telling him
Perhaps Abraham is struggling to understand why the covenant cannot come through Ishmael
The Lord again reaffirms the fact that Abraham’s offspring will be reckoned through Isaac
PRINCIPLE #1 – God is sovereign!
“God has determined that Isaac is the one through whom fulfillment will come, through whom Abraham’s offspring will be ‘named’: his genealogical line is the one that will count.” [Goldingay, 333]
“Ishmael will not share in the inheritance with Isaac, but that is not because of Sarah’s pettiness, or jealousy, or skullduggery. It is because God has decreed that Abraham’s line of promise will be continued through Isaac. Here is an instance of God using the wrath of a human being to accomplish his purposes.” [Hamilton, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 18-50, 81]
God in his sovereignty chose several second-born children to fulfill his purposes and continue the line to Jesus
The Lord accepted Abel’s sacrifice over Cain’s
The Lord chose Jacob over Esau (Gen 27:27-29)
The Lord chose Ephraim over Manasseh (Gen 48:14)
Even when we do not understand God’s plans, we can trust in His sovereignty to accomplish His purposes
PRINCIPLE #2 – “The Lord has a word for us even in our severest dilemmas.” [Baldwin]
The Lord can speak to us in various ways
Through His Word
Through a sermon
Through other believers
Even through unbelievers
He can speak to us through difficult circumstances, which is what Abraham experienced
Abraham had to be attentive to what the Lord was saying
Perhaps someone here today is going through a difficult situation
Is the Lord speaking to you through someone else?
What He is saying may not be what you want to hear, but God is sovereign
It may cause you to shake violently when you think about what has to be done
Are you willing to be obedient to what the Lord is saying?
#1 – My Next Step Today Is To: Listen to the voice of the Lord in the middle of the difficult situation I am experiencing.
As we will see in just a moment, Abraham obeyed the Lord
The Lord not only told Abraham to listen to Sarah, He also reaffirmed His promise concerning Ishmael
The Lord promises to make Ishmael into a nation also
The reason the Lord gives, is because Ishmael is Abraham’s offspring
This again goes back to the promises the Lord gave to Abraham in Genesis 12:2-3, “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
PRINCIPLE #3 – God keeps His promises!
We know that the Arab nations came from Ishmael’s line
God fulfilled His promise to Abraham that Ishmael would also become a nation of people
The Lord comforted Abraham in the difficult task that lay before him
Abraham was obedient as he accomplishes the task early the next morning
PRINCIPLE #4 – God is pleased when we obey Him.
We fleshed this principle out last week, so we will not spend additional time on it this week
It is still an important principle for us to embrace
Drift (vv. 14-21)
Sent (v. 14)
Abraham gives Hagar food and water
He does not give her cattle and flocks
He does not give her servants
“In the Lipit-Ishhtar law code (ca. 1875 B.C.), a clause stipulates that if a slave bears children and the father then grants freedom to her and her children, ‘the children of the slave shall not divide the estate with the children of their (former) master.’” [Waltke, 294]
This is in keeping with the fact that Sarah states that Ishmael will not share in Isaac’s inheritance
Abraham gives her the amount of food and water she is able to carry on her own
The skin would have held approximately 3 gallons of water (24 pounds) [Waltke, 295]
We’re not told how much food she is carrying
After supplying her with food and water, Abraham sends her off with Ishmael
The Hebrew word for “sent her off” in the Piel form is “another term that can mean divorce.” [Goldingay, 333]
Abraham is making a clean break with Hagar and Ishmael
He is setting them free
At this point, Abraham has to trust the Lord to provide for Hagar and Ishmael
Abraham’s hope and faith are based on the promise that the Lord had given him that Ishmael would also be a nation
Abraham could trust in the promise of God, that his son would not die, while wandering in the desert
Hagar wanders in the desert of Beersheba
[Show map of the desert of Beersheba]
The fact that they are wandering is evidence that she and Ishmael are all alone and do not have a place to live [Mathews, 273]
They are probably moving from place to place, but have not found a permanent location to call home
Imagine being given just enough food and water to carry and then being sent away
Everything we have ever known, and the security of a family unit are all gone
We have to start all over again
The emotions we would be having would be devastating
That is exactly what Hagar and Ishmael were experiencing
Sad (vv. 15-18)
“In such wilderness, when your water is finished (v. 15), you are finished, and so is your child.” [Goldingay, 334]
Hagar recognizes that fact, which is why she does what she does with Ishmael
Perhaps dehydration has sapped the boy of his strength and ability to walk – he is dying!
Hagar cannot bear to listen to Ishmael’s cries of suffering
She separates herself from him after putting him under a desert bush for shade
A bowshot is approximately a half a mile [Goldingay, 334]
At this distance, she would not be able to hear Ishmael’s cries, but she could probably still see him
If she could provide food and water for him, she would
Hagar’s sobbing is without hope
She is thinking that she and Ishmael are going to die
She has forgotten that God was with her in the wilderness 16 years before
He had appeared to her by the spring that is beside the road to Shur (Gen. 16:7-9)
God was going to be with her again
God is with us even in our wanderings.
When we don’t know what to do or where to turn, God is with us
When we feel like we are wandering through life’s desert, God is still with us
He will take care of us and provide for us
We can have hope in His presence with us
He promises to never leave us or forsake, so we can say with confidence that the Lord is our helper (Heb. 13:5-6)
It appears as though Hagar’s sobbing is simply that – she is feeling sorry for herself and for Ishmael and just sits down and begins to cry
God hears and responds
God heard Ishmael crying
Perhaps Ishmael was crying out to God asking Him for help
As God hears Ishmael’s cries, He responds to Hagar
He speaks to her from heaven
First, He asks her what is wrong
Then He encourages her not to be afraid – He has a plan to save them
Hagar has to return to where she left Ishmael and help him to stand
Finally, God reveals that He will make Ishmael into a great nation
They are not going to die, but rather thrive, by God’s grace
PRINCIPLE #5 – God is concerned about the outcasts.
There are all kinds of outcasts
Those who have been alienated from their immediate family
Those who have been alienated from their extended family
Men and women who have experienced divorce or separation
Husband and wives who have lost their spouse to death
Children who have lost their parent(s) to death
Individuals who have been alienated from a friend group, because of either negative or positive life changes
I want you to know, today, that God is concerned about you!
He hears your cries for help
He knows you are feeling hopeless, anxious, depressed, and like there is nothing to live for
He is ready to send someone to help you stand – to support you through this difficult time
He is ready to save you
#2 – My Next Step Today Is To: Find hope in the truth that God is concerned about my situation and me.
The Lord encouraged Hagar in her seemingly hopeless situation and He provided a way of salvation
Saved (vv. 19-21)
There the whole time
God opened Hagar’s eyes and she saw a well of water
She was able to refill the skin and give Ishmael a drink
It is amazing that the solution to Hagar and Ishmael’s plight was there the whole time – they were just blind to it
How often is that true of us, as well
The solution to our problem, to our situation is already at hand, but we cannot see it
This happens because we are so consumed with the problem
When we step back and turn to the Lord for help, He gives us a new perspective on the situation
We can see clearly what we need to do and how to handle the situation
PRINCIPLE #6 – God provides for us.
I do not know about you, but I’m always blessed when God provides the solution to my problems
Our problems are not a surprise to God, because He is all-knowing
He already has a plan prepared to help with and provide just what we need
We just need to turn to Him and trust Him
#3 – My Next Step Today Is To: Turn to the Lord and trust Him to provide for me.
My guess is that the cool drink of water helped to revive Ishmael and Hagar
Finally, we see the quick progression of Ishmael’s life from teenager to adult
God is with us
God was with Ishmael as he grew up
This fulfilled the promise God had made to Abraham and Hagar concerning their son
He lived in the desert and became an archer
His mother obtained an Egyptian wife for him while he was living in the Desert of Paran [show map]
God was with Ishmael in his wanderings – it appears as though he never stopped wandering in the desert
God is with us even in our wanderings.
Do you need to listen to the voice of the Lord in the middle of your difficult situation?
Find hope in the truth that God is concerned about you!
Are you ready to turn to the Lord and trust Him to provide for you?
As a body of believers, we experience difficulties too that require us to listen to the voice of the Lord, find hope in the truth that He is concerned about us, and trust Him to provide for us
“David Jeremiah wrote a book entitled A Bend in the Road (Word, 2000) that details his struggle with cancer that began in September 1994, when he was diagnosed with lymphoma. He describes the dark days of ‘life’s disruptions’ and reminds us that as the Israelites traveled long distances from their homes to Jerusalem to worship and celebrate the great feasts, they often sang to express their joy and faith in God.
We don’t see Abraham singing at any point in Scripture, but he certainly set the foundation for people of faith who want to handle life’s disruptions and struggles with spiritual courage. Abraham exemplified Jeremiah’s emphasis on how to handle the burdens of life, including the conflict with Abimelech and the agony of sending Hagar and Ishmael into the desert. Jeremiah says, ‘When the enemy closes in, we’ll never defeat him using his own weapons. Instead, we load the weapons of our lips, our tongues, our hands, our wills … with the most powerful gun powder that has ever been discharged on earth—worship and praise’ (Jeremiah, 126).
Jeremiah survived the first physical struggle, but his cancer reappeared in the fall of 1998. During this time he found great comfort in the Book of Psalms: ‘Whenever I have suffered, the psalms have provided my medicine; when I have been wounded, they have bandaged me and have pointed me toward healing … I’ve drunk deeply of them, bathed in them, and let them wash over me until I’ve felt the dust of the world cleansed away by the hope and peace of God’s presence in the music of the psalms’ (Jeremiah, 141).”
[Gangel & Bramer, 189]