• Rev. Mark Tews

God's Promise of Grace

“God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, ‘What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation.’” (Genesis 21:17–18).

Adam didn’t do what God had commanded; “You must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” (Genesis 2:17). But Adam couldn’t help himself, and his disobedience brought sin into the world. His body was created in perfection and he wasn’t meant to die, but with sin came a curse that caused his flesh to begin to rot. He passed that curse down to all of his descendants. But God had a plan to redeem us all from death and sin; He would send His Son, Jesus Christ, to die and rise again for us so that the curse would be removed.

God called a man named Abraham to follow Him to the land of Canaan where He would give him and his wife, Sarah, a son. Jesus would eventually be born through Abraham’s line. But Abraham got impatient and rather than wait on God, he had a son with Hagar, Sarah’s servant. Eventually the Lord visited Sarah as He had promised. Sarah later conceived and bore Abraham a son in their old age. God’s promise was in God’s time; Abraham couldn’t rush it. Everything happened as God had planned and promised. God had a good reason for making them wait. The son of the promise had to be born under miraculous circumstances. It was no miracle when Hagar got pregnant, but for the 90-year-old Sarah to have a child was something very special indeed.

Abraham threw a great feast when Isaac was weaned. Sarah saw the son of Hagar and Abraham, Ishmael, mocking Isaac. So, she said to Abraham, “Get rid of that slave woman and her son.” (Genesis 21:10a). We are not told how or why he was mocking, but it probably had something to with the inheritance because Sarah said, “That woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.” (Genesis 21:10b). Whatever the reason for Ishmael’s mocking, we know that Paul called it “persecution” (Galatians 4:29). Paul said that the persecution the early church faced was the same as the persecution Isaac faced from Ishmael. So, it seems that Ishmael hated and despised Isaac for his blessing from God. Hagar wasn’t just an innocent bystander in all of this. When Ishmael was conceived, Hagar began to despise Sarah (Genesis 16:4). Hagar knew that Isaac would get the first half of the inheritance, and she was jealous. But Sarah was not having it, and told Abraham to “Cast them out.” It would seem Sarah was being harsh, but it was in accordance with the Will of God. Paul tells us that Hagar and Ishmael were an allegory of those born of the flesh and that Sarah and Isaac were an allegory for those born of the promise (Galatians 4:22–31).

So, Hagar and Ishmael were put out of the house and wandered around in the desert. When the water ran out, Ishmael got too weak to carry on, so his mother put him under a bush and went away so she didn’t have to watch him die. God heard Ishmael crying and the angel of God called to Hagar out of Heaven and said to her, “What is the matter, Hagar?” God wasn’t asking because He didn’t know what was wrong. He was asking because of what He said next: “’Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying. Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation.’” (Genesis 21:17–18).

In this story, we see how God’s promise of grace to redeem people from the curse of death holds true, even when they have sinned against the Lord. Adam, Abraham, Hagar, and Ishmael didn’t need to fear, for the promise of redemption remained and remains still today. Waiting on God is often difficult, but He always proves to be faithful. Abraham had a tough time while he waited, but God came through. Think of some of the promises He’s given us. We’ll be conformed to Christ’s image, we’ll be raised from the dead, and we’ll go to be with Him for the rest of eternity in heaven! We’ve all been waiting for these things to happen, and we’ll have to keep waiting until His time is right.

There is no need to wait in fear when we can wait in faith. In the waiting, we will struggle with sin and doubt if we take our eyes off God’s promise. But if we look at our lives the same way God does, then we see that everything is already finished. I know it sounds simplistic, and it is kind of the “Sunday School answer,” but you need to devote yourself to the things of God. Study His promises that are written in His word, cast your burdens onto Him in prayer, and wait for Him to answer. The wait may still be long and end with physical death, yet God’s Word tells us: “The wicked is overthrown through his evildoing, but the righteous finds refuge in his death.” (Proverbs 14:32).

Why was Adam permitted to fall? Why was Abraham called? Why did he have to wait so long for a son? Why was Ishmael cast out, saved, and raised into a great nation? Why does hell exist? Everything God does is for His glory. In everything He does, He’s glorified whether it be through His love and mercy, or through His strength and might, or through His justice and holiness. Everything has been planned and everything glorifies God. FEAR NOT! Trust in the Lord!