Whose Side Is God On?
My Lord and God, You are gracious, steadfast, reliable, and long-suffering. I bless Your name and bow in worship.
Read Genesis 21:1-21
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. All rights reserved throughout the world. Used by permission of International Bible Society.
“The Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust” (Psa. 103:13,14). Does this give you a sense of relief?
Jealousy is a powerful and dangerous emotion. There is an appropriate jealousy, which honors and protects the ones we love, and God himself is described as a “jealous God” (Exod. 20:5). Jealousy that centers on our own pride, however, too often leads to sinful actions, as we see in the jealousies of Ishmael and Sarah in this story. Isaac was about three and had survived the early health hazards for a baby, so his parents celebrate with a weaning feast (8). Ishmael, well into his adolescence, is realizing how thoroughly this toddler has supplanted him. His mocking (9) is another pun on Isaac’s name. His behavior sparked a red alert in Sarah. Ishmael would have to go (10).
No doubt she was afraid Ishmael was a threat to Isaac’s life. She may have seen the effects of rivalry in those royal harems. Even today most murders take place between family members. In Genesis, both Jacob and Joseph narrowly escape murder by their brothers; in each instance the roots of jealousy lie in the behavior of their parents. Sarah’s failure to conquer her bitter feelings towards Hagar has won her no friend in Ishmael (Gen. 16:6). The instant dismissal of Hagar and Ishmael seems harsh. With no escort, they take only the rations they can carry. Perhaps there was a way between oases they were supposed to follow, but once they lost it, Ishmael’s dehydration quickly spiraled towards death.
Whose side was God on? Surprisingly, both the people who have been behaving jealously are affirmed by God and given a new start. He supports Sarah in her demands, and her rivals leave (12). Ishmael discovers that his name, “God hears” is true, as God guides them to a well (17-19). He learns to make a life in the desert.
Think about situations in family, church or home that are being marred by rivalry or jealousy; pray for a new beginning for all those concerned.
Merciful God, keep me from leading a double life, publicly presenting one thing but privately living another. Correct anything greedy and fearful; make me sincere at all times.
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