A Promise Fulfilled

By Teena Myers

Observations as I follow God through the Chronological Bible

Genesis 21[1]

Twenty-five years after Abraham arrived in Canaan, his barren wife Sarah gave birth to a son. Sarah credited God for her joy and then asked a ridiculous question. “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? How quickly Sarah forgot. God said to Abraham that Sarah would give birth to a child more than once. Every time he said it, they laughed in disbelief.

Now that Sarah had given birth to a son, she no longer needed Ishmael. When she saw 17-year-old Ishmael mocking his 3-year-old brother, Sarah demanded her husband to send away the slave and her son. To Sarah, Ishmael was a means to an end that God rejected.

After God agreed with Sarah’s demand “to send away the salve woman and her son”, he told Hagar a second time he would make right the wrongs done to her and Ishmael. Ishmael would become a great nation too, but not the nation that produces “the seed” God made his promises to. Abraham included Ishmael in those promises when Abraham circumcised him as a sign of God’s covenant. The intent of the sign was the inclusiveness of God’s plan, but the sign did not save them.

If Ishmael had understood what lay ahead for the sons of Isaac, there might not be so much hatred toward Israel today. Ishmael’s descendants lived in their homeland for centuries multiplying into a great nation that far outnumbers the nation of Israel. Both Isaac and his sons lived as foreigners with no land to call their own for 400 years. They became a nation doomed to fail before they possessed one inch of the Promised Land. After 300 years of being ruled by mostly corrupt kings who did not obey God, they became foreigners again with no place to call their own. Then millions of them were slaughtered by the Nazis. Survivors returned to the Promised Land where the surrounding nations hated them and would gladly slaughter all of them. When will Ishmael understand God has never shown unwarranted favoritism to Isaac and his descendants?

The Apostle Paul compared Hagar and Sarah to the covenant of grace and the covenant of law to dispel the belief that circumcision can save them.[2] Both the child of the free woman who represents grace, Isaac, and the child of the slave who represents law, Ishmael, were circumcised. Paul called circumcision a yoke of slavery. “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.”[3]


[1] All scripture quotes are from the NIV Bible unless otherwise noted.

[2] Galatians Chapter 4-5

[3] Galatians 5:6

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