The Everlasting God of the Covenant (Genesis 21)
I. Making Good on God’s Promise (verses 1-7)
God carried out His plan for Abraham with perfect precision, just “as He had said”, “as He had promised”, and as He “had spoken to him” (vv. 1-2). God always does what He says He will do. He is not like us. He does not forget, overlook, ignore, or misunderstand. He is not sometimes willing to fulfill promises, but unable to do so. He does not run out of time, fall ill, or have a schedule conflict. God made good on His promise and Sarah gave birth to the promised child. If God began His people in the world with such an impossible feat, we can be confident that nobody and nothing will ever overthrow His plans or His people (c.f. John 6:39; 1 Cor 1:8).
II. Mocking God’s Covenant Child (verses 8-14)
Ishmael began to mock Isaac, or, as Paul expresses it in Galatians 4:29, he began to “persecute him who was born according to the Spirit.” The rift that formed between Isaac and Ishmael, between Sarah and Hagar, is a fundamental division expositing the incompatibility of the natural and the spiritual (Gal 4:29). Sinful choices often result in painful consequences, as Abraham was now experiencing. Natural affection for his son made the separation difficult. On the other hand, it also may have been possible that Abraham was holding onto a back-up plan: “What if something happens to Isaac? What if he dies?” But God does not need our back-up plan! Abraham listens to Sarah and sends off Hagar and Ishmael, but he treats them with love and compassion by providing for them on their journey. Even when we are required to separate from the world, we have the obligation to be kind to everyone (c.f. Romans 12:14).
III. Merciful Provision from God (verses 15-21)
Being cut off from God’s people also means being cut off from God’s blessing. Hagar and Ishmael, therefore, found themselves in a grievous, hopeless situation. Yet, God has pity (v. 17), He provides (v. 19), and He even reaffirms His promise (v. 18). Hagar’s eyes were closed to the provision that was in front of her, and so God opened her eyes and she saw the well of water. He did not miraculously cause a well to appear. Rather, He mercifully enabled her to see what she previously was blinded to. When we are grief-stricken, our outlook is blurred and blocked. We can fail to notice the blessings and provisions God has given us because of our obsession with all the apparent problems.
The compassion of God is continually being shown toward Creation, just as it was shown to Hagar. His common grace is over all His works. However, as remarkable as common grace is, we should put zero hope in it. Our only hope is not common grace, but saving grace, through faith in Christ. We must not believe the common lie that covenantal common grace (i.e. being a part of the community of believers) will suffice. Only Jesus can save, and He will save all who trust Him.
IV. Making an Earthly Covenant (verses 22-34)
Abimelech is drawn to Abraham because of the evident ways that God had blessed him. They deal with their conflict amicably, resulting in a covenant. Abraham “called on the name of the Lord, the Everlasting God” (v. 33, c.f. Psalm 90:1-2). God is not limited by time or place. Therefore, the promises of God are not reserved for present circumstances only, any more than they were reserved for past instances exclusively. He is able to ensure that covenant promises extend to all of Abraham’s children—past, present, and future. His promises are unchanging and true for you, because “if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:29). As Abraham sojourned, carrying on with his fleeting life on this earth, he worshiped the Everlasting God, and so must we.
- Do you have trouble taking God at His word? Are you trusting Him? In what ways does your treatment of others prove this, or your financial priorities or your schedule?
- Hagar’s outlook was blurred and blocked in her grief-stricken state, to the point that until God opened her eyes to see it, she was unable to see the well of water that was in front of her. Do you operate in Hagar mode? In your obsession and preoccupation with all the apparent problems, are you unable to see the provision and blessing that God has put before you? Ask that God would open your eyes to see the good ways in which He has provided for you.
- God is the Everlasting God. How does the eternal and unchanging existence of God affect your view of His promises? How does it affect your worship or your confidence in Him?
- Only those who are truly descendants of Abraham, heirs according to the promise, receive the promised blessing of God. Only those who are trusting in Christ are truly descendants of Abraham. Are you trusting in Christ alone for salvation?