“I promise”. Those are words we have all said. A promise is a declaration, a statement, or an agreement to do or not do something in the future. A contract is a promise to pay or do something in the future. We sign agreements promising to pay for the car we are driving. Parents make promises to their kids. Couples who get married, make promises to one another by the vows they take. Politicians make all kinds of “promises”…promises to improve the economy or, the most famous, to not raise taxes.
Most of us make promises with good intentions. We intend to fulfill the declaration we make to others. But things happen…Jobs are lost, people lose their health, circumstances change, and they are unable what they fully intended to do.
Chapter 21 is all about promises. There are three stories found in this chapter. The birth of Isaac, the separation of Hagar and Ishmael, and the covenant between Abraham and Abimelech. All of these go back to the promise that God made to Abraham in Genesis 12. God made a promise with these words…”I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
Verse 1 says that “the Lord visited Sarah as He had said and the Lord DID for Sarah as He had spoken”. God kept His Word. Abraham was 100 years old, Sarah was 90, when Isaac was born. It had been a lifetime of sadness caused by her barrenness, the ache of watching other women with children, hope in the promise made by God to her husband, that turned into resignation as the years passed. Yet now, Sarah holds Isaac and she can’t believe it. Listen to her words…”God has made me laugh and all who hear will laugh with me. Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children! How many times she must have laughed and said…”I can’t believe it!
Verse 8 tells another story. Now that Isaac is here, Sarah’s attitude toward Hagar and Ishmael changes. The tension that had existed between the two women comes to a head when Sarah sees Ishmael “scoffing”, or making fun of Isaac. She demands that Abraham get rid of Hagar and Ishmael. Her demands are met, but God tells Abraham that He will make of Ishmael a great nation because he is the son of Abraham. The twelve sons of Ishmael and their descendants settle in the Arabian peninsula and become known as the Arabs of Saudi Arabia.
The last part of the chapter is about the agreement that is made between Abraham and the king of Gerar. We were introduced to Abimelech in Genesis 20 when Abraham and Sarah were protected by Abimelech’s fear of God. The agreement is much more than a promise to not harm one another. The real issue is water rights. There had been an ongoing disagreement over which water wells belonged to who. In later chapters we will see Abimelech’s servants violating the agreement by forcibly taking water wells that Isaac’s servants have dug. Broken promises. It’s something that men do to one another. BUT NOT GOD! GOD KEEPS HIS PROMISES! God kept His promise to Abraham and Sarah. He kept his promise to Hagar and Ishmael. He keeps His promises to us today.
What promises am I talking about? The Bible is where you find God’s promises. There’s His promise that if we confess and forsake our sins, He will forgive us. What about His promise to supply our physical needs, or the promise that He will NEVER leave us or forsake us. What about Jesus’ promise of a Comforter who would abide with us forever. Then, there is the promise of eternal life that Jesus made when he said “I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. Take some time to discover all that God has promised.
Here’s one last thought that came to me as I read this chapter.
GOD’S PROMISES DON’T DEPEND ON US.
Abraham and Sarah were too old to have kids. God’s promise was fulfilled anyway. In the story of Hagar, the relationship between Sarah and her servant was broken after Isaac was born. Hagar and Ishmael were forced to leave and wander in the desert. But God’s promise to Hagar didn’t depend on human relationships. Because God promised it, God fulfilled it. God’s Promise to Abraham, outlived him. Long after Abraham died, God was still keeping His promise. Long after we are gone, God will still be keeping His promises. Why don’t you take a minute to thank God for His promises and that He is faithful to always keep them.