Scripture Reference: Genesis 21:1-21
Getting Ahead of God
And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and took bread, and a bottle of water, and gave it unto Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, and the child, and sent her away: and she departed, and wandered in the wilderness of Beer-sheba.
It is sometimes disconcerting to board an airplane at the scheduled departure time and then have to endure a lengthy wait on the runway before being cleared for takeoff. Not only do you miss your appointments in a distant city, but you begin to wonder if the marvels of our space-age technology are so marvelous. Yet just as bad as an unscheduled delay would be an unscheduled hastening of the takeoff. You can imagine the turmoil if a flight scheduled for 2:00 o'clock departure left at 1:30. Getting ahead of what is designed can be just as devastating as falling behind.
Abraham was a great man of faith, a friend of God. When God called him to leave his homeland and go to an unknown destination, Abraham immediately obeyed. Later the Lord promised Abraham that his seed would be as numberless as the dust the earth. But Abraham remained childless. His only heir was Eliezer of Damascus, whom he had adopted. When he questioned God, Abraham was told, "This shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own loins shall be thine heir. And He brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and count the stars, if thou be able to number them: and He said to him, So shall thy seed be." Abraham believed this promise and the Lord counted it to him for righteousness (Genesis 15:4-6). Yet Abraham and his wife suffered from the same frailties all humans do. After years of expectation and disappointment, they began to wonder if the divine promise was really true. Barren Sarah decided to take matters into her own hands. She had an Egyptian handmaid whose name was Hagar. Herself not able conceive, Sarah convinced Abraham to take Hagar as his wife that she might bear him a son.
Although this was a common practice in the Ancient Near East, nevertheless it was not the fulfillment of God's promise. The appointed time for the birth of Abraham's heir had not yet arrived, but Sarah wanted to force the issue. Shortly Abraham was presented with a son, but by Hagar, not Sarah. An angel of the Lord had previously instructed Hagar to name the child Ishmael. But the heavenly messenger also warned that the child would be a wild man and every man's hand would be against him.
It wasn't until twenty-four years later that the Lord performed a miracle for Sarah and the son of promise was born. Although Abraham was now one hundred years old, this was the promised time and Isaac was the promised son. On the eighth day Isaac was circumcised and months later Abraham made a great feast when the child was weaned. At this festive occasion the behavior of Ishmael betrayed his jealousy. He taunted his young half brother, mocked and ridiculed baby Isaac. As Sarah viewed this it raised her motherly dander. She demanded of her husband, "Cast out this bondwoman and her son; for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, even with Isaac" (Genesis 21:10).
This grieved Abraham very much for Ishmael was his own flesh and blood. But God comforted him assuring him that, although Isaac was indeed the promised seed, nevertheless God would also make of Ishmael a great nation. Thus, "Abraham rose up early in the morning, and took bread, and a bottle of water," and bid Hagar and the boy a sad good-bye (Genesis 21:14).
God was kind to Ishmael and providentially protected his mother and him. But it was clear that Isaac was the child of promise, not Ishmael. Ishmael was the result of the impatience of Abraham and Sarah. The wild man was born because this couple got ahead of God. They believed that God would provide the promised seed but mistakenly attempted to speed up God's timetable. God performs what He promises, but always in His own time. "Wait on the LORD be of good courage, and He shall strengthen thine heart. Wait, I say, on the LORD" (Psalm 27:14). That's good advice for us today.
My Jesus, as Thou wilt!
O may Thy will be mine;
Into Thy hand of love
I would my all resign.
Thro' sorrow, or thro' joy,
Conduct me as Thine own;
And help me still to say,
My Lord, Thy will be done.