One of the best things a Christian can do is to hand our calendar over to God. If we refuse to do so, we should not be surprised that we get frustrated that God isn’t meeting our deadlines. If unchecked, we can grow bitter and resentful. But, if we hand over our calendar and our deadlines to God, we rest in peace knowing that God will meet our needs according to His schedule, which is far better. This is what Abraham and Sarah have struggled with for many years. They did not doubt that God would provide a son as He promised, but they grew impatient as they waited. Christians must remember that God will always do what He promised to do and He will always do it at the right time. This morning, let us consider the following from Genesis 21:1-21”
- Sarah’s Laughter (1-7). God gave Abraham and Sarah as son just as He promised and at the time He has promised. Sarah’s response is a laugh of joy and faith as she is overcome with emotion.
- The laugh of joy. Sarah said, “God has made laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh over me.” And she said, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.” The years of waiting were over the result was joy. We must remember that everything God promises to His children results in joy, even if we have to wait longer than we wish. God gives us “good and perfect gifts” (James 1:17) and the result is joy.
- The laugh of faith. Chapter 21 begins with a reminder that God did “as He had said…as He had promised…at the time of which God had spoken to him.” Sarah’s laughter was a laugh of faith because she was rejoicing in God’s goodness to fulfill His promise. It is important to remember that everything God does is meant to increase our faith.
- Ishmael’s Laughter (8-21). In verse 9 we encounter a different type of laughter. Ishmael’s response was not of joy and faith, but of mockery and ruin as he was dismissive of God’s promises.
- The laugh of Mockery. The laughter from Ishmael is different because it indicates mockery: “to laugh at”. The Apostle Paul mentioned in Galatians 4:29 that Ishmael “persecuted” Isaac at this feast. Ishmael did not rejoice in God’s promise being fulfilled but despised it. This is a reminder to Christians that the world does not understand us and in fact hates us.
- The laugh of Ruin. Sarah told Abraham to cast Hagar and Ishmael out because of the potential for Ishmael to supplant Isaac. Abraham is reluctant but God said to him, “Be not displeased because of the boy and because of your slave woman. Whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” Hagar and Ishmael were sent out and wandered into the wilderness of Beersheba.
- Abraham’s Plea (Gen 17:18-20). Hagar and Ishmael are wandering in the wilderness and close to death, but their story is not over. The Lord graciously protected them and promised to make of Ishmael a great nation. Why does God care about Hagar and Ishmael? The reason is because of Abraham. Abraham is a blessing and he interceded on behalf of Ishmael in Genesis 17. God provided for Hagar and Ishmael because of His great love for Abraham.
If we must wait, let us wait with the expectation that God will do far above and beyond all we can ask for think. Let us also be a blessing to others as we ask God for mercy and grace through Jesus.
Grow Group Guide
As Promised and On-time (Genesis 21)
Open with prayer and then have someone volunteer to read Genesis 21. After reading the text, discuss the following questions:
- What does the text say? (What happened? What happened next? What happened after that?) What did God do for Sarah? Why was this a unique birth? What did they name the baby? What is Sarah’s reaction? What was Ishmael doing at the feast? What did Sarah want Abraham to do? What was Abraham’s response? What did God tell Abraham to do? Where did Hagar and Ishmael go? What almost happened to them? Whose voice did God hear? What did God do for them and why did He do it?
- What does it tell us about God? (Discuss the nature and character of God.) Why did God wait so long to give Abraham a son through Sarah? Why did God tell Abraham to do what Sarah told him to do? Why does God care about what happens to Hagar and Ishmael? What does this story tell us about the faithfulness of God?
- What does it tell us about ourselves? (What are the human characters in the story doing or not doing that serve as a warning or encouragement to us?) Sarah and Hagar had a difficult relationship. It began to go bad after Sarah gave Hagar to Abraham as a wife. We must remember that bad decisions make a difficult situation worse. Why does God side with Sarah and not Abraham concerning Hagar and Ishmael? How many times do we think we know what God’s will is, only to be wrong? What did Hagar do when all seemed lost? What do we do when we believe all seems lost? Do we run to God or run away?
- How am I going to think, speak, and live differently because of what I learned? James writes that we should be doers of the word and not just hearers (James 1:22). It is not enough to know what the story says, it is important to apply the truth of the story to our lives. Take some time in prayer and consider some changes that you need to make in the following areas: