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  • Gwen Diaz

16 - Ishmael Is Sent Away

January 16 - Nº 16 Genesis 21:8-21

For fourteen years Ishmael had been an only child. Abraham loved him and cared for him. His stepmother, however, didn’t! Sarah tolerated his presence only because he was her husband’s son. And she despised his mother, even though it was her idea for Hagar and Abraham to get together. After Sarah gave birth to her own son Isaac, her feelings toward Ishmael grew even worse. The custom at the time was for a man’s first-born son to receive a much larger share of the inheritance than his younger siblings. Sarah hated the fact that Ishmael, the son of her servant girl, would benefit so much more than her own son, Isaac. Because of the high infant mortality rate at the time, when a child was weaned (around the age of 2 or 3) there was a big celebration. Since the child was now considered strong enough to survive, he was welcomed into the world by family and friends. So, on the day that Isaac was weaned, Sarah and Abraham threw a huge party. During the festivities, Sarah overheard Ishmael mocking Isaac. Maybe it was just a big brother teasing his little brother, but Sarah was not happy. As a matter of fact, she was so angry she insisted that Abraham immediately throw Ishmael and his mother out of the household. This was the excuse she had been looking for. With Ishmael banished from the family, Isaac could become the only heir to Abraham’s great fortune. Abraham was very upset. He did not want to go along with Sarah’s emotional response. But God reassured Abraham that He would take care of Ishmael. Abraham needed to grant Sarah’s wishes since Isaac was the one through whom God would build His great nation. (Surely Abraham recognized by now that none of this would have happened if he had trusted God in the first place. Instead, he had chosen to accept Sarah’s plan that involved Hagar—see #12 - January 12.) So, Ishmael and his mother were forced to leave. They were sent out into a stark and barren desert. Ishmael would never return to the only lifestyle he had ever experienced. He would never again feel the embrace of the father who loved him. He would have to fight hard for everything he ate or owned—rather than be cared for in a wealthy estate. Soon the only water Hagar had brought along ran out. Ishmael collapsed under a bush and cried. Hagar could not stand it. She walked a little further, then sat down and sobbed where Ishmael could not hear her. But God heard them both. (BTW: “Ishmael” means God hears.) He sent an angel to encourage them. He promised Hagar that Ishmael would not die—that actually he would live and become a great nation. God opened Hagar’s eyes and there, right in front of her, was a well filled with water. His teenage years were tough, but God stayed with Ishmael through them all. He grew into a young man and was married. Ultimately God fulfilled His promise to make him a great nation.

Are you in a difficult family situation?

Are you feeling misunderstood or bullied, maybe even unwanted? Don’t be afraid to pour out your heart to God. He will hear you. He will be with you. He will help you. He has a wonderful plan for your life!

16 - Ishmael Is Sent Away
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