Day 5: Genesis 21-25:11
At last God fulfills His promise to give Abraham and Sarah a son. Imagine having a newborn when you’re 100 years old! It would be terrifying and wonderful all at the same time, especially when you’ve longed for that day most of your life. I think like Sarah in vs. 6 you would be saying, “‘God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.'”
Sadly, this does cause a whole new round of tension between Sarah and Hagar. Again Sarah takes her issues with Hagar to Abraham. Abraham is more upset about this, this time until God tells him to do what Sarah wants because, Isaac will be his inheritor not Ishmael. Even so, God promises that Ishmael too will be made into a nation because he is Abraham’s son. So Abraham sends Hagar and Ishmael away into the desert. God again comes to Hagar when she has given up hope and believes they are going to die. He saves them and reaffirms his promise to Hagar that God will make Ishmael into a great nation. Ishmael grows up to be an archer in the desert and Hagar finds for him a wife in Egypt.
During this time Abraham meets again with King Abimelech. Abimelech wants to ensure that there will be no more mischief with Abraham and that Abraham will be on his side because he sees that God is with Abraham in whatever he does. They do make an alliance, but Abraham brings up trouble the king has been causing as well. This is in the form of a well that Abraham had dug and the king’s men had seized. Abimelech claims innocence. Abraham must not have been convinced because during their treaty he seperates out 7 ewe lambs as his witness that he dug the well and gives them to King Abimelech. The place where they made the treaty is called Beersheba.
God has fulfilled His promise to Abraham by giving him a son from whom nations will be born. So, it must have come as a great surprise when God comes to Abraham again and asks him to sacrifice his only son. What is an even more powerful surprise to anyone reading or hearing about it is that Abraham sets out immediately to do what God has told him to. There is no negotiation here like before Sodom and Gomorrah, but there is still faith that God will be merciful. Abraham and Isaac go up the mountain alone. Abraham carries the knife and the fire. Isaac carries the wood. On the way up Isaac asks the logical question for someone familiar with similar events, “where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Can you imagine Abraham’s pain as he tells his son that God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering. Let’s pause and think about that statement. If you’ve read this story before you might be thinking Abraham simply knows this is a test and that God would never ask him to really kill his own son so obviously a sacrifice is going to be provided. That doesn’t seem to be the case at all when you look at God’s response to Abraham’s obedience. God says that Abraham is willing to sacrifice even his only son for God. How can one be truly willing if they honestly doubt God will make them follow through? Is Abraham a liar then when he tells his son that a sacrifice will be provided for them? NO. You see Abraham saw that God had provided him already with the lamb for this sacrifice, because He had given him Isaac. If God’s purpose for Isaac was for him to be sacrificed back to the God who gave him in the first place, who was Abraham to argue that God was not worthy of that sacrifice? Who are any of us? But, I know I would be at war with God and myself about making a sacrifice like this one. This just makes Abraham’s example all the more amazing to me and God’s mercy on Isaac all the more sweet when He does provide another sacrifice on the top of His mountain. Abraham rightly called that place, The LORD will provide!
At the end of this chapter there is a bit of foreshadowing that seems unimportant until a couple chapters later. As it so happens Abraham gets the great news that Nahor his brother is also now the father of a large family of twelve sons and a granddaughter.
Sarah has come to the end of her life. Her loss greatly saddens both Abraham and Isaac. Abraham spends most of this chapter negotiating over the field where he desires to bury her. The Hittite people with whom he is living are generous in offering to give him any of their burial sites for free, but Abraham demands that he pay them and a price is eventually settled.
Abraham is nearing the end of his life as well. Therefore he makes his servant promise him that he will find a wife for Isaac from among his own people and that he won’t allow him to marry one of the women in the land they now live. The servant is concerned that the woman won’t come back with him if Isaac isn’t there, but Abraham is even more determined that his son should not go back there. He tells his servant that if the woman won’t return with him then the servant is off the hook but, he must not take Isaac back to their former country.
The servant obeys, going to Abraham’s homeland with many rich gifts for the family of the woman he hopes to find. God leads him to the town of Abraham’s brother where he finds himself waiting at the well just at the hour when women come out to draw water. Desiring for his mission to be successful he makes a request to God in vs. 12-14 that the woman, to whom he asks to drink of the water in her jar, will answer yes and that she will water his camels also. Even before he is done praying Rebekah approaches and fulfills this prayer. The servant is overjoyed and worships God for His blessing, for Rebekah is Nahor’s granddaughter which means she is of Abraham’s own people. The servant also gives gifts of jewelry to Rebekah who then runs home to her family and tells them all that has happened. Her brother comes back out to Abraham’s servant and invites him home. There the servant explains in depth why he has come and is anxious that they tell him whether Rebekah will come with him to be Isaac’s wife or not. Her family says this is a thing that God has already decided and who are they to argue with it… That lasts one night. In the morning when the servant makes ready to leave the family tries to keep him there longer, then they decide to ask Rebekah if she is willing to go. What a scary question for any woman who considers joining her life with a man’s in marriage. Not to mention when she would have to travel far from her family, home, and friends to marry this man. It would be almost thinkable if she knew this man and loved him already according to our culture, but to not know him at all and still be willing to go! You would be labeled desperate or crazy, maybe even both. She goes anyway. She displays faith, beauty and modesty. When she marries Isaac she is a great comfort to him after the loss of his mother.
The old generation is ended in this chapter as Abraham dies and is buried with Sarah. It is now time for Isaac and Rebekah to live in faith under the promises of God.
*the image is from here