An ordinary woman with an extraordinary story

Bible Study

Genesis 21 – Promises Kept

May 24, 2019

A mowed section of grass indicates the path to take into the trees ahead. The sun shines in the distance, but you can't see the destination.

Somewhere along the path, you will discover God’s promises fulfilled.

“Father, we are so grateful for your faithful promises. Please help us to wait patiently with confident hope, because we know you are good. You will keep your word in our lives too, just like you did for Sarah and Hagar. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.”

Please open your Bible and read Genesis 21.

The Lord did what He had promised

“Now the Lord was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what He had promised.” What an absolutely beautiful verse!

Did Sarah deserve it? Was her faith finally strong enough to gain God’s attention?

No, she gave up believing God would do it a long time ago. When she gave her husband away to another woman, she proved her lack of faith in God’s willingness to do it within her.

Then, when her body no longer regularly prepared itself for pregnancy, she figured God’s window of opportunity to keep his promise closed forever. He no longer could keep His promise.

But God’s faithfulness comes to us solely by virtue of His never-ending love. We don’t deserve it. It’s His outrageous gift of grace to us. It’s not based on our faith, nor our actions. His ability to fulfill His promise is not even based on the laws of nature. God’s power supersedes everything. There’s NOTHING He can’t do.

He always keeps his promises.

Joy and Anger

Joy filled Sarah’s heart. Laughter bubbled up within her. It makes me smile that God had already told Abraham to name his son Isaac, meaning “he laughs.” What else can you do when astonished joy consumes you? You burst out in laughter!

Then she saw Abraham’s 14-year-old son laughing – and her heart quickly turned to jealous anger. Suddenly, she wanted all traces of Ishmael out of her life. He wasn’t the chosen son – not the one promised by God. She demanded Abraham send him away.

Oh Sarah, you are the cause of the problem before you. If only you had waited for God’s plan. Ishmael may not be your son by birth, but he is Abraham’s son. Can’t you trust the God who has miraculously kept His promise to you?

When Abraham called out to God in sorrow, God’s response surprises us. “Listen to Sarah,” God said. Woah. Wait. Abraham sent away Hagar and Ishmael?! The blame for this situation laid completely with Abraham and Sarah. Why did Hagar and Ishmael have to pay the price?

In the desert again!

I can almost hear Hagar’s thoughts.

Well, here I am again, out in the middle of the desert. You found me here last time, God. You told me to go back and submit to Sarai. Look where that got me! She threw us out now that she has her own baby! This is the boy you promised me. You said I would have so many descendants they would be too numerous to count. Are you going to keep your promise?? Are you listening?

Things turned from bad to worse for Hagar and Ishmael when they ran out of water in the desert. Hagar could not bear to watch Ishmael die of thirst, so she tucked him under a bush and collapsed a short distance away. She could not bear to watch. Both cried out to God with tears too deep for words.

God heard.

None of this situation surprised God. Not Sarah’s reaction, not Hagar’s need, not Ishmael’s existence. He knew they would be in this predicament at no fault of their own. That’s why He made the promise to Hagar long ago. There’s hope. God will keep His promise.

God knew Ishmael

When God spoke, He reiterated his promise to her and then opened her eyes to see a well – not a mirage, but real, life-giving water.

In verses 20-21, we are assured that God was with the boy as he grew up, giving him work as an archer, and a wife from Egypt. The desert became his home.

Genesis 25:12-18 lists Ishmael’s descendants. In time, they multiplied, just like God said. God made a way for them – and knew them. They did exactly as God said they would. “They lived in hostility toward all their brothers.” (Compare God’s words to Hagar in Genesis 16:12 to what happened in Genesis 25:18.)

God’s words are always true. He knows us. And He keeps His promises.

What about me?

Perhaps you are thinking of your own life right now. Maybe you think God has not made any promises to you – you have nothing from God’s mouth to rely upon for hope.

You can hear from God through the Bible. Let me show you some promises in the Word of God for you.

I John 1:9 – “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

Wow. One of the greatest promises of God is the offer of forgiveness – a chance to become clean again before our holy and righteous God. No matter who you are, or what you’ve done, forgiveness is available for you when you admit your sin to God.

John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whosever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”

This is an amazing promise of God! If we believe in Jesus, He promises us eternal life after death.

Romans 10:9-11 – “That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, ‘Anyone who trusts in Him will never be put to shame.’”

When we openly proclaim our faith in Jesus, He will make sure that in the end, we will not be ashamed. Wow. Shame is one of the most crippling emotions we face. God promises to eliminate it. We can lift our heads and look into the face of our loving Father, knowing we are forgiven.

You are loved!

Romans 8:38-39 – “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

You are loved. He promised. Nothing can take that away from you!

Romans 8:26 – “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.”

I love this. Often, I do not know what to do, or how to even ask. But the Spirit of God understands how weak I am and prays for me.

Matthew 6:25-26, 33 – “Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? . . . But seek first His kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

God knows everything you need and is willing to provide it when you seek Him first.

Our God is good. These are only a few of the promises in His Word for you. Please open it and read it. Let Him speak to you today. He will keep His promise. Don’t lose faith or hope.

Questions for thought:
  • Group Discussion: God kept His promise to Sarah, to Abraham, to Hagar, to Ishmael and to Isaac in today’s story. Will you share with us about a time when God kept His promise to you? Sharing the story helps others dare to believe God will intervene in their story too.  (I invite you to read the story of God’s faithfulness to me in Song of a Wounded Heart, soon to be available at your favorite bookstore.)
  • Application for your life: Sarah’s anger in today’s story gives me cause to pause. There is no need for us to have vindictive anger. God is capable of handling all of His promises. He does not have to deny someone else in order to provide for me. His resources are unlimited. Today are you laughing with joy because of God’s faithfulness to you, or jealously angry toward God’s faithfulness to someone else?
  • For further study: In Galatians 4:21-31, Paul uses Hagar and Sarah as an allegory to compare living in slavery to living in faith. If we try to earn a place in heaven by our obedience to the law, no matter how hard we try, we cannot become perfectly obedient to it. We become slaves to it, with no hope of freedom, like Hagar. But if we repent, relying on the death of Jesus Christ to pay the penalty of our sin, as He promised, then we become a promised child of God, like Isaac.

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