The Word of the Lord
Genesis 21.8-14: The child grew and was weaned, and on the day Isaac was weaned Abraham held a great feast. But Sarah saw that the son whom Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham was mocking, and she said to Abraham, “Get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.” The matter distressed Abraham greatly because it concerned his son. But God said to him, “Do not be so distressed about the boy and your slave woman. Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned. I will make the son of the slave into a nation also, because he is your offspring.” Early the next morning Abraham took some food and a skin of water and gave them to Hagar. He set them on her shoulders and then sent her off with the boy. She went on her way and wandered in the Desert of Beersheba.
When Abraham sent Hagar and Ishmael from his camp, he gave them food and water. Although types of food wasn’t specified, bread was included.
Very likely, the bread was made from barley grain. Barley was a sustaining food source from about 7000 BC in Canaan. Barley, a drought-resistant grain, grew in the arid habitat around Beersheba where Abraham made his primary camp during this Bible episode. Barley was the first grain that ripened in the new year; thus, ancient Israelites associated it with “first fruits.”
Although Ishmael was the first fruit of Abraham’s body, God directed Abraham to force Ishmael and his mother to leave his camp. Abraham expelled them; he no longer fed Hagar and Ishmael, protected them, or supported them. Abraham took away rights and privileges that Ishmael had as Abraham’s first-born son.
This story makes me uncomfortable. I’m between knowing that God and all his decisions/actions are for good, while imagining how the approximately 16year old Ishmael must have felt. True, Ishmael was complicit in mocking Isaac at his weaning ceremony. Still, my heart hurts when I read the story and imagine how the characters, i.e., Abraham, Ishmael, Hagar, felt.
Abraham followed God’s directions no matter how much following them hurt him. Likely, Abraham hurt when he left his family at Haran, hurt when he believed that his nephew Lot was destroyed in Sodom, and hurt when he expelled Ishmael. Through all of these hurts, Abraham obeyed and his obedience was credited to him as righteousness.
Rarely, do Americans obey God to the point that they hurt emotionally. Many decades ago a Christian said that she prays that if the time comes that she is tortured for her belief in God that she can stand firm. That is a prayer all of us could pray. The prayer can include that if we ever feel pain, emotional or physical, for following God, that we can bear that pain.
Reflection: Have you ever obeyed God to the point that it hurts?