Abram was 75 when the journey began (Genesis 12:4). At 86, Hagar bore him Ishmael. It was common in those days for a proxy to support child-bearing in support of the larger family. Sarai did what the locals would do and Abram agreed with the plan. Together, they pitch in to “help God” with his plan to create a nation through Abram. They are doing what seems right to man, but this is not God’s plan. The story quickly gets ugly as Hagar despises Sarai and likewise Sarai is angry about the whole affair. But God comforts Hagar and promises Ishmael will become the father of many.
The story picks up 13 years later…13 years! It’s hard to imagine the interaction within this family for so much time, but here we see more than a decade passes. Now, at 99, God has a chat with Abram,
I am God Almighty; walk before me faithfully and be blameless. Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers…your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations.
As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah. Genesis 17:1-5, 15
Now Lord? Abraham laughs to himself and says, really Lord? The Lord hears his laughter, the question in his heart and continues to explain he will have a son with Sarah and his name will be Issac.
Three visitors meet Abraham near the great trees of Mamre: The Lord and two others (18:1). This time Sarah is the one who laughs to herself and is called out by one of the visitors.
Abraham bargains with God for the lives of the few good people in Sodom: 50, 45, 40, 30, 20 and finally 10. If there are 10 righteous people found, he would not destroy Sodom and Gomorrah.
In Galatians, Paul provides this contrast: “His son by the slave woman was born according to the flesh, but his son by the free woman was born as the result of a divine promise” (Galatians 4:23). In this sermon, Paul teaches us that we are born of freedom, not of slavery, “we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman.”
Reading the reference in Galatians alongside Genesis helps to understand the sermon; those who originally heard this lesson probably knew the story of Ishmael and Issac well. For us, we simply need to read by the Old and New Testament stories to gain an appreciation for what God is telling us in the Bible.
Obedience. This is all about being obedient to God, hearing his promise and living out the plan he has for our lives. It might make us laugh at times, but God hears the laughter and is not moved. Lord help me to see your plans clearly and keep me from pushing my agenda ahead of yours!