Do you and your siblings always get along? Has there ever been rivalry between you? Sibling rivalry began with humanity’s very first sibling set: Abel and Cain. And it has infected every relationship between siblings—to a greater or lesser degree—ever since. Sibling rivalry often starts immediately after the arrival of a second child. The older child, who previously enjoyed the parents’ sole attention, becomes jealous when that devotion is suddenly divided.
That is exactly what happened in Genesis 21. When Isaac was weaned, Abraham held a feast to celebrate, but Ishmael who was about 16 years old was watching from the wings, “mocking” his young half-brother. The word for “mocking” is the same word used to name Isaac (“laughter”), but here it has the connotation of ridicule (v. 9). The sibling hostility that God had warned of in Genesis 16:12 was already evident, and Sarah was not happy.
Sarah ordered Abraham to get rid of Hagar and Ishmael. She feared for Isaac’s inheritance, revealing a shocking lack of faith that the God, who had miraculously given her a child in her old age, would continue to fulfill His promises. Abraham was distressed, but he followed his wife’s lead—much like Adam who took the fruit from Eve. He sent Hagar and Ishmael away (v. 14). When Hagar’s water ran out, she put Ishmael under a bush as a reprieve from the heat. She sat at a distance, waiting for him to die. Imagine her despair! Then—for a second time—Hagar received a visitation from God (v. 17). He comforted her with the promise that Ishmael would be a great nation, and He provided for her immediate needs with a well of water.
>> How often do we pull a “Sarah”? We experience the miraculous provision of God. Then we doubt again and let fear overcome. We take matters into our own hands, making a mess of things. How has this pattern been a part of your journey? How have you seen God provide despite your weakness?
Lord, we have short memories. We praise you that you remain unchangeable even when our confidence is blown here and there by the winds of our circumstances. You give us our daily bread.