The holidays hit and though I’ve kept reading I’ve fallen behind in my writing. Today I pick it back up with a long-awaited answer to prayer, the birth of Isaac. “Now the Lord was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what he had promised. Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him.” (Gen 21:1-2) It had been 25 years since God first called Abraham and promised him offspring. Imagine waiting that long for a prayer request. How many of us would still expect God to answer it? But true to His character, God kept His word. I like that Sarah called the baby “Isaac”, which means laughter. It’s appropriate given that she laughed once at the idea of giving birth as an old woman. But the literal meaning is “he laughs”, which makes me wonder if she was thinking of God or Abraham. No doubt both were laughing that day.
In the middle of this happy story, however, there is a heartbreaking scene: the departure of Hagar and Ishmael. What grief Abraham must have felt sending his son away. Ishmael would have been about 14 when Isaac was born. He had watched the boy grow up and loved him. He did not want to send him away. But God told him to do so, and promised to watch over him (inherent in the promise that Ishmael would father a nation of his own). The separation of a father and son like this seems so cruel. Yet we have to remember that our decisions have consequences. Abraham’s choice to sleep with Hagar the slave girl in attempt to fulfill God’s promise in his own way and time was wrong. God had allowed Abraham to enjoy Ishmael’s childhood but the arrival of Isaac changed everything.
Even in this tragic moment we can see God’s mercy. He assures Abraham that Ishmael will live and prosper (“ I will make the son of the slave into a nation also”). And as Hagar and Ishmael journey, we see how God protects and provides for them. God loved Ishmael as well as Isaac. But He had chosen Isaac. We can argue all day about why. In 1 Peter 2:9, God calls us (believers) a chosen people. Why did God choose us? If He loves everyone, why only choose some?
I think the answer has to do with God’s foreknowledge of OUR choice to accept Jesus as Savior. In other words, God’s choice is rooted in His knowledge of who will choose Him, who will accept His free offer of salvation. That is the only way I see to reconcile the seemingly contradictory facts that 1) “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16) and 2) “Even as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ,” (Eph 1:4-5). Romans 8:29 helps explain the concept pretty well: “For those whom He foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He might be the firstborn among many brothers. ” (Rom 8:29)
Another equally valid answer is that God as sovereign Lord and Creator can do what He wants! Knowing that God is good, loving, just, righteous, etc., we can trust His choices. I’m content with that answer as well.
Reading: Genesis 21