By Brenda Black
Puberty punctuates immaturity as much as it ushers in adulthood. And impertinence is all the more exaggerated when there is an audience. Tough teen Ishmael counted it entertainment to tease and mock his baby step-brother Isaac during his big “coming-out” party. Not his wisest decision.
“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 slave woman's son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.'” (Genesis 21:8-10)
One too many caddy remarks can land you smack dab in the middle of a social desert. And a smart alec kid will drag his parents right along the barren, sandy slide if they don't put a stop to it. Nobody likes rudeness, especially in the form of disrespect. Sometimes, it takes a swift kick in the pants to temper a sarcastic tongue or at least a few minutes in a time out, away from all the attention, for humility to have a fighting chance.
And that's where we find Ishmael and his mother Hagar – out in the desert, humbled and scared.
“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 the water in the skin was gone, she put the boy under one of the bushes. Then she went off and sat down nearby, about a bowshot away, for she thought, 'I cannot watch the boy die.' And as she sat there nearby, she began to sob.
“God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, 'What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation.
“Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. So she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink.
“God was with the boy as he grew up. He lived in the desert and became an archer...” (14-20)
Ishmael was a teenager, 14 years old, and we find him reduced to the ways of the baby he mocked days before. Hagar herself despised her mistress and now weeps alone in the desert, longing for her companionship. On that hot desert, they found humility in the midst of harsh reality.
No matter how far we move away from God, he is able to find us. Under a tree, dying. A bowshot away, weeping. He meets us in our gravest situation, not with judgement, but compassion. He lifts us from our sinfulness and sorrow and shame. He opens our eyes and restores our dignity. Some will accept such grace and walk onward full of faith. Others will never comprehend the love they could have within and the joy they could bring if they would humble themselves and stop living in slavery to sin. Ishmael's legacy leaves no doubt that he disdained the Lord's rescue. He did not receive the inheritance and “his descendants...lived in hostility toward all their brothers.” (Gen. 25:18)
I don't know what became of Hagar, but Galations 4:25 says “Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children.”
Did she go the way of her wild, rebellious son or was it her own example that taught him the kind of sarcasm that would cast them away from everyone. All of her history and the uncertainty of her destiny teaches us one sure truth. If we don't accept God's salvation when he offers a living drink, we are in just as much danger as this woman and child lost in the desert. Worse yet, we're lost forever. Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible clarifies the difference between sin slavery and salvation. “There is a well of water near them in the covenant of grace, but they are not aware of it, till the same God that opened their eyes to see their wound, opens them to see their remedy. Paran was a wild place, fit for a wild man; such as Ishmael. Those who are born after the flesh, take up with the wilderness of this world, while the children of the promise aim at the heavenly Canaan.”
Don't wait until you are humbled in the heat of a desert. Choose today to live as a child of promise rather than a slave to sin.