Our devotional series based on the book Climbing with Abraham by David Ramos continues. Last week, we saw the fulfillment of one of God's promises to Abraham and Sarah: the birth of their son, Isaac. But now, Ishmael comes back to haunt Abraham. He has to deal with the consequences of a time when he tried to "help" God's promise come true in his own way and at a time of his own choosing. Abraham created a mess; now God helps him deal with it.
Week 20: Read Genesis 21:8-21 (Messy God)
"The scene in this chapter shifts dramatically from celebrating the birth of Isaac, to watching Hagar and Ismael come to the brink of death in the desert. Hagar and her son have always been a burden to Sarah, but now she's had enough and urges Abraham to send them both away. Abraham is deeply bothered at the thought of never seeing his son again (apparently Hagar is of no concern). God intervenes, but not in the way we expect. He advises Abraham to obey his wife and send them off, that he (God) will be the one caring for them now.
Hagar and her son make it only a short time into the desert before the situation turns dangerous. Waterless and exhausted, the mother resigns herself to watching her son die before she dies too. Thankfully, God intervenes. He finds her in the desert, as he had once before, and provides for them. They are saved and Ishmael goes on to become the man God had promised.
This short story is about as messy as it can get. To Sarah, Hagar likely represents failure and distrust. She did not need a reason to send her away but found one in her misbehaving son. Abraham is torn at the predicament because he does not see Ishmael as any less of a son to him than Isaac.
What's amazing is that God intervenes, not just once but twice. He tells Abraham what he should do and also works to save the mother and son duo in the desert for a second time. Of all the lessons hidden in this text, the one I keep coming back to is the reality that God does not run away from messes - even the ones we create through our bad choices. Instead, he enters them.
So often we feel trapped by our own bad choices and rash decisions. Then, when we try to pray or ask for help, all we fee is a mountain of guilt. We're the ones who got ourselves into this mess, so we should be the ones to get ourselves out. But God doesn't see it that way. God sees our mess as his mess too and he is waiting for us to ask for help. God doesn't shy away from dishonorable situations. God dives in. That's the God we serve and that's the God waiting for you to ask for help."
Takeaway from today's lesson: God doesn't run away from messes. God runs toward them.
Prayer: God, thank you for your willingness to step into my messy life and make things better. I need your help today. I've made decisions and said and done things, on my own, without consulting or listening to you. And now I'm dealing with the consequences of it all. Please step in and make it right. Amen.