This is my son: ishmael
Advent Midweek 2 In This Precious Baby Boy, LSB 352
Text – Genesis 16:15
And Hagar bore Abram a son, & Abram called the name of his son, whom Hagar bore, Ishmael.
This Is My Son: Ishmael
Certainly you’ve heard of “Tiger Moms” & “Helicopter Parents.” Well, apparently, their time is over. There’s a new type of parent pushing their way through the schoolyard & they will stop at nothing to ensure their child’s success.
The new style of parenting is called “Snowplow” parenting. These mothers & fathers are intent on removing any obstacles standing in the way of their child. Their goal is that their child does not have to face pain or difficulty on their way to success. If their child struggles, “Snowplow” parents take matters into their own hands & relieve their child of any burden.
This type of parent believes they are helping their child without considering the long-term consequences of this approach. Most parents understand this to some degree. They’ve gotten impatient with a child when helping with homework. It’s much easier to just give them the answer than having to struggle with them until they get to the solution on their own.
All of us are tempted to take matters into our own hands when something is not going well or taking too long. That’s the struggle in which we find Abraham & Sarah at Genesis 16. Abraham had received the promise of God that he would be the father of many, & through his descendants God would bless the whole world. Abraham & Sarah believed His promise.
But that promise had been made years ago. Abraham & Sarah weren’t young then & they certainly were not getting any younger. Sarah was still barren. Maybe they needed to take things into their own hands & force the issue. Sarah comes up with a plan. Maybe it was just Abraham that was needed for the promise to be fulfilled.
She offers her servant, Hagar, to Abraham that he might obtain children from her.
Abraham listens. Hagar becomes pregnant. It worked! Or so it seemed. This situation quickly caused issues in the household of Abraham. Hagar, who was blessed with child, began to look with contempt upon Sarah, who was unable to conceive. Hagar’s behavior got so bad that Sarah treats her badly in return, causing Hagar to flee.
After all that gets cleared up, & God convinces Hagar to return to Sarah, Hagar gives birth to Ishmael. Then, God makes it clear to Abraham in Genesis 17 that, despite Abraham’s efforts, Ishmael is not the son that God promised:
“You will have a son by Sarah,” God tells Abraham. She is 90 years old, & Abraham is 100. So, Abraham replies, “Oh, that Ishmael might live before you!” He’s trying to demonstrate to God that he has already taken care of everything. “No,” God says, “Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, & you shall call his name Isaac.” (17:19)
Abraham & Sarah did not have to take matters into their own hands to have a son & kick start God’s plan of blessing. Yahweh was going to take care of fulfilling His promise in His own way & in His own time. When it comes to the blessings & promises of God, we too often believe that we have to take matters into our own hands.
We imagine that we have to activate God’s promises by cleaning up our lives or showing Him how sincerely & earnestly we believe. We think we can manipulate God by our own good works & force His hand to pour out blessings upon us. We become impatient with our Lord as we wait for His promises to come to fruition.
We try to take our relationship with God into our own hands & we turn into snowplow children trying to get the job done. In order to maintain our status as God’s children, we imagine that we’ve got to prove ourselves to Him over & over again. It’s a natural tendency of sinners to exchange the freedom of the Gospel for the slavery of the Law. Rather than living under the freedom of Jesus’ words “It is finished!” we lean into the slavery of the Law, which says “Do more! Try harder & smarter!” In the Book of Galatians, Paul repeatedly demonstrated the foolishness of this thinking. At Galatians 3, he wrote:
“For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse. . . Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’” (3:10a, 11) At chapter 4, Paul supplements his argument with the story of Hagar & Sarah:
“I am going to use these historical events as illustrations. The women are two covenants. The children of the covenant given on Mt. Sinai are born to be slaves; this is Hagar. Hagar in this sense is Mt. Sinai in Arabia & she is like Jerusalem today: she & her children are slaves. But the Jerusalem that is above is free; & she is our mother.” (4:24–26 NET)
In other words, Hagar represents the Law given at Mount Sinai. All those who submit to the slavery of the Law are children of Hagar. They are Ishmaels. Eventually, God cast out Hagar & Ishmael because he was not the son of the promise. He was produced by Abraham’s efforts, a work of the law. He was rejected as ultimately all will be who rely upon the Law.
God called Abraham & Sarah to trust in His promise & live by faith in God’s mercy. He would take care of it. And though it seemed impossible, Sarah did give birth to a son, Isaac, the son of God’s promise. Paul explains, “Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. . . we are not children of the slave but of the free woman.” (Galatians 4:28, 31)
Those who live by faith, not by works, are also sons of the promise, sons of Abraham & receivers of God’s blessings. But it is not faith in Isaac that brings the blessings of God’s salvation. It is faith in the true Son of Abraham, the Son through whom the whole world is blessed – the Son whose work sets us free from slavery to the Law.
As our loving heavenly Father, God removed any obstacle between us & our salvation
because He knew we could never do it on our own, no matter how hard or smart we tried. He sent His only-begotten Son into this world & called Him Jesus, for “He will save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)
This Son would also be born through miraculous circumstances, not through an old, barren woman, but through a young virgin. This Son would also walk up a mountain to be a sacrifice, but unlike Isaac, God did not stop the hands that placed a crown of thorns on the head of Jesus. God did not stop the hands that plunged nails into the hands & feet of His own Son.
Jesus completed the work of the Law, suffered the consequences of our sins & lack of faith; then won our freedom as He declared, “It is finished!” Jesus is the true Son of Abraham whose eternal blessings are received only by faith.
“For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith,” Paul wrote to the Galatians & to you. (3:26 ESV) “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ… And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.” (3:27, 29 ESV)
♫ “Father Abraham had many sons. Many sons had Father Abraham. I am one of them, & so are you... So let’s all praise the Lord!” You & I are sons of the promise, sons of Abraham, children of God, through the true Son of Abraham & Sarah – Jesus Christ, the almighty Son of God. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
God’s own children, we have strayed, constantly have disobeyed in the garden, in the sand, through the river, in the Land. But the Child who takes our place bears the cross to earn us grace. Through this baby in the hay, God has given us the Way to inherit life above, rescued by His perfect love. In this Child, we all may be children of eternity. Amen.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet