With God, everyone has value.
Lesson 29 from The HOPE Study Guide
And as for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I will bless him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly. He shall become the father of twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation. But My covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you at this season next year.
– Genesis 17:20–21
But God told Abraham not to be troubled, for Ishmael would become the father of a great nation. And through Isaac, God would fulfill His promise to bless all nations.
– The HOPE, Chapter 5
OBSERVE & CONSIDER
In the previous lesson we saw how Sarah attempted to fulfill God’s promise of a son by giving her maid, Hagar, to Abraham. And with Ishmael and Isaac becoming the fathers of all Arabic and Jewish people respectively, we also noted the tragic consequences that have resulted from this act to this very day. While this story is often reduced to a simple moral lesson – don’t get ahead of God or the results will be devastating – to view this story in such a one- dimensional way is to treat Hagar and Ishmael as mere “throw–away” characters, people who were simply necessary to the plot in order that we might learn a moral lesson.
But as we also observed in the previous lesson, it is not that simple. The God of all grace is always up to something far greater than we can understand. According to the Biblical account (Genesis 16:4-8), not long after Hagar conceived Ishmael, Sarah began to despise her and treat her harshly. Hagar fled from Sarah’s presence into the wilderness, and there the “angel of the Lord” (which is thought to be a manifestation of God Himself) met her and spoke to her by name. Hagar is the first person in the Bible to encounter “the angel of the Lord,” and this is the first time in the story that Hagar is addressed by her name. Up to this point there is no record of Abraham or Sarah referring or speaking to Hagar by name. Rather, they refer to her as “your maid” and “my maid.”1 To God, Hagar is a person with real value, made in His very image!
The angel of the Lord then tells Hagar to return to Sarah and submit to her authority. But He also makes a great promise to Hagar and her son. Ishmael’s descendants will become a great nation that cannot be counted.2 The angel does not tell her that it will be easy for her, but He does tell her God has given heed to her affliction. The God of the entire universe has acknowledged her personhood and identified with her situation. Hagar then calls God, “El Roi,” “The God Who Sees.”3 Hagar is the first person in the Bible to give God a name, and she honors God with her obedience. Continue reading