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020 Abraham and Ishmael

And Hagar bore Abram a son: and Abram called his son’s name, whom Hagar bore, Ishmael. And Abram was fourscore and six years old, when Hagar bore Ishmael to Abram.’ Gen. 16:15,16

Key Verse:

“Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be”

(Romans 4:18)

(Genesis 16,17)

Two lessons ago, in our study in the Holy Scriptures, we began to study the story of the prophet Abraham. At first, Abraham’s name was not Abraham, but Abram. But in our lesson today, we will discover why God changed Abram’s name to

Abraham.

The first part of this lesson is a sad story which reveals something that Abram did which was not pleasing to God. Some think that God’s prophets never sinned. But the Word of God declares:

“For there is no difference, for

all have sinned

and come short of the glory of God.” (Rom. 3:22,23)

and

“If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” (1 John 1:10)

We have already seen how Adam’s sin spread to all people–young and old, men and women, unbeliever and prophet.

Only one Person was not stained by the sin of Adam. That One is

the holy Redeemer

whom God sent to earth to save sinners. He was not stained by sin, because He came from above–from the presence of God the Holy One.

In our last two lessons, we saw how God promised to make of Abram the father of a great nation, from which the Redeemer would arise. Both Abram and his wife were elderly and had no children, yet that did not cause Abram to doubt the word of God. However, we will see that, ten years after God first promised to give Abram a family, Abram tried to “help” God fulfil His promise.

However, what Abram did, in his impatience,

produced many problems.

Now then, let us continue in Genesis to see how Abram and Sarai arranged things in an effort to have the son that God promised. In 16:1-6 the Scriptures say: 

“Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, bore him no children: and she had an handmaid, and Egyptian, whose name was

Hagar.

And Sarai said unto Abram, Behold now, the Lord hath restrained me from bearing: I pray thee, go in unto my maid; it may be that I may obtain children by her. And Abram hearkened to the voice of Sarai. And Sarai, Abram’s wife, took Hagar, her maid, the Egyptian, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan, and gave her to her husband, Abram, to be his wife. And he went in unto Hagar,

and she conceived:

and when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised in her eyes. And Sarai said unto Abram, The wrong done me be upon thee: I have given my maid into thy bosom; and when she saw that she had conceived, I was despised in her eyes: the Lord judge between me and thee. But Abram said unto Sarai, Behold, thy maid is in thy hand: do to her as it pleaseth thee. And when Sarai dealt with her, she fled from her face”. Thus we see how the sin of Abram produced

bitterness and conflict in his household.

Sarai was jealous because Hagar was pregnant; Hagar was angry with Sarai who was mistreating her. Thus,

Hagar ran away from Sarai.

Next, the Scriptures say:

(Gen. 16:7-12) “And the angel of the Lord found her by a fountain of water in the wilderness, by the fountain in the way to Shur. And he said, Hagar, Sarai’s maid, from whence camest thou? And

where wilt thou go?

And she said, I flee from the face of my mistress, Sarai. And the angel of the Lord said unto her, Return to thy mistress, and submit thyself under her hands. And the angel of the Lord said unto her, I will multiply thy seed exceedingly, that it shall not be numbered for multitude. And the angel of the Lord said unto her, Behold, thou art with child, and shalt bear a son, and shalt call his name

Ishmael;

because the Lord hath heard thy affliction. And he will be a wild man; his hand will be against every man, and every man’s hand against him; and he shall dwell in the presence of his brethren”

So Hagar returned to Sarai, her mistress, as the angel of God had said. “And Hagar bore Abram a son: and Abram called his son’s name, whom Hagar bore,

Ishmael.

And Abram was fourscore and six years old (86), when Hagar bore Ishmael to Abram.” (Gen. 16:15,16) Thus, Ishmael was born, the one who is

the father of all the Arabs.

As we will see, God cared for Ishmael and had a plan for him, but Ishmael was not the son whom God had promised Abram.

God’s wonderful plan to make a new nation of Abram had not changed. God is not in a hurry as was Abram. God always does what He promises, even if it seems to us that He is slow. Thus, the Scripture tells us that for thirteen years after the birth of Ishmael,

God remained silent,

saying nothing to Abram. One day God spoke again to him.

Let us read in chapter seventeen, and hear what God said to Abram after thirteen long years of silence. What we are going to read is very wonderful. The Scriptures say: (Gen. 17:1-2)

“And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God;

walk before me, and be thou perfect.

And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly.”

3-8. “And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying, As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations.

Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be

Abraham;

for a father of many nations have I made thee.

And I will make thee exceedingly fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and

kings shall come out of thee.

And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee. And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a sojourner,

all the land of Canaan,

for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.”

9-12 “And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations. This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee: Every male child among you shall be circumcised. And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you.

And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised …”.

15-21 “And God said unto Abraham, As for Sarai, thy wife, thou shalt not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shalt her name be. And I will bless her, and give thee a son also of her: yea, I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations;

kings of people shall be of her.

Then Abraham fell upon his face, and laughed, and said in his heart, Shall a child be born unto him that is an hundred years old? And shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear? And god said unto Abraham, Sarah, thy wife, shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name

Isaac:

and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him. And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and

I will make him a great nation.

But my covenant will I establish with Isaac, whom Sarai shall bear unto thee at this set time in the next year.”

This is where our reading ends. We have seen how Abram listened to the suggestion of his wife and went to bed with Hagar her servant.

What Abram did was wrong.

Ishmael, the son born to Abram and Hagar, was not part of God’s plan to create a new nation which would bring blessing to all the nations of the world. However,

the unfaithfulness of men cannot hinder the faithfulness of God.

Thus, as we have just read, when Abram was ninety-nine years old, God re-appeared to him to confirm the promise He had made to him so long ago. He said, “I am God Almighty . . . and thou shalt be a father of many nations.

Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be

Abraham;

for a father of many nations have I made thee. And I will make thee exceedingly fruitful, and I will make nations of thee.” In keeping with His perfect plan, God changed Abram’s name to Abraham, which means the father of many. God also changed Sarai’s name to Sarah, which means

princess.

Here is something very wonderful. We are looking at an elderly couple who have never had a child of their own; Abram and Sarai. Now God is giving them new names in order to announce what is to take place. Abram is renamed Abraham,

the father of many,

and Sarai is called Sarah, meaning

princess.

God was going to give Abraham and Sarah

a son,

and from that son,

a nation.

Through that nation

many kings and prophets

would arise, and, finally,

the Saviour of the world!

Truly, the LORD is great and worthy of praise forever! He did not forget what He had promised to Abraham long before. So what did Abraham do after God confirmed His promise to give him a child in his old age? The Scriptures say: “Then Abraham fell upon his face,

and laughed,

and said in his heart, Shall a child be born unto him that is an hundred years old? And shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear?’”

Abraham laughed!

He did not laugh because of

unbelief,

but because of

happiness.

Thus, the Scriptures say: “Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be. And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about a hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah’s womb. He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief, but

was strong in faith,

giving glory to God, and being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform” (Rom. 4:18-21)

Nevertheless, Abraham wanted to know what would happen to Ishmael, the child of his servant, Hagar. God replied, “And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: behold, I have blessed him … and I will make him

a great nation.

But my covenant will I establish with

Isaac,

whom Sarai shall bear unto thee … and with his seed after him.” (Gen. 17:20,21,19) Thus, God confirmed His purpose to bring forth the prophets and, at last,

the Redeemer Himself

through

the descendants of Isaac.

In the next lesson, God willing, we will see how the LORD gave Abraham and Sarah the son of the promise—Isaac.

Truly, God is faithful.

God does what He promises!

Nothing is too difficult for Him!

Listen to these beautiful verses from the holy Gospel:

“Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!

How unsearchable are His judgements, and His ways past finding out!

For who hath known the mind of the Lord? Or who hath been His counsellor?

Or who hath first given to him,

and it shall be recompensed unto him again?

For of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things.

To whom be the glory forever! Amen.

(Rom. 11:33-36)

May God bless you as you consider the meaning of this verse found in the Holy Scriptures: 

“If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful; he cannot deny himself.” (2 Tim. 2:13)

We would invite you to answer the questions attached and send them together with any other questions