Genesis 21:1-21

Laughter is a major thought in this passage. As both Abraham and Sarah had laughed in disbelief (17:17, 18:12) now Sarah laughs, presumably with joy. And "everyone who hears about this will laugh with [her]" (v6). But Ishmael's mockery (v9) – or "laughing" in the ESV – upset Sarah enough to have Ishmael and Hagar sent from the family turning their laughter into tears.

Furthermore, God's grace is seen again. He came through on his promise ("Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children?", v7. Well, God did!) but not only did he bless Abraham with Isaac, but Ishmael who was sent away with some food and a skin of water was given a well and later made into a nation. Even though God never meant to reckon his promise through natural offspring – cf. Romans 9 – he does say "I will make the son of the maidservant into a nation also, because he is [Abraham's] offspring." He didn't have to, but he did for Abraham.

So, this is a pretty good human interest story with the added bonus that you find out how the Jewish and Arab nations first split from each other. But it has far more significance to me than that, as Paul expains in the tail end of Galatians 4. In the middle of his letter trying to stop them from following the letter of Jewish law, Paul talks about this story. Why? Because as a Christian, I am a son of Abraham though Sarah the free woman, not through Hagar the slave woman. Hagar, we are told, is a symbol of the Law given at Mount Sinai (in Arabia) and I am not slave to it. I was born again into freedom from that Law. And, "it was for freedom that Christ has set us free." (Galatians 5:1) Thank God that he has called me to be free, not to be bound to follow a Law that I can't keep if I want to work my way into his good books. Thank God that I am writen in that book because of what Christ has done and not because of anything I have achieved. Yay!

Heavenly Father, I am amazed and I praise and thank you that you want me as your child, and that because of the cross you will accept me – and delight in me! – as I am. I am not in slavery to rules, but because you have made me righteous through Christ, help me to live as I am in Christ: pure and separate for you. Amen.


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