Genesis 21:1–21: The Casting-Out of Abraham
Our Enemy works tirelessly to chip away at our confidence in God’s faithfulness to keep his promises. Sometimes, Satan tempts us to believe that God’s promises are not really worth the wait. Other times, Satan tries to discourage us in the midst of conflict, pain, and strife. If Satan can lead us into despair, he can take our eyes of faith off of God’s faithfulness. Still other times, Satan works to sow seeds of dissatisfaction in our hearts. When we are dissatisfied, even God’s abundant provision seems meager and unsatisfying. No matter whether our circumstances are good, bad, or indifferent, Satan will use anything in his attempt to hijack our faith away from Christ.
The fact that our Enemy works so hard to confuse us about God’s faithfulness should clue us into its great significance. The last thing that Satan wants is for us to live in a constant sense of wonder and awe at the great works God is doing toward the fulfillment of his promises in, around, and through us. When we see God’s faithful hand guiding, directing, and protecting us, we learn to walk by faith through situations that seem impossible to endure from a human perspective. Indeed, God is bringing all things together for good to train, shape, and conform us into the image of his Son Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:28–29). Therefore, learning to recognize how God works is critical for our sanctification. In Genesis 21:1–21, we see the multifaceted nature of God’s sovereign grace toward us: God fulfills his promises.
1. How does Genesis 21:1–7 repeatedly emphasize God’s faithfulness to his promises? Why is God’s faithfulness in the birth of Isaac so important? What does the laughing joy of Sarah tell us about the goodness of God’s promises? Which of God’s promises are you tempted to believe either that (1) they will not come to pass, or (2) they will not ultimately be worth it?
2. How do we tend to understand the relationship between conflict and the fulfillment of God’s promises? How does God use conflict, pain, and strife toward the fulfillment of his promises here in Genesis 21? What does God promise in his word to you? How does God use conflict, pain, and strife toward the fulfillment of those promises? How, then, should we deal with conflict?
3. According to Paul, how does the birth of Isaac represent the gospel of promise? How does the presence of Ishmael represent slavery to the law? How does Ishmael’s presence threaten the gospel? When Abraham painfully casts out Hagar and Ishmael, what do we learn about protecting the purity of the gospel? What do you need to cast out to live by God’s promises?
4. Why does God say that he comes to the rescue of Ishmael in the wilderness (Gen. 21:17)? How does God provide for Hagar and Ishmael? How has God demonstrated his faithfulness by providing for your needs in the past? Where are you tempted to doubt God’s provision for your needs today? Why is it so hard to trust God to “give us this day our daily bread” (Matt. 6:11)?