Today’s Reading: Genesis 21.
(Context: Sarah gives birth to Isaac at 90 years old, to the great astonishment of everyone. Everyone except for Hagar, who severely looks down on her master and pays the price of her insolence by being expelled from Abraham’s house.)
The world is full of old feuds and controversies, on an international, national, sports, and family level. Let’s name a few:
Internationally: France vs. England, China vs. Japan, South Korea vs. North Korea, Argentina vs. Brazil, Bolivia vs Chile, and on and on. Nationally: Republicans vs. Democrats, Black pride vs. white racism, feminism vs. chauvinism, and on and on. Sports: Real Madrid vs. Barcelona, Manchester United vs. Manchester City, Lakers vs. Celtics, Boca Juniors vs. River Plate, Springbucks vs. All Blacks, and on and on. Family: You tell me!
All this said and I have not yet mentioned the oldest, most terrible, and most essential feud in world history:
Sarah vs. Hagar. The descendants of these two women led to the raving hatred between the Jewish and Arab Nations, respectively.
When Sarah had Isaac, Hagar laughed at her, not with her. She went against her master and earned herself a “don’t let the door hit you on the way out”. What is most improbably though, is what happened next. Hagar, seeing herself stranded with a dying son, Ishmael, in the middle of the Mesopotamian desert, was helped most improbably by God Himself. He promises to protect her and bless her and to give her son offspring.
Clearly God knew that the descendants of Ishmael would lead to the Arab Nations, so why did God allow Ishmael to live? Is this a result of Abraham’s sin (trying to resolve his need for an heir with a concubine)?
My only response is what we see elsewhere in Scripture. God allowed Ishmael to live knowing that He would be exalted through the feud. That the world would recognize Him as God and Creator. Now, for a human being, it is pride to look for glory and honor, and that is because we don’t actually have or deserve anything outside of what has been given to us. Only a True Giver can take glory. The True Giver is God Himself, and He does deserve all the glory and honor, for He gave us what was actually His.
That said, this is a hard question to which there are no easy answers. But here is something to think about: Can God use my feuds and mess-ups for His glory as well? It doesn’t mean it’s not our fault, but it does mean that He is greater than even our problems. God is good!