by Narelle Atkins
Abraham was seventy-five years old when God first promised him that his descendants would become a great nation. Ishmael, Abraham’s firstborn son from Hagar, was born when Abraham was eighty-six years old.
When Abraham was ninety-nine years old, God confirmed His covenant with Abraham. God said all males must being circumcised as a sign of the covenant, including foreigners living in Abraham’s household. Although Sarah was ninety years old, God promised she would bear a son for Abraham within a year and they were to name him Isaac. God said He would establish an everlasting covenant with Isaac and his descendants.
Abraham held a great feast on the day Isaac was weaned. At Sarah’s urging, Abraham sent Hagar and Ishmael away. The Lord had promised Abraham that Ishmael’s descendants would become a nation.
Isaac married Rebekah not long after his mother died. Rebekah was the granddaughter of Abraham’s brother, Nahor.
After Sarah died, Abraham took another wife who bore him sons. When Abraham died at the age of one hundred and seventy-five, he left everything he owned to Isaac. Before his death Abraham had given gifts to the sons of his concubines and sent them away from Isaac to live in the eastern lands. Isaac and Ishmael buried their father in the cave where Sarah was laid to rest.
by Deborah Horscroft
Hagar the handmaiden of Sarah was a profound theologian. Taken as a slave from her homeland of Egypt, given as an object to Abraham for the purpose of bearing a surrogate child for Sarah, abused and abandoned by a jealous mistress, lost in the wilderness, heavily pregnant and without hope: Hagar encounters the Living God.
God sends the pregnant Hagar back to her mistress, but not without promises. “You are now with child and you will have a son. You shall name him Ishmael, for the LORD has heard of your misery.” (Genesis 16:11) God names Hagar’s son Ishmael, which means “God hears”.
Known throughout the Old Testament as “The God of Abraham”, Hagar now dares to give God a new name, “El Roi”, which means “the God who sees me.” To all who feel invisible, or to those who wish to hide their injustice from God, He is El Roi, the God who sees.
When Hagar and Ishmael are sent away by Abraham a final time the LORD speaks again and promises Hagar that Ishmael will also be the father of a great nation, the Arab peoples. He provides them with water in the desert and “God was with the boy as he grew up”. (Genesis 21:20)
It can be tempting to think the God of the Old Testament is so very different to the God of the New. Yet the God who was known to Hagar is also strikingly familiar to us. The God who hears, sees and speaks. The God who cares for us, who is with us and who keeps his promises. As the writer of Hebrews reminds us, “In these last days he has spoken to us by his Son” (Hebrews 1:2), God made flesh.