Scripture: Genesis 21:1-21
Key verse: (17) And God heard the voice of the boy; and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, and said to her, “what troubles you, Hagar? Do not be afraid; for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is.”
Reflection: There is a pattern in scripture that reveals the extravagant grace of God. Over and over again, God unpredictably cares for the outcast. In today’s passage, we are reminded that Abraham and Sarah had been promised a descendant but when Sarah didn’t become pregnant, she offered her slave Hagar to Abraham to be a surrogate mother. Hagar gives birth to Ishmael but Ishmael is not the heir God intended. Later Sarah becomes pregnant and has a son named Isaac. Then Sarah becomes jealous. She doesn’t want to share the household with Hagar and she doesn’t want Ishmael to remain in the family and inherit any of Abraham’s blessings. She asks Abraham to cast Hagar and Ishmael out. Abraham is reluctant but he complies after God assures him that all will be well. Hagar and Ishmael travel into the wilderness and quickly run out of their meager provisions. God hears the cries of Ishmael and an angel tells Hagar that God has heard the boy.
Sometimes it’s tempting to think God only hears our prayers. God only hears our cries. God is our God and we don’t want to share God with outsiders. Scripture presents a different view. God hears the cry of Ishmael, God has mercy on the Ninevites which makes Jonah angry, God welcomes Cornelius and his family to baptism overcoming Peter’s concerns about cleanliness. God welcomes the outcasts and shows them care and mercy. God welcomes the “other” whoever that may be.
In his 1865 inaugural address, Abraham Lincoln said about the Union and the Confederacy: “Both read the same Bible, and pray to the same God; and each invokes His aid against the other.” In our own time, conservatives and liberals claim that God is on their side in the culture wars and the political tensions. Lincoln was able to see a bigger picture and recognize that God isn’t owned by one side or the other. How would it change our faith if we understood that God loves our enemies as much as God loves us? (ouch, it hurt to write that question) How would it change our behavior if we believed that God cares for the people we push aside?
Prayer: “There’s a wideness in God’s mercy, like the wideness of the sea. There’s a kindness in God’s justice, which is more than liberty. There is no place where earth’s sorrows are more felt than up in heaven. There is no place where earth’s failings have such kindly judgment given.
For the love of God is broader than the measures of the mind. And the heart of the Eternal is more wonderfully kind. If our love were but more faithful, we would gladly trust God’s Word, and our lives reflect thanksgiving for the goodness of our Lord.” Amen.
Author: Millie Snyder
(prayer is hymn #435 from Glory to God, “There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy”)
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].