Abraham must have been kicking himself. God had promised him a son by Sarah, but after a long wait, he’d taken matters into his own hands and had a son by Hagar, Sarah’s slave. Now, against all the odds, Sarah herself had miraculously produced a son and true heir. Tensions between his two ‘families’ illuminated his mistake. And the ‘mistake’ was a 15 year-old cheeky, insecure adolescent, that Sarah wanted to see the back of.
No wonder Abraham was distressed, (Genesis 21 v 11). After all the youngster, trouble or not, was still his son. But isn’t it amazing how quick we are to listen to God when troubles perplex us! So God speaks to Abraham. He tells him to do what Sarah has told him – to send Hagar and Ishmael away, but not to be anxious about them. And God reiterates the promise, that Ishmael too would become a nation, because he is Abraham’s son. Talk about amazing grace! The child had been conceived in direct opposition to trusting in God, yet God would honour him because of who he was.
Sometimes our mistakes can have huge implications for others as well as ourselves – baby, house-move, marriage, job, migration – just some of the areas of life where we can make bad decisions which have humongous implications. An error of judgement in business can cause untold misery in terms of redundancies. A cavalier attitude in the banking industry has wreaked havoc on the world’s economy. It’s not just ourselves that suffer when we make mistakes.
God promised to set things right. I can never get over the kindness of God. But what did it take from Abraham? Submission. He did what God told him, and it did work out in the end (verse 20).
We all make mistakes. What to do? Listen to God. Submit. Obey. Trust our kind God – he’s in the business of taking our mistakes and turning them round for good. Then stop wallowing, move on and learn from it. Abraham had a much bigger challenge to his faith ahead – coming up in the next chapter – and that time he got it right. I may have made mistakes in the past, but next time I’m going to get it right!