But Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, playing with her son Isaac. So she said to Abraham, ‘Cast out this slave woman with her son; for the son of this slave woman shall not inherit along with my son Isaac.’ The matter was very distressing to Abraham on account of his son. But God said to Abraham, ‘Do not be distressed because of the boy and because of your slave woman; whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for it is through Isaac that offspring shall be named after you. As for the son of the slave woman, I will make a nation of him also, because he is your offspring.’ So Abraham rose early in the morning, and took bread and a skin of water, and gave it to Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, along with the child, and sent her away. And she departed, and wandered about in the wilderness of Beer-sheba.
When the water in the skin was gone, she cast the child under one of the bushes. Then she went and sat down opposite him a good way off, about the distance of a bowshot; for she said, ‘Do not let me look on the death of the child.’ And as she sat opposite him, she lifted up her voice and wept. 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. Come, lift up the boy and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make a great nation of him.’ Then God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water. She went, and filled the skin with water, and gave the boy a drink.
God was with the boy, and he grew up; he lived in the wilderness, and became an expert with the bow. He lived in the wilderness of Paran; and his mother got a wife for him from the land of Egypt.
What have your rejected lately, dismissed, turned away from, chosen you wanted to be no part of? Why? I’m no scholar of the Old Testament, so on reading and reflecting on this passage I was struck for the first time by Sarah’s harsh response to Isaac playing with Ishmael. My thought is that Sarah’s response is grounded in the sense that what she wants is under threat, what she believes may be challenged and ultimately she is afraid. Her reaction is to remove the threat. What then surprises me is God says to Abraham do what Sarah wants, what doesn’t surprise me is God does not follow Sarah’s thinking. God does not reject or turn his back on Hagar or Ishmael but continues to work with and through them, as much as he does Sarah and Isaac, creating two great nations.
Was the thing you rejected recently because it was a threat or caused fear? Mine was. In my role as a Church Related Community Work Minister I found myself in deep conversation with a lady who shared with me, as the conversation progressed and was getting more personal to me, that she was a psychic and medium. I suddenly felt uncomfortable and my internal response was, thanks but no thanks I have no personal interest in hearing what you have to say to me, and I politely removed myself from the situation. This is not my way, therefore, I was simply rejecting it. The art of psychics and mediums continues not to be my way however, it has surprised me just how much God has then chosen this experience, and the continued opportunities of conversation with the lady since, to speak to me.
Let’s not lose sight of seeing God at work in all things. As this scripture shows us God continues to speak even through the things we reject and turn our backs on.
What as a church or personally do you reject through fear or a sense of threat? Are we brave enough, faithful enough, to look again and see God at work in all things and all people, even those that threaten us or we have already chosen to reject?
God of all people and all understanding,
help me not only to see you in the things
that I understand and offer me comfort
but also in the things I choose to reject
and that leave me feeling threatened.
Helen Stephenson is a Church Related Community Worker in the Sunderland and Boldon Partnership in the Northern Synod.