But God Said to Abraham

So Great Is God’s Love for Us

But God said to [Abraham], “Do not be so distressed about the boy … I will make [him] into a nation also, because he is your offspring.” Genesis 21:12-13

Sarah’s words sliced Abraham’s heart: “Get rid of that slave woman and her son” (Genesis 21:9).

My son, Abraham must have thought. A son I love.

And yet as cruel as Sarah’s words were, they were grounded in truth: Ishmael was not the promised heir. God had said to Abraham, “Sarah will bear you a son … and I will establish my covenant with him” (Genesis 17:19). That son was Isaac.

Abraham knew what God had said, but that didn’t ease the heartache of sending Ishmael away—a painful consequence of a foolish decision. Instead of relying on God’s promise to provide an heir, Abraham had agreed to Sarah’s suggestion and taken her handmaid, Hagar, as a second wife (Genesis 16:1-4). Hagar had given Abraham his eldest son—beloved Ishmael.

But God had compassion on the distraught father. Although God insisted that Hagar and Ishmael leave Abraham’s household, He graciously provided for them because Ishmael was Abraham’s seed (Genesis 21:13, 20-21).

The Scriptures don’t reveal how God comforted Abraham after Ishmael’s departure, but I know God did, for He “is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18).

Abraham lived at least seventy years after the events recorded in Genesis 21. He lived to see the birth of his grandsons Jacob and Esau—symbolic of the fulfillment of God’s promise to grow a great nation from Abraham’s seed.*

Too often, like Abraham, I attempt to accomplish God’s purposes with my flawed plans and inflict unnecessary pain on myself and on others. But God is merciful. He doesn’t treat me as my sins deserve or repay me according to my iniquities because His love for me is so great (Psalm 103:10-11). Consequences come, but God’s compassionate grace soothes their sting and helps me bear their burden.

Are you reaping the painful consequences of a foolish decision? Take your pain to the Lord as Abraham did. Let the Lord sort it out. Trust His wisdom. Follow His direction. And that obedience will reopen the storehouse of God’s blessing on your life.


Read Romans 4:18-24, Hebrews 11:8-19 and James 2:23. Abraham’s legacy is one of obedience not disobedience. How can that encourage us when we fail to follow God’s plan for our lives?

Read Psalm 103:8-18. What encouragement does this passage provide about God’s mercy and love? What should be our response according to verse 18?

Genesis 25:7-11 is the postscript to the events of Genesis 21. What does this passage indicate about the relationship between Abraham, Isaac, and Ishmael?

You may also want to read Hagar and Abraham.

Denise K. Loock

This devotion is part of a series on the But God statements in the Bible.

*Note: Abraham was 100 years old when Isaac was born (Genesis 21:5). Isaac was sixty when Jacob and Esau were born (Genesis 25:26). So Abraham was 160 when his grandsons were born. He was 175 years old when he died (Genesis 25:7).



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