Daily Devotional: Day 158
“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? Fear not, for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is. Up! Lift up the boy, and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make him into a great nation . . . And God was with the boy, and he grew up. He lived in the wilderness and became an expert with the bow” (Genesis 21:17-18, 20, ESV).
I once met a young woman who shared with me and others the story of how she was born. Let’s call her ‘Jane.’ Her mother had taken steps not to have a baby, resorting to a contraceptive method that was known for its near-perfect success rate. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on whose side you take), unbeknownst to her, there was a hitch. Consequently, the woman later found out that she was pregnant. Thankfully, she didn’t abort. And, that’s how baby ‘Jane’ landed on planet Earth.
Today’s Scripture passage tells the story of Ishmael. Unable to conceive, Sarah urged Abraham to give her a child by having relations with her servant, Hagar. Abraham did. However, when Hagar became pregnant, she used that as an occasion to despise Sarah. Consequently, Sarah had the pregnant Hagar kicked out of Abraham’s house. By the intervention of an angel of God, Hagar returned to Sarah. But the tension didn’t end there. Ishmael was born; and later, Isaac. Sarah wouldn’t entertain the presence of Ishmael due to inheritance issues; so, for the second time, Hagar and her son were driven out of Abraham’s house; this time, for good. Abraham grieved over this matter, but he had to let Ishmael go.
Ishmael was conceived under unusual circumstances. He wasn’t the ideal child Sarah wanted. He came into the picture because Sarah thought she had run out of options. In a sense, Ishmael was the ‘PLAN B’ child. Even as a child, Ishmael had the bitter experience of being separated from his father as well as from Isaac, his half-brother. Ishmael became the ‘unwanted’ child born out of necessity and disposed of when his presence was deemed inconvenient. He was the innocent casualty of the drama in Abraham’s household. But thankfully, the God of Abraham is the Father of the unwanted, who welcomes the rejected, who gives hope to the hopeless, and who turns our mourning into dancing (cf. Psalm 30:11). He didn’t forget Ishmael. He blessed the boy and made him into a great nation. Later, Ishmael became an archer, an expert with the bow.
We all have different beginnings and different stories about how we got here. Your existence is not a mistake. Regardless of the circumstances of your birth or childhood, your life is not a mistake. People may have treated you in the past as something disposable or expendable. Don’t worry. You matter to God, and He has wonderful plans for you. How you got here shouldn’t be your problem. What matters is, you’re here; and where you go from here should be your focus. Don’t focus on those who don’t want you around; focus on the loving and faithful Father who wants you and wants to do great things with you. He was there for Ishmael. He will be there for you, too.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you. Amen.
For further study: Luke 1:59-80