“And the matter was very displeasing in Abraham’s sight because of his son.”— Genesis 21:11 (NKJV)
We’re dropped into a difficult time in Abraham’s life here. In context, his son Ishmael (whom he conceived with his servant Hagar) had just revealed an antagonistic heart towards his other son, Isaac (whom he conceived with his wife). It was clear the two sons couldn’t co-exist and one would have to be sent out—and that son would have to be Ishmael.
Although Isaac was the fulfillment of God’s promised blessing, Ishmael still held an important place in Abraham’s heart. Ishmael was likely a teenager at this point, which means an undeniable bond had been established between the two.
The instincts of a faithful father are to protect and provide for their children, how much more for a father like Abraham? So, we can start to grasp what’s meant when the Word tells us this issue was “very displeasing” to Abraham. He must have been heartbroken. Watch what happens next: “But God said to Abraham, ‘Do not let it be displeasing in your sight because of the lad or because of your bondwoman. Whatever Sarah has said to you, listen to her voice; for in Isaac your seed shall be called. Yet I will also make a nation of the son of the bondwoman, because he is your seed’” (Genesis 21:12-13 NKJV).
At this distressing point in Abraham’s life, the Lord tells him what he needed to hear. God affirms that Ishmael must be sent out, but He also assures Abraham that He will take care of Ishmael by making a nation out of him. Abraham needed to hear both of these things. Yes, it would be difficult to send Ishmael out from his parental presence, but there would be peace in knowing a greater presence would accompany him and prosper him.
Have you ever been in a similar situation or found yourself in circumstances that were “very displeasing?” Of course you have—we all have! But just as God didn’t leave Abraham hanging in that tension, He will also assure us with the words we need to hear during these valleys in life.
He may not speak to us in an audible form like we see here, but let’s not forget we always have the Bible at our disposal, which He uses to speak to us in all times and circumstances. We refer to the Bible as “God’s Word” because it’s the primary means by which He communicates with us. Our faith grows as God speaks to us by His Word (Romans 10:17), and we’re wise to go into every season of life, especially the very distressing ones, because He is willing and waiting to assure us in what we need to know.
DIG: Why was Abraham so distressed here?
DISCOVER: How did God respond to Abraham’s condition? How can we experience the same consolation in our own lives?
DO: Seek to hear from the Lord today through prayer and devotion. Open up His Word to receive His guidance and truth.