This morning I began a new chapter in my Bible study entitled “Outcast but Not Forsaken”. With so many tragedies, particular the one in Parkland, FL last week, this study seems perfectly timed. When God began working with Abram (his name was later changed to Abraham), God gave him a command and an amazing promise. The command was “Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you” (Genesis 12:1).
Explaining the promise He would give Abraham in exchange for his obedience, God continued: “I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (verses 2-3). This promise had multiple components, including the promise of multiple descendants, fame, divine protection and that Abraham through his descendants would be a blessing to all people. Abraham’s son, Isaac, and grandson, Jacob, were “heirs with him of the same promise” (Hebrews 11:9).
The Lord told Abrahm (later Abraham) and his wife, Sarai (later Sarah), what He would do. But God didn’t immediately give him what He promised. There was a waiting period, just like so many of our own answered prayers from the Lord. The problem came when Sarai and Abrahm didn’t wait on the Lord, but took matters into their own hands (Gen. 16:1-16), and Abrahm had a child with Sarai’s servant Hagar, named Ishmael (which means “God listens”). When Hagar ran away while pregnant, the angel of the Lord appeared to her, told her to return to her mistress and submit to her authority. He also said about Ishmael: “He will be a wild donkey of a man, his hand will be against everyone, and everyone’s hand will be against him; and he will live to the east of all his brothers.” (v 12)
Later after Sarah bore Abraham his promised son, Isaac, there was trouble between the wives of Abraham’s two sons (Gen 21:9-16). At the Lord’s urging, Abraham listened to Sarah and sent Hagar and Ishmael away, and they wandered in the wilderness. When the water and bread were gone and it was only Hagar and Ishmael, Hagar “lifted up her voice and wept” (v 16). Hagar humbled herself and cried out to the Lord, and He heard her cry, and responded. “Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water; and she went and filled the skin with water and gave the lad a drink” (v 19).
What struck me this morning, is that God loves everyone: every child, every parent, no matter their position or status. And if we will humble ourselves before Him, cry out to Him, He will hear our prayers and He will respond. We may be alone, without anyone to turn to except the Lord, and that might even be His plan. “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man.” (Ps. 118:8)
No matter our station in life, the Lord loves us unconditionally and wants to be our Lord; and He also loves those that we may have a difficult time loving. Even back long before Christ was born, the Lord said: “You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord.” (Lev. 19:18) Let’s remember this as we see everyone today, even those we dislike, who treat us or others poorly: “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” (Luke 6:27-28) If they humble themselves before the Lord, He will also hear their cries. He loves us all!