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Read: Genesis 16

Love, for all its greatness, depth, wonder, power and strength is messy. Love is complicated. Love has good intentions, the best of intentions, but often makes mistakes. For the longest time I understood the mistakes of Abram and Sarai as imperfections in their faith, and that is one way of looking at it. I am coming to see things differently though. I am beginning to see that Abram and Sarai’s sense of judgment was sometimes overcome by love.

Our forebearers of faith were not “perfect”. On route to Egypt Abram constructs a lie (that Sarai is his sister) so that both of them would be safer. That wasn’t God’s plan. When hoping to fulfill the dream they shared for a child, Sarah offers her maid-servant, Hagar to Abram, so that perhaps they might have a family through her. That wasn’t God’s plan; that was not the blessing that God intended to give.

Immediately after Hagar conceives Ishmael strife grows between the two women. Sarai drives Hagar away, but the Lord has compassion (love) for Hagar and brings her back to the family. God has “updated” God’s plan and now it includes a blessing for Ishmael too. Love fuels Sarai’s jealousy of Hagar, and the contentiousness does not end, even with the (later) birth of Sarai’s son, Isaac.

It used to confound me a bit, that Abram and Sarai were commended for their faith, while the story clearly notes instances when their faith was faulty. I concluded that God does not expect us to have “perfect” faith. That faith has room for reasonable doubt. And while that’s true, I think there is more. I think that our God, Who fully knows the heart, is as much impressed with the sincerity of our love as God is with the unwavering character of our faith.

When the two boys, Ishmael and Isaac, begin playing together and the older child, Ishmael, teases his younger half-brother, it is more than Sarah can stand. Ultimately Hagar and Ishmael are cast out (Gen. 21). Abraham is caught between two loves; he has compassion, but is helpless to change the contentiousness of the two women. God’s love is greater and healthier than human love, and it does not fail to redeem the times and keep the promises to the futures of both Ishmael and Isaac.

Shalom,
Pastor Rob Nystrom