Chosen for Greatness
Hagar and Ishmael Sent Away1
The child grew, and was weaned; and Abraham made a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned. But Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, playing with her son Isaac. So she said to Abraham, “Cast out this slave woman with her son; for the son of this slave woman shall not inherit along with my son Isaac.” The matter was very distressing to Abraham on account of his son. But God said to Abraham, “Do not be distressed because of the boy and because of your slave woman; whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for it is through Isaac that offspring shall be named for you. As for the son of the slave woman, I will make a nation of him also, because he is your offspring.” So Abraham rose early in the morning, and took bread and a skin of water, and gave it to Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, along with the child, and sent her away. And she departed, and wandered about in the wilderness of Beer-sheba.
When the water in the skin was gone, she cast the child under one of the bushes. Then she went and sat down opposite him a good way off, about the distance of a bowshot; for she said, “Do not let me look on the death of the child.” And as she sat opposite him, she lifted up her voice and wept. 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? Do not be afraid; for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is. Come, lift up the boy and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make a great nation of him.” Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. She went, and filled the skin with water, and gave the boy a drink.
God was with the boy, and he grew up; he lived in the wilderness, and became an expert with the bow. He lived in the wilderness of Paran; and his mother got a wife for him from the land of Egypt.
Dying and Rising with Christ
What then are we to say? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.
For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For whoever has died is freed from sin. But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Therefore, do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. No longer present your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and present your members to God as instruments of righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.”
We are trained from young ages to look for the heroes and villains in stories. We may have Walt Disney to thank for this in part. this tends to b. a very anthropocentric, or “human-centered” view. Our reality has a lot more grey in it, as well as a host of other colors. Those stories we continue to tell ourselves of Mayberry and Middle Earth are simply myths that call out situations and present cases for values such as love and loyalty. The result of these myths is the fact that, from time to time, we make hard choices for the benefit of all rather than our own self-interest. The myths are worth keeping, but it does not make them any less a myth.
These myths are why I love the bible. It, by and large, is not written as myth and legend but as witness to God’s goodness. Every hero in the scriptures has weaknesses and faults, and these faults are displayed in ink across the centuries for all to see. David’s adultery, Moses’s murder, Noah’s drunkenness, all the genocide and incest displayed… but not out of pride. They are displayed to show that God can and will call greatness out of anyone.
To be chosen by God is to be called up out of our league, beyond our skill, talent, and ability. It is not just grace that extends the invitation. It is grace that carries us through. Ishmael, a child born out of disobedience, step-brother of the chosen heir Isaac, was still blessed so that his own descendants survive today as the Arab people and followers of Islam. This great competitor of both Judaism and Christianity is only here today by the grace of God! How might they factor into God’s plan for our world?
There is a key that unlocks this redemption into greatness. It is death. In order to walk in the new life by the grace of God, we must let go of our old life. Jesus lived and died that example for us. The resurrection was the first of many of a life offered up to God and lifted to new greatness that only God can see and only God can do.
What greatness has God lifted you to?
How can you offer yourself to God today?
- (Gal 4:21–30)↩