Genesis Day 38: God in the midst of a mess
That title could fit many stories in the Bible—and many stories within the grand story of humanity. We make messes—serious messes—messes where people get hurt.
He is God’s man, Abraham. He is trying to follow God. His history is pretty-good. By now you know it: he is not perfect. There are some events in the past (some messes, you might say), where he really miss-stepped. A few of them are never over.
That is true in our lives, isn’t it? We make some mistakes that stay with us for life. The God of the Bible does not “wave a magic wand” and make all those messes go away.
He does, however, get in the middle of them with us.
I often try to use a personal example; after all, it is personally applying God’s Word in our lives which causes it to go deeply into us. As I write, examples that fit today's subject are hard to share. And they don’t go away. We have wounds.
With those wounds, one little simple thing can bring up all the pain and anger. It is like a switch turned on.
In today’s reading, it starts with a laugh by Ishmael. We read in verse 8 that Ishmael (the son of Hagar) was laughing. But we need to understand. The Hebrew word we read as “laughing” is sometimes translated “mocking”.
Picture the scene. It is feast for Sarah and Abraham’s long promised son. He has been weaned, so he is probably two years old (some people say maybe three years old). The point is that we have moved past him being eight days old.
During this celebration, his older half-brother, who is about 13 years old, mocks him.
We do not know all the details. We know a “switch” in Sarah is turned on – Sarah takes offense.
We have already read about Sarah’s regret that she sent Hagar to Abraham. But it is more than regret—it is anger towards Hagar (Ishmael’s mother). Irony is too weak a word. Ishmael is the result of Hagar following Sarah’s instructions (so Abraham would have a son).
Mothers can be terribly ferocious when protecting their young. You don’t need history. They do it naturally. Add to it the jealousy that Sarah has regarding Hagar, and we have a “keg of gun powder” waiting to explode—a laugh from a “middle schooler” lights the fuse.
Let’s skip over Sarah and look at God. God has been hanging in there with Abraham—hasn’t He? And Abraham and Sarah have messed up—haven’t they?
Yet God is still present. He doesn’t prevent Sarah, and her anger, from giving Hagar and Ishmael a death sentence. He does intervene and prevent disaster.
Some people would point out that God does not always intervene. I would probably want to argue, but I wouldn’t. Most of the time, when we think God is not intervening, it is associated with a very personal and very painful situation. No amount of “bible theory” will lessen your pain. Sorry if you are in that spot.
I would simply say God timing is unknowable. Sometimes he works in our lifetime. Sometimes he works over generations. When it is over generations, it is very hard on those of us caught up in the middle of the mess.
Please note that God does act. He does intervene.
I am wondering… as you read this, are there messes in your life that need God’s intervention?
Talk with Him about it. Pray to God.