The Throne of Promise and the Hagar Dilemma

Updated: Nov 21, 2018

This month I’ve been studying Genesis. As I was reading today, a memory came to mind that was a saying that my grandmother used to use. “The Devil is in the details!” Having managed newspaper customer service and manufacturing departments in my past career, I can testify to the fact that, “The Devil really is in the details.” Without consistent planning and training on the details that are the building blocks of any venture, it can come crashing down very easily if not built on the right foundation. And the foundation of any venture is built with details.

This saying of my grandmothers came back to me today because I was reading about Abraham’s departure from the earth and the events that took place, not only during his life, but during his death. God himself explains what will happen in the future as the story plays out. Sarah, wanting to please Abrahams needs, tells him to take her handmaiden, Hagar, as his wife to bear a child for him in her name. Sarah personally places Hagar on her throne and offers her up to take her place, even though God has already told Sarah she will bear Abraham a son in the future.

Stop and think about this for a moment. Abraham had many sons because he had many concubines. He also had two wives, Sarah and Keturah. I bet you didn’t know that? Neither did I actually until I was reading Genesis again! I’ve read it a hundred times but this is the first time I noticed Keturah and her sons in Genesis. (Gen 25:1-5) The very next verse speaks of his concubines and their sons, who were given a small inheritance before the entire family portfolio is handed to Isaac, the true son of promise through whom Abraham’s seed and lineage is counted.

Keturah’s family did not receive an inheritance, but her sons were the only ones allowed to remain after the inheritances were handed out. They would receive the benefits of living in the family alongside Isaac. Abraham sent his concubines and the many sons they bore him far away to the east before his death.

Honestly, the Scripture and history of the founding of the middle east is starting to get a little more complicated for me at this point. Abraham bore one clan through two wives, had a second clan through Hagar and a bunch of non-essential families through his concubines who were taken to the east and dumped off, so as to avoid anyone contesting Isaac’s leadership in the future.

BUT … what about Hagar and Ishmael? And why is Hagar, although she suffered as an outcast, still a woman of promise, along with Sarah, while Keturah is just along for the ride and enjoys being a part of a family without being a woman of promise? Because SARAH put HAGAR on her throne as the WIFE OF PROMISE … even though God later allowed Sarah to send her away and put Sarah back on that throne.

At first glance it seems like a confusing mess, but it’s really not that complicated. God declares that Abraham will have a son of promise. Sarah gives that promise to Hagar in a foolish act of unfaithfulness, and God remains faithful to that promise by handing the same blessings to Ismael, Abrahams false son of promise that Sarah’s action created. And then allows Sarah to bear the true son of promise, Isaac, to Abraham.

Ishmael is sent away to the land East of Egypt and granted the same success as Isaac, including twelve tribes, just like Israel would become in the future. Ismael’s clan lived in that space between Israel and Egypt and “lived in hostility toward all the tribes they were related too.” And today there are two warring ideologies, those of Ismael’s descendants, the Muslim nation of states, and Isaac’s descendants, Israel and the Christian nation of states. That is the physical result of Sarah's faithlessness.

But what about the spiritual side of the promise?

The Devil really is in the details! Literally! Because try as we might in our fallen state of being, God still honors his promise. Long after Ismael and Isaac were gone, God began to use the minor prophets to announce that a new thing was coming. The future of Israel and its promise would be extended to gentiles, those as far away as the island countries. (in other words, bums like you and me). It’s the main theme of the minor prophets in Scripture.

There’s just one catch. You have to acknowledge the true son of Godly promise, Jesus Christ, to be a part of Israel in the future and enter into that promise. And with it comes all of the inheritance of Isaac if you follow that true son of Godly promise. Ismael (you, me and the rest of the gentiles) are allowed into that door of promise to stand as part of Israel’s sons.

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” John 14:6-7

The prophets foretold that the day would come that Christ would be the child of promise. But it comes with one catch. Christ is the door and there is no other. He spoke those words himself. There is no “One god with many doors.” Not Mohammed of the Muslims. Not a god of Hinduism. Not the new man that Buddhism attempts to create. Not a reincarnate future on this earth that man’s deceitful heart tries to create looking for a hope after death. But Christ and only Christ. And without Christ, the Devil really is in the details.

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