Tag Archives: Ishmael

Hagar Sees The Well

“Then God opened Hagar’s eyes, and she saw a well full of water. She quickly filled her water container and gave the boy a drink. (Genesis 21:19 NLT)

After Sarah witnesses Ishmael mocking her son Isaac, she tells her husband Abraham to cast out the bondwoman, Hagar, and her son. Abraham is distraught over the notion, after all, Ishmael is his son, too. Ishmael is about 17 years old when this event occurs, so he has lived in his father’s household a long time. Yet it has become apparent that there is no way for Ishmael and Isaac, not to mention their mothers, to live peacefully together in one household.

Genesis 21:14 tells us:

“Early in the morning Abraham got up, took bread and a waterskin, put them on Hagar’s shoulders, and sent her and the boy away. She left and wandered in the Wilderness of Beer-sheba.” (CSB)

Years earlier, Hagar had left Abraham’s house voluntarily after a dispute between her and Sarah (Genesis 16:6). She had fled from her mistress and encountered the Angel of the Lord at the well of Beer-lahai-roi. This time is different. This time she is banished from the home and sent away through no choice of her own. She and her son Ishmael are given a little bread and a skin of water and then sent away. God finds her once again, desperate and near a well of water. But unlike Beer-lahai-roi, Hagar does not see the well this time. She and Ishmael have reached the point of dehydration and she resolves herself to the idea that they will simply die of thirst in a barren land.

“Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” (John 4:10)

This scene of Hagar and Ishmael in the desert is absolutely rich with spiritual imagery. It reminds us of a parallel instance where a desperate woman encountered God at a well; a Samaritan woman who came to draw water from Jacob’s well in John 4. This woman saw the well of water, but she didn’t see the Well of Living Water Who sat upon it. She, too, was”dying from thirst”, albeit a spiritual thirst that brought spiritual death. Like Hagar, the Samaritan woman’s eyes had to be opened to see the Well of life-giving water, a Well that was there all along.

Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” (John 4:13-14)

Hagar and Ishmael carried with them into the barren desert a source of water of their own. But, alas, it was not enough. For our own sources of water shall always run empty and must be refilled. Like Hagar, the time comes when we are at the end of our own resources, when we must admit that we do not have any more on which to rely. In desperation we fall to the ground, waiting for the embrace of death to finally bring an end to our hopelessness. But we, too, lie next to a Well that we cannot see, dying of thirst when the Well of Living water is nigh unto us. And we will never see it until the Spirit of God opens our own eyes and leads us to it.

It is no coincidence, in my opinion, that Genesis 21 ends with the account of another well, a well of which Abraham has had taken from him (v. 25). We have seen the great need of Hagar and Ishmael, the poor outcasts, for the Well of Living Water. Now we see that Abraham, the wealthy and successful man, has just as great of a need for it. Rich, poor, man, woman, well-fed, hungry, confident, desperate: it makes no difference what condition we find ourselves in, our need for the Lord Jesus Christ is ever-present. Hagar could not live without the Well of Water, neither could Abraham. The Lord Jesus is ever-accessible to even the outcast and downtrodden, and He is ever-necessary for even the rich and mighty.

To Jesus Christ goes all glory. In service to Him,


[This post was originally published February 19, 2010]

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]

**Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) © The Lockman Foundation and are used by permission.

Scriptures marked (CSB) are taken from the Christian Standard Bible  (CSB) Copyright © 2017 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Christian Standard Bible®, and CSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers, all rights reserved.

Scriptures marked (NLT) are taken from the New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Scriptures marked (KJV) are taken from the King James Version of the Holy Bible, Public Domain.


Cast Out The Bondwoman And Her Son

“And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, which she had born unto Abraham, mocking. Wherefore she said unto Abraham, Cast out this bondwoman and her son: for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, even with Isaac.” (Genesis 21:9-10)

In Genesis 21:6, we are told that Sarah laughed for joy at the birth of her son Isaac. The grace and gifts of God bring joy and laughter to the grateful hearts of those who believe God and gladly receive what He has given them. But in verse 9, we see a different kind of laughter. This laughter is the laughter of mockery; it is the laughter of disdain for what God has done in the lives of those who believe Him coming from the mouths of those who do not. It is the ridicule that comes from the heart which has only known the fruits of its own efforts and never the gracious fruits that come from God alone. This is the contempt which the man who lives in the flesh holds for the man who walks after the Spirit of God.

Before this particular incident, we have not been told very much about the nature and character of the young man Ishmael, whom Abraham became the father of by Hagar the servant woman. But this solitary verse truly speaks volumes. He complied with his father’s wishes and became circumcised a few years before this (Genesis 17:26) in accordance with the command of God. He went through the motions of religious observance, paying lip-service to the commandments of God, yet we see now that his heart was far from Him. The unrepentant, unregenerate man will very often perform the ceremonies and rituals which he feels make him appear to be religious; yet when he is confronted with the genuineness of God’s unmerited grace, he scoffs at it and mocks the one who receives it.

The man of the flesh seeks to come to God through his own efforts. He has no realization, no concept of the unearned grace which alone can serve as the force which makes a person acceptable to God. Ishmael looked upon the birth of Isaac as something foolish and disdainful much as those who reject Christ see the Cross as something foolish and meaningless (1 Corinthians 1:18). Both will revere and regard their own efforts and their own self-perceived merits as something of great importance, all the while mocking and ridiculing the grace of God which alone has the power to save.

Upon witnessing the spectacle that Ishmael is putting on during what should be a very joyous occasion, Sarah demands that Abraham send away the young man and his mother. This slave woman’s son shall not be heir with my son! she proclaims. So the enmity between Ishmael and Isaac, between Sarah and Hagar, precludes any accommodation between the two families. They simply cannot peacefully co-exist. The Apostle Paul will use this whole incident as an illustration of the incompatibility between living under Law and living under Grace (Galatians 4:21-31). These two are wholly irreconcilable as well. One must choose whether they will live under Law or live under Grace.

“Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman.” (Galatians 4:30)

In light of this clear imperative, it is puzzling that there are those who name the name of Christ who claim to live under Grace yet still attempt to fulfill the works of Law. Often, such claim that God provides Grace but still expects us to live under Law. Whether it be some observance of Old Testament dietary regulations or the keeping of Sabbath days, they claim that the Christian is in essence under a mixture of Law and Grace. But we see that Ishmael was cast out completely; he did not remain close by, he did not pay occasional visits to the family. Ishmael, representing the Law, was entirely put away once the son of Grace, the heir of promise came. There was no room for both within the household of Abraham, neither is there room for both in the household of God. The Law has served its purpose in the plans of God (Galatians 3:24-25), it holds no place anymore for those who have received the Son of Promise, Jesus Christ. The self-effort of ritual, religious motion, and attempted observance of Law will never make anyone acceptable to God, nor can it ever bring Salvation. Let us cast out the son of the bondwoman and place our faith firmly in God’s Grace, lest we, too, be found mocking.

To Jesus Christ goes all glory. In service to Him,


[This post was originally published February 17, 2010]

All Scripture quotations in this post are taken from the King James Version (KJV) of the Holy Bible

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]

Faith Must Precede Sacrament

“And Ishmael his son was thirteen years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin.” (Genesis 17:25)

Genesis 17 closes with Abraham and the men of his household obeying God’s instructions by carrying out the rite of circumcision. Abraham believed all that God has told him (Romans 4:18-22) and responded in faith to God’s directions. But what of the others who partook of this ceremony that day? Were they, too, moved by faith in God’s promise — or were they merely acquiescing to Abraham’s wishes, since he was the master of the house? What of the young man Ishmael, Abraham’s son? He, too, possessed a very personal portion in the promises that God handed down to his father (Genesis 17:20); was he moved by faith in God to obey of his own volition the directives of God Almighty?

We brush upon a phenomenon at the closing of Genesis 17 that we have but to look around us in our own day to see is still being practiced. The unrepentant and the unconverted go through the same motions that the genuine children of God do. Ours is not to search the hearts of others and determine their hidden motives, that prerogative belongs to our Lord alone. But we do well to realize that chaff grows also among the fields of wheat and that they often perform the very same observances. Ishmael was circumcised right alongside his godly father, both in obedience to God’s commandment, yet Ishmael’s later words and actions (e.g., Genesis 21:9) would betray that he did not have the underlying faith that Abraham had.

There are two great lessons that we can learn from the circumcision of Ishmael. First, although God gives certain signs and sacraments that identify a person with God, not all who partake in that sacrament are truly servants of God. We will find throughout the Bible men who were of the circumcision that were clearly not genuine children of God. Second, we see that the sacrament itself does nothing to produce faith or righteousness in those who perform it. Abraham and the men of his household gained nothing that they did not already have once they had carried out their circumcision. Nobody’s faith was boosted by this, nobody’s eyes were suddenly opened, neither was anybody made acceptable or presentable to God by going through this. The merit in what they did was valid only when they moved in voluntary obedience to the Lord and enacted this as an outward token of an inward conversion. The rite itself could produce no inward conversion at all.

And what of our own signs and tokens that identify a person as a child of God? Does Baptism, taking of the Lord’s Supper, or even belonging to a local church body affect any change in a person? In and of themselves, no they do not. A person does not become a child of God by doing these things, a person does these things because they are a child of God. Our sacraments are of a great value to the authentic believer and serve as an outward identification that we are a member of the Body of the Lord Jesus Christ, just as circumcision served to identify people as members of the nation of Israel. But they do not produce faith in us, nor do they endear us to God when our hearts are far from Him. Ishmael went through the motions that said that he was a genuine member of God’s covenant, yet he was not. Apparently, he did not truly believe God and circumcision did not change that. If the faith does not exist before the sacrament is carried out, it will not be created by carrying it out, for faith comes not but by hearing and believing the Word of God (Romans 10:17). Faith must precede sacrament for the sacrament to be of any value.

To Jesus Christ goes all glory. In service to Him,


[This post was originally published January 12, 2010]

**Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) © The Lockman Foundation and are used by permission.

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]

Lord, Will You Accept This?

“And Abraham said to God, “Oh that Ishmael might live before You!” (Genesis 17:18)

In Genesis 17, God confirms and clarifies His covenant with Abraham. In verse 3, we see Abraham fallen upon his face and quietly listening to what the Lord tells him. God spells out the details of what He is going to do in his life: He renames him Abraham (formerly Abram), He confirms that the land will belong to his offspring forever, He institutes circumcision as a sign of the covenant, and He renames Sarah (formerly Sarai).

Abraham listens to all that the Lord tells him. He laughs joyfully at the prospect of truly having a child with his beloved, Sarah. Then a thought enters his mind. What about Ishmael? What about the son that he already has, born to him by the servant girl of his wife? Moved by a genuine love and compassion for this young boy, Abraham cannot contain his emotion and exclaims to God, “Oh, that Ishmael might live before You!”

Do we not often react in this same manner when God announces a new blessing He is bringing into our own lives? We rejoice over what He is bringing to us, but what of the things that we must release in order to make room for it? Abraham had grown accustomed to having Ishmael around these 13 years and had doubtlessly been preparing him to inherit all that he had. He had been teaching him the family business, grooming him to become his heir. Now, God tells him that another, namely Isaac, shall be the one through whom God will bring about His purposes. What will become of Ishmael, Abraham wonders, Will You not accept him to fulfill Your covenant?

God is concerned with the destiny of Ishmael, and He will tell Abraham as much in verse 20. “But My covenant will I establish with Isaac“, says the Lord (v. 21). The problem with Ishmael was not that God was unable to fulfill His purposes through him, the problem with Ishmael was that he was not the son that God had planned for Abraham to have. Ishmael was born through a union that God had not approved of, by a plan that God had not endorsed, from a person that was acquired in a land that Abraham had no business going into in the first place! Ishmael was the product of Abraham’s actions apart from the will of God from start to finish. It wasn’t Ishmael’s fault, of course, and God would bless the young man in spite of this, but He simply could not accept him as the seed of promise through whom His perfect will would be carried out.

Do we not also offer the works of our own hands, produced through our own efforts, to be used by God in order to fulfill His perfect will in our lives? God simply will not accept these things. He wants to achieve his purposes for us, but He will do it in no other way than His own. Like Abraham, we too grow weary of the sometimes lengthy wait that we are called upon to endure and we begin to busy ourselves with the tasks of preparing those things by which we ourselves believe the will of God must rely on. When the Lord visits us in the time that He Himself has established, we are found having  Ishmaels of our own, produced by our self-reliance and rashness. When God is ready to bring about His best plan for our lives, may we not be found in need of displacing our second-best in order to accommodate it.

To Jesus Christ goes all glory. In service to Him,


[This post was originally published January 11, 2010]

**Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) © The Lockman Foundation and are used by permission.

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]

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