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Genesis 21: Through the Whole Bible

Moving right along, we find Genesis 21 (link). What happens here?

Good and bad, again. First, we have the good of the birth of Isaac. Children are a blessing, and a long-awaited promise fulfilled is a great thing. This is the tangible beginning of the fulfillment of God's promise to Abram way back in Genesis 12.

That's wonderful. Really wonderful.

Then the bad comes along: because of conflict within the family that is extended beyond what it ought to be, Abraham drives out Hagar and Ishmael. Hagar was Sarah's slave, Ishmael the child born when Abraham and Sarah decided to use Hagar's womb for their own plans. That incident was, on its own, bad enough.

Here, though, it goes worse. The rift seems final at this point: Hagar and Ishmael do not return but go on to live in the wilderness. Later, we see Abraham give of an inheritance to Ishmael, but that is yet to come.

What do we do with this? I've addressed this just recently in the vein of faulty heroes. Therefore, I'll pass on rehashing that right now.

Let's consider this, then: the failing of Abraham to honor his parentage of Ishmael is surrounded by his entry into two other commitments: the fatherhood of Isaac and the covenant with Abimelech. Both are positive steps in the life of Abraham, both are good things.

So, then, consider this: likely, you've failed in something in recent years. I can assure you that I've failed in something in recent weeks, and likely, depending on the day, in recent hours.

Do these failures disqualify me from taking on any useful endeavor? Does the probability that, in the midst of making commitments, I have also broken them mean that I can never be expected to honor a commitment?

Nonsense. Life cannot work that way. We are constantly surrounded by the need to commit ourselves, the need to make plans. It cannot be avoided.

Even if we have failed to honor our commitments before, we can be expected to honor others we have made. Just because we encounter someone who has been a failure does not mean we treat them as a continued failure.

Now, you may want to start off by giving them something small to prove themselves. You may need to start with something small to prove yourself with—to yourself or to others.

But there's a necessity to realize that failure in one area does not guarantee failure in other areas. Neither does it allow failure in others. Even if Abraham had gone back to the yurt, sat down, and wept for what he had done to Ishmael and Hagar, he couldn't then throw out Isaac and say "I'm not fit to be a parent!"

The truth is, none of us are really fit to be anything, but God has made us fit and responsible. So let's step up and take that responsibility. To the fullest that we can, no matter our prior shortfalls or failures.

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