Humans Plan, God Diverts

Genesis 21:8-13

The child grew and was weaned, and on the day Isaac was weaned Abraham held a great feast. But Sarah saw that the son whom Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham was mocking, 10 and she said to Abraham, “Get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.”

11 The matter distressed Abraham greatly because it concerned his son.

12 But God said to him, “Do not be so distressed about the boy and your slave woman. Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned. 13 I will make the son of the slave into a nation also, because he is your offspring.”

Career Path

Choosing career path is choosing a lifestyle. What made you decide which career path to take? Did you pray about it or whatever may come?

A young believer’s life is a common aspiration in pursuing dreams. He graduated with honours. He completed multiple master degrees. His broad experience and knowledge attracted big companies hoping for his service. He has earned much to retire at early age but he discovered the joy of serving the Lord as a pastor of a small church in his city.

When God allows us to pursue our dreams, He might want us to experience something that may benefit us in the future. He may also want us to clearly understand the difference between earning worldly treasure and eternal treasure. So be very attentive when God diverts your steps.

It teaches us in Proverbs 16:9, 9In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.

When humans plan for their future but God’s plan prevailed – this was exemplified in the life of Abraham and Sarah. God never prevented when Sarah gave her servant to Abraham. Such plan for Abraham to have a child with Sarah’s servant Hagar may have been well accepted in their time.

Concubine was acceptable in their culture, but their plan backfired.

It hurts them more than it brought contentment to them. When Ishmael mocked Isaac, there was displeasure, especially to Sarah.

1. Displease

The child grew and was weaned, and on the day Isaac was weaned Abraham held a great feast. But Sarah saw that the son whom Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham was mocking, 10 and she said to Abraham, “Get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.”

Do you celebrate when a child is weaned or stopped breast-feeding?

Yearly celebration of birthdays is very common. Others celebrate monthly. It was not recorded if Abraham and Sarah celebrated Isaac’s birthday but they held a great feast on the day Isaac was stopped breast-feeding.

Isaac’s birthday celebration was not recorded but the great feast when Isaac was weaned. It was written in the Scripture, why? Was it because Sarah sensed displeasure against Hagar and Ishmael at that time?

When Isaac was weaned, he started eating solid food. At the feast, perhaps, Isaac tried to eat his food all by himself. Like all first-timer children eating solid food, Isaac may have messed with his food sloppily. Imagine. Food was scattered everywhere. And, Ishmael may have messed with Isaac.

Sarah may have expected Ishmael to assist Isaac eat properly. She may have expected Hagar to reprimand Ishmael, but instead, Hagar may have laughed at Ishmael’s mockery on Isaac, and Sarah did not like what she saw. So, Sarah told Abraham to get rid of Hagar and Ishmael.

It says in Proverbs 9:8, 8Do not rebuke mockers or they will hate you; rebuke the wise and they will love you.

Eli’s Sons

Mockery is misguided mindset. It disrespects what’s right and proper. The sons of Eli the Priest were mockers. They had no regard for the Lord. With mockery and contempt, they desecrated the temple. Eli heard about the wickedness of his sons. So he said to them in 1 Samuel 2:23-25:

23“Why do you do such things? I hear from all the people about these wicked deeds of yours. 24 No, my sons; the report I hear spreading among the Lord’s people is not good. 25 If one person sins against another, God may mediate for the offender; but if anyone sins against the Lord, who will intercede for them?” His sons, however, did not listen to their father’s rebuke, for it was the Lord’s will to put them to death.

Subsequently, when the Philistines attacked Israel, Eli’s sons died in battle, and Eli also died after he heard what happened to his sons. This should serve as warning that our attitude before God has consequences.

It teaches us in Proverbs 13:1, 1A wise son heeds his father’s instruction, but a mocker does not respond to rebukes.

When Ishmael made fun of his half-brother Isaac, did Hagar, Ishmael’s mother rebuke him? It was not also mentioned if Abraham rebuked Ishmael but such mockery was not pleasant to Sarah. When Sarah demanded Hagar and Ishmael to be driven out of her sight, Abraham was so distressed.

2. Distress

11 The matter distressed Abraham greatly because it concerned his son.

Probably, Isaac was more or less 2-years old when he was weaned. So, Ishmael was approximately 16-years old at that time. For 16 years, Abraham may have planned many things for Ishmael. Ishmael may have inherited some handsome features of his father Abraham.

Abraham was greatly troubled when Sarah told him to get rid of his son Ishmael. He may have imagined many dangers waiting. It may have made him worried so much. But, his wife Sarah was firm in her demand.

Even with naughtiness, disobedience or unpleasant behaviour of their children, parents won’t hesitate to defend or side with them if their children face troubles or challenges. It is an instinctive parental nature. Parents would readily sacrifice for the betterment of their children.

Absalom

King David exemplified it. When Absalom tried to grab the throne from him, King David ordered his men to be gentle with Absalom. King David ordered the commanders of his army in 2 Samuel 18:5, 5“Be gentle with the young man Absalom for my sake.” And all the troops heard the king giving orders concerning Absalom to each of the commanders.

King David did not whisper his command. He made it sure that all his soldiers heard his demand about his rebellious son Absalom. Such is how fathers care even for rebellious children. It’s when we were rebellious that God shows His love for us. It says in Romans 5:8, 8God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

God knew and understood how Abraham was greatly troubled when Sarah told him to drive away his older son Ishmael. However, God directed Abraham to do just the way Sarah had wanted him to do.

3. Direct

12 But God said to him, “Do not be so distressed about the boy and your slave woman. Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned. 13 I will make the son of the slave into a nation also, because he is your offspring.”

Take note: God didn’t stop when Sarah gave her servant Hagar for Abraham to have descendants. Indeed, Abraham had a son with Hagar.

What they did was not what God promised Abraham. Sarah may have thought of helping God fulfill His promise for Abraham to have children.

God let their plan be fruitful but it resulted to displeasure and distress. Why did God allow them to proceed with their plan and not stop them? Does it demonstrate the contrasting results of human’s plan and God’s plan?

When God fulfilled His promise for Abraham to have a son, Isaac the promised son brought laughter to Sarah and to all who heard about it.

Compare it! Abraham and Sarah planned how Abraham can have a son, and the result was Ishmael which brought displeasure to Sarah and great distress to Abraham. In contrast, Isaac the fulfillment of God’s promise has brought not distress, not displeasure, not even worry but laughter.

In Proverbs 19:21, 21Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.

Abraham may have planned for his son Ishmael but Sarah wanted him to send Ishmael and his mother away. God ordered Abraham to listen to Sarah. Nonetheless, God promised that He will take care of Ishmael.

God’s promise was for Abraham to have descendants with Sarah. But God let Ishmael to have descendants also. Accordingly, the descendants of Ishmael still bring displeasure and distress to the descendants of Isaac.

Abraham cut off his fellowship with his older son Ishmael for the sake of his younger son Isaac. Such event may not be easily accepted by those who would claim to be descendants of Ishmael. That’s for sure. But it also proves that God would direct our steps to accomplish His purposes.

Can we agree that when God lets things happen, when He allows us to follow our natural instinct, He has planned something for our good?

Joseph

The narrative of Joseph son of Jacob is a picture of unpleasant life that God has diverted for the betterment of many. The dramatic life story of Joseph pictured him as very confident youth. He had no hesitation of telling his dream even when it was offensive to his brothers and father.

Joseph strongly believed that his dream will come true. His older brothers did not appreciate the idea of bowing down to him.

His father Jacob was not readily convinced but did not also dismiss the possibility of Joseph’s dream. Joseph’s brothers were so furious about it. They sold Joseph to slavery, and they never felt sorry about him.

God revealed His plan for Joseph in his dream. Joseph trusted that God will take care of him. He remained faithful, and lived a righteous life even when things and events were seemingly not favorable to him. In Egypt, Joseph rose to power subsequently. During severe famine in Canaan, his brothers came and bowed down to him. Joseph’s dream came true.

Joseph’s brothers were so afraid of him. He assured in Genesis 50:19-21, 19 “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? 20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. 21 So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.

God allowed Joseph to be maltreated by his brothers and sold him as slave. He was imprisoned for avoiding temptation. Those difficult situations tested his faith in God. When he became the Prime Minister of Egypt, his life struggles may have served as his reminder to govern wisely and shrewdly.

Have you ever been maltreated or bullied before? Like Joseph, just continue to live a life of righteousness and wait for God’s deliverance.

When God allows us to experience a seemingly unpleasant situation, He is actually preparing us for something greater than we can expect or imagine.

It says in 1 Corinthians 2:9-10, 9As it is written: “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived”—the things God has prepared for those who love him— 10 these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.

The Holy Spirit Himself will assure us that if we continue to seek His help to lead us in our life, the Lord will direct our steps. Even when our decision seems foolish to observers, the peace of God will prevail in our minds to assure us that He makes things favorable to those who love Him.

Romans 8:28 says, 28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 

We have learned and observed the result of Abraham’s obedience to the Lord. God took care of him and Sarah even when they were old. The Lord allowed them also to follow their natural instinct to teach that God’s plan brings pleasure while human plans bring displeasure and distress.

The dramatic life of Abraham and Sarah teaches that it is much better to ask God to fill our heart with His plan, and seek His help to fulfill it.

Some of us may want to know how we can determine the plan of God. How do we know His plan? How can we be sure that when we plan, the idea that comes to mind is really what God wants us to do?

In Romans 12:2, Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

God’s plan is pleasant. It also says in Ephesians 5:17-18, Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. 18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.

When we sense the fruit of the Holy Spirit in us, Christ is active as Lord in our life. So, before planning for your ministry, pray to be empowered by the Holy Spirit first and foremost. Remember the contrasting results that Isaac and Ishmael brought in the life of Abraham and Sarah:

Ishmael represents human’s plan that brings displeasure.

Isaac represents God’s plan that brings laughter.

Nonetheless, God would still allow us to follow our natural instinct or do things that He may use it to teach us for our own good. He will divert us to His will whenever necessary or if we happen to go against His will.

In Galatians 3:14, 14He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.

Seek to be empowered by the Holy Spirit. Submit to Christ’s Lordship and He would divert us from relying upon our instinct to His righteousness. Righteousness is life lived by faith. It is only possible when the Holy Spirit bears  fruit in us. When Christ comes again, will He find us faithful?

It says in 2 Corinthians 4:5, 5He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.

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