Genesis 21:10 | Bad Behavior
Atlanta made the news when an armored truck with the back doors open lost more than one hundred thousand dollars fluttering away onto the interstate like a scene from a Hollywood movie. I have driven that stretch of interstate. I can’t imagine stopping or getting out of my car on that busy section of road but the amount of cash freely blowing around and pilling up on the shoulder would make even the most passive person do something rash. People stopped to take what was not theirs with the intent to keep not return. I heard many commentators speak the childish refrain “finders’ keepers” and many more agreeing. The influence of money can make seemingly otherwise normal and nice people lose their minds. Abraham and Sara had this issue in the Bible and their bad behavior is there for us to learn from.
Free Money Brings out Bad Behavior
When it comes to an inheritance from a rich relative people can be even less rational. The desire to control an inheritance from the person passing away to the those who are waiting for a windfall is also something Hollywood loves to tell stories about.
One of my personal favorites is Richard Pryor in a movie called Brewster’s Millions. Brewster is an unaccomplished average guy who happens to be the only remaining relative of some multi-millionaire. The multi-millionaire leaves instructions that Brewster will inherit 30 million with the catch that he must spend every dime in 30 days and have no assets to show for it. If he succeeds then Brewster will inherit the full fortune of 300 million. The premise is that Brewster will learn to appreciate the fortune he is about to inherit. All kinds of bad behavior and bad people then set up the plot in the fight to control the fortune. The same is found in the Bible for Sarah’s behavior.
Who Gets the Crown
We see an inheritance cause issues for Abraham in Genesis and it is a plot that shows even those God chooses to use are still sinners and people like the rest of humanity. Abraham is a wealthy man who commands a household that is strong and wealthy enough to compete with the surrounding kings and kingdoms. Yet Abraham has a problem. He does not have any children with his wife Sarah.
This means that there is a line of people who are plotting and trying to determine how they might inherit all of this wealth and power one day. The person most likely in line to take over would be Abraham’s son Ishmael who was born to Sarah’s servant. (Yes, it is messed up and yes it was Sarah’s idea to help Abraham have an heir). Then something happens for the 100-year-old Abraham. Sarah becomes pregnant and has a son in her old age. This son now would be the true blood heir to the promise of God and to the kingdom Abraham has built.
After giving birth to this son Sarah asks something of Abraham that would not be acceptable in the polite society of today. This is the Bible pointing out how bad behavior leads to displeasing choices.
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.” Genesis 21:10 ESV
Preventing Bad Blood
Sarah has a problem. Abraham has two sons and one of them is not hers. There will be a future competition. There will be bad blood between these two especially since the older son is not hers all because of money and power. She must have seen a glimpse of the future and moved to consolidate power.
Slavery is Wrong But…
Before I go any further, I need speak to the elephant in the room. The matriarch of the Jewish and Christian faiths owned slaves? Yes, is the answer and yes the Bible allows slavery to have a place even though slavery is a corrosive evil. Slavery is a loaded word in contemporary culture and I have written in the past on exactly how and by what means God permitted slavery in a sin filled world. Slavery in the context of Abraham is not the same racist slavery one immediately imagines from America’s own sinful past. My previous post on this topic is found here.
What strikes me in this scripture is a picture of Sarah realizing that these two sons will compete for the promise of God and that she wanted to give her son the best possible chance. Her motivation is purely selfish and displays a major character flaw in her personality. Every person who has ever lived has at least one sinful flaw or hang up that haunts them and weighs on their soul. Some are more obvious then others but God sees them all.
9 What shall we conclude then? Do we have any advantage? Not at all! For we have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under the power of sin. 10 As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; 11 there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. Romans 3:9-10 ESV
We are all Sinners
When Paul tells the church in Rome that they are not any better than the godless around them it is a shock to the reader. Everyone including Abraham and Sarah are imperfect sinful people who sometimes fail to live up to their own standards and could never live up to God’s standards.
Think of the godliest person you know a person who knows the Bible and never has bad behavior. Would they have pulled over to pick up cash blowing around on the side of the road? Maybe. Do you think they would have though about it? Absolutely. I am a sinner. Anyone reading this is a sinner. Never be shocked by bad behavior because it is our nature and God points it out via the Bible in many places.
It is only the restraint of God, earthly law and order, and a lack of opportunity that prevents people from treating others in hateful ways all the time. And yes, taking that money from the owner of the armored car is hateful toward that owner. Sarah feared for her child and set a plan in motion to force out Abraham’s other son. Can we really blame her for these thoughts? Have we not wished ill on others also?
36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:36-40 ESV
Mercy to Us All
We know what is right but we will never faithfully do what is right every time. Some will rush to do wrong and revel in it at any chance. God knows we are sinners. He knew Sarah’s heart and still blessed her with a son. God knows we can’t live to his perfect standards and obey the two greatest commandments. So, he did something about it.
15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. 16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. 1 Timothy 1:15-16 ESV
Embrace Mercy you Sinners
Paul the author of most of the New Testament admits he is the worst of sinners. Sarah was a sinner. The author of this post is a sinner. You dear reader are a sinner. When compared to God we are not righteous. That is why I need Jesus. Paul needs Jesus. Sarah needs Jesus. That is why you dear reader need Jesus. Because he came to save those who are sinners and reconcile them to God. God shows his mercy to sinners through Christ. If you have not already done so thank Jesus, who is God in the flesh, and thank him. Give him the sin and ask him for forgiveness. He is quick to save those who recognize their sin.
Thanks for reading and I pray this devotional and small group bible study material was helpful or encouraging to you.
Why did Abraham get Circumcised?
[…] are many events in this history (Lot, Sodom, Melchizedek, Isaac and Rebecca, Ishmael, Abimelech) but one right in the middle stands out. God changes Abraham’s name and introduces the […]