Genesis 21: God’s Goodness to Abraham and to Us

God’s Goodness to Abraham and to Us

Genesis 21

Abraham and Sarah received a promise from the Lord, and they believed, but they had to fight to maintain belief because it’s hard to keep trusting the Lord with the dark kingdom shooting flaming arrows of unbelief at you.

The unhealthy and doubting forces of evil stand opposed to the healthy and trusting grace gifts, like faith, of God’s kingdom.

It has been a 25 year wait for Abraham and Sarah.

The enemy often attempts uses time against us when in fact it’s God’s timing that is key to his goodness.

Both of these saints have given in to unbelief and “man-made” efforts to get God’s promise.

But Jesus will not be deterred by their failures.

What do we see in our text?

  1. God intervenes and fulfills his word right on time. v. 1,2, 5

“Visited” – To attend; to look after; to care for; to be watched over

  • God attended to his people and his word.
  • God worked miraculously. To “visit” also implies that God made natural processes work supernaturally.
  • God invaded the dark kingdom of the world system and brought the healing power of his coming kingdom. God is healing what has been broken, and in so doing he is bearing witness to what he will do when Jesus comes and begins bringing all this brokenness back under his rule.
  • God gave his word, and he will keep his word because his reputation is at stake.

-“as he said”; “as he had promised”; “had spokento him”;

  • God kept his word at just the right time.

“at the time”

Genesis 17:21, God told Abraham “about this time next year”.

We don’t know why God chose that time. He does not say. What we do know is that God has selected the time, and he is right on time.

  1. Abraham obeys the Lord by circumcising and naming his son as he was told. v. 3-4

Genesis 17:10 – Circumcise

Genesis 17:19 – Name his son Isaac

Perhaps Abraham is beginning to catch on to what it’s like to be God’s chosen.

  • Obedience is a key indicator in our growth up into Jesus.
  • Outcomes are up to God. Our job is to hear and obey.
  1. God gives the promise and joy in him as worship. v. 3-7

Verse 3-7 have a “tone” of joy and celebration.

“God has madelaughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh over me.”

“Made” is “to produce”, “appoint”, “ordain”.

All of the celebrating was God’s grand idea!



  1. God provides for the promise by protecting him from threats and Abraham gets the hard consequence of not trusting the Lord. v. 8-14

Galatians 4:29 (ESV) But just as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so also it is now.

  • Mockery signifies a response of unbelief that contrasts with the family’s laughter. Ishmael’s response is a rejection of God’s provision.

Faith and unbelief are incompatible together. God is not going to let unbelief define his people. He is going to make sure that the cancer of unbelief does not spread. (Examples: the spy’s unbelief when going into the promised land)

Deuteronomy 29:18-19 (ESV) Beware lest there be among you a man or woman or clan or tribe whose heart is turning away today from the Lord our God to go and serve the gods of those nations. Beware lest there be among you a root bearing poisonous and bitter fruit, 19 one who, when he hears the words of this sworn covenant, blesses himself in his heart, saying, ‘I shall be safe, though I walk in the stubbornness of my heart.’ This will lead to the sweeping away of moist and dry alike.

Hebrews 12:15 quotes this passage:

Hebrews 12:15 (ESV) See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled;

“That which trifles with God’s work must be removed so that the faith can prosper under God’s blessing.”[1]

“God was graciously addressing the self-created mess of Abraham and Sarah because he “was taking up the tangled threads of His servant’s life, weaving them into his own divine pattern, and overruling everything for good” (Griffith Thomas).”4[2]


  • By God addressing Abraham and Sarah’s sin in sending Hagar and Ishmael away, even in grace, it hurt Abraham to see his son go.


  1. God cares for Hagar and Ishmael even though they were outsiders to the promise. v. 15-21
  2. God restores Abraham’s reputation as a witness for God. v. 22-34

“God is with you in all that you do.”

  • This is not because of Abraham’s faithfulness, but it is because of God’s grace to Abraham.


  • Abraham memorializes God’s faithfulness in planting the tamarisk tree and calling on the name of the Lord. v. 33.


What do we do with our passage?

  1. It is worth waiting on the Lord. (v.1-7)

Isaiah 64:4-5 (ESV) From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides you,

who acts for those who wait for him. 5 You meet him who joyfully works righteousness, those who remember you in your ways.

Obedience to God in God’s timing is always full of vision, purpose, and strategic intention because his perspective is eternal not dated with a time stamp.

God sees all, and we only see the part causing the initial pain and discomfort. That’s a bad place to make eternal decisions from.

There are times I would sell my soul for some relief in the moment. But thanks be to God he won’t let me.

How do we learn to wait on the Lord? Let me lean on my old friend George Muller for this answer.

  • Careful reading and meditation on Scripture.
  • Be righteous.
  • Don’t run away from opportunities where your faith will be tested.
  • Don’t rescue yourself.
  1. Lean on God’s promises and trust him to keep his word. (v.1-7)
  • Scripture’s promises.
  • God’s promises to you as you walk with the Spirit.

God has been faithful to give me clear instructions and promises as I’ve walked with him. Those things have certainly not been contrary to anything in Scripture, but they have not been “chapter and verse” either.

You need the kind of walk with God where you hear the Spirit, and have confidence he’s got you.

  1. Trust God to be on time in doing what he said he would do. (v.1-7)
  • Practice not fretting by firmly fixing your mind and soul on all God has done already.
    • Luke 12:22-34; Matthew 6:25-34
  1. Obedience is a Spirit taught / us learned response to God’s word that is evidence we are growing up into Jesus. (v.1-7)

Matthew 7:24 (ESV) Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.

  • Obedience begins with hearing.
  • Once we hear, we then learn to obey by trusting the Lord’s ways over ours.
  1. Celebrate the fulfillments and God who gave them. Celebrating him in worship is his idea! (v. 1-7)
  • We need to work on “joy” in worship.



  1. Disobedience to God has judgment built into the sin’s consequences. (v. 8-14)

“Sin, even in this world, almost always brings its own punishment along with it…”[3]

  1. God is able to grow our faith out of our messes as we keep on trusting. (v. 8-14)

We believe in God—such as it is, we have faith.… We work and goof off, we love and dream, we have wonderful times and awful times, are cruelly hurt and hurt others cruelly, get mad and bored and scared stiff and ache with desire, do all such human things as these, and if our faith is not mainly just window dressing or a rabbit’s foot or fire insurance, it is because it grows out of precisely this kind of rich human compost.7[4]

  1. Fight for trust in God. Unbelief is a “root” that will produce the fruit of disobedience. (v. 8-14)
  2. Sin has no good solution. (v. 8-14)

This is why the bible says, Romans 6:23 (ESV) For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

There are usually no good solutions to the consequences of us trying to get God’s way with our methods.

The results of us trying to get God’s promises with our methods result in hurt for us and others.

It hurt Abraham to see his own son be sent away, and this is a messy situation. There is no resolution to this situation except that God provided for them, but the relational mess was still there.

Illustration: If I pull the pin on a grenade to watch it explode in my hand, will I survive? Likely not. If by some miracle I did survive, will things just go back to being like they were before? No.

There is no good fix for such.

Likewise, there is no good fix for sin.

  1. We worship the God who works for us in spite of us because he has set his love on us. (v. 22-34)

Genesis 21:33 (ESV) Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba and called there on the name of the Lord, the Everlasting God.

Abraham’s God was the Everlasting One whose will for man cannot be thwarted.6[5]



[1]Allen P. Ross, Creation and Blessing: A Guide to the Study and Exposition of Genesis(Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1998), 380.

4W. H. Griffith Thomas, Genesis(Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1946), p. 187.

[2]R. Kent Hughes, Genesis: Beginning and Blessing, Preaching the Word (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2004), 295.

[3]Charles Simeon, Horae Homileticae: Genesis to Leviticus, vol. 1 (London: Samuel Holdsworth, 1836), 169.

7Frederick Buechner, Telling Secrets(San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1991), p. 36.

[4]R. Kent Hughes, Genesis: Beginning and Blessing, Preaching the Word (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2004), 297.


[5]R. Kent Hughes, Genesis: Beginning and Blessing, Preaching the Word (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2004), 296.

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