10 April, 2016

Genesis 21—God Heard the Cry of Ishmael and was With Him

And God said unto Abraham, Let it not be grievous in thy sight because of the lad, and because of thy bondwoman; in all that Sarah hath said unto thee, hearken unto her voice; for in Isaac shall thy seed be called. And also of the son of the bondwoman will I make a nation, because he is thy seed. . . . And God heard the voice of the lad; and the angel of God called to Hagar out of heaven, and said unto her, What aileth thee, Hagar? fear not, for God hath heard the voice of the lad where he is. Arise, lift up the lad, and hold him in thine hand; for I will make him a great nation. And God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water; and she went, and filled the bottle with water, and gave the lad drink. And God was with the lad; and he grew, and dwelt in the wilderness, and became an archer (Genesis 21:12-13, 17-20 KJV).


Rev. Robert C. Harbach

[Source: Studies in the Book of Genesis, pp. 438–440]

“In Isaac shall thy seed be called.” The covenant line continues not in Ishmael’s generations, but in Isaac’s. This does not mean that Ishmael himself cannot be in the covenant, but that the covenant line of generations shall not continue in his family succession. But this does not mean, either, that no elect shall be found among Ishmael’s seed, for Kedar and Nebaioth, on his family tree are elect. It does mean that the covenant line which runs directly to Christ takes its course through Isaac; just as, with respect to Jacob’s children, the covenant line continued not in any of his children, but only in Judah. It would be far wrong to say that all those who are not under the dispensation of the covenant, or all those in whom the covenant line does not continue, are therefore themselves not in the covenant. For some such, many such, have received God’s mercy and salvation. The covenant of God was established in Abraham, not in the families of the earth; yet in Abraham shall all the families of the earth be blessed.

It is just as wrong to appeal to Ishmael in the interests of “common grace,” as though, in his case, we have an instance of God’s blessing a reprobate. Since Ishmael was blessed, he is God’s elect. Also it is wrong to say, in maintaining the “common grace” view, that the only “blessing” Ishmael received (Genesis 17:20), was mere temporal blessing, the blessing of corn and wine, the blessing of earthly prosperity and posterity. To so distinguish as that he was blessed temporally, but not spiritually, is to hold a “common grace” distinction and to misunderstand the scripture truth that God’s goodness is always particular. That is, God’s goodness is not something shown in general or in some universal way to all men, but only particularly to the elect alone.


They [Hagar and Ishmael] were not fugitives, nor vagabonds, as Cain (4:14), for although they were cast out of Abraham’s household, they were not cast out of the family of God. God had met her in the desert before, heard her affliction (16:11); now again. God had not forgotten her. Taking the initiative, He made the first move toward her: “and the Angel of God called to Hagar, ‘What aileth thee, Hagar?’” He required a confession of their deep need, but, not waiting for an answer, He aroused a hopeful expectation in her. Then He opened their eyes to their deliverance and gave her strength to appropriate it and use it. Finally, He assured her that He was with the lad. Ishmael was not outside covenant blessings. He was a child of God under the blessing of God (17:20); only, God had a different life and purpose for Ishmael than He had for Isaac. In Isaac, not in Ishmael, the covenant line continued on its way to Christ. The covenant line was no more in Ishmael and his generations than it was in Melchizedek’s or in Japheth’s. Still, Ishmael was in the covenant of friendship, as were Melchizedek and Japheth, or God would never have blessed him. Nor did God leave him to perish eternally. He must, then, have experienced conversion.

“Hagar, fear not!” If the reader believes the fundamental scripture principle that God’s goodness is always particular, then there should be no difficulty in perceiving the significance of the fact that the words “fear not,” as used in all scripture, are never spoken to a reprobate. They were spoken to Abraham (15:1), to Isaac (25:24), to believing Israel (Isa. 41:14), to Daniel (10:12), to Zacharias (Luke 1:13), to Mary (1:30), to the godly women at the tomb (Matt. 28:5), to Paul (Acts 27:24), to the “little flock” (Luke 12:32), and to the apostle John (Rev. 1:17); but never to the reprobate. The reason is obvious. They have everything to fear; for the longer they live on the earth, the heavier their condemnation in the day of judgment. The Lord never blesses the reprobate, not even anywhere in time. He blesses the elect only. He bids them alone “fear not!” Then Hagar and Ishmael are people of God.

This gracious language is in keeping with, “God heard the voice of the lad,” which is declared twice in one verse, “and God was with the lad” [v. 20a] compared with, “God is with thee” (Abraham) [v. 22]. It may be that a godly man may bless a reprobate person (Heb. 11:20); it may be that one man may say to another who happens to be a reprobate, “God is with thee” (as in I Sam. 10:7). But God does not ever say of a reprobate, “I have blessed him,” “fear thou not,” or “God was with him.” (Cp. Gen. 39:2, 3, 21; Judges 6:12; I Sam. 3:19; 18:14.) When He uses this language He uses it with reference to His children. (see Isa. 41:10; Matt. 28:20.)

“The cry of the boy was heard . . . not because he had prayed in faith; but because God, mindful of His own promise, was inclined to have compassion on them. . . . When He afterwards says, ‘Fear not,’ He invites and exhorts her to hope for mercy. . . . So that Hagar might conclude that although she was wandering in the desert as an exile from the sanctuary of God, yet she was not entirely forsaken of God. . . . We perceive, . . . in this example, how truly it is said that when father and mother forsake us, the Lord will take us up”—Calvin.



Rev. Angus Stewart

Check out the following sermon on Genesis 21 by Rev. Stewart. This is part ‘12’ of a 16-part series going through Genesis chapters 12 to 25.

Sermon Title: “The Birth of Isaac”
Scripture Text: Genesis 21:1-21 KJV
Sermon Series: “Abraham, the Father of the Faithful.”
(To listen to the entire sermon series and others like it, click:



More to Come! (DV)

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