When we read articles in the magazines of Christian family-centred ministries such as Focus on the Family we sometimes get the impression that, if only we could get back to the model biblical family, then... so many of our problems in society and even in our churches would be solved.
As we approach the end of the Book of Genesis in this our “Year of Reading Biblically,” it’s becoming rather painfully obvious how very few model biblical families there are for us pastors to point to. I don’t think I will ever say: “Look at them! Base your family on Adam and Eve’s, or Noah’s, or Abraham and Sarah’s, or Isaac and Rebekah’s, or Jacob and Leah’s.” Honestly, all the biblical families are seriously dysfunctional. They serve as excellent examples of how not to be a dad, or mom, or daughter, or brother.
This Sunday we’re looking at that excessively messy Abraham-Sarah-Hagar-Ishmael-Isaac story. It seems to me Hagar is the surprising hero to emerge from this story. She was terribly mistreated by her owner Sarah—so badly that, even though she was pregnant, she chose to run away and risk life in the desert rather than under Sarah’s unbearable tyranny. Yet Hagar is the one person in our story who hears from God, who actually gives God a name (Hagar is the very first character of our Bible to give God a special name--El Roi—the God who sees), and who chooses to believe God’s promises to her. Even though this God allowed Sarah and Abraham to forcibly take her from her family, her native land, and all she held dear.
Ishmael grew up fatherless (shame on Abraham), but he did have a great mother. A godly mother. A woman who knew that God—the God who sees—was always watching over her.
[The photo is of the Kuepfer cousins, Christmas 2015.]