After the fall of Adam, we read about his descendants up to Noah. Mankind multiplied and there was evil on the land. “So the Lord was sorry he had ever made them and put them on the earth. It broke his heart” (Genesis 6:6). God decided to wipe away everything that he created from the face of the earth. “But Noah found favor with the Lord” (Genesis 6:8). God’s redemptive plan was to start over with someone faithful and he confirmed his creation covenant with Noah. Abram descended from the line of Shem and God established a covenant with him. He was called to leave his family and journey with God to a new country.
The promise was that his family would be blessed and he would be the father of many nations. The one challenge was that Abram was still not a father in his eighties, but his wife Sarai had a proposal. She convinced Abram to lie with her servant Hagar, so that they could produce a heir. Like Adam, Abram listened to his wife and Hagar conceived Ishmael. Trouble soon started as Hagar treated Sarai with contempt and she blamed Abram for this outcome. He reminded her that Hagar was her servant and she treated her harshly until Hagar ran away. “The angel of the Lord said to her, “Return to your mistress, and submit to her authority”” (Genesis 16:9). The angel told Hagar that her son would be called Ishmael. He would be wild and would be in conflicts with everyone, and live in open hostility against his relatives.
God reconfirmed his covenant to Abram and his name was changed to Abraham. Sarai was now Sarah and God revealed that they would have a son and call his name Isaac. Sarah conceived and gave birth to Isaac and Hagar and Ishmael made fun of him. Sarah demanded that Abraham get rid of Ishmael and determined that he would not share in his inheritance. Although it displeased Abraham, God confirmed that he needed to listen to Sarah. Ishmael and his mother were sent away and God promised that a nation would be created by him. This was another messy family situation that was created through impatience. Sarah wavered at the promises of God and decided to take matters into her own hands.
Abraham did not waver, yet he listened to his wife. Once the challenges started with the servant, Sarah blamed Abraham. Their disobedience created a child who would be at odds with his relatives for life. Ishmael had to deal with growing up without a father and was not allowed to benefit from Abraham’s inheritance. A child cast away and abandoned by his father’s family, because of the conflicts with his step mother. There are many people who are the result of blended families, children born through extra marital affairs and children who were raised by step parents after divorce or death.
Many children have experienced difficult family dynamics, from being a half sibling and feeling less entitled to the family inheritance. Many step parents have abused children born from previous relationships or from affairs. Nevertheless, God is gracious and he also made a covenant promise to Ishmael. “Go to him and comfort him, for I will make a great nation from his descendants” (Genesis 21:18). Your end is far greater than your beginning and although your family circumstances may have been challenging, God has a covenant promise for you. “then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes. He will have mercy on you and gather you back from all the nations where he has scattered you” (Deuteronomy 30:3).