(3 minute read)
Isaac, the son of promise, arrives at last—foreshadowing the coming of Christ, the promised Son of God himself. God’s faithfulness is revealed and confirmed as he fulfills his covenant with Abraham. But today we read on to another story that is woven in but often overlooked. Ishmael—Abraham’s first son—and his mother Hagar are sent into exile (for the second time). But even though Abraham and Sarah reject them, God does not. He even extends the same promises he makes about Abraham to Ishmael—to make him a great nation with many descendants. When Hagar is desperate—ready to let her son die in the desert—God reaches out makes to make a way, providing a well of water.
God’s covenant faithfulness is not exclusively reserved for Israel (or to get a bit more pointed—Christians). In fact, built into God's covenant with Abraham is the promise that his blessing will spread boundlessly to all people. What we learn from Hagar and Ishmael is that it might be more messy and mysterious than we expect.
We cannot contain and confine God’s promises and people, because his presence and grace is at work in secret places—among those whom the “chosen" people of God neglect and reject. God’s mercy toward Hagar and Ishmael—just as much as his faithfulness to Abraham, Sarah, and Isaac—reflects the Kingdom of Christ which is open to all.
Christ is constantly teaching and embodying this grace that extends to everyone—even and especially those who are excluded and exiled. Just God provides a well for Hagar, Christ invites another woman at a well to drink from living water. This is once again not a woman of society or stature; she is a Samaritan with whom Jews didn’t associate. She was excluded by the people of God, and yet Jesus welcomes her to worship in a new way.
Jesus envisions the Kingdom of God not as a dinner party of prefect families who have their ducks in a row, but as a reckless banquet of vagrants. The guest list is anyone on the street who accepts the invitation, especially those who don’t have the means or status to pay or throw their own party. If we want to imitate this boundless love, we ought to turn our eyes to the wilderness and the streets to find our neighbor there. For we serve a God who practices hospitality in the wild.
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Tomorrow on the Daily Connection: Who Is My Neighbor?
About the Author
Nick Chambers is the Director of Spiritual Formation at Calvary UMC