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21 1-21 Overcoming The Pitfalls of Family Life

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                                                  liberty bible church          1/27/08 P.M.

By Tom Zobrist

“Overcoming the pitfalls of family life”

Genesis 21:1-21


Illus. of “the pressures on the family in a changing world.” READ from article. Families have had different pressures since the beginning of time. There’s the story told of Adam walking with his boys one day when they happened upon the entrance of the Garden of Eden. One of the boys asked, “What’s that?” Adam replied, “That’s where your mother ate us out of house and home.” Unfortunately that little “joke” doesn’t tell the theological truth of the responsibility that Adam bore for the fall of man. There are enormous pressures on the family today that are changing with every month that passes. What can we do, as Christians, to overcome these pitfalls that are destroying our homes?

OPEN to passage.                                       


Prop. In this passage, we see how it is possible to overcome pitfalls of family life, even after we make huge mistakes.

Open in PRAYER.

PREVIEW the passage. Abraham has not been perfect. Even though he was chosen of God, we have seen him make a lot of mistakes. Last week he lied about Sarah being his wife again and God bailed him out of that situation. Today, he must deal with another problem of his own making. How does he survive? How does his family survive? First, we must remember that…our outline is three p words. (That’s what pitfall begins with)

  i. God fulfills his promises vs. 1-7

Illus. of Abraham would have believed this, it would have helped him avoid the problem that he deals with tonight; but, Abraham was human, as we all are, and had to learn the hard way.

a. God’s promises sometimes are miracles    

V 1      1. All this was done, just as God had spoken. He wasn’t slow, He didn’t change anything, it was just as He had said. God, is never late! It is we who get impatient!

V 2      2. It was a miracle. Verse 5 says that Abraham was 100 years old. We know that by this time Sarah was 90. In chapter 18, it said that she was passed the age of childbearing. But, this was time set by God. The child of promise would be a miracle child.

V 3      3. They named his Isaac, which means laughter, calling to mind their response to God when He had made this promise. Cf. 18:15 The laughter at the suggestion that she could bear a child in her old age would be changed to a laughter of rejoicing.

V 4      4. Abraham is obedient by circumcising Isaac as God had commanded.

b. god’s promises result in rejoicing

V 6      1. As I said a moment ago, Sarah’s mocking of God is now turned to rejoicing at this miracle and all who hear of this will rejoice as well.

V 7      2. No one would have believed this, but it happened. So we learn about the promises of God. Even when they seem far out there, He fulfills them, even if it takes a miracle.

Trans. If we want to overcome the pitfalls of family life, we must believe that GOD FULFILLS HIS PROMISES. Second, we must be alert for…

 ii. problems we may face vs. 8-14

Illus. of “Magician” The carnival director was interviewing a young man looking for his first job as a magician. “What’s your best trick?” the director asked. “Sawing a woman in half—that’s my best.” “Isn’t that a difficult trick?” “Not really. I’ve been able to do that one since I was a child. I always used to practice on my sisters.” “And do you come from a large family?” “Well, I have eight half sisters.” Blended families is just one pitfall. We see that in this passage, but even non-blended families can have these same struggles.

a. Sibling rivalry

V 8      1. This would have happened when Isaac was 2 or 3 years old. Ishmael was 14 years older so he would have been 16 or 17 years old at this time. You know that Isaac was the “golden child.” He was the child of promise, the miracle baby that everyone made a big deal about. This would have been hard to take for an older sibling.

V 9      2. Sarah observed “scoffing” behavior from Ishmael. Sarah never liked him or his mother. She had caused his mother to flee before when she was pregnant and now she doesn’t like what she sees from Ishmael. “Scoffing” is from the same word that Isaac is from, meaning laughter. However, this is not rejoicing laughter; this is mocking laughter. One brother mocking another, who is too young to even know what is going on. Sibling rivalry must be dealt with from time to time. Another problem…

b. competing allegiences

V 10a   1. “Get rid of this “salve” and “her” son. She didn’t want to recognize that this was Abraham’s son and she certainly didn’t want to remember that this whole plan originally was hers. It was a past that they continued to pay for in the present.

V 10b  2. Sarah wanted Ishmael to have no share in the blessings of Abraham. He was not the firstborn. He was not the son of promise. And this was all true. She wants Abraham to get rid of them.

V 11    3. Ishmael was Abraham’s son and I’m sure he loved him. Illus. of when step-children told get along with step-parents. This can be very painful for the biological parents that have torn allegiances. We experienced this some with my step-dad at times. It’s not just blended families that deal with competing allegiances. There are other things that compete for our attention; work, extra-curricular activities, sports, in-laws, etc. If you are ever in such a spot, where you must choose, you must…

c. choose god’s will

V 12    1. In the flesh, (what others might say) Abraham would probably have never put them out. But, it was God’s will in this unique situation. It’s not that Abraham should listen to Sarah, but that God was using Sarah to communicate to Abraham what His will was for this issue. Isaac was the child of promise and there needed to be some separation with Ishmael. (There still needs to be that separation today!)

V 13    2. But, God would still bless Ishmael because he is a descendent of Abraham.

V 14    3. He doesn’t send her with much provision. A skin of water is a water container made of leather. She doesn’t take much, but Abraham trusts the promise of God that he would make a nation of Ishmael. Remember, God fulfills His promises.

Trans. If we want to overcome the pitfalls of family life, we must believe that GOD FULFILLS HIS PROMISES and that He guides us through PROBLEMS WE MAY FACE. Finally, even it these problems look bleak…

iii. god always makes provision vs. 15-21

Illus. of Missionary statesman Hudson Taylor had complete trust in God’s faithfulness. In his journal he wrote: Our heavenly Father is a very experienced One. He knows very well that His children wake up with a good appetite every morning… He sustained 3 million Israelites in the wilderness for 40 years. We do not expect He will send 3 million missionaries to China; but if He did, He would have ample means to sustain them all… Depend on it, God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s supply. Our Daily Bread, May 16, 1992 Hagar would learn that here.

A.     god’s provision sometimes is a miracle

V 15    1. This probably didn’t take very long.

V 16    2. Try to look at this very Hagar’s perspective. Other than taunting Sarah a little, she really had asked for any of this. I know she wasn’t perfect, but she must have felt very alone at this point.

V 17    3. God hears the cries of Ishmael. As a teenager, he may have been very bitter. But God had a plan for him, but he needed to realize that it was God that was working on his behalf. The Angel of the Lord appears, perhaps this is a theophany, and He reassures Hagar. God knew her situation and would act on her behalf as He had before.

V 18    4. God had big plans for Ishmael and so he would not be abandoned now.

V 19    5. As in chapter 16, a well provides the water they need. God’s provision is sometimes a miracle.

b. god is always with us

V 20    1. God is with him and Ishmael is blessed. He matures and becomes an archer. He survived as a hunter.

V 21a   2. This would have been the northeast corner of the Sinai Peninsula.

V 21b  3. He married an Egyptian. The Egyptians of course would become the nation that held Abraham and Isaac’s descendants in bondage for 400 years.

            4. Paul used this situation to teach the freedom we have in Christ. Cf. Gal. 4:21-31

                 a. Ishmael was born of the slave woman of the flesh; Isaac was born by promise and was the heir.

                 b. One represented bondage in Sinai, that’s where Ishmael lived and that’s where the Law was given. Isaac represented freedom when the promise came. When Jesus, came, we were set free from the Law. The old was done away, put out in the wilderness. We are now co-heirs of promise by adoption through Jesus.

                 c. Just as Isaac and Ishmael were in conflict, so it is the our flesh and the HS. Cf. 5:16-18 We are to be rid of the flesh, Cf. 4:29-30; We are to walk in the Spirit. Cf. 5:16 


If we want to overcome the pitfalls of family life, we must believe that GOD FULFILLS HIS PROMISES and that He guides us through PROBLEMS WE MAY FACE and that HE ALWAYS MAKES PROVISION; provision for us to overcome the flesh that divides our homes. Let’s practically apply this.

1.      Make sure your relationship is right with God. If you are at odds with spouse, children, or parents, you are at odds with God.

2.      Listen to God’s Word and obey it. Titus 2:1-8 (We all know Eph. 5 and Col. 3) Here’s how you can apply Titus 2.

Ten Commandments of Home Rule:

1. If you sleep on it - make it up.

2. If you wear it - hang it up.

3. If you drop it - pick it up.

4. If you eat out of it - put it in the sink.

5. If you step on it - wipe it off.

6. If you open it - close it.

7. If you empty it - fill it up.

8. If it rings - answer it.

9. If it howls - feed it.

10. If it cries - love it.

The Fight, J. White, IVP, pp. 121ff

3.       Get accountability for your own behavior, not your parents or children or spouses. If all would deal with themselves, we could solve a lot of problems.

Illus. of “Winston Churchill” Who can ever forget Winston Churchill’s immortal words: “We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills.” It sounds exactly like our family vacation. - Robert Orben

Families hold pitfalls for us all. But God will guide us if we pay attention to His Word, think of others’ first, and have Godly accountability to keep us on track. It might seem like a miracle for God to fix your child or spouse or parent, but He does work miracles. We have to believe that and live as if He has already done it and we will save our homes and families form the attacks of the enemy and the pitfalls that await them.



                                                   liberty bible church                   1/27/08 P.M.

By Tom Zobrist

“Overcoming the pitfalls of family life”

Genesis 21:1-21


In this passage, we see how it is possible to overcome pitfalls of family life, even after we make huge mistakes.

  i. God fulfills his                                                                                                vs. 1-7

a. God’s promises sometimes are ____________________________________   

b. god’s promises result in ___________________________________

 ii.                                                                              we may face vs. 8-14


b. ____________________________________________ allegiences

c. choose ______________________ ________________________________

iii. god always makes                                                                                    vs. 15-21

A.     god’s provision sometimes is a ______________________________________    

b. god is…

            Cf. Gal. 4:21-31; 5:16-18; 4:29-30; 5:16 


Let’s practically apply this.



Cf. Titus 2:1-8



Ten Commandments of Home Rule:

From The Fight, J. White, IVP, pp. 121ff













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