Games of my childhood were so simple compared to the high-tech world that today’s children have accessible to them. We didn’t have ipads, video games, or even color televisions. Summer days were passed riding bikes, taking walks in the woods, singing silly jump-rope songs, competing in a mini-tournament of jacks, or playing a neighborhood game of tug-of-war. Our gang was divided up as evenly as possible, with just enough big kids on each team, then the pulling, sliding, and giggling would commence, as each team tugged with all their combined kiddo-sized muscles.
As adults, situations arise that put us in tug-of-war predicaments, difficult scenarios when we feel as though we are being ripped apart from within. Regardless of our actions, the results will hurt someone, disrupt a relationship, or feel wrong. The great patriarch, Abraham, was put in such a difficult pickle by his own doing. He had been promised an heir, a son to carry on the Messianic line leading to the Christ child, but the promise was slow to be fulfilled. In a brief failure of faith and an attempt to help God fulfill the great promise, Abraham took his wife Sarah’s handmaid, Hagar, to himself as his wife, resulting in an heir for Abraham.
But this was not God’s plan, and Ismael, Hagar’s son, would not be the chosen heir, “For Sarah conceived, and bare Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time.” This son, born to the one-hundred-year old patriarch, was Isaac, the promised seed, the child who would carry on the Messianic line. As Isaac grew, so did the conflict between Hagar and Sarah, so severe that Sarah asked her husband to “cast out this bondwoman, and her son.” Abraham felt the pain of that tug-of-war, loving both sons deeply, stuck in a position described as being “very grievous.” The Hebrew words vividly paint a picture of an old man broken into pieces, with violent action. The aged patriarch was stuck in the middle, being pulled in opposing directions by the deep love that he had for both of his sons.
What do we do when we don’t know what to do? Abraham sets the template for us, for although he was faced with a heart-breaking decision, he did not let the problem consume him. He sought the Lord’s direction and God comforted him, for God had a plan for Ismael also. Abraham was told to “hearken unto Sarah” and although the thought of separating from Ismael was grievous to him, he responded with immediate obedience. By seeking and submitting, Abraham allowed the Lord to solve his family’s tug-of-war. That will work for us, too. When placed in those impossible tug-of-war situations, seek out the Lord, trust His leading, and rest in His resolution.
Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
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