Updated: Jan 30
In the Genesis reading today, we hear it beginning by making the statement about Isaac growing from birth “and was weaned.” The Jewish custom thus applying to today’s reading recognizes a Ceremony of Weaning, where the father begins to officially share in the raising of a child. A mother’s breast is no longer a child’s only source of nourishment and care.
Still, while that meaning applies in this reading, it is important to see the meaning of “weaning” as more than a baby ceasing to nurse. The word written, “higamel,” also means this was a time of “ripening.”
When one sees this duality of meaning, one can begin to understand how the child Isaac had matured. He had developed into a new state of being, from complete dependency on his mother’s milk; to a state that was ripe for him to be able consume solid food – the bread of life.
But, in these verses read, we begin without naming Isaac, where all that was written was “The child grew.” It does not say, “Isaac grew,” because Isaac was not the only child in the picture.
Ishmael had likewise grown, and while he was not the focus of a “great feast,” he too had “ripened” into a changed state. Ishmael “was weaned” from being a boy child, becoming a man child.
Isaac was like an apple on the tree, ready to be picked from its mother’s branch. Ishmael had already been picked, and was beginning the feel the purpose of the fruit, which was to dispose of its seeds within.
Both children were at a stage of ripeness. Both children were being weaned from one stage to another. Isaac was beginning to explore the bounty of a world previously unknown. Ishmael was beginning to explore the pleasures of his sexuality previously unknown.
When we read that Sarah saw Ishmael “playing with her son Isaac,” the word “tsachaq” is best understood when it is translated as “caressing” or “entertaining.” Many use the translation as stating “mocking,” “laughing,” or “making sport of.” A twelve-year old boy does not “play” with a twelve-month old (or younger) baby, in a normal sense of the word “play.” Ishmael “entertained” himself, through “caressing,” which means inappropriate “fondling” of Isaac, for personal pleasure.
As the saying goes, “Boys will be boys.” However, Sarah would have nothing of that influence around Isaac, the heir of Abraham.
Isaac was born by the grace of God, through Sarah, as a priest-to-be. Sarah was protective of external influences on Isaac’s growth and development, and the weaning celebration marked when Abraham would take on an equal or greater share in that protective raising process.
Ishmael’s natural hormonal urges were too uncontrollable at that stage of life, as demonstrated, so he represented a danger to Isaac … not only physically, but emotionally and spiritually.
If it were anything less than that, then God would not have told Abraham to cast out his first-born son, as Sarah suggested.
God saved Hagar and Ishmael from death. Again, we see how water played a role.
The physical water inside an animal-skin canteen only keeps one wanting more water. When that runs out, dehydration occurs. However, God gave them a well of spiritual water.
With that infusion, Hagar saw a physical well and got water to save her and Ishmael.
When God told Hagar, “Lift up the boy and hold him fast with your hand,” this is not a direction to reattach herself to her son, as an apple tree would do to its fallen fruit. The direction was to use parental influence on a pre-teen, so he would not be led astray. Ishmael needed to be guided to control his sexual urges.
When we see that Hagar found Ishmael a wife from Egypt, we then see how she was holding fast to Ishmael’s development, to wean him from immature selfishness, leading him to adult responsibilities.
With his mother filled with the spirit of God, Ishmael grew out of that “experimental age,” because of his mother’s guidance.
Ishmael had children, as the Lord promised. When God said, “I will make a great nation of him,” that nation became Arabia, the homeland of all Arabs.
Ishmael died, in a sense, and was reborn as his mother wished him to be.
In the reading from Romans, Paul asked the question, “How can we who died to sin go on living in it?” This reflects upon the death of Ishmael – as he was given up for dead, without physical water to survive in the wilderness. He was resurrected by spiritual water, through divine intervention, so he could fulfill his true purpose, as the father of a great nation.
We are all dead to sin, whatever “fill in the blank” sin most causes you to be “dead” to God. As human beings, we are all going to find something that delights our senses, which is sinful. Our personal experiences with sin makes us the worst people in the world to judge if something pleasurable is right or wrong. We need to call out to God … just as “God heard the voice of the child.”
You can see this Genesis reading as a statement about homosexual experimentation, where it results from a child’s natural stage of sexual exuberance. But, as natural as it may seem, it is born of earthly darkness. Left unchecked, it can lead to an immature adult stage, where earthly sins and carnal delights blind one’s self to the harm inflicted upon others and to one’s self.
Sexuality, without the purpose of creating children, children who will be properly led by the hand to the light of maturity, is playtime. Selfishness is not a stage of light guiding one to grown-up time. It is immature ripeness, not purposeful ripeness. We call it the specific sin of “adultery,” as “adulthood” is that stage of “ripening” that separates the mature from the immature.
Still, we all are born into a world of darkness, in need of light. We are reborn through the light of Christ, so once enlightened we must change. We cannot go back into the darkness to live, thinking the light always “has our back.”
Knowing the light is there, but preferring to return to wallow in darkness means our “old self” never actually was crucified with Christ Jesus. So, we never died with him, and we are not going to be resurrected with him.
The “old self” is the apple on the branch, quite content just hanging there. The “old self” is then the apple too heavy to stay on the limb, falling and lying on the ground, turning from green, to red, and to dark brown, and feeling a need to release its seeds.
But, in order for a new stage to begin, the old stage must die.
The apple, once plucked, cannot reattach itself to the branch. Once eaten to the core, it can no longer be desirable as a fruit.
It must die to release the seeds, to be reborn as a provider of plenty, much more than “one self.”
This is the order of life.
You are born, you mature through stages, you die, and then you are resurrected through offspring.
You do not have any right to change that order, no matter how much it “entertains” you to do whatever it is that pleases you.
You do not have the right to “mock” tradition, or “laugh” at the ways that have always been, simply because your immaturity has not yet lived long enough to understand the greater importance of things beyond the here and now.
You do not have the right to “play” with your soul, as if it is something given to you to barter away; as if a soul were something selfishly “rewarding” (another translation for “tsachaq”) when dangled at the end of a string, daring Satan to appear and snatch it up.
Jesus asked the question, “If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they malign those of his house?”
On one episode of Seinfeld the focus was on being “master of your domain.” It was a challenge for self-control, at which all of the characters eventually failed.
Jesus is asking, who controls your domain? God? Or, Satan?
Jesus prefaced his question by stating, “It is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master.”
That means Jesus said, “It is enough for YOU to be like HIM,” but only if God is the master of your domain.
You have to be weaned from the earthly distractions. You have to grow in spirit. You have to demonstrate changes that prove you are not seeking self-pleasure, and you grow to tell others, “I could not have done this alone.”
Just as Jesus said, “Fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell,” you have to realize that an empty animal skin will lead to death. Open your eyes and see the well provided by the Lord, and hold others fast by the hand so they too may be led to the light of Christ.
Because Jesus had previously said, “Have no fear of them” – the ones who call Satan the master – Jesus meant “Fear God.” You should have no fear saying “No” to evil influences, because God can destroy both soul and body in hell, as the just “rewards” for those who love to wallow in a world of death, never dying, never serving a purpose for the Lord.
You are who you live with. An apple comes from an apple tree. An apple does not come from an Elm tree, or a Pecan tree, or a dog, or a house, or anything other than an apple tree.
Ishmael came from an Egyptian handmaiden, who did nothing to teach Ishmael proper manners and self-restraints … until they both died in the wilderness … to be resurrected with a purpose.
Sarah became set against her step-son, because he was upsetting the peace of Abraham’s family.
She went to Abraham with a sword, not a dove. She knew what Jesus would mean when he said, “I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother,” and so on.
When you find love for sinful beings, as a personal choice over love of Christ, you become lost. Jesus said, “Take up the cross and follow me.” If you are unwilling to do this, then you are “not worthy of” Christ.
As Barney Fife used to tell Andy, “You got to nip it in the bud. NIP IT! NIP IT! Nip it in the bud!”
You do not lay down with dogs and expect to not wake up with fleas.
“Whoever loves son or daughter more than Jesus is not worthy of Jesus. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”
Translation: Teach your children to love Jesus above all. Those who go through stages of life will go through metamorphoses, with one death following another. We all are always looking back at our lives and seeing a version of ourselves who no longer lives.
When we look in the mirror and see someone we do not recognize, then we cling to death. When we look in the mirror and say, “Thank you Jesus,” then we know we have been resurrected.
Those who die in the name of Christ will find a life full of purpose.
“So have no fear of them,” when you have released your seeds into the world. When you have died in the name of Christ, then a forest of fruit-bearing trees will grow in his name after you.