GENESIS 21 gives the account of a man whose previous sin now haunts him and harms the people he loves. The birth of Abraham’s long-awaited heir, Isaac, gave him and Sarah great joy, but their delight became tinged with regret.
Roughly fifteen years earlier, they had tried to rush God’s plan. In their haste to receive the fulfillment of God’s promise, they schemed to have a son on their own terms and according to their own timing. So Sarah’s Egyptian handmaid, Hagar, gave birth to a son named Ishmael—a child of Abraham, but not the long-awaited promised child.
Ishmael represented the compromise; Isaac was the true child of promise. And for three years, conflict brewed. It finally came to a head at a family celebration, and by the time it was all over, Sarah demanded that Abraham send Hagar and Ishmael into the wilderness.
One of the most comforting truths in Scripture is that God forgives our sins. The psalmist communicates that truth in these powerful words: “He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west” (Psalm 103:12). Yet while it’s true that God forgives our sins and wipes the slate clean in terms of our relationship with Him, our wrongdoing may have lingering consequences with others. God forgave the sin, but He didn’t change events to reverse the effect of our sin in the world.
All of this points to a difficult yet helpful truth: Though every act of sin is forgivable, the effects of some sins are not erasable. We can learn a lesson from Abraham’s life, recognizing that the shock wave of sin can reverberate down through generations, even causing harm to people not yet born.
What consequences of other people’s sin have you experienced? What negative consequences might your own sin have on others?
You show unfailing love to thousands, but you also bring the consequences of one generation’s sin upon the next.