Title: Isaac and Ishmael
Scripture: Genesis 21:1-21
Target Age Group: 3rd-5th grade
Supplies: White board and marker
Lesson Opening: Keeping Promises
Play a quick round of Hangman using the white board using the phrase “God keeps his promises.” Give each child a chance to guess one of the letters. When the class figures it out, explain that this is part of the main point in our lesson today that we’ll be learning about.
Go around the circle and have each child name a time when either they kept a promise to someone else or vice versa.
Ask if they have ever had to wait for a promise to be fulfilled that someone made them. (It can be something as simple as waiting for a friend to return something they borrowed.)
Explain that in today’s story we’ll be hearing about Abraham and Sarah who had to wait a long time before God’s promise to them was fulfilled.
Ask if anyone knows what God’s promise was. (That Abraham would have a son and that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars and the sand.)
Pray that God would open their hearts to his word today and that we would always remember to give him glory for all the promises he had made!
Tell the Story of Isaac and Ishmael
Ask: Is it ever hard to wait for something that you really want? Have you ever felt like giving up?
Say: Our story today is about a couple who had to wait a really long time for God’s promise to be fulfilled (or come true.) One thing we’ll see in our story is that God keeps his promises, and he deserves the glory for it!
Say: The story we are hearing today comes from the Bible, God’s holy Word. Today’s story comes from the first book in the Bible, Genesis.
Tell the Story: God had promised that Abraham and Sarah would have children. But Abraham was really really old when God promised him that he would have a son. Does that sound crazy or what? Even Sarah laughed when she heard she was to have a baby!
God’s promise didn’t come true right away, and Abraham and Sarah started to doubt that God would keep his promise at all. So they took matters into their own hands. Sarah told Abraham to take her servant, Hagar, as a second wife so he could have a child with her. Though Abraham was reluctant, he went ahead with Sarah’s plan, and sure enough, Hagar later gave birth to a baby boy. They named him Ishmael.
But God hadn’t forgotten about his promise, and he intended to keep it even though it was hard to believe! When Abraham was about 100 years old Sarah gave birth to a baby boy as well. They named him Isaac which means “son of laughter.”
Ask: Why do you think they named him Isaac? (Sarah was filled with joy and laughter that God’s promise finally came true.)
Ishmael was about 16 years old when Isaac was born. There was a big party to celebrate the new baby and during that party Sarah noticed that Ishmael was mocking (or making fun) of Isaac. This upset Sarah so she said to Abraham…
Read (Genesis 21:10-13): “’Get rid of that slave girl and her son, for that slave woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.’
The matter distressed Abraham greatly because it concerned his son. But God said to him, ‘Do not be so distressed about the boy and your maidservant. Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned. I will make the son of the maidservant into a nation also, because he is your offspring.’”
So Hagar took some food and water and set off into the desert with her son.
Ask: Has anyone ever been in a desert? What’s one thing you definitely need to survive in such a hot, dry place? (Water.)
Well guess what, eventually all the water ran out, and Hagar was afraid that she and Ishmael were going to die right there under the tree in the desert. But God had another plan. He was going to take care of them! God spoke to Hagar and told her not to be afraid. Then he opened her eyes to see that there was a well nearby. She refilled her container for water and they both survived their journey. Ishmael grew up and started his own family, and eventually became a great nation as well.
Say: Sometimes in the Bible God uses stories about people to teach us something about Himself. In our story today Abraham and Sarah wanted God’s promise to come true so badly but they had a hard time trusting God, so they tried to make it happen on their own by Abraham having a son with Hagar. They thought that if they tried hard enough, they could do themselves what God had promised to do!
Ask: Have you ever tried to take credit for something that someone else did? (Give a couple kids a chance to answer.)
Say: In a way, Abraham and Sarah were trying to take credit for what God promised them. But God is the one who deserves all the credit and all the praise for his great promises. That’s why God made Sarah wait till she was 90 years old to have a baby. Everyone would know that it was only God who could have made that happen. Isaac was born through a miracle of God, not by human effort.
Say: This story reminds me of Jesus. You see God wants us to know that we can only be rescued from sin by him and him alone. Sometimes we forget that though, don’t we? Sometimes we try to do things on our own that we think make us good enough to earn God’s love. We might try really hard to be good and to obey our parents all the time. But even if we’re really good on the outside, there is still sin in our hearts, and there’s nothing we can do to get rid of it on our own. Only Jesus can do that by dying for us on the cross. That’s why God gets all the glory for saving us!
Ask: What do you think God wants us to learn from this story? (Give 1-3 kids time to answer.)
- We can remember that there’s nothing we can do to earn God’s love and salvation. God’s grace and forgiveness is a gift and God gets all the glory!
- We can thank God for sending Jesus to die for our sins and make a way for us to have a relationship with God.
- We can share the good news of God’s grace with our friends and family members this week!
Pray Dear God, thank you so much for reminding us about your love for us and how it’s impossible for us to earn our way to you. Thank you for sending Jesus to die for us and to make it possible for us to know you and obey you. Amen.
Lesson Review Questions
- What were the names of Abraham’s two sons? (Isaac and Ishmael)
- Why do you think Ishmael was mocking Isaac? (Maybe he was jealous of all the attention, or angry that he wasn’t the fulfillment of God’s promise.)
- Why did Sarah want to send Ismael and Hagar away? (She didn’t want Ishmael to share in God’s promised inheritance for Isaac.)
- What did God do to provide for Hagar and Ishmael in the desert? (He opened Hagar’s eyes to see the well. He also promised to make Ishmael into a great nation.)
- Why is the birth of Isaac so important to Abraham and Sarah? (He was the fulfillment of God’s promise)
- Why was the birth of Isaac important for all Christians today? (Jesus came through the line of Abraham, beginning with Isaac.)
- How does today’s story remind us of Jesus? (We can’t save ourselves by our own efforts. Only God is able to wipe away our sins and forgive us. We can’t get the credit for our own salvation.)
- What are some ways people try to take credit for things that God does? (Trying to earn their salvation, saying that God’s miracles of healing are due only to medicine and science, etc.)
Learning Activity 1: Acting Out the Story
- Divide the class into groups of 5 and pass out Bibles to each child. Briefly read through the story together, then have the kids decide which parts they will play. Parts include: Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Ishmael, and Hagar.
- Give each group 10-15 minutes to prepare then have them perform their skits for the rest of the class.
Learning Activity 2: All who are Weary
Supplies: White board and marker
- Ask the kids to think through the story again. Who was it that found rest in God? () How did God give her rest? (He kept her alive in the desert and showed her that He would be faithful even when other people aren’t.)
- Pass out Bibles to the kids and ask them to turn to Matthew 11:28-30 and read together, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my toke is easy and burden is light.”
- Ask: Who is speaking in this passage? (Jesus)
- Using the marker board, write the word “Rest” in large letters and draw a circle around it.
- Ask: What are some ways that we find rest in Jesus? (As the kids give you their answers, draw spokes coming from the circle on the board with their answers.)
- Explain that part of resting in God is knowing Him and trusting in his faithfulness to us. God doesn’t promise us easy lives or that we will never experience suffering. Even Hagar suffered in the desert! What God does promise is that we can know Him because Jesus has made a way for us to stand in righteousness before our Father in Heaven. God promises to be with us even through our most difficult circumstances, and He will strengthen us. Even in the midst of trials we can find rest for our souls (if not for our physical bodies.) We can trust God to care for us no matter what!
- Ask: What are some ways we can get to know God? (Prayer, reading the Bible, hearing God’s Word preached, etc.)
- Pray with the kids that throughout the next week they would pursue God and that their hearts would yearn to know Him better and love Him more!
1 thought on “Isaac and Ishmael (Genesis 21:1-21) Sunday School Lesson”
your lessons have really helped me with lessons about Abraham and his family for my 5th grade class-perfect for this age group, thank you so much!