Sunday, October 2, 2011


The Bible story of Ishmael is a sad story to me. It doesn't seem like anyone wins in this. In Genesis 15 Abraham was lamenting to the Lord that Eliezer, his relative, would be his heir, since he had no children. In an age when having children meant everything, having a son to inherit was a pretty big thing. God assures Abraham that even though he was far advanced in years, he would still have a son of his own flesh. In fact, God tells him that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the sky.  

Genesis 4-6Then the word of the LORD came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.”  He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”
  Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.

Now, having been given a great promise such as this, wouldn't you think that Abraham would be patient and wait for God to make it happen? Well, he probably was for awhile but after ten years or so, he gave up and tried to make it happen. Or I should say, his wife took matters into her own hands. In chapter 16 of Genesis we are introduced to Hagar, Sarah's maid. Sarah takes her and gives her to Abraham and tells him to sleep with her so he can have his heir. Sarah had given up on God. She decided to do things her way and Abraham followed.

Hagar became pregnant with  Ishmael and the Word says she despised Sarah. Sarah went to Abraham about the problem and he told her to do whatever she wanted to with her maid. Hang on a minute Abraham, what about the son Hagar would give you? Don't you care about him or did you finally realize that you took things into your own hands, instead of waiting on God, and you've made a mess of your life? Sarah mistreats Hagar, Hagar flees into the wilderness and and angel of the Lord finds her weeping.

Ishmael is born but he is not the promised son. He's not God's plan for Abraham. He's the result of Sarah and Abraham taking things into their own hands and trying to make things happen instead of waiting for the Lord. Just look at the promise the angel of the Lord gave to Hagar about her son:

“You are now pregnant
   and you will give birth to a son.
You shall name him Ishmael,
   for the LORD has heard of your misery.
He will be a wild donkey of a man;
   his hand will be against everyone
   and everyone’s hand against him,
and he will live in hostility
   toward all his brothers.” (Genesis 16:11-12)

I wouldn't want to know that my son was going to be a 'wild donkey of a man' and that 'his hand will be against everyone and everyone's hand against him and that 'he will live in hostility'. Oh my! 

I wonder if Abraham and Sarah actually thought about the possible repercussions of their actions? Many people believe that the unrest and strife that has always been in the Middle East is actually a result of Abraham and Sarah's decision so many years ago. Ishmael wasn't the promised son, and God is always true to His Word. Thirteen years later, the promised son was born. Sarah gave birth to Isaac, the one God promised.

I wonder how many times we are willing to settle for an Ishmael instead of being patient and waiting for God to move in our life? How many times do we relax our standards to get what we want instead of allowing God to work? If we hold true to God and do things His way, He will bless us and the generations to come but if we are stubborn and impatient, we choose a different pathway for ourselves. Not a pathway of blessing but a pathway of strife and hardship. 

Let me encourage you to wait for your Isaac and not settle for an Ishmael. If you do you will be blessed not only for your patience but for your trust in the Lord. 

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