PROMISES TO ISHMAEL
The Bible is a Judeo-Christian Book and we should not be surprised when it is a bit negative about the election regarding the Promises of God to what Jesus called “the other sheep not of this sheepfold” (Jn. 10:16). He also made this comment, “I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Mt. 8:1-12). These predestined Promises are troubling for the presumed elected. God’s choice or election does not depend on guidelines set by man but His own. Sara and Abraham could keep Ishmael off the Land but not out of heaven. It was Jehovah or the Lord that determined that Ishmael would play a vital role in the managing of the world. The offspring of Ishmael would be just as much apart of cause and effect, as all the other children of men.
The birth of Ishmael was one of the mysterious ways God accomplishes his Promises among us. Elohim put it into the mind of Sarai to induce Abram (Abraham) to father a son with Hagar her maid. She used the levirate system, designed for a man to father an heir. In case he died, his brothers had to marry the widow and assume his name (Deut. 25:5-10). Powerful matriarchs like Sarai and Rachel used the same law to secure their positions in the inheritance scheme. From the time of Eve to the days of Israel’s kings, women had their way with their men. Paul’s idea that “Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner” was an unacceptable bachelor concept (I Tim. 2:14). Men like Adam, Abraham, Moses, David and many others were directed by their wives. It would be interesting if Paul could make his case before Eve, Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, Zipporah, Miriam, Bathsheba or Jezebel? Would Moses have become the liberator of his people, if his wife Zipporah had not saved him by circumcising him or would there have been a successful exodus from Egypt if Miriam Moses’ sister had not engaged the victory march with the women (Ex. 4,15)?
Hagar was an Egyptian and she became a powerful lady in her day. She was powerful enough to drive fear and jealousy into the heart of Sarah. Her people, the Egyptians, were predestined to save her son’s brothers and cousins from starvation through Joseph, great grandson of Abram or Abraham father of her son Ishmael, whose sons bought Joseph from his brothers and sold him to Potiphar an Egyptian official with Pharaoh. Furthermore, Ishmael was a half brother to Abraham and Keturah, particularly the sons of Midian where Moses spent forty years in exile and married one of them and then led Israel out of Egypt and spent forty more years in Keturah’s region with Jethro, priest of the Most High God. This was the place where Moses met the “I AM.” All of Abraham’s children rendered or opposed the rise of Jacob – Israel as a nation.
Esau, also known as Edom, Jacob’s older twin brother maintained a close relationship with Ishmael by marrying his daughter Basemath (Gen. 36:3). Gideon fathered a son with an Ishmaelite woman by the name of Abimelech and he set himself up as king over Shechem (Jud. 8-9). Amasa, the commander of Absalom’s army was an Ishmaelite (I Chr. 2:17). According to Psalm 83, Jacob had no love for his relatives comprised of the descendants of Lot, Ishmael, Edom and Keturah. Jacob wished their demise. Down the corridor of history, Jacob’s wishes were denied and Ishmael’s descendants will have a major roll in assisting a son of Esau to occupy the throne of David. It was Aretas king of Arabia that assisted and protected Antipater, an Idumean father of Herod the Great (IDB II: p. 533). This was the man that had the infant boys exterminated in Bethlehem. According to the Hebrew prophets, God had chosen a man to lead Israel that was not one of them. He married into a Jewish family and his sons were the last of Jacob – Israel’s kings. One of his sons drove the disciples of Jesus from Jerusalem and thereby fulfilling Jesus’ command to go into the world and make disciples (Ac. 12; Mt. 28:18-20). God’s Promises cannot we thwarted. When good people falter, he will use some that are questionable. And those that we may not regard as favorable may be the ones God has chosen. Ishmael was and still is living proof that God is still at work on his Promises.
Abraham allowed Sarah to kick out his own son and God picked him up and promised to turn Hagar’s son Ishmael into many nations, very much like the promise to Isaac. Hagar was pregnant and alone in the desert where she cried and God heard her cry and made her this promise, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her. I will so increase your descendants that they will be too numerous to count. “You are now with child and you will soon have a son. You shall name him Ishmael, for the Lord has heard 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” (Gen. 16:9-12). She named him Ishmael because God heard her cry. God promises to hear the cry of those whom the world or the establishment rejects (Ps. 27:10). He heard Ishmael and blessed him with twelve sons and at least one daughter (I Chr. 1:29-31; Gen. 28:9).
The right to inherit Sarah’s Real Estate was resolved by the Romans and left to Hagar’s children to manage for 1,900 years. In the sixth century AD, Ishmael gave Muhammad to the world. At the time religious and political unrest and violence let him to merge different faiths into Islam. He began in a peaceful way to return people to the laws of God. He turned to the sword to protect his life and those of his followers. Muhammad was not the first to grow his movement with the sword. Christians had acquired the art of war as a means to expand under Constantine the Great three centuries earlier. Muhammad and Islam have put all religions on their toes. The Book of Revelation points to a system similar to Islam that will purify religion from atheism, immorality, secularism and the exploitation of the world’ s resources (Rev. 17:17). The prediction that ten nations shall destroy the World Organization called Babylon is no longer speculation (Rev. 17-18). In the past, God did not spare Israel nor will he spare Christianity when it no longer is a moral and just force in the world (Ro. 11:21). Many Muslim leaders also believe that Jihad is not the only way for God to change the world. Economy and equal justice have proven to be equally effective. Consider an Islam that begins to love and show mercy what it could do to the world. It too is in the world predestined to be and subject to cause and effect. It too will reap what it sows.