Thursday, June 15, 2017

Hope for Ishmael Genesis 21

I'm looking at story in Genesis 21:8-21 that makes me squirm. The story of Abraham, Hagar and Ishmael. There's so much meaning to this story for us in our world today because of who is included in this promises of God in this story.

Abraham was a man who trusted in a promise from God and headed towards a new home with his wife Sara. They were going to be the ancestors of a great nation. And after decades of waiting for a child Abraham chose a short-cut—have a child with another woman—a slave named Hagar.

The slave woman, Hagar, gave birth to a boy named Ishmael. Later on Abraham and his wife Sara had a child too, called Isaac. Sara's jealously reared up. She insisted Abraham get rid of that woman and her son. Abraham was distressed.
But God said to Abraham, “Do not be distressed because of the boy and because of your slave woman ... I will make a nation of him also, because he is your offspring.” Genesis 21:12-13 NRSV
Try to imagine this moment from the perspective of Abraham and Hagar. Abraham heard a promise from God and believed. He trusted that his boy Ishmael and his mother would be okay.

But when I try to imagine Hagar's point of view there's such fear and desperation. Old Abraham sent them away with a few provisions—but soon they were alone in the desert without water, food, or shelter besides the shade of a bush. It must have been awful. Hagar left the boy under one bush and went to huddle safe from the scorching sun in the shade of a bush just a bows shot—maybe 100 yards away. And there in desperation she cried out.
“Do not let me look on the death of the child.” And as she sat opposite him, she lifted up her voice and wept. 17 And God heard the voice of the boy; and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven. Genesis 21:16-17 NRSV
God spoke to Hagar's fear and opened her eyes to see a well full of water. They would not die alone.

God knows the troubles of every person. Here that we see the start of two great peoples who both claim to be descendants of Abraham—both the son's of Isaac and the son's of Ishmael call Abraham father.

So what does this mean to us today? We live in a word where Arab Christians claim to be descendants of Ishmael. We live in a world where Muslim's point back to Abraham and Ishmael as their ancestors too. And Christians and Jews point back to Abraham and Isaac as their ancestors in faith. And in this world full of division and hate here is a word of promise from God for both of Abraham's sons.

I think about this world today—with war in more places than I can count, fear of terrorism becoming part of everyday life in Europe and North America—and then I hear this promise from God for Ishmael that is just as valid as the promise for Isaac.
Peace and thanks for reading, John