Ishmael, our brother

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“And Abraham said to God, “Oh that Ishmael might live before you.” Genesis 17:18 ESV

Abraham was God’s friend and we know something of his intercessory prayers on behalf of the most wicked nations of his time – Sodom and Gomorrah. Lot, Abraham’s nephew was spared when disaster came upon Sodom.

When God confirmed His promise to bless Abraham’s family line through another child -Isaac – who would be born to Sarah, we see his heart moved with concern for Ishmael, the son of his concubine Hagar. Abraham said to God, “If only Ishmael were acceptable to You.” (HCSB).

God’s plans were not changed as a result of Abraham’s prayer – Isaac would remain the son of the promise, but He promised that Ishmael would not be forgotten – that he too would be blessed. “… As for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I have blessed him and will make him fruitful and multiply him greatly…”(Genesis 17:20 ESV).

How does this affect us today? We have the spiritual descendants of Ishmael, Abraham’s son – the Muslims – in our midst. Some of them carry the zeal for their faith to such extreme limits that they are rarely out of the news. Our feelings towards them tend to be ambiguous, to say the least. We may admire some aspects of their culture – beauty, friendship and hospitality. But, when we hear of the beheadings and suicide bombings, many of us would like to close the door and forget all about this bloodthirsty sect. Rightly did the angel warn Hagar, his mother that Ishmael “will be like a wild donkey. His hand will be against everyone, and everyone’s hand will be against him; he will live at odds with all his brothers.” (Genesis 16:12 HCSB)

Yet, they are here right in our midst and they won’t go away  – these offspring of Ishmael – forever at odds with the spiritual offspring of the Son of the covenant. How shall we deal with them? Few of us can claim to have all the answers. Our leaders and politicians understand the problem even less than we do and their every move seems designed to make things worse.

At times like these, we Christians have a special role to play. We need to continue the plea of Abraham before God’s throne.

“Hear us, O God, for our brother Ishmael. May he live in Your presence. Deliver him from false belief and hardness of heart. Reveal Yourself to the Muslims and bring peace to their troubled lands. We pray that they will experience the wonderful love of the Messiah and that their zeal will be redirected for the Kingdom of God. Just as Ishmael came together with Isaac to bury Abraham, their father, may his people also learn to live at peace with their brothers.”

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