Monday, August 19, 2013

Ishmael - The Unwanted Child

Breaking the Generation Chain

Studies show that children from broken homes generally experience lower achievement than the children of intact families. There are exceptions. It is surprising how many broken homes, and even abusive homes, produce achievers. It is as if the struggles of youth develop a drive for some to achieve against all odds. Bill Clinton's step-father was an abusive alcoholic, and Barack Obama's father abandoned him at a young age. His mother was absent much of the time, and he was raised by his grandparents.

It is true that our upbringing has a profound effect on our behavior. Alcoholics tend to have children who are alcoholics. Sexually abused children often become abusers as well. But we do not have to accept  these inherited flaws. We can break these generational chains. With God's help we can break away from our past. We are new creations in Christ Jesus (II Corinthians 5:17). The gospel is about restoration of the mind and spirit.

The Hindus have what is called the "caste system." This system breaks population into hereditary group called jatis. In some rural parts of India this system is radially followed. A person cannot move from his or her cultural stratum. This is bondage and discrimination. We are all children of God, equal in His sight. "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son" (John 3:16, emphasis mine). All of us are Gods wanted children.

by Gary Erickson

Circumstances Preceding the birth of Ishmael
God had promised Abraham a homeland and an heir, a son by Sarah (Genesis 13:16;15:4). The promise of a homeland had been followed immediately by a sign of sacrifice and prophecy (Genesis 15:7-14), but this promise of a son include neither a sign of sacrifice nor a definite prophecy. Abraham and Sarah had to take the promise on faith. They probably talked and dreamed of the arrival of their son, but their disappointment mounted month after month, no sign of fulfillment materialized. Sarah's patience snapped as she realized she was too old to bear a child. Instead, she conceived a plan for Abraham to get his son of promise.

Sarah's Plan and Abraham's Mistake
Sarah's solution to the problem was legal and not uncommon in their day. A favorite slave girl became a concubine, or surrogate mother, to bear a son who would then be adopted by the matriarch as her own. During their sojourn into Egypt the aging couple had acquired a slave girl named Hagar. Instead of waiting on God to fulfill His promise, Sarah persuaded Abraham to obtain the child by her Egyptian maid.

Human efforts to assist in the fulfilling of divine promise only complicate matters.  

The Grieving Father
Ishmael had been in Abraham's home for fourteen years before the birth of Isaac, and was almost grown. Abraham had once regarded Ishmael as the answer to his prayer for a Heaven-appointed heir of the promise (Genesis 17:18). He loved his son Ishmael, and Sarah's demand to case him out caused him much distress. It was like sentencing Ishmael and his mother to die in the wilderness hundreds of miles away from Hagar's home in Egypt.

God did not approve of what Sarah and Abraham had done, and Ishmael, though a descendant of Abraham, could never be accepted as the heir of promise. In Paul's allegory, he represented the flesh under bonded of law, which must be done away with in order for the spiritual man to have liberty.

When our vision is dimmed by disappointment, rejection, doubt, fear; anxiety, or broken dreams, we need to open spiritual eyes and look for the hand of God at work. 

Works of the flesh are always unwanted, and they war against the spiritual life and the spiritual inheritance. God's mercy and compassion can turn our mistakes into blessings when we come to Him with a repentant heart. 

Created by: Jocelyn Jones

References: Davis, Richard. Lessons from History for Christian Living. Summer 2012. Hazelwood: Word Aflame Publications, 2011. 12-18. Print.