This weekend and in fact for the last week I have wrestled with a new layer of information added to my lifelong study of the children of Abraham. Our American Sunday School version teaches us of a God that called Abram out from among all others, as the Creator began His redemption process, given the global challenges that followed Noah’s day. Abraham then bore Isaac late in life, but only after Ishmael was born of Sarah’s handmaiden, an Egyptian named Hagar.
However, it is here that our bias as American Christians may come into play, requiring that we read the scriptures much more closely, and with our hearts open to the love of the God who fully manifested himself in the compassionate person of Jesus the Christ. In interpreting this saga of Abraham, we so often take the position, that God removed Hagar from the scene in order to preserve the seed of Isaac, when in reality it was the jealousy of Sarah that first prompted Hagar’s flight into the wilderness. God never discards people, and it was God who later sought Hagar out, in fact three times in Gen. 16:10, 17:20 and 21:18.
Yes, Isaac was the promised seed and the only son of Sarah, on whom his father would lay the wood of sacrifice at Mt. Moriah. This is a critical moment in the communication of the gospel, setting up a time in which our Heavenly Father, the God of Abraham and all his sons, would lay the wood of our sins on the back of His only Son at Calvary. So, I approach this story with great reverence.
However, the plot thickens later, as Isaac’s son, Jacob is ushered back to his Uncle Laban’s home to protect the lineage of Abraham, but finds himself in a switch up with a favored daughter Leah, and Judah is born. Of course, we know that during that seven year drama, Rachael also becomes the wife of Jacob, and through this union, Joseph, the favored son of this man, now called Israel, is born. Of all twelve sons, Joseph did everything right and was eventually promoted to leadership by the pharaoh of Egypt, ironically the very place from which Hagar selected a wife for her son Ishmael. Joseph through his unlikely journey from pit to palace saves the lineage of Israel and sets up Moses for the Exodus. He also forgives his brothers, honors his father and salvages the children of Israel from famine; and yes, preserves the Messiah’s bloodline. This was a righteous man!
Was Joseph in the lineage of Jesus? No, his life seems to end with the transfer of his bones out of Egypt. I must insert, that I do believe God found a way to honor him in the namesake of Jesus’ earthly father, Joseph, the husband of Mary (that’s another story).
This God of grace seems to pass up the more righteous Joseph, looping back around to a lesser Judah; the Lion, as goes the blessing of his father Jacob (Gen. 49:8-12). Here God makes another statement about this One who forgives, and is unwilling that any should perish, even the less than righteous!
You see, other than Joseph, the stories that follow the bloodline of Jacob and his sons were not always a pretty sight, though God never hides our dirty laundry (our unrighteousness), but rather uses it to demonstrate His grace and true righteousness, a righteousness which is His alone.
To my point, could our day be another such time, in which God reaches back to those with whom He holds ancient covenants, even the sons of Ishmael? Having now secured both the nation of Israel, as well as our most favored America, a diverse nation populated by peoples from almost every nation, could God be reaching for Islam?
I love the irony that God employs. He first used Africans, black muslims to reintroduce this prodigal child of Islam to the people of America! Many Africans have their descent from Egypt, the land from which Ishmael chose his helpmate and the land that built its great pyramids on the backs of Hebrew slaves. We too, built this America on the backs of African (some Egyptian) slaves in much the same way! Could there be some justice playing out, even as Egypt riots in its streets, striking another blow to an already weakened global economy!
Trust me, this is not some attempt to incite racism or to justify terrorism from the fringe groups which the enemy would use to kill, steal and destroy. So please hang with me here. We are all kin to each other in some way; and the God that kept His word with Abraham will honor the covenant with his son, Ishmael.
Are we now, as American Christians playing a role somewhat like that of the elder brother in Luke’s gospel story; is God calling home the prodigal sons of Abraham, the bloodline of Ishmael and we, as well as Israel, are vehemently resisting? Can we ignore what seems evident in all nations, a growing population of the people of Islam; and a growing tension among Christians and Jews? Meanwhile, we worship in isolated temples and sanctuaries, while the greater world moves toward Armageddon.
Prophecy has a grace side, just as the loving God who provides such prophecies, for the admonition of all His sons!