Ishmael

Genesis 25:12-18

12 This is the account of the family line of Abraham’s son Ishmael, whom Sarah’s slave, Hagar the Egyptian, bore to Abraham.

13 These are the names of the sons of Ishmael, listed in the order of their birth: Nebaioth the firstborn of Ishmael, Kedar, Adbeel, Mibsam, 14Mishma, Dumah, Massa, 15 Hadad, Tema, Jetur, Naphish and Kedemah. 16 These were the sons of Ishmael, and these are the names of the twelve tribal rulers according to their settlements and camps.

17 Ishmael lived a hundred and thirty-seven years. He breathed his last and died, and he was gathered to his people. 18 His descendants settled in the area from Havilah to Shur, near the eastern border of Egypt, as you go toward Ashur. And they lived in hostility toward all the tribes related to them.

Introduction

Why do we need to use our precious time learning about Ishmael’s life? Aren’t we supposed to learn from Isaac instead? Why did God include a small portion of Ishmael’s story? What does the name Ishmael denotes?

It says in Genesis 16:11, 11The angel of the Lord also said to her: “You are now pregnant and you will give birth to a son. You shall name him Ishmael, for the Lord has heard of your misery.

The name ‘Ishmael’ comes from two words “shama,” a Hebrew word for ‘heard’ and “el,” Hebrew word for ‘God.’ “Ishmael” is properly interpreted as “God hears!” God heard the cry of the pregnant Hagar, and the angel of the Lord told her to name her child Ishmael because the Lord heard her anguish.

And since Hagar was carrying the son of Abraham in her womb, God had showed His care and concern in the life of Ishmael including his descendants. Everyone related to Abraham would share in the blessing God has promised him.

In our case as believers in Christ, we are called children of Abraham. That should add to certainty that God loves us and He is also concerned of our love ones including relatives who are yet to believe Christ. Of course, we hope our relatives to believe in Christ, but God loves for them more than we do.

Free Board & Lodging

A family of believers prayed for a chance to share the gospel to their relatives. They offered their home for free board and lodging to those who were planning to enroll in the university. After a while, the students sensed God’s love and care through their generosity and they accepted Christ as Lord and Savior.

Such is a true story of the many creative ways of how God cares for our relatives. Keep praying for a strategy on how God may use your lifestyle to inspire your relatives to believe and trust the Lord. The greatest and long lasting joy that we can experience is to see our love ones grow as disciples.

May God reveal the details of how you can be instrumental to the love and care of God to your relatives! The life of Ishmael exemplifies that God is concern to all details of our life story personally including our family circle.

1. Detail

12 This is the account of the family line of Abraham’s son Ishmael, whom Sarah’s slave, Hagar the Egyptian, bore to Abraham.

The details of Ishmael’s account were not as specific as the account of Abraham. It was written as proof that God’s care includes love ones that we care. Ishmael was Abraham’s first child. God knew that Ishmael was precious to him.

It was written in Genesis 17:18-20, 18Abraham said to God, “If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!” 19Then God said, “Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him. 20 And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation.

God promised that Abraham will have son. Sarah who was very old cannot believe that she can give birth to Abraham’s child. So, she told Abraham to sleep with her servant Hagar so that God’s promise will be fulfilled. Indeed Hagar gave birth to Abraham’s son Ishmael but it was not the son that God has promised.

Nevertheless, God did not neglect Ishmael. He blessed him and let him increased and multiplied into many nations. Abraham was very sad when Sarah told him to get rid of Ishmael and his mother. Ishmael was precious to Abraham. But God told Abraham to do what Sarah told him.

When God told Abraham that He will also bless Ishmael, it was not just God’s way to cheer him up. What God has promised, He surely would fulfill it.

It says in Numbers 23:19, 19God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?

The inclusion of the short details of Ishmael’s account is a proof that God has fulfilled his promise of blessing about Ishmael. God made it sure that it was also recorded to be told to future generation. This is another encouragement for us to hold onto God’s words whenever we hear Him speak to us.

One promise of God that anyone can claim is written in Matthew 11:28-29,

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 

The term weary includes exhaustion or fatigue from body and mental labor. If you hate your work, it doubles the stress. You struggle with your mind and there’s half-hearted performance. Such state does not expect any promotion or appreciation. Employers would observe it eventually.

In this generation, everyone can experience weariness. Christ the Lord is our Creator, and He has the solution for weary soul.

Nehemiah

When Nehemiah led the Israelites in rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem, they were exhausted. They worked night and day and oppositions made fun of them.

Nehemiah testified after a threat from the opposition of building the wall of Jerusalem. He said in Nehemiah 6:9, 9They were all trying to frighten us, thinking, “Their hands will get too weak for the work, and it will not be completed.”

But I prayed, “Now strengthen my hands.”

It was written in Nehemiah 6:15-16, 15So the wall was completed on the twenty-fifth of Elul, in fifty-two days. 16When all our enemies heard about this, all the surrounding nations were afraid and lost their self-confidence, because they realized that this work had been done with the help of our God.

Nehemiah and the Israelites were strengthened in spite of the threat from those who opposed the building of the wall of Jerusalem. Life demand makes us very tired not just from physical labor but also our struggle against unpleasant situations of life. It says in Nehemiah 8:10, 10The joy of the Lord is your strength.

Favorable or otherwise, we can find strength in the Lord. Joy, the fruit of the Spirit strengthens and we’ve got rest. Such joy is only experienced when we put into practice the teachings of Christ, and that is how we can find rest in Him. His instructions are instrumental to fulfillment of promised rest.

Doing things that are opposed to the instructions of God is like swimming against the flow of a river. It makes us weary and tired to struggle with God. To obey the Lord instruction through the empowerment of His Spirit is like floating with the flow of the river. That is fantastic experience.

God’s concern about the details of the account of Ishmael includes His concern about the destination of his descendants, where they settled down.

2. Destination

13 These are the names of the sons of Ishmael, listed in the order of their birth: Nebaioth the firstborn of Ishmael, Kedar, Adbeel, Mibsam, 14Mishma, Dumah, Massa, 15 Hadad, Tema, Jetur, Naphish and Kedemah. 16 These were the sons of Ishmael, and these are the names of the twelve tribal rulers according to their settlements and camps.

Just as He promised to Abraham, God made it sure that Ishmael multiplied and settled in the destination God assigned them, and had rulers of their own.

Nebaioth means fruitfulness, Kedar means dark color, Adbeel means disciplined of God (He may have cause grief and God disciplined him), Mibsam comes from the word ‘Bosem,’ a Hebrew term for spices or fragrance.

Mishma means heard, Dumah means silence, Massa means burden, Hadad means fierce, Tema was named after the place they settled in, Jetur means encircled, Naphish means refreshed, and Kedemah means precedence.

The children of Ishmael spread out in Arabia and their settlements and camps were named after them. They became tribal rulers all over Arabia.

Although it was not specifically mentioned, God had them settled in the destination He assigned for them to establish their own communities.

What can we learn from this event? Why did God include the destination, settlement and achievements of Ishmael’s children? Does God want us to be assured that He is also concerned of our destiny which may include our love ones? If God was concerned of the destination of Ishmael’s children because they were related to Abraham, God is also concerned about our future because we are Abraham’s children by faith in Christ.

What has God prepared for us who believe and follow the Lord Jesus?

He said in Mark 1:17, 17Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.

Christ has a purpose for all believers who follow Him. The first disciples were expert fishermen, but Christ made them into fishers of men.

Fishing Season

What can we learn from fishermen? A fisherman finds his joy in his chosen career at actual catching of fish. Fishermen prepare their fishing tools. They wait for fishing season. They fish at designated fishing areas. Good fishermen abide with the laws and regulations of fishing. Fishing license empowers one to fish.

When we grow in our faith in the Lord, we will soon realize that, as believers, we are fishers of men. We can find much joy in actual witnessing and making disciple. And we need to abide by the instructions of Christ our Lord. We need to wait and be empowered by the Holy Spirit. He will give us the signal when and where we would fish for the people He prepared for us to disciple.

Some people are satisfied with catch and release fishing. Fishing is just a hobby not a career. Similarly, witnessing cannot be a career when contacts are released back to their previous life. In contrast, those who witness to, disciple, and take contacts to their home church have similar lifestyle to career fishermen who enjoy catching and taking their catch home.

When we share the gospel, we will know the eternal destiny of the people we evangelize if we take them to church and disciple them until they start making disciple. We are assured that heaven will be their eternal destination.

God made sure that Ishmael’s children settled in the destination the Lord assigned for them. Ishmael lived 137 years and saw his descendants multiplied.

3. Descendant

17 Ishmael lived a hundred and thirty-seven years. He breathed his last and died, and he was gathered to his people. 18 His descendants settled in the area from Havilah to Shur, near the eastern border of Egypt, as you go toward Ashur. And they lived in hostility toward all the tribes related to them.

The death of Ishmael suggests that he did not have similar life experience to Abraham. Abraham’s life was described as “full of years” which may imply that Abraham had enjoyed his life and he welcomed death at good old age.

In comparison, Ishmael did not have such “full of years” life experience. Although, he lived longer than average life, he may have yearned to live more years and didn’t want to die yet. It was not mentioned but Ishmael may have wished to live longer than Isaac. Isaac lived until he was 180 years old.

Abraham gave all his wealth to Isaac while he only gave gift to Ishmael. That may have caused Ishmael to have bitterness all the days of his life. He did not have full of years like Abraham had. Ishmael may have told his children his life story so that his descendants became hostile to all the tribes related to them.

It says in James 4:1-2, 1What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God.

Hostility among people living in the same country has become more sensational in this generation. We’ve got to pray for peace.

Israeli vs Palestinians

It was reported that the Israeli army killed dozens of Palestinians at the Gaza border when the Gazan demonstrators attempted to breach the border fence in protest to the U.S. Embassy’s historic move to Jerusalem. The Gaza Health Ministry said 58 Palestinians had been killed by Israeli gunfire, making it the bloodiest day of the protests by far, as Israeli security officials had predicted.    Around 35,000 people demonstrated at the border as Israeli and U.S. officials met in Jerusalem to celebrate the move of the embassy from Tel Aviv, fulfilling a promise by U.S. President Donald Trump. A total of 2,410 Gazans have been wounded in the clashes as a result of Israeli gunfire, tear gas and other crowd dispersal methods.

The Israeli and Palestinian conflict practically exhibits the hostile attitude reveals our human nature of resisting anything that is good.

It says in Romans 8:5-11, 5 Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. 7 The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. 8 Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.

9 You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. 10 But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. 11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.

We can blame history or previous unfavorable situations for hostility but those unpleasant events are just triggers to expose the nature of the flesh. We want to fight for our right. It’s human instinct. But for believers who have the Spirit of Christ, we need not fight for personal right, instead, follow Christ’s example.

It says in Philippians 2:5-8, 5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; 7rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!

Christ has right to rule over His creation but He allowed His own creation to crucify Him to save us from sin and as the ultimate proof of His love for us.

Does it mean that even if others abuse my human right? Exactly!

Even if it means death! But that’s easier said than done, of course! Why? Our human nature rejects such sacrificial idea. It is also a godly command to have the same mindset as Christ Jesus. We can’t do it on our human effort. Godly commands require godly efforts.

So, to deny our human right is only possible if Christ’s Spirit is reigning in our hearts. And, if we experience such willingness to let others abuse us, it embodies concretely the work of Christ’s Spirit in our life. We have to keep asking the Lord to prevail in our heart and prevail over our human nature.

The hostility of Ishmael’s descendants toward all the tribes related to them should remind us of the on-going war of the flesh against the Spirit of Christ.

It says in Galatians 5:15-17, 15If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. 16So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.

<‘)))>< ltsii/2018 ><(((‘>

 

 

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