Today’s Reading: Genesis 16.
(Context: Ishmael’s birth.)
In Genesis 16, Abram’s wife, Sarai, becomes impatient and forces her husband to have a child with her slave, that she might become his concubine. Hagar, this concubine, quickly becomes pregnant and thus looks down on her master, Sarai. Jealously burns between them, the wife and the woman blessed with a child, and Abram washes his hands of the matter. Sarai then treats her slave very badly, until Hagar runs away, being pregnant.
It is then that an interesting twist takes place. The “angel of the Lord”, being the pre-incarnate Jesus, tells her that God Himself will care for her and her offspring, whose father will be Ishmael, the son in her womb. God sees all things, and blessed the unfortunate. There is one interesting detail though:
And the angel of the LORD said to her, “Behold, you are pregnant and shall bear a son. You shall call his name Ishmael, because the LORD has listened to your affliction. He shall be a wild donkey of a man, his hand against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he shall dwell over against all his kinsmen.” (Genesis 16:11-12)
Most people know that Ishmael became the father of modern Muslims (although the religion did not exist until 2,500 years later). Most people also know that the Muslims, in modern times, and their non-Muslim predecessors, perfectly fit the prophecy described above. The counties in the Middle East, outside of Israel, are almost always either at war or threatening war, and not always against other countries. Sure, their main target, the bulls-eye of the Middle East, is Israel, yet they also love to attack one another (e.g. the recent Syrian civil war spilling into Southern Turkey).
This prophecy, in my view, will also be crucial in the End Times, specifically in the Tribulation scenario. My personal view, from reading the Scriptures, investigating Islamic prophetic tradition, and looking at current events and statistics, lead me to believe that the Antichrist may very well come out of Radical Islam. Radical Islam, Muhammad being the founder of the modern group, is a modern and continuous fulfillment of this ancient prophecy.
Now, where did this problem originate? Clearly current and future world problems hinge on a great level on the birth of a son, Ishmael.
Was this Sarai’s fault for not trusting God? Was this Abram’s fault for listening to his wife and sleeping with another woman (something very common in that time)? Was it Hagar’s fault for not submitting to her lawful master? Or was it even God’s fault for not giving Abram a son sooner through Sarai?
God wanted to test Abram’s faith, his level of trust in His ability to fulfill what he promised. Waiting is very difficult, painfully so, and Sarai was trying to be an “outside the box” thinker. The problem is that God had told Abram he would fulfill the promise of a son through his own wife, however unlikely it seemed. Faith was lacking on his part, faith was lacking on her part. Jealously was also Sarai’s self-inflicted sin, and disrespect and pride was Hagar’s fault.
This little incident, seemingly a trifle in our eyes, was the building-block to the greatest feud in world history, the Jews vs. the descendants of Ishmael (Muslims). Did God mess up? Why didn’t He stop this?
God does mysterious things, in His time and in His way. He chose to bless Hagar and her son. He chose to allow Sarai not to get pregnant until she was 90 (14 years later). God chose to use the nations surrounding the “apple of His eye” to 1. discipline Israel, but 2. also to show His power and protection.
God even uses our mistakes. Abram, Sarai, and Hagar were at fault. God used them anyways. Should we then think lightly of our mistakes? No. This little “mistake” has caused thousands of years of feuds, hundreds of wars, and millions of lost lives. Let us attempt to honor God with all our choices, yet know that God will even use and fix our mistakes, if we allow Him to. Remember though, mistakes have consequences too.