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Thursday, May 14, 2009

My Brother Ishmael

The content of my earlier posting about Islam reactivated a subject I have pondered in the past.

Do readers ever wonder what was going on in the lives of the greater number of inhabitants of the world after Babel? I mean descendants of those people who moved to different parts of the world and lived, procreated and died without any mention in the Bible.

Was God relationally active in their life as he was with decendants of Abraham or with those who had contact with the descendants of Abraham?

From where I sit it is difficult to form a clear picture of God relating to the unknown as He did with the descendants of Abraham. I guess I risk opening the debate on Arminiasm vs Calvinism but I don't wish to do that. I would just like to focus on the historical record of God's relational activity in the world contained within the Bible and which centres on the fulfilment of the covenant God made with Abram cum Abraham.

It is dangerous to be definite regarding the unknowns who had no knowledge of the Abramic covenant but the man Job, who is known to us, may be representative of others from nations or tribes unknown to biblical history but righteous in Jesus Christ. *

The Apostle Paul makes it clear that the Abramic promise is fulfilled in Jesus Christ and applies to all who belong to Christ, ie Jew and Gentile alike (Galations 3:29).

In light of the Abramic promise fulfilled in Jesus Christ we tend to view the activity of God in the world as being the incorporation of individuals into Jesus Christ. Therefore, there is only Christ and the world and the struggle between the two.

I wonder, though, is there another dimension to the world which is based in promise and will consume or significantly impact all that is the world?

There was another promise to Abram, who by this time was renamed Abraham, and it concerns lineal issue of Abraham but by Hagar, Egyptian maidservant to Sarai cum Sarah. It concerns Ishmael and Genesis Chs. 12, 15, 16, 17, 21 and 25 provide information.

As you know, Ishmael, was the product of either or all of misunderstanding, impatience and weak faith on the part of Abraham and Sarah. Sarah convinced Abraham that the Lord's promise of an heir for Abraham might have meant by agency of Abraham procreating with Hagar. This was not God's intended means of fulfilling His promise to Abraham yet it did not go without a blessing or promise on this son of Abraham albeit not the great promise that was to be established with Isaac and ultimately fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

The promise of God concerning Ishmael was that Ishmael would be fruitful and his descendants would be too numerous to count. He would be the father of twelve rulers and he will be a great nation. This promise certainly has some parallels with the promise established with Isaac and borne out through Jacob, son of Isaac, having twelve sons who were to be the nation Israel.

Another promise of God concerning Ishmael is found at Genesis 16:12, "He will be a wild donkey of a man, and his hand will be against everyone and everyone's hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers (or he shall dwell in the presence of all his brothers)".

It is interesting to note that after the birth and weaning of Isaac, Ishmael was seen to be mocking him (Genesis 21:8-9). Enmity existed, resulting in Ishmael and his mother, Hagar, being banished from Abraham's camp.

What does this mean to us today. Well, Ishmael became the father of the nomadic Arabs. Further, he is the ancestor of the 'prophet' Muhammad from whom ensues the religion Islam.

It is nothing new for me to inform you of the enmity that exists toward Jews by adherents to Islam. It does not stop there. Enmity also exists toward Christians and "infidels."

Are not the promises of God to Abraham concerning Isaac and Ishmael being worked out poignantly in their respective descendants viz Israel, Christ and Muhammad? Do we not see enmity in some adherents of Islam appropriated to the behaviour of a "wild donkey of a man" in so much as we can't rationalise the hatred motivating it?

Never, in the history of the world has Ishmael (in Muhammad) been better placed to make assault on Isaac (in Israel and Jesus Christ). Multiculturalism - man's attempt, without Christ, to undo the effects of God's judgement at Babel - has allowed Ishmael back into the camp of Isaac. The conflict has well and truly resumed. In some respects it reflects the bigger picture battle between the Lord Jesus Christ and Satan foretold at Genesis 3:15.

I can't help wondering whether all we see happening in the United Kingdom is, in miniature, the playing out of a world and celestial battle - the Christian Church once rich in blessing from God and triumphant in rule but since weakened through lack of trust in the Word of God now under assault from the march of Islam.

Could it be that, ultimately, future world events point simply to the fulfilment of God's promises to Abraham concerning both Isaac and Ishmael? Are all inhabitants of earth, with or without knowledge of these promises, just caught up in the consequences of these promises of God?

Neil

* There are some Scriptural passages which give cause to regard all others estranged from God (Romans 3:9-20 for one). Unless there were those unknowns who (sinners as they were) believed in the reality of the Creator God, were conscious of a broken relationship with Him, sought to be right with Him and had some sort of trust in the promise of God recorded at Genesis 3:15 (fulfilled in Jesus Christ), then they were dead in their sins. The man Job presents as an early Gentile without knowledge of the Abramic covenant, was deemed righteous and could say "I know that my redeemer lives." (Job 19:25) He, of course, is not an unknown but was he the only one of like nature and hope?