Ishmael Issues

Have you ever had a goal and then do a course alteration? But in doing so, you find there were huge ramifications with the change?

So it was with Abraham* of the bible. “The LORD had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:1-3, NIV).

So off he goes. Through some trekking and delays, he and his wife, Sarah* and Lot, his nephew, end up in Canaan. It was here God said, “To your offspring I will give THIS land” (v7, emphasis mine). He was home. Abraham built altars to the Lord and pitched his tent in many places within Canaan.  Soon a famine comes. Abraham loads everyone up and leaves and goes to Egypt in hope of finding provision. He goes without God telling him to.  You can almost hear God say, “Wait, where are you going?”  

Once in Egypt, Abraham prompts Sarah to say she is Abraham’s sister (a half truth, she is his half-sister). Due to Sarah’s beauty, Abraham was safer as her brother, than her husband (as husband, he’d likely be killed). Sarah was taken into Pharaoh’s palace. Pharaoh at first treated Abraham well, because of Sarah. He gave Abraham sheep, oxen and donkeys. He also gave him male and female servants (Genesis 12:16). Personally, a gift certificate would have worked (just kidding).

This is where it gets interesting. Pharaoh finds out Sarah was Abrahams’ wife. Just in time.  God protected Sarah (and her future offspring to be only from Abraham).  They were sent out of Egypt with all Abe had acquired while there.  Abraham acquired “female servants” – one was named Hagar (Genesis 16:1).  To make a long story short: God had promised Abraham descendants, (Genesis 15:1-6) yet he and Sarah had no children.  So, Sarah gave Hagar to Abraham to bear her a child (as was the custom of the day).  Ishmael was born.

But Ishmael was not the true heir. Isaac – Abraham and Sarah’s birth son was the true promised heir of God (Genesis 17:15-21; 21:1-7).  Ishmael and Hagar are later sent away and the Ishmaelites grow into the Arab countrymen we know today, which the majority (not all) make claim to follow Allah (which is NOT Yahweh) within the Muslim religion. Since then, there has been friction between the Jewish nation (and Christians) and a large community of Arab Muslim practicing people. The Muslims claim that their ancestor Ishmael was the heir to the promise (but the holy scriptures of the Bible state otherwise).

Course alteration.

If Abraham had stayed put in Canaan and trusted that God would take care of him, provide and protect him and not flee to Egypt – where he tried to fix things on his own, he would not have brought back Hagar.  There would not have been an “Ishmael Issue.” 

I find it fascinating that when Abe and crew were in Canaan, Abraham built altars to God (symbolic of worship) but while in Egypt there is no mention of altar building.  Shouldn’t THAT have been a red flag for Abe? His situation, his location, his heart motive didn’t constitute worship for his God.  He wasn’t where he was supposed to be – worship didn’t flow from it.  If we can’t worship God where we are – we are in the wrong place.  Abraham did go back to Canaan, where he again built an altar to the Lord (Genesis 13:12,18).

How many times do we try to fix things ourselves? Go where we are not directed to go. Even if the detour is meant to be temporary, anything away from God’s will, can prove disastrous. Endanger others. Perhaps go and bring back what was not intended for us.  When we do, we too have Ishmael Issues.  Consequences. Hardships. Even birth friction where not needed. True obedience is doing what God says, when He says, and how He says to do it. Any course altering is ultimately, disastrously, sadly – disobedience.

Course alteration.

In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love & good deeds” – Hebrews 10:24).

*Abram’s name wasn’t changed until chapter 17, for familiarity’s sake I used Abraham.  The same for Sarai, changed to Sarah.

Note: Canaan was the Promised Land – we see the history of the Israelites took quite a few detours and delays to get back home.

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