"And he will be a wild donkey of a man, his hand will be against everyone, and everyone's hand will be against him..." (Genesis 16:12)
Disciples are familiar with the story of Ishmael. When Abram was 75 years old, God promised him a son and heir, though his wife, Sarai, was barren.
After waiting ten years, Abram and Sarai decided that God must have expected them to take the initiative and produce this son through natural means.
They both agreed that Abram should lie with Sarai's Egyptian maid, Hagar, and if Hagar conceived, Sarai would raise the child as the fulfillment of the promise of God. Hagar did conceive a son, but things didn't work out well, as prophesied by the angel of the Lord in our Scripture reference.
The Arab nations are direct descendants of Ishmael, and they are indeed strong-willed as wild donkeys. Their hands are set against their rivals, the Jews, and everyone who befriends the Jewish people. They claim to be the first born of their father, Abraham. That is correct, but they are the product of the sin of unbelief, not the product of the miraculous promise.
Nearly fifteen years later, when God changed Abram and Sarai's names to Abraham and Sarah, the promised son was born. Sarah gave birth to Isaac, and the bloodline of the Jewish nation began.
Something else happened as a result of the doubt Satan put in the minds of Abraham and Sarah. Another product was generated by unbelief, similar to the garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve were persuaded by Satan to doubt God.
When Ishmael was born, an enemy of God was turned loose in heaven as well as on the earth, for Ishmael is the father of the religion of Islam. Out of the Arab nations has come the religion of the Muslims, who maintain there is only one God, Allah, and that Mohammed is his prophet.
Today, Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world, including the United States. Their sacred book is the Koran, believed to contain the revelations of Allah to Mohammed. The Koran has many moral teachings, but the Muslim Umma (believers) are primarily interested in becoming a powerful world force, and their fire is fed by their hatred for Jews and Christians.
Every disciple should examine this product of Abram and Sarai closely, because each of us has the natural tendency to produce an Ishmael of our own.
Ishmaels become detours or washed-out bridges or barricades in our personal journey with God. Every time we move out on our own and fail to filter our lives through God, we run the risk of creating an Ishmael.
Ishmaels are the product of human hands. We human beings cannot produce perfection. We can't generate anything good, in God's eyes, unless it is something He calls us to do.
Ishmaels are prompted by the human need for expediency. When God doesn't move in a situation as quickly as we feel He should, we respond like Abram and Sarai. The sin of unbelief prompts us to act on our own and expect God to bless us because we act in good faith.
It is almost impossible for today's modern Christian to wait patiently upon God. But when we impatiently step out, we most always produce some kind of Ishmael. Ishmaels fulfill themselves before they disappear. They are like hybrid seeds which produce crops. They may not reproduce, but they always produce. There are no crop failures in the line of Ishmael.
Ishmaels are avoided only by waiting and trusting God to move according to His timetable and with His perfection. Many well-intentioned Christians find themselves in awkward positions because they fail to wait for God to move.
If we are expediency oriented, we are easy game for Satan. When we begin to doubt that God will move in our situation, the enemy is right there to water and fertilize that seed of unbelief. If we allow it to incubate, it eventually brings forth something not of God, and that something becomes our Ishmael.
Like the Ishmael of the Bible, every Ishmael seems to have a far-reaching effect. Almost without fail it requires our time and attention. It distracts our focus upon our relationship with our Lord. On the surface, Ishmaels may appear to be innocent, but anything not of God always falls subject to the enemy of God.
If we understand we have the ability and the inclination to produce Ishmaels, we should do everything we can to avoid setting one in motion. Jesus gave us the solution:
"I can do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me." (John 5:30)
That takes discipline to accomplish, but discipline is part of the lifestyle of a disciple. It requires quiet time with the Lord, so we can hear Him speak. It requires commitment to move out as He directs, not concerned about the results, but simply trusting Him. Most of all, it requires patience that springs from faith. We have a prayer-answering God, but we need faith to wait for the answer.
It certainly helps if we keep Ishmael in mind.
Jesus is King!
P.S. What are you doing of eternal value?
Question for today: Do I have an Ishmael in the making?