“And God was with the lad and he was mighty; he dwelt in the wilderness and became a great archer. He dwelt in the wilderness of Paran and his mother took for him a wife from the land of Egypt.”
And so, Hagar and Ishmael separate from the presence of Abraham and move to the wilderness of Paran. The region of Paran is traditionally located toward the western side of the Arabian Peninsula and it should be noted that Muslim tradition states that it is Mecca where Ishmael settled, again noting the connection between Abraham and Sarah’s sin of trying to rush God’s plan and the Arab nations today. In addition, he did not take a wife from “his own people” as would Isaac, but chose a wife out of Egypt…an idolater.
Notice the contrast between Ishmael and his father in terms of how they are remembered. Abraham is remembered as the Father of the Faithful (Romans 4:11-12) and the Friend of God (James 2:23); Ishmael is remembered as being a good archer, a hunter (not unlike the language that is given of Nimrod — Genesis 10:8-9). One being remembered for eternal things and the other for earthly things. The contrast should be profound.
How often we who know eternal truth find ourselves much more concerned with earthly matters than with heavenly ones. How often we would rather be remembered for our accomplishments on earth than for our faithfulness to God. How often we invest our time and money into things that will not last but for a few moments on the timeline of eternity. How often we behave more like the pagans in terms of what we value than we do like the men and women of God that have walked before us. Loved ones, may it be faithful Abraham who is our example and not Ishmael. May we invest our energies in building the Kingdom of God and not worry so much about building our own man-centered kingdoms. May we be remembered not as a “Great” man or woman, but as “Friend of God.”
“And unto Ishmael, I have heard you, so behold, I will bless him and will cause him to bear fruit and I will make him exceedingly great. He will bear twelve princes and I will give to him a great nation.”
Because of God’s promise to Abraham, God blesses Abraham’s firstborn and allows him to build a nation. Like Jacob, from Ishmael we are told that 12 princes would come (see Genesis 25:13-16 for the list of Ishmael’s twelve sons). These sons would grow in stature and influence and founded many of the nations that surrounded ancient Israel and which are even today seeking to destroy the rest of those who descend from Abraham. These, of course, are ultimately the current Islamic nations.
So why did God permit the rise of Islam? Couldn’t God have just cut off the line of Hagar as he did with Keturah (Abraham’s wife after the death of Sarah)? Indeed, God could remove all of the obstacles between us and glory, yet God uses those obstacles to refine us and to mature us in our faith. Islam is also designed to be a reminder to us of the grace and mercy of God. Their religion is law, law, law and it is as contradictory to the Christian faith as light is to darkness. If man’s natural bent since the fall were not legalism, Islam would have no appeal.
As we look at the political landscape of the world around us, one may be quick to wonder if life indeed would be easier if the Muslims were not a threat. Not only has there been centuries of warfare between Christians and Muslims but that warfare has been coupled with terrorist activities. In additions, Muslims are immigrating all over Europe and America and some are suggesting that one day these once Christian nations will be under Sharia Law.
So, indeed, what is the solution to this great dilemma that Christians are facing today? The answer is the same, beloved, as it has always been: be bold in your witness of the Gospel. Part of the reason that Islam, Humanism, eastern Mysticism, and other false religions are making such headway into the thinking of lands who have once been dominated by Christianity is that Christianity no longer dominates in the public square. We have sadly turned inward and have decided to focus more on building buildings, running programs, and having a following than in making disciples of all nations. Can you imagine what America would be like if we were so bold with our testimony of the Gospel that everyone who came would end up converting to Christianity? If that were the case, we would be excited about more Muslims immigrating from the Middle East because that would mean that they would soon be becoming Christian. Even many pastors have become defeatists, acting as if they are serving the church in Sardis, strengthening what is about to die, rather than engaging and breaking down the gates of Hell. God has given us the armor and weapons of warfare to do so; will we not use them?
Beloved, we have been called by our great captain to engage the enemy, let us do so with vigor and with boldness and proclaim that we will not lay down our arms before the foe because the war has already been won by Jesus Christ upon the cross. Let Christianity once again be on the march because it is through Isaac and through Christ that the promise is given, not through the other children of Abraham.
Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
With the cross of Jesus going on before.
Christ, the royal Master, leads against the foe;
Forward into battle see His banners go!
At the sign of triumph Satan’s host doth flee;
On then, Christian soldiers, on to victory!
Hell’s foundations quiver at the shout of praise;
Brothers lift your voices, loud your anthems raise.
Crowns and thrones may perish, kingdoms rise and wane,
But the church of Jesus constant will remain.
Gates of hell can never gainst that church prevail;
We have Christ’s own promise, and that cannot fail.
Onward then, ye people, join our happy throng,
Blend with ours your voices in the triumph song.
Glory, laud and honor unto Christ the King,
This through countless ages men and angels sing.