For Arabs and Muslims
For so long I was enamored of the Jews and the meaning of their existence - still am. The Jews have everything to do with my own faith, as they have laid the foundation upon which faith in Jesus rests. But when it comes to Arabs, it took longer to both understand and appreciate them. I finally understood the meaning of being an Arab for the first time, when the story of Ismail first became clear to me. This understanding came during a confusing war, the Persian Gulf War, confusing mainly because Saddam Hussein was never captured at that time.
One of the key ways of learning was through two pastors who preached on the subject. One of those pastors was Rick Engels-a Jew from California who became a Christian and who is now doing mission work in Pune, India (Muslim). He obviously has a loving spirit and is very intelligent. The other is an African American pastor in California who appeared on Trinity Broadcasting Network. I will share some of what they shared in sermons on Ismail and will add insights that I have gained as well.
First, as we all know, Abraham wanted a son but Sarah was barren. He was a man, and like any man he doubted God. God had said he would have a son whose blood line would bring the Messiah, and whose descendants would be more than the sands of the sea. Here he was, advancing in age along with Sarah, and no kids. Maybe he wondered if it was his duty to go ahead and have a child in the traditional way under these circumstances (have one with the wife's mistress). It wasn't immoral according to the standards that were understood at that time. But God's idea was unique for the times.
Abraham was expected to listen to God's ideas even if they were foreign. God expected a lot! God wanted the mother to be Abraham's only wife, Sarah. In spite of the fact that both Abraham and Sarah were brought up in a kind of harem, where there was one father but many mothers (Sarah and Abraham had the same father,) God was introducing something new. Even though Abraham and Sarah were half siblings, through them God was trying to establish a nuclear family. (Abraham did not marry again until she was gone.) By taking Hagar the young Egyptian as Abraham's son's mother, he was violating God's plan.
But he did impregnate Hagar, and she had a son. It is very interesting to read in the Jewish writings about this memorable event. The story begins in Genesis, chapter 16. How many Jews have paid attention?
Sarah was inflamed with jealousy when she saw this young beauty with the child that she may have felt she could never have, the child that God had said would be hers. Incidentally, Sarah pressured Abraham into doing this, yet God held him responsible for his deed similar to the Adam and Eve story. God never excused men for giving into the pressure of women!
It says that Sarai (original name) treated Hagar harshly so that the maid fled from her. Then, an angel appeared to Hagar in the wilderness where she fled. As Rick pointed out-how many of us have had an angel appear to us? In the Bible, only a few accounts can be found where people had angels appear to them. One was Mary, the virgin. Think of the fact that Hagar was considered as important as the Virgin Mary or as Jacob, for example. The angel tells her to go back to her mistress to submit to her. Through the angel the Lord gives her the same blessing that he gave to Abraham!
He said, "I will greatly bless your descendants so that they shall be too many to count." Where and how has this been fulfilled? We clearly see the answer in the huge number of those who are believers in the faith of Ismail, not to mention his direct descendants, the Arabs.
Furthermore, the angel told her that she was to call her child Ismail (God has heard), because "the Lord has given heed to your affliction." (Vs. 11).
Then God says, "And he will be a wild donkey of a man, his hand will be against everyone, and everyone's hand will be against him." (Verse 12.) When I heard this I thought “huh! Now that sounds right!” And the preacher made a joke about it. This problem may be the result of Ismail's anger as a result of not having a stable and secure beginning or the normal position for a first son.
Then it says, (vs. 13), "Then she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, 'Thou art a God who sees'; for she said, 'Have I remained alive here after seeing Him?' (Vs. 14) Therefore the well was called Beer-lahai-roi..."
(Means "before the face of")
Later, when Sarah had her son, Isaac, she wanted to drive out Hagar and Ismail and said she did not want him to be an heir along with Isaac. This was said in response to Ismail mocking her. (Genesis 21:9) Abraham was greatly distressed, (vs. 11). Ismail was jealous and angry. After all, he was the first son. Why shouldn't he, according to tradition, be the heir?
God tells Abraham to listen to Sarah because through Isaac his descendants shall be named. But, in the next verse God also says, "And the son of the maid I will make a nation also, because he is your descendant," (vs. 13).
Then, Hagar was forced out into the wilderness alone, with the boy, where she feared she would die. An angel of God came and asked her what was wrong. He said "Do not fear, for God has heard the voice of the lad where he is. Arise, lift up the lad and hold him by the hand, for I will make a great nation of him. Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water; and she went and filled the skin with water, and gave the lad a drink. And God was with the lad, and he grew," (verses 17-20).
Clearly, the human element barred Ismail from having a place in the family at all. Reconciliation between Jews and Arabs must take place before God's work can be considered finished on earth. The Messiah of the Jews, whom Jews reject, and whom the Muslims believe to be merely a prophet, is the answer. Jesus came to reconcile all non-Jews to Himself, while the Jews remain blind to his having been here already. The ultimate plan is that the Jews will also recognize the Messiah, and together Arabs and Muslims, Jews and true Christians will be as one.
It sounds too good to be true. But I cannot help but believe that the Jews have made it nearly impossible for Arabs to recognize Christ simply because one needs to embrace Judaism first, and the meaning of Messiah having come, and Arabs have been wounded by this religion.
Without embracing Jews and their beliefs, the Muslim feels the need to contain Jesus in the role of a prophet, because Ismail's rightful place in the family of Abraham has been torn from him. He does not care to look at or think about this Messiah who is for the brother who rejected him. But this Messiah is also his.
When all things have become clear, then Ismail's descendants will understand the meaning of being the sons of Isaac, for Isaac's sons have paid dearly for such an inheritance, and their lives have been marred by torment, persecution and insecurity. Ultimately, though Ismail was thrown out and lost his security, it is Isaac who has been without a home for a long time. And don't forget-it is Isaac's family that is living without their Messiah.
The Jews' situation is sad today. The children of the remnant-Jews who know they are Jews-have somewhat compromised their identity. Many have abandoned faith.
We tend to believe that to be chosen is to be as a king, to be served. This is not what God had in mind for His chosen. When you learn that they have done it all for all of us, including Ismail, then you will rejoice in the meaning of Isaac and his descendants.
Through Isaac-Messiah has come. The meaning was for all who were left out of the inheritance of the Jews. That would include the writer of this essay-a gentile. Through Jesus, all of the riches of this inheritance were passed on. In fact, even the Jews never tasted some of the delicacies of being bonded, through the Messiah, to God. The ultimate truth is this: God's chosen are given great burdens to bear, and we should neither desire this task nor envy those to whom it is given. Instead, we can benefit so much more from receiving what they have given us: the way to the Messiah of the world.
Will you recognize that the Messiah is being offered to you ahead of the Jews? He bypassed their plan for Him. Their plan for Him was to come to earth and be king and give them heaven on earth. Instead, he came as a humble, unlikely man to prepare the hearts of the rest of those he came to save so that he could finally return as king. In this way he is humbling them, not allowing them to see him now, so that they will see how much he loved all those he came to save.
As an Arab, a descendant of Abraham through Ismail, or as a Muslim, a descendant by faith, you are offered the Messiah's peace, and a place in God's kingdom, just as we gentiles have been offered. Please accept this offer and know that the cycle of rejection is ended. God has joined you to himself by Abraham's gift to you: the right of being a true son by faith in the promised Messiah that did come.