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Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Ishmael -Genesis 16

I don't know if this is theologically correct. Please advice me if it's not.Anyway I'll just say what I think.
I thought I understood Abraham and Ishmael before, but today some new thoughts came to my mind that totally revolutionized my way of thinking and understanding.
First of all, Abraham taking his wife's maid is culturally acceptable for that time. Rachel and Leah's maids could be an example, also David and Solomon all had concubines. Moses' law wasn't yet available. In this sense it's not a sin.
Abraham and Sarah lived a purpose driven life. Sarah went on an extra mile to see the promise fulfilled. It was a sacrifice for her to give her maid to her husband. The result? They had Ishmael, and it's interesting what the name means: "God listens." In other words, it means that's a prayer answered.
Let's see what's God's promise in the first place..."I'll make you a great nation"(12:2)"descendants like the stars"(15:5)
Did Ishmael fulfill God's promise? He actually did. He became a big nation. His descendants were like the stars.
Did God reject Hagar and Ishmael? No. He sent His angels to comfort them and gave them promises, on one condition though, they must go back and submit.(16:9)
What happened in the end? Ephesians 2:14-18 "He made both groups into one" Does Isaac's descendants today and Ishmael's descendants today have the same chances of salvation and blessings through Christ? Does God love us and the Iraqi people the same?

In Chapter 15 verse 6,"Then he believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness." Abraham believed what the Lord said was gonna happen. And that was his righteousness. This was before today's chapter.But how was it to happen? It actually showed us two ways: one is by supernatural encounter, and one is by action.

Maybe I'll use some examples. Say speaking in tongues. You can get it in a supernatural way, God just did it to you in a miraculous way, and you had a supernatural, spectacular experience. That's awesome. Some people decide that they would wait for that moment to happen....they could end up waiting for 20 years. But there's also another way of getting it... you step out in faith by making some sound, by moving your lips and tongue....and you'll get it straight away.I've witnessed hundreds of people getting the tongues in this way I know it works. But it starts with human effort,and it's less spectacular. But in the end? Both were filled with the Holy Spirit.
In Benny Hinn's meetings, at first they were waiting for supernatural healings to happen, but gradually they encourage more people to actively getting involved in the healing process, by trying to move, trying to stand up...etc.
Joyce Meyer once said, that she was so afraid that she'd miss God's perfect will that she dared not do anything. But God said to her, that "if you miss me, I'll find you."

If purpose driven life, fulfilling God's promise and calling only involves waiting for God to show up, then why do we need to have Phil Baker's books on how to succeed in life?
Like it or not, today's western churches are mostly following the principles of Ishmael. By passionately follow our dreams, by taking actions, by trying new ways, making sacrifices, go the extra making it happen. And of course, by submission, following the principles and guidelines.
And most of the time, after the Ishmaels, God will add to us the Isaacs as well.
In a nutshell, Ishmael speaks of human effort, and also answered prayers. It's not God's perfect will, not His perfect method of doing things, but if we're persistent enough, we pray hard enough, the prayer still gets answered. We might get into some troubles, some people might not like the way it happened as it's less spectacular, but in the end we still get the result and God will help us out with the problems we created.

We can't drive out Hagar and Ishmael. Abraham and Sarah did. But an angel found them and told them to go back! I don't know how Sarah reacted when she saw Hagar again...."hey I thought I just got rid of you..."
Have you found yourself saying things like..."this is too hard, what have I done? what have I got myself into? Can I just abort mission? Why do I have to continue with this journey?"
Somehow I believe God wants us to have both: Isaacs are for our blessings, but Ishmaels are for our character, our growth. Maybe that's why God didn't show up in this case until Ishmael's already a teenager.
All we want is Isaac. But maybe God is more interested in our character and our growth in maturity. There's a saying, "Our gifts can't take us where our character can't sustain."

Sooooo, has your Ishmael grown up yet? If he's still a toddler, you know you still got a few years to go then....

In other words, a modern term, Isaac is just a new level of annointing and blessing. We start with Ishmael, and we'll encounter Isaac along the way.
We can't control God, but we can control ourselves. We can't determine when Isaac's gonna come, but we can determine when to start with Ishmael. We're waiting for Isaac, but God's waiting for Ishmael to be born and grow up; Brian Houston taught a few weeks ago,"to be faithful with your hand to fulfill what's in your heart." If we're responsible for the present, then God will take care of the future; We do what we can, even if we can't, we still can by making sacrifice, by getting help, then God will fulfil what we can't. Ishmael is actually a stepping stone for us to get to Isaac. The sooner we start, the better we get at raising Ishmael, the sooner Isaac will come.