And the angel of the Lord said to her,
“Behold, you are pregnant
and shall bear a son.
You shall call his name Ishmael,
because the Lord has listened to your affliction.
He shall be a wild donkey of a man,
his hand against everyone
and everyone’s hand against him,
and he shall dwell over against all his kinsmen.”
God had promised a son to them, and year after year, they were wondering if He had told the truth. After all, how often does a couple in their 80s have a child? Sure, age in the early parts of the Bible seems to be a lot different than it is now. People routinely lived well past 100, but even so, you know that 80-year-old women probably weren’t having a lot of babies.
So, knowing these facts, the couple got very impatient. Very, very impatient. So impatient that Sarai decided it would be a great idea for Abram to have sex with her servant, Hagar, so that he could at least have a son, even if it wasn’t by her.
Abram, being the dutiful husband he was, went ahead and slept with Hagar. And nine months later, when old Abe was 86, Ishmael was born. The problem was that, even though Sarai came up with the genius plan, she was a bit miffed when it actually worked.
Once Sarai realized that Abram really would have a son, and that the child might make her husband more loyal to its mother – the servant – she had a change of heart. Basically, she got Abram to exile the mother and child.
Here’s the consequence that neither Abram nor Sarai counted on. God had no intention of leaving Hagar and Ishmael for dead, and he cared for them in the desert. And because Abram was blessed and was to become a great nation through his offspring, Ishmael, too was blessed, and his people became a great nation. Instead of one great nation, Abram fathered two.
But what is this other great nation? It’s Islam. Ishmael’s descendants eventually include Mohammed, who founded Islam. And true to Genesis 16:12, “…his hand against everyone, and everyone’s hand against him…” The Islamic nations have been set against Israel for hundreds and perhaps thousands of years. Essentially, Ishmael’s descendants and Issac’s descendants have warred pretty much ever since Genesis. To put it another way, because Abram and Sarai couldn’t wait for God’s perfect plan, they added a wrinkle that has been a source of much of the world’s conflict ever since.
Waiting for God isn’t easy. Sometimes you’ll question whether He cares or if He’s even there. But if you try to run ahead of Him and do things your own way, you will almost always just cause problems that you might not be able to undo. We all pray to the Lord for different things, but too often we expect Him to answer those requests on our time – not His. The next time you ask God for something, commit to waiting for Him to answer perfectly in His own way, and don’t try to run ahead of Him with your plans.
Reflection copyright © 2017 Doug DeBolt.
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.