Ishmael and Isaac
Abram had two sons from different women. Ishmael was the son of Sarai’s Egyptian handmaiden Hagar whom she gave to Abram in hopes that he has a physical heir to his properties. Isaac, the son of the promise was born to Sarai when she was very old. Now Ishmael means God Listens while Isaac means Laughter. Sarai thought the Lord was joking when He told her she would bare a son but (sorry) God got the last laugh in this case.
Sarai took it upon herself to let Abram have Hagar and give him a son and she was jealous of Hagar especially when Ishmael was born. Thing is, Ishmael was not the child of the promise and God knew that Sarai would give Hagar to Abram. God still used Ishmael and his descendant
Abram joyfully taught Ishmael all he needed to know and had him circumcised as the first born in God’s covenant with Abram. Sarai became jealous of Hagar which would carry on into the boys. Sarai (now Sarah) bore Isaac and he became the favored child.
The Book of Jasher tells us that when Isaac was five, Ishmael (then 18) attempted to kill Isaac with a bow and arrow. Ishmael was a wild youth who mocked Isaac every chance he had and would not follow Abraham’s direction so Hagar and Ishmael were banished. Abraham asked God for pity on them and He granted them safety. An angel came to Hagar and Ishmael ensuring they were looked after and he would father a great nation. Ishmael had two wives (not at the same time) and twelve sons, the Arab Nation also known as Ishmaelite’s. Later in his life Ishmael and before Abraham died, Ishmael became a penitent man. When he died he was buried in what would be called Mecca.
There are so many issues with timing and age here but should we really worry about semantics over meanings?
When Isaac reached the age to assist his father with the sacrifice, he went with Abraham to the mountain and was the physical object of God’s test of Abraham’s faith. Abraham from there understood that God would provide for him and his many children as long as they were faithful servants. The angel of the Lord told Abraham, ”By Myself have I sworn, says the Lord, that because you have done this thing and you did not withhold your son, your only one, that I will surely bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand that is on the seashore, and your descendants will inherit the cities of their enemies.“
So what is the importance of Isaac besides the second son of the father of many nations? Isaac is the Son of the Promise, honestly that is really the most important thing about him outside of his children. He was a faithful man who would later father twins who would once again separate nations. These two people would suffer contention and strife even today although the brothers found peace in their time.
We learn more about Abraham’s faith from this story than anything else. First we see how Abraham and Sarah could not believe that they would even be able to have children at their age especially since Sarah was well above child bearing years. They learn to listen to God and that He can make all things possible, even what we would consider impossible. Abraham never saw God, only angels that were His messengers and carried out God’s commands. His faith in the unseen made God known personally to Abraham. Ishmael would never have as close of a relationship with God as Isaac did. Maybe that is why there are so many issues.
This story tells us that we can have that personal relationship, in fact that is what God wants. We will later see how much more this point is brought out with Isaac’s son, Jacob.
Father God, We desire a personal relationship with You. Thank You for giving us Jesus so we can have that relationship. Thank You also for the understanding of faith in the unseen but understood, Father. The lessons from the past are truly alive today because of that relationship You have built with us. Teach us, Oh Lord, so that we may share this relationship with others as we build deeper relationships with You ourselves. Guide us to those who You desire a deep personal relationship so we may tell them our story in order for them to discover theirs. Thank You for the gift of Your Son and His gift of the Holy Spirit. In Jesus Name AMEN