It all started with a promise. God told Abraham and Sarah that they would bear a child and through him God would bring forth His people (descendants as numerous as the stars).
And like many of God’s chosen in the Bible, Abraham slipped up—BIG time. He grew impatient and decided to take things into his own hands. So he took Hagar (Sarah’s Egyptian slave) and conceived a child with her, named Ishmael.
Years later, Sarah finally became pregnant and Isaac (God’s promised child) was born. This created a problem that Abraham was forced to solve: which child will his descendants come from?
8 …on the day Isaac was weaned Abraham held a great feast. 9 But Sarah saw that the son whom Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham(B) was mocking,(C) 10 and she said to Abraham, “Get rid of that slave woman(D) and her son, for that woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.”(E)
11 The matter distressed Abraham greatly because it concerned his son.(F) 12 But God said to him, “Do not be so distressed about the boy and your slave woman. Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring[a] will be reckoned.(G) 13 I will make the son of the slave into a nation(H) also, because he is your offspring.” (Genesis 21)
There are two things I want to clarify by God’s words here: the first, is that He loves Ishmael and Hagar. Just as Abraham loves them (Ishmael is now 13 years old).
Hagar took her son into the desert and when their water ran out, they began to cry. God was with them:
17 God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. 18 Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation.”
19 Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. So she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink.
God continued to protect and bless Ishmael who grew up in the desert, became an archer, settled in Mecca, and married an Egyptian woman.
The second point we can glean from these passages is that God gave Ishmael his own inheritance and promise. He is so faithful that even in our mistakes—He forgives and pours out blessings upon us. Abraham made a mistake in sleeping with Hagar but Ishmael was not a mistake!
Abraham was forgiven and Ishmael would be blessed with a great nation just like Isaac. In essence, God expanded upon His promise to include Ishmael because he was Abraham’s son. The only divide was that his descendants would not become the Israelites (God’s chosen people).
Instead, they would become the Arabic nation.
That is why the Quran (the Islamic holy book) holds Ishmael as a prophet and messenger. Although, even there, little is said about him except (in their words) that he helped Abraham build the Kaaba, regarded as the most sacred structure on earth to those of the Muslim faith (britannica.com).
Other Islamic books give more information—contradictory to what the Bible explains. For example; that Abraham tried to sacrifice Ishmael instead of Isaac.
In the back of your mind I know you are probably thinking; “the sins of the father weren’t quite forgotten..” To look at the Arabic nation today, we have seen hostility, death, destruction, and pain—very much like what God said of Ishmael before he was born.
But, Ishmael still had a choice, as did his descendants. They might not have been God’s chosen people in the beginning but nor were we. When Jesus came, He brought salvation and reconciliation to all people from all nations (Jew and Gentile alike).
Would his descendants become one family again? Would they let go of the belief that they were supposed to be “the chosen ones” the “fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham?”
No. But that doesn’t mean that God isn’t working to save them. Many are giving their lives to Christ even now amidst so much strife and fear. They are fighting against this deep-seated hatred that has been passed down through generations and trying to find peace and freedom.
I say all of this to remind us, as Christians, to love our neighbors. Even our enemies. In many ways we are being dehumanized—it is so vital that we do not do the same to those we are called to love. Or did Christ not love us even when we were still His enemies?
“For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12)
Our battle is a spiritual one and our commission is still to save as many lost souls as we (Christ in us) can until Jesus returns.
So please, brothers and sisters, now is the time to pray for Afghanistan and those who have converted to Christianity and are currently hiding. Pray that the transforming love of Christ would reach more and more, and for divine protection against the devil’s schemes (working through the hearts of man).
Pray for the children (the future), that their eyes would be opened and they would finally put an end to the slaughter and generational sin of their people and find Jesus.
Pray even for the Taliban, that they would be radically saved and lay down their weapons.
There is still hope that many more will come to know Christ and a revival will spread throughout the region despite the spiritual battle against it. That is one unique attribute of Christianity—it grows under pressure.