This son of yours will be a wild man, as untamed as a wild donkey! He will raise his fist against everyone, and everyone will be against him. Yes, he will live in open hostility against all his relatives.” Thereafter, Hagar used another name to refer to the Lord, who had spoken to her. She said, “You are the God who sees me.” (Genesis 16:12-13)
Relate: A pregnant Hagar ran from a jealous Sarah. The oppressed servant fled from her cruel master and was found by God out in the wild. God tells Hagar to go back and live in submission (the word submission in Arabic is “Islam”) to Sarah. God says He has heard her cry of distress and then He gives this promise: “Your son will be like a wild donkey. He will raise his fist against the world and the world will hate him. He will live in open hostility to all his relatives.”
Honestly, if I was Hagar, I don’t think this would really be all that encouraging. The fact that she does and says of God: “El Roi. You are the God who sees” really gives us a glimpse into her heart and her attitude at this point. She might have returned to Abraham and Sarah in obedience, but certainly not in humility. Her actions might have been in submission but her attitude… never.
React: The people of Islam call themselves the children of Ishmael. I am not going to dig into the doubtful legitimacy of that claim in this devotional. The question deserves a much more thorough and nuanced answer than I could accomplish in a few paragraphs. I am not even going to go into whether, legitimately or not, they have stepped into and taken ownership of this prophecy.
When I ask, “who are the children of Ishmael” I am being much more introspective. I remember listening to a podcast about the Bishops Wars. They were a couple small wars that took place in 1639 and 1640 between England and Scotland. Some would say they kicked off the civil wars that brought an end to the English monarchy as it once was. The wars were fought over the Anglican Book of Common Prayer and the podcast author commented about the attitude on both sides by saying, “both churches were convinced that they were doing church right and the rest of Christendom be damned.” That attitude, even when the curse word is taken literally, can be thrown at all too many “Christian” groups right up to the present. We see this same attitude today in how we have helped elect our current president. In many ways, he continues to embody the political opponent in Chris Rock’s Head of State who would always say, “God Bless America, and no place else.” It is as if we have raised our fists against the poor and the helpless and said, “They are out to get us. We should be bombing them into extinction. We should build bigger walls and we most definitely should not be opening our doors to ‘those people’.”
This isn’t the love God has called us to live. This is not how He taught us, on a mountainside, to treat our neighbors or even those who declare themselves our enemies. The church rightfully claims to be the spiritual seed of Israel, the child of Isaac, the child of Abraham. Are we? Are we living out this heritage or, with fist raised against the world, are we actually the spiritual son of Ishmael?
You taught us to pray that Your Kingdom would come here on earth as it is in heaven. That kingdom is not found in any flag. It does not come through belligerence or even vengeance. It will not be advanced no matter how many millions of dollars worth of bombs we drop or walls we build against those who we mistakenly call our enemies. Your kingdom comes through love, from You, through me, to my world. It comes when I surrender, submit to Your will rather than forcibly impose my own. Rather than living with fist raised in opposition, let me lived with arms outstretched in welcome to the world. Let me live like You did.