“Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation.”
When God covenanted with Abraham, his eyes were on all the fledgling peoples of earth. He showed Sarah special favor, but he also listened to Hagar and Ishmael’s sobs. The name Ishmael means “God hears.” Ishmael too was given nationhood and water in the desert.
Hagar and Ishmael, abandoned to the wilds beyond Beersheba, became a preview of God’s aim to bless all nations as he made a great people out of these humiliated slaves. It’s only by God’s grace that deserts become places where blessings abound. Ask Moses, who learned in the wilderness how God’s ears are tuned to the cries of the oppressed (Exodus 3:7). Ask John, a voice in the desert, who said God can make a people for himself out of stones (Matthew 3:9). Ask Jesus, who was driven into the wilderness to be tested (Matthew 4:1).
Comforted by a new hope, Hagar found an Egyptian bride for her son. Ishmael went on to become the father of twelve sons and a daughter. He eventually visited Canaan to make peace with his estranged family and helped Isaac to bury their father (Genesis 25; 28:9).
Why does God show such care to Ishmael? Because God works his saving plan to benefit everyone like him. Ishmael’s descendants, like all the world’s people, are to be invited home, into the family of God.
O Lord, thank you for the unique cultures, skills, and stories of all nations. Make new pathways in the desert to bring them home to you. Amen.
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