Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Bible Flannel Board: Ishmael

Talk about a guy who gets a bad rap.

So, Ishmael.  Son of Abraham, but through a servant Hagar, and not his wife.  (Side note:  Abram had many more sons than just Ishamael and Isaac.  Some by a 2nd wife after Sarah died.  Some by his concubines.  I know.  Totally shatters your view of Ishamael being the only tainted son, right?)

The Bible says that Ishmael was a wild man and an archer.  I always liked to imagine him as this:

Ok, so he's not an archer.  But still.  He's wild and rugged.  Yes. 

So anyways.  Here's Ishmael.  Son of Abraham.  He's about 13 when little Isaac shows up.  To which his reaction was probably this:

"You gotta be kidding me?"

Abraham throws a feast for Isaac when he was weaned (historically, about age 3 from what I've read).  This puts Ishmael at 16.  And Isaac's mom (Abe's wife), gets really ticked because of some way she saw Ishmael mock Isaac.  Now, from what I was able to gather, this was a big deal.  Some think maybe Sarah was just jealous, but that doesn't make sense.  One, she had a son at this point.  Who was heir to the covenant God made with Abraham.  So I don't think she felt a threat to that.  Evidently Ishmael did something really offensive, and it was serious, because Abraham gave it weight to.  And after much distress and prayer, he sent Ishmael and his mom away.

So here you have a perfect opportunity for teenage angst.  Dad tosses you and your mom out because your dad's wife said so.  There was more to it than that, and we think Ishmael was at blame.  But imagine it.  You're sixteen.  You've seen how everyone worships your baby brother.  Your mom, who defends you and fights for you, is kicked out with you.  And you feel responsible.  I have sat here and wondered what this did to Ishmael and his relationship with Abraham.

Ishmael was a fierce young man with family issues.  People, Ishmael was Four.

Do you see it?  Different family drama of course, but he is so Ishmael to me.  

What I find particularly interesting is that when Ishmael and his mom were kicked out, they wandered in the desert, ran out of water, and were going to die.  So Ishmael's mom wonders off because she doesn't want to watch her son die and she was crying.  Then it says that God heard not her, but the boy. Ishmael.  Interestingly enough his very name means "God hears."  God heard Ishmael's voice.  I like to imagine that it was like thunder, big and booming.  Because that fits Ishmael.  I want to know the rest of his story.  Because there's more I feel.  God made Ishmael into a nation because of his love for Abraham.  And this was not the end of his story.

I am dying to know about Ishamael's wife.  Scripture says his mother (who was Egyptian and they were all national pride back then) sent away for an Egyptian mail order bride.  There is a story I long to know.  Was there love between Ishmael and this woman his mom brought for him?  Did she fall head over heels for this wild man she traveled out to the desert to marry?  Did wild Ishmael have a tender place in his heart for his bride?  He had twelve sons and maybe more daughters.  I want to know more about this man that God redeemed even though he wasn't part of the original plan.  God heard him.  Saw his mom.  Heard Ishmael.  I have to wonder if he called upon the name of God again?

FYI, it tells us later in Scripture that when Abraham died Isaac and Ishmael came back together to bury him.  What was that family reunion like?

Wolverine vs Sabertooth?  Lots of nastiness?  No?
Daddy's favorite vs Not-so-much?
Power struggle?  "Real" son versus Not?

I wonder about these brothers. Isaac was so young when Ishmael was sent away, but you know he heard about him.  Was there hostility between them?  For all we're told, Abraham was a good father to both.  Was it love for him that made them see past their labels?  Did they love each other?

Siblings are an interesting relationship.  But God's faithfulness and redemption are written through both of their stories.  

Sorry Isaac, but when I get to heaven, I want to sit and talk to your ousted big brother before I come and hang out with you.

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