Throughout my life, I’ve created many Ishmaels. These are situations when you have heard a promise from the Lord, but through impatience, moved ahead with your own plan. The result is an Ishmael. It might be a relationship, business, ministry, home, car, or baby. The latter was the case for Abraham and Sarah.
In Genesis 12 we see God’s promise to make Abram into a great nation (v. 2). At that time, he was 75 years old and had no children. In Genesis 15 Abram is lamenting about the fact that he is getting older and has no heir. Again, God reinforces that he will have a son. V. 6 says that, “Abram believed the Lord, and He credited it to him as righteousness."
Genesis 16 is where it gets dicey. Sarai, Abram’s wife, is still barren and impatient with the Lord. She tells Abram to sleep with her Egyptian slave, Hagar, so they can have the promised baby. This is a defining moment for Abram, the kind we are faced with quite often (not sleeping with the maid). That moment when you know the promise of God, but are faced with taking the plan into your own hands, rather than waiting on God. Abram failed the test and slept with Hagar.
Once Hagar knew she was pregnant, she began taunting Sarai. Instead of dealing with the mess she helped create, Sarai tells Abram that it’s his fault and he needs to deal with it. Sounds like the blame game from the Garden of Eden. Abram tells Sarai that Hagar is her slave, she can do whatever she wants, so Sarai began mistreating Hagar and she fled to the desert.
Now, the name Ismael means, God hears and He definitely heard what was going on, because He sent an angel to speak with Hagar in the desert. He told her to go back to her mistress and submit to her. That she would receive the same type of blessing that God promised Abram – descendants too numerous to count. The angel also told Hagar she was going to have a son and was to name him Ishmael. Then he told her that her son would be a “wild donkey of a man”. Wow, that had to be encouraging to Hagar.
Long story short, she goes back to Sarai and submits to her and Ismael is born. Abram was 86 when his son, Ishmael was born. Fast forward 13 years and Abram is now 99 years old, when God appears again to reinforce the covenant He made with Abram when he was 75. God then changes his name from Abram to Abraham and his wife from Sarai to Sarah. Abraham even laughed at the idea that Sarah could get pregnant in their old age. Later three angels appear to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah and tell Abraham and Sarah that they would have a son within the next they would have a son.
When Abraham was 100 years old, Isaac, the promised son was born. For twenty-five years, Abraham and Sarah carried that promise and when it seemed completely impossible, God did the possible. Isaac went on to have two sons, Esau and Jacob. God later renamed Jacob, Israel and he had 12 sons who became the twelve tribes of Israel.
Unfortunately, Ishmael also had 12 sons and they became the twelve tribes of Ishmael, who were always fighting against God and the Israelites. It is from this lineage that Mohammad was born and the entire Islamic nation, that continues to war with Israel, the Jewish nation, and now the rest of the world.
Most of our Ishmaels won’t have this big of an effect on the world, but they will on our own lives. When God comes with a promise, stay patient and let His perfect plan bring the promise to completion. A life without Ishmaels is a blessed life.