God Heard Ishmael’s cry but tested Abraham: a reflection on our Day 8 reading from Genesis 21:1-22:19.
I know that if you are reading this devotion you have already moved on from the Birth and ‘Sacrifice’ of Isaac’ and are reading today about Jacob and Esau. Most of you know I was on retreat for four days and I dedicated myself to this retreat and did not have the opportunity to blog. However during my retreat I still read my bible for the E100 challenge and I was struck powerfully between God’s Blessing of Ishmael, His testing of Abraham and the dramatic difference between God’s response to the two.
Ishmael was the offspring of Abraham’s disobedience to God’s promise. Abraham and Sarah, though responding to God’s call to go into a new land and to initially trust in God’s promise to make their offspring as numerous as the stars in the sky, basically lost trust. Yes Abraham trusted God and it was counted to him as righteousness. Yet the trust in those promises was strained as time went on and Abraham in fear of his own safety allowed his wife to be taken as a wife by another and then attempt to have a child with a woman who was not his wife.
This is just a wandering thought, but maybe Abraham’s lack of trust had the consequence of straining his relationship with God and God needed to find a way to reestablish that trust. Though incomprehensible to us God accomplished this by asking Abraham to give back the very promise that started it all.
On the other hand God’s response to Ishmael was to have mercy. The text does not say he was testing Ishmael or his mother, but that he heard his cry and had mercy. This tells me that God is a redeeming God. He did not cause Ishmael to be cast out, he did not cause the trauma that was placed upon him. But God looked down on him and had mercy.
Oh how I behave like Abraham and need God’s blessing like Ishmael. I need the redemptive power of God to come upon me and fulfill His promises. Yet in my own disobedience am I really prepared to receive what God needs to give to me to bless me and fulfill His promises for my life. Am I really ready to see the true consequences that my lack of trust in the fulfillment of God’s promises are in my life and the lives of those whom I dearly love.