Mercy Street Church of Christ
Abilene, TX
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Abraham and Ishmael

As for Ishmael . . . I hereby bless him. (Genesis 17:20)

The story of Abraham and his son Ishmael is as messy as any mixed marriage or custody battle today. According to Mesopotamian law, a childless woman could offer a slave to her husband as a substitute child bearer. That’s how Ishmael was born; Abraham’s barren wife, Sarah, offered her slave Hagar to Abraham to bear a child for her.

Like a modern surrogacy story, relationships got complicated after Ishmael was born. Abraham loved his son Ishmael, but Sarah and the “surrogate mother” held one another in disdain. Sarah wanted to throw Hagar out. Imagine the household tension that little Ishmael must have felt. By the time God told Abraham that Sarah would conceive a child of her own, his response was a little bit cynical: “Just let Ishmael live through this!” (Genesis 17:18).

Isn’t it comforting to think about how faithful God was to Abraham and Ishmael despite all this family strife? The way God responded to Abraham’s frustration is the way he responds to us today. He says, “I will bless you and maintain my covenant with you.” God’s love can’t be dragged down by our problems!

Our families don’t have to be perfect for God to remain faithful and merciful. We don’t have to make all the right decisions in order for God’s will to happen. Even Abraham struggled to believe this in his heart though. As God was promising blessing, Abraham was caught up in his family troubles. Does this sound familiar? Whether family or some other worry weighs you down, take a moment to suspend thinking about that and concentrate on God’s love.

As God’s eternal faithfulness was present to Abraham, it is also present to you. Sometimes it’s helpful to be concrete by recalling one or two specific examples of God’s faithfulness. Try to remember a time that God bailed you out of a tough situation. Thank God for that. Or thank him for a blessing from the past week! Finally, strengthened by these memories, offer up your biggest worry—your Ishmael—to the faithful goodness of the Lord. God is always at work in our lives; we just have to rise out of our worries to perceive it.

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