“The Name is Ishmael”
You shall name him Ishmael, for the LORD has heard of your misery. (Genesis 16:11).
He was jealous of his baby brother. Maybe not so unlike other older children who thought the new one was grabbing the center of attention. But the ramifications of this rivalry would be unlike any other.
The little brother was the promised one from whose line would come the Jews—and the Savior. He was called Isaac. From the line of the older brother would come, among other people, the Arabs. He was called Ishmael.
Both were named by God. Both names were meaningful. When the birth of Isaac was promised, Abraham laughed in joy. His wife, Sarah, laughed as a skeptic. “Isaac” means laughter.
Ishmael’s name was born out of misery. His mother was a slave girl in his father’s household. His birth came about when Abraham and Sarah came up with their own way for Abraham to have a child in his old age. It was not God’s way, and misery followed.
When the slave, Hagar, became pregnant, she began to gloat over the fact and started to despise Sarah. Sarah retaliated by mistreating her. So she ran away. An angel of the Lord found Hagar in the desert and ordered her to return. Then the angel gave a promise: “I will increase your descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count.”
We see the evidence that this promise has been kept as we look at the Arab population. But there was more about Ishmael: “He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers” (Genesis 16:12). This, too, has come to pass.
Hagar was an Egyptian. She was a slave. She was insolent. She had willingly taken part in a scheme that led to adultery. She was finally thrown out of the household with her teenage son.
But she was not rejected by the Lord God. Salvation might come through the line of Isaac, thus of the Jews, but the offer of God’s kindness and mercy was for all people.
He knew of her pain. He knew of her misery. He heard her cry for help.
That’s why she was told to name her child, Ishmael. It means, “God hears.”
God hears. That’s something to remember when everything seems to be against us, when our heart calls out in misery. God hears! He always does. Just as he heard Hagar.
It’s good for us to remember the name: Ishmael!
Heavenly Father, you hear! You see us on the days of our misery even if no one else can, or cares. You do not just walk by on the other side of the road, even though we may deserve that. You come to us in your Word. You reassure us that we are loved by you. You tell us of your mercy and your promises. You remind us that your plan is to prosper us and not to harm us. You point us to the sacrifice of your Son, as proof. We need nothing more. Amen.
Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain
and Liaison to the Military, Cape Coral, Florida
Provided by WELS Ministry to the Military
For an audio file of this, and other devotions, logon to www.welsmilitary.net