Ishmael and Isaac were sons of Abraham. Ishmael’s mother was Hagar. Isaac’s mother was Sarah. Ishmael was approximately 13 years older than Isaac. He was a son conceived when matters were taken into human hands. Isaac was a son promised by God.
It all started when God spoke to Abram in Genesis 12:1-2. “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you.”
Abram and Sarai were obedient. They left. But, it looked like God was not doing His part. There were no heirs for this great nation.
For the next 10 years, they waited for a son to be born. Finally Sarai had an idea. She suggested that Abram take her maidservant Hagar to conceive a son. (see Genesis 16:1-4) Abram followed Sarai’s advice. The result was the birth of Ishmael.
Abram had a son, but everything was not right.
This plan had not worked. Now what?
About a dozen years after Ishmael was born, God and Abram had another conversation.
God changed Abram’s name to Abraham and Sarai’s to Sarah.
In Genesis 17:6, the Lord assures Abraham, “I will make you exceedingly fruitful.”
Although Abraham was 99 years old and Sarah was 90 or a little older, they finally had the son God had promised so many years ago. Abraham named him Isaac. (see Genesis 21:1-3)
Ishmael was born when Abram and Sarai took matters into their own hands. Isaac was born when Abraham and Sarah left things in God’s hands.
Did God move as quickly as Abraham and Sarah expected? No, but God had a time set in history for when He would fulfill His promise. II Peter 3:9 says, “The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness.” (There was a lesson for them to learn – and we, too, need to learn it.)
Did everything go the way Abraham and Sarah expected? No, but God had thought through His plan. Isaiah 55:8-9 says, “‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so My ways are higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.’” (They needed to know this – and we do too.)
Was God’s timing the same as Abraham and Sarah’s? No, but God had His own timetable. II Peter 3:8 reminds us, “With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.” (They had another lesson to learn – and we, too, should learn it.)
Over the 25 years of waiting, Abraham and Sarah gained many insights. However, I believe the most important thing Abraham and Sarah discovered was the faithfulness of God.
Hebrews 11:11-12 states, “By faith even Sarah herself received ability to conceive, even beyond the proper time of life, since she considered Him faithful who had promised. Therefore there was born even of one man, and him as good as dead at that, as many descendants as the stars of heaven in number, and innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore.”
Deuteronomy 7:9 declares, “God is faithful to fulfill His promises. Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; He is the faithful God, keeping His covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love Him and keep His commandments.”
This, too, is for us. We have the potential to create either an Ishmael or an Isaac. Do we only have confidence in ourselves or do we have faith in God?
Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”
Abraham and Sarah lived life and learned lessons. Ishmael and Isaac were conceived. The lives of these men were influenced by Abraham and Sarah’s choices and actions,
Genesis 25:12-18 tells of Ishmael’s 12 sons.
However, it is through the lineage of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob that the 12 tribes of Israel emerge. This is the heritage of the great nation promised by God. (see Genesis 35:23-28)
The descendants of Ishmael and Isaac have historically been enemies. The animosity remains to this day.
This will also be true of the Ishmaels and Isaacs we create. Our Ishmaels originate from our fleshly desires. Our Isaacs are born through the help of the Holy Spirit.
Galatians 5:16-17 says, “walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another.”
Let us create Isaacs rather than Ishmaels!