CHAPTER 12: BELIEF :
“…all things are possible to him that believes"
--Jesus (Mark 9:23)
Subtitle: "No Ishmaels please."(You'll see what I mean in a minute.)
I want to say a word about faith or belief. Events in my own life have driven home just how easy it is to lose sight of what we say we believe. Just like Abraham of old, we often try to bring about result through our own efforts. For those of you not familiar with the narrative found in the book of Genesis, I will summarize it momentarily. But first, if you will allow me another connection to my novel, “Of Such Is The Kingdom,” Deborah, Barabbas‘ wife had great faith in the Lord, JHWH, and it‘s too bad Barabbas couldn‘t see fit to follow her example, but following the prompting of the stranger, decided to take matters into his own hands. When she tells him all we can do about the high taxation is to pray, he tells her ”sometimes y‘ have to put feet t‘ your prayers.”1—just like Abraham of old. So back to Abraham. For those not familiar with the Genesis record, Abraham had been given the promise by God of having a son in his old age. God, in fact, made a covenant with Abraham, sealing the promise in the blood of sacrificial animals. Typically this looks forward, for those of us who are new testament believers, to the blood of Christ through which we are made partakers of God‘s eternal covenant. But, back to Abraham. Certainly, after such a dynamic demonstration (Genesis 15) of God‘s covenant promise, we would think that Abraham would have no doubt that God would fulfill his part of the agreement. But, instead of waiting patiently on God as he should have done, he listened to his wife, Sarah, and tried to help God out, by having a son with his handmaiden (as was the custom of the day), since his wife, Sarah was barren. He did have a son with his handmaiden, but that was a cause of much sorrow to him and is the cause of much conflict even today. For, you see, this son, Ishmael, is the father of Arab nations. Oh, God was still with Ishmael and provided water to keep him alive after Sarah had thrown out the handmaiden and her son. But Ishmael was not God's first choice for Abraham. Thus, later, God did fulfill his promise and give Abraham a son through his wife, Sarah. That son, Isaac, is the father of the Jewish people. We are all aware of the Arab-Israeli conflict which continues till today. Yet, God was gracious, and Abraham is remembered today as the father of the faithful, and in the hall of faith, Hebrews 11, his faith is mentioned but not his lack of it in that one moment of weakness. (thus, I don't feel that I should share the particulars of my own Ishmael experience with you, as I know God has put it in the sea of forgetfulness.)
Often we may be tempted to do what Abraham did and take matters into our own hands, instead of trusting God explicitly. But, this can only result in the production of an Ishmael, which, although God may still bless, will mean trouble for us and cause us to deviate for a time from our primary God-given goals and purpose
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