Saturday, November 24, 2007

Genesis 16:11-12

Genesis 16:11-12: The angel of the Lord said to her further, “Behold, you are with child, And you shall bear a son; And you shall call his name Ishmael, Because the Lord has given heed to your affliction. And he will be a wild donkey of a man, His hand will be against everyone, And everyone’s hand will be against him; And he will live to the east of all his brothers.”

Hagar knew she was pregnant and didn’t need the angel of the Lord to tell her. But isn’t it nice to know that God knows what’s going on in our lives. And then God adds His additional knowledge to the situation; the angel tells her she shall have a son.

Life is like that. We know some things, but not all things. We experience the ‘today’ of our lives and have hope for, or fear of, the ‘tomorrow’. But God knows both today and tomorrow and the tomorrow after that. He does not get surprised. A friend of mine lost his job recently and the best advice that a mutual friend of ours could give him was this: “You know, God did not look upon the world this morning and say, ‘Oh, look, Nelson (not his real name), lost his job. How did that happen?’ No, God knew from the beginning of time that you would lose your job at this time and that was in His plans for you. Find out about those plans and run with them.”

That’s what you need to do when unexpected things happen to you. Realize that they were not unexpected for God but rather they were in His plans for you. Find out more about those plans and run with them. It’s the best thing that can ever happen to you.

The angel also tells her that she will call the son Ishmael. Now, that’s interesting itself. Can you imagine someone telling a young mother today in our culture what to call her baby? I know that parents, in-laws, and sometimes husbands do not get much of a say in that regard. When my wife and I had children, there was a protocol to follow. Usually in my Greek background, boys would be given their paternal (second sons, their maternal) grandfather’s name and their father’s name as their second name. Girls would be given their maternal (or paternal) grandmother’s name and take on their own mother’s name as their second name. It could get quite confusing if there were several siblings having children around the same time and certainly confusing from generation to generation. But that was expected. Today, research indicates that the rich and famous give their children less common names – usually of movie stars. Then that becomes very vogue and the masses start to imitate them, which makes the uniqueness of the name lose its value and it falls out of grace.

But in Hagar’s day, a young woman who was used to hearing about God from her master Abram would have no problem obeying the angel of the Lord when it came to naming her child at birth. Interestingly, the unborn child’s name is based on the mother’s life. Ishmael means “God hears or has heard” with reference of course to Hagar’s woes in life. We should not miss the symbolism of this (i.e. the name of the child being tied to the mother’s experience). Children are a gift from God and if we allow ourselves to see them as such, we will realize that they often come just at the time that we need some new hope, a new start, a closer relationship with the Creator.

Yet, even that blessing sometimes comes with the understanding that there will be challenges ahead and the road will not always be as smooth as we would like it to be. This new son of Hagar’s will be, she was told, a “wild donkey of a man”. He will always be fighting against everyone else and everyone else will be fighting him. Not the greatest news a mother-to-be wants to hear about her son yet to be born. Still scripture says that this son is intended to be God’s response to Hagar’s afflictions. In circumstances like these, we have to trust God and wait for life to unfold as He planned it for us.

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