“And He brought him (Abraham) forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and He said unto him, So shall thy seed be.” Genesis 15:5
“And Sarai (Sarah) said unto Abram (Abraham), Behold now, the Lord hath restrained me from bearing: I pray thee, go in unto my maid; it may be that I may obtain children by her. And Abram hearkened to the voice of Sarai.” Genesis 16:2
“And the angel of the Lord said unto her, Behold, thou art with child and shalt bear a son, and shalt call his name Ishmael; because the Lord hath heard thy affliction. And he will be a wild man; his hand will be against every man, and every man’s hand against him; and he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren.” Genesis 16:11&12
“And God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him. And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation. But My covenant will I establish with Isaac,” Genesis 17:20&21
“And God heard the voice of the lad; and the Angel of God called to Hagar out of heaven, and said unto her, What aileth thee, Hagar? fear not; for God hath heard the voice of the lad where he is. Arise, lift up the lad, and hold him in thine hand; for I will make him a great nation.” Genesis 21:17&18
On this day, while we remember as a nation the events of twelve years ago, may we take an opportunity to reflect on God’s Word and how it speaks to our world today. You see, God had made a promise to Abraham, a covenant which He would remain faithful in every way, even though Abraham and his wife would try to accomplish it in their own flesh, by their own strength.
God speaks to Abraham, and tells him that he will have so many children that they will be as numerous as the stars in the sky, and the Bible says that Abraham not only believed God, but that God accounted it (his belief) to him for righteousness! So, then when Sarah comes to Abraham claiming that God has kept her from bearing children so go into Hagar and “help” God fulfill His Promise, she is basically claiming that there is no way God can fulfill His covenant through her, and Abraham listens to her. God later comes to Abraham again, and reaffirms that He will give him a son through Sarah, and Sarah even laughs because of her unbelief. At any rate, when Abraham listens to Sarah, and lays down with Hagar, is where Abraham errs in his walk with God. Abraham is by no means perfect, but this is the mistake that stands out as his greatest, because this is how Ishmael is born.
Why is this the mistake that stands out as his greatest? Well, let’s look at God’s promises and the nation that Ishmael would become. God promised Abraham that he would have children as numerous as the stars. God promised Abraham and Hagar that Ishmael would become a great nation. These promises go hand in hand. The great nation that Ishmael would become is the Arabian nations, and moreover, the nation of Islam. The religion of Islam currently claims over 1.5 billion people worldwide. That is numerous; but, so what, right?
Well, the Apostle Paul discusses this very scenario when he writes about Hagar and Ishmael versus Sarah and Isaac. Hagar and Ishmael represent doing things in our own strength, whilst Sarah and Isaac represent the promises of God, which only God can fulfill. One is flesh and one is spirit and they are directly opposed, forever warring one against the other. This is important to note when we look at our world today. Islam and Christianity are diametrically opposed. Islam is man focused, works based, and intends, through Sharia Law, to violently enforce itself, if necessary. Christianity is Christ focused, faith based, and beckons all to come by choice. One is man’s idea and the other is God’s idea. Ishmael fathered the Arabs who are Islamic which includes the “radicals” who terrorize the world and torture and kill Christians. Isaac fathered Israel who is God’s chosen people, who are told to walk by faith, not by sight, and follow the Lord. The Lord prior to Christ coming had them to war in the physical, and to do it exactly as commanded, to show to us the will of God as it regards the spiritual. Today, the church is who represents the Lord, while Israel stands in unbelief of the risen Savior. We are told that we still are at war, but in the spirit against principalities, and powers, and rulers of darkness and against spiritual wickedness in high places. We fight in the spiritual, but it is manifest in the physical through the battle with the Satan, the world, and ourselves.
America has long been a Christian nation. Christian ideals founded democracy, and have led many of our leaders over the centuries. That was the reason we were targeted. Let’s not diminish the acts of the terrorists. They are responsible for having carried out the heinous acts that September morning twelve years ago; but, we need to realize that it was more than just a physical act of terror. It was a spiritual act of war. There is hope, though, even now, so many years after the fact.
The Bible teaches us that God is no respecter of persons. He sees all mankind as evil, selfish, and sin tainted when they stand apart from Him. The only way anyone can stand with Him is through a Savior that takes away the Sins that are on them, separating them from God. So, we look at two versus and take hope. Both are about Jesus.
“The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” John 1:29
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16
Any and all who will believe includes the Islamists. The Muslims, just like you and I do, need Jesus. He is the Lamb of God, which means He is the Sacrifice provided by God, in Himself becoming Man. The Old Testament is filled with types and shadows that show us this truth. All anyone needs to do is believe that. If they believe it, they will be accounted as righteous, not in themselves, but in Christ. God proclaims that He so loved the world, not just Israel and not just the church, but everyone. No one is excluded from His Love. All anyone has to do is lay down their lives in return for Him having laid down His, in belief. Walk away from their sinful life and leave it all behind. If this is you this morning, God is calling. He is asking you to stop running away from Him and stop hurting others. He loves you, and he wants to speak with you, and to hear you speak with Him. Turn to Jesus, and find the Love that is waiting for you at the Cross.
To my brothers and sisters in the faith, I say, Love one another as you love yourselves. This is the second commandment given by Jesus. Lay down your anger at the feet of Jesus. He’s not asking us to forget, but to forgive. Forgive those who did this and stand in Christ, for Christ, and love them. Pray for them all. Pray for our country that we may heal and move forward together and not become more separated. Pray for all unbelievers at home and abroad. Love the world as God does.
“For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.” Galatians 5:13
“Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.” 1 John 4:7
“By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” John 13:35
And finally, I say, do not seek nor desire vengeance. Vengeance is the Lord’s. Do not let the flesh get the best of you. Stand strong in your belief that Christ accomplished all things through the Cross, and honor Him by fulfilling His request to love God and love one another. I leave you this morning with the words of the Apostle Paul. Remember those that died, and forgive those that killed them.
“Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbor: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof.” Romans 13:8-14