I have GINORMOUS gratitude for reading about two lads in Genesis today: (1) Ishmael, banished but blessed by God to father a nation and (2) Issac, also blessed by God to father another one. Each lad was to generate twelve sons, and so two tribes came forth from them. Two tribes, like two trees in the Garden. As I was reading about the lads this morning, I saw something I didn’t want to see. Ishmael couldn’t help how he was born, and neither could Issac. Neither can anyone else. Yet God calls one “a son of disobedience” and the other “a son of obedience.” That seems harsh to me. Stark. As, maybe, it actually is.
I personally don’t like polar opposites, contrasts that are so dualistic, so two-fold, so very black-or-white. It is anathema to my educated mind, which was taught to explore all the gray areas that supposedly lie between. But God says he hates lukewarm and in fact vomits it out. Harsh! Stark! As (again I have to say), maybe it actually us.
Dimly do I see, but I do see — and not because of anything I did by myself. No! My eyes have been opened by the Mercy of God. So maybe, just maybe, God also opened Issac’s ears when his father bound him and laid him on the altar of wood. Maybe, just maybe, Issac heard God tell Abraham, “Do not lay your hand on the lad, for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withehld your son, your only son, from Me.”
If Issac did hear this, then both he and his earthly father experienced copious amounts of God’s Mercy at that terrible juncture. They both learned that God is not only real, but also, trustworthy beyond description. It is encouraging for me to read this story differently today (in years past, it has simply horrified me). What I see is that, like Abraham and Issac, I (and probably most of us) often have to learn this the hard way.
FYI, this image was posted on Twitter by Pennyless Church.