TODAY’S BIBLE READING:

Genesis 16:1–18:15
Matthew 6:1-24
Psalm 7:1-17
Proverbs 2:1-5

TODAY’S BIBLE VERSE(S):

Genesis 17:20 (CSB) “As for Ishmael, I have heard you. I will certainly bless him; I will make him fruitful and will multiply him greatly. He will father twelve tribal leaders, and I will make him into a great nation.”

REFLECTIONS ON TODAY’S BIBLE VERSE(S):

As we read through Genesis 16-18, we are made aware that Abraham had two sons of significance – Isaac and Ishmael. He had six more sons after Sarah died (Genesis 25:1).

The story line makes it clear that Ishmael was the firstborn by Sarah’s slave. Isaac was born about 13 years later by Sarah.

Arabs look to Ishmael, Abraham’s firstborn, as the father of their people.

Yet, Jews and Christians look to Isaac as the son of God’s promise.

Further, Christians read Galatians 4:21-31 and realize that Hagar and Sarah, Ishmael and Isaac, provide for us an allegory. Hagar was a slave woman and gave birth to Ishmael. Sarah was free and gave birth to Isaac, the child of promise. Hagar represents the law that cannot save us while Sarah represents grace and the covenant promise of God that can save us.

Now, let me get personal and transparent.

I have read these passages plenty of times before. Because of my commitment to the veracity of God’s Word, I wholeheartedly believe them.

But, there have been times when I failed to have a heart that was experiencing God’s grace for me and others. While Abraham was wrong to have sexual relations with Hagar, I failed to apply Romans 8:28 to Abraham’s actions.

Romans 8:28 (CSB) “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.”

When we realize that Abraham was wrong to have sex with his wife’s slave, and when we realize that Hagar and Ishmael provide for us an allegory of the law and slavery, we may come to see the Arab people as a mistake. We may erroneously and callously (and sinfully) marginalize their existence.

But, when we apply Romans 8:28 to Abraham’s actions and know that God loves the whole world, then we view Arabs as people who are made in God’s image who are in need of a Savior just like the rest of us.

This truth hit home in a very personal way this past year.

When Kim and I went to Israel on a 10 day tour this past summer, we visited places like Nazareth and Bethlehem that were predominately populated by Arabs who were Muslim. As I rubbed elbows with those men and women, boys and girls, I couldn’t help but see people who were made in God’s image who desperately needed to trust in the Savior.

Then, a few months ago, we “adopted” yet another Murray State student who is away from home. She is a Muslim from Iran. We have welcomed her into our family with open arms. It almost brought tears to my eyes when she said a few weeks ago, as she was heading out the door, that she loved us and she felt just like a part of our family.

Christian, God has called us to love. Love Him with everything we’ve got and love others just as we care about and care for ourselves (Mark 12:29-31). There should never, ever be anyone or any group of people outside the circle of our love. Our love should extend as far as God’s love extends – to the whole world!

John 3:16 (CSB) “For God loved the world in this way: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”

How much did God love every single person and every single people group in the world? He loved us all so much that He sent His Son to pay the sin debt of every single person who trusts in Him.

So, let your words and actions demonstrate the kind of love that God has for everyone. Don’t let anyone outside of the circle of your love. But also be sure to share the the fact that God’s love can be experienced by all who trust in Jesus. That is the gift of love that we all so desperately need.