Monday, May 16, 2011

Genesis 25:12-18

Before moving on in the story of Isaac, this chapter gives a brief genealogy of the line of Ishmael.

This is the account of the family line of Abraham’s son Ishmael, whom Sarah’s slave, Hagar the Egyptian, bore to Abraham.

These are the names of the sons of Ishmael, listed in the order of their birth: Nebaioth the firstborn of Ishmael, Kedar, Adbeel, Mibsam, Mishma, Dumah, Massa, Hadad, Tema, Jetur, Naphish and Kedemah. These were the sons of Ishmael, and these are the names of the twelve tribal rulers according to their settlements and camps. Ishmael lived a hundred and thirty-seven years. He breathed his last and died, and he was gathered to his people. His descendants settled in the area from Havilah to Shur, near the eastern border of Egypt, as you go toward Ashur. And they lived in hostility toward all the tribes related to them. (Gen.25:1-12)

Here is the beginning of Arab/Jewish hostilities. They have been opposed to each other ever since the time of Ishmael and Isaac. While the Jews trace their lineage to Abraham through Isaac, the Muslims believe that their ancestor, Ishmael, was the son of promise. Think about the funeral for Abraham, and imagine how difficult that must have been. Even though Ishmael was the first son of Abraham, he was never the son of promise, and he knew it. Beth Moore reminds us that he had Abraham’s name but not his presence for all of those years. Imagine the root of bitterness that had taken hold in his heart! We all know people who have chosen a life of bitterness and resentment - people who live in a perpetual state of discontent, because they continually focus on what they lack rather than on the blessings. Age does not seem to heal this tendency, it merely exaggerates it!

Many of us hang on to resentments toward our parents and their failure to provide either physically, emotionally, or spiritually what we feel we needed from them. Some may have been abusive or negligent, but even the best parent fails us in some ways. Parenting is the most difficult task we are given! And, I know, for me it is the area of my deepest insecurities. You always seem to be second-guessing your decisions and the way you are disciplining. And you really don’t know until the children are fully grown whether or not what you have done has worked! We live in an era when psychology has ruled, and we have looked intently at the possible ramifications of our decisions, and yet, we, too, have blown it many times.

Our parents weren’t as equipped, and frankly, they did NOT make their children the center of their universe (which was probably the one thing we should learn from them). I don’t know about yours, but my parents certainly did not have a clue about raising children in the LORD! They did not even call Him “LORD” until I was a married adult! I’m thinking they did pretty darn well, considering! We need to extend our parents grace for their failures! My mother lamented that she had not known the LORD when we were little, but the LORD gave her a verse that she clung to:

I will repay you for the years the locust has eaten... (Joel 2:25)

So what can we learn from this story of Ishmael? Bitterness is an inherited trait! A parent who lives a life full of complaining, anger, and resentment will leave this legacy to the family. Ishmael certainly passed down his resentment and anger to his sons. What kind of legacy are we leaving for our children? What are they hearing from our mouths? Do they see us as grateful, trusting God, and realizing that He is the God who works all things together for good to those who are called according to His purposes? (Rom 8:28) Or do they see us as discontented, always putting others down, jealous of the success or blessings of others?

I’m kind of glad that the Bible portrays no perfect parents, except for God the Father. He has given us many stories of what NOT to do, and His example of perfect love, compassion, forgiveness, partnered with justice and righteousness. Let’s commit ourselves to His example! And then forgive ourselves (and our parents) when we (they) fall short!


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