Walls: Getting Your Head Round Nehemiah

Nehemiah is an easy book to get your head around in a lot of ways. The story’s pretty straightforward: royal cupbearer hears sorry state of Jerusalem, takes life in hands by appearing sad before the king. King commissions aforesaid cupbearer to go and do something about it. People rally around said cupbearer and begin work; inevitable opposition arises and is roundly trounced. Cupbearer institutes religious reforms. The end.

But in other ways it’s an odd book to read, particularly as a Gentile.

Over two and a half millennia later, we don’t really get why the wall of Jerusalem being broken down and its gates burned with fire is such a big deal. I at least am disturbed by some of the apparent racism of Nehemiah’s religious reforms, and unsure of why it matters that the people had taken foreign wives.

In the modern world of controversial border-wall proposals, is “building the wall” really the sort of signal we want to send?

All in all, the book is quite Jewish. I have difficulty viewing most of Nehemiah’s religious reforms as anything other than proto-Pharisaism, and several earlier parts of the story, for example the opposition to the building, seem to have lost something in translation.

The earliest chapters of Nehemiah are the least troublesome. Nehemiah hears that Jerusalem’s wall is broken down and its gates burned.

The previous major Biblical event being the fall of Jerusalem and the exile of the Jewish nation, part of me always comes to this and says “well, duh?”. What do you expect? The Babylonians just got done burning it. Aware of later history with the Maccabees, the Romans and Masada, we’re apt to read back onto this the troublesome and rebellious nature of the Jewish province, and think to ourselves that no ruler in their right mind is going to let anyone arm such a dangerously secessionist piece of turf.

This, of course, is telescoping about six hundred years or so of history together. It had been over 70 years since the Babylonians sacked Jerusalem, and under normal circumstances the wall would be the first thing to be rebuilt, because until it was complete, everything you built was vulnerable to every raider or bandit in the region.

In the ancient world, walled cities were the norm. Your city wasn’t more than a large village unless it had a wall, and until it did, it was at the mercy of everyone.

More than mere security, a wall around the city was a mark of identity; a “this is us” statement that distinguished the “safe” area inside the city from the dangerous barbarian wilds beyond.

It’s difficult for us to adjust our thinking enough to cope with this ancient-world truth; in our day it is the inner city that is the dangerous wilderness, and “the countryside” holds an almost mystical reverence. We want wild spaces and pristine landscape; in an Iron Age era where there were lethally dangerous animals living within long bowshot of the city walls, plus raiders and other human predators, the city was the good part. Untouched wilderness didn’t mean “unspoilt”; it meant “unsafe”.

And Jerusalem’s wall had remained in ruins for over two generations, because, so we are told, the local provincial governors had a vested interest in keeping the Jews down.

It seems, on the face of it, difficult to fathom their thinking. Another walled city on an important trade route would mean another safe haven for merchants, and being able to say that your province held 87 walled cities rather than 86 would have been a symbol of status as an important governor. It would even pay for itself eventually in increased trade revenues into the royal coffers.

Sadly, though, not all rulers make decisions on the basis of logic and reason. The governors only had to answer to their Emperor, not to their subjects, so they had less pressure to be reasonable, and even today there are rulers and politicians who make decisions on little more than whatever whim fills their heads that moment. And aggressive war is one of the least amenable to reason of any national decision. In 1939, for example, Germany’s biggest trading partner was France. It didn’t, economically speaking, make sense for the Germans to attack. Similarly, it doesn’t quite make sense to me that there was so much official opposition, but I take the Bible’s word for it that there was.

The wall, then, was a statement of identity. Jerusalem’s wall-less state should be viewed as a physical representation of what was in danger of happening to the Jewish nation. Any other nation in history, once removed from its ancestral homeland, has eventually lost their identity and become subsumed into another. Under different circumstances, the American colonists developed an identity as something other than subjects of the British crown. Away from “home”, “home” begins to be somewhere else, and identity changes. Or is lost altogether.

God had a vested interest in that not happening. These were and are still His Covenant people. Besides, no Jewish nation meant no Son of David, because at the time He was yet to come.

Sanballat and Tobiah’s opposition may not entirely make sense with the limited data we’re given, but we can read onto them every tyrant or oppressor who has ever persecuted one group in order to increase their prestige in a different group. Tomas de Torquemada and the Jews. Tamerlane and the Central Asian churches. Modern far-right groups and Muslims. It doesn’t have to make logical sense. “They” are the real Bad Guys; you go off and hate them, and ignore the tyrant’s rule closer to home.

Maybe walls aren’t a good symbol in the post-Resurrection world, where the end goal is people “from every tribe and nation and people and language”. We don’t want to be putting barriers in people’s way, or decreeing “pagan-free zones” within our churches. This is self-evident. And yet, are we building walls of hatred towards Muslims, or anyone else for that matter?

Christ died for these individuals. He has not given us the right to push them away.

But a metaphorical wall as a token of identity… Yeah, it’s actually important. We should not let go of who we are in Christ, nor of Whose we are. Guarding our heart, as the Proverbs puts it, is a vital duty, because if we lose heart it’s all over.

This wall is built brick-by-brick from the knowledge of God and what He’s done for us.

I still have questions about the sort of signal this wall-building sends, but it’s not at odds with the character of God as revealed by the rest of the Bible.

And then those religious reforms.

This is probably the part of Nehemiah that I’m least comfortable with. It looks rather racist, at least in the Eurasian sense of nationalities rather than the American sense of black and white. And in part it certainly smacks of the birth of the Pharisee movement of Jesus’ day; the idea that doing is what earns you favour with the Lord.

What’s the deal with these other nationalities? Nehemiah seems fully prepared to decimate, or at least exclude, a sizeable chunk of the nation, just because they’ve married foreigners. As far as he’s concerned, the right thing to do is for these marriages to be dissolved.

And I have a problem with that.

What about all those women and children? Where’s the compassion of the Almighty? Why were these foreign marriages so wrong that the pain and trauma of destroying families was preferable?

It doesn’t make a lot of sense coming from the same God that we are told “sets the lonely in families” and Who opens faith in His Son to all who call on Him, no matter their ancestry.

And yet, as I’ve said before, if I’m going to take the Bible seriously, I don’t get to pick and choose which bits I trust. There’s nothing figurative about this, and the tone of the passage is that Nehemiah was acting righteously with the sanction of God. I can’t dismiss it just because I don’t like it. Something makes it fit with what I know from the rest of Scripture about the character of God.

Was this something particular for the Jewish nation and not specifically for Gentile Christians? Was there something specifically wrong with the nationalities involved? Was this just something like God making sure of the bloodline of the Messiah? Was this a particular instruction for that time and place, a part of God’s national Covenant with Israel?

Certainly I think that probably plays into it. In the Covenant with Israel, God works nationally, with the entire 12-tribe nation. Involved with that are several uncomfortable things, like apparent genocide and the waging of aggressive wars of conquest. Things that don’t fit well with our modern sensibilities trained in multiculturality and the fact that God loves everyone.

Tribalism in the Bible is something we have to reconcile with. I personally am more or less of the opinion that it was a fact of ancient life that God worked with and through even though it wasn’t His best will, rather than an end in itself, but passages like this do challenge that opinion. At least where the Jewish nation are concerned, perhaps there’s more to the seemingly-tribalistic “Jews good, foreigners bad” mindset than simple Iron Age-ness.

The Jewish nation were the nation through whom God had promised to send Messiah, and no Jewish nation at that point would have meant no Messiah. There’s a prominent strand of Scriptural interpretation that seems to view most of the difficult passages of Old Testament Scripture through this lens, and it does make a sort of sense. I believe there’s more to God’s Covenant faithfulness to Israel than the mere preservation of the Messianic bloodline, but I suppose it’s possible that if the Jews had been permitted to intermarry willy-nilly with surrounding nations that the line of the House of David might have become so diluted that the prophecies of Messiah would have been rendered meaningless.

This seems like a nice, neat explanation, but I’m still uncomfortable with it. I feel like it implies unpleasant things about God’s character: effectively, that He’s a rather Macchiavellian Deity more concerned with His plans than with people.

I know this isn’t so, which is part of why this interpretation sits so poorly with me, but how else do you reconcile the apparent righteousness of Nehemiah’s actions with the character of a loving God who accepts everyone regardless of their background?

Thinking about it, I believe we have to remember that the Jewish nation wasn’t defined primarily by ethnicity. It has never been a closed set; to this day it’s possible to go through a certain process including the covenant act of circumcision (for males) to bind oneself to the national Covenant of God and become a Jew.

It’s true that God will accept anyone into His Kingdom regardless of their background, but there are steps you have to take to be added to the Kingdom. You have to believe in Jesus the Messiah and His finished work of salvation, trusting Him with your life to the extent that He’s in charge. You have to renounce sin – all the destructive self-centred behaviours and attitudes that separate us from God and from one another. You have to become a citizen of His Kingdom.

The fact that these were characterised as “foreign” marriages tells us that these people hadn’t bound themselves to God and His Covenant. If the Jewish nation was (and is) defined first and foremost by its Covenant relationship with God, there literally cannot be any “foreign women” that are married into the nation but retain their own gods and practices.

Religiously speaking, you aren’t allowed be half a Jew and half something else. It’s an all-or-nothing deal. Similarly, you can’t be half a Christian. Either you have a New Covenant relationship with the Lord, or you aren’t actually in His Kingdom. He doesn’t grant citizenship privileges to those who are still foreigners.

If anyone ought to know this, it ought to be me. I live in the United States as a legal permanent resident, but I’m not a citizen. I don’t get to vote in US elections, I don’t get to stand with my hand over my heart during the singing of The Star-Spangled Banner. I’m not a citizen.

It’d be convenient to become one, but I’m still in the place where I cannot in good conscience swear an oath that includes renunciation of allegiance to “any other nation, prince or potentate”. And in my heart I’m still loyal to my Queen and my Country, and I don’t see that changing.

Similarly, citizenship in God’s Kingdom is one thing or the other. As Jesus said, you can’t serve God and Mammon both, neither can you hold onto the old things you pursued and reverenced: beauty, strength, worldly power, fame or whatever your personal idols are.

And now I believe I get the point. It looks harsh. It’s unpleasant. But there’s no other way. God will not allow people who won’t be His into His Kingdom. Ethnicity or nationality as we think of them today are not the issue. Look at Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, Naaman… No; the issue is “Who are you going to worship?”

O Families of Nations

My regular Bible readings took me to Psalm 96 yesterday.

It’s a fairly familiar Psalm, beginning “Sing to the LORD a new song”. And the thing about fairly familiar passages is that they are easy to gloss over. If we’ve been following Jesus for any length of time, we can have a tendency to read them almost by rote, not really taking it in but just letting the words wash over us.

What struck me today about the passage was its evangelistic, missionary emphasis.

We can tend to think that in the Old Testament, God is exclusively concerned with Israel. They are the people with whom He has made a Covenant. They are the people He calls His own. They are the nation of faith. All the stories of Joshua, Gideon, King David, Elisha and the rest are all stories of God fighting against the evil pagans who are attacking His people.

Right?

Well, yes and no.

Yes, God is certainly concerned to maintain His Covenant with His people. Even when they are faithless, He remains faithful.

So He’s going to defend them. He has a purpose and plan for them that is not served by their destruction. More, He genuinely loves them and wants their good.

But it never has been solely about Israel. They were and remain God’s chosen people, but chosen for what purpose?

Chosen so that through them God might display His glory to the world.

Abraham was blessed as the father of many nations, ancestor of Israel and father to the nation of faith. But the corollary of that was always that “through you all the nations of the earth will be blessed”.

Psalm 96 makes it clear that God wants the praise not just of His Covenant people, but of all peoples. “The gods of the nations are idols, but YHWH made the heavens” is basically evangelistic in tone. Turn away from these worthless things that you have been serving! There is a real, Living God that made the heavens and can actually do something to help you!

“Ascribe to the LORD, o families of nations/Ascribe to the LORD glory and strength/Ascribe to the LORD the glory due to His name” continues the theme. Giving glory to the LORD is right not just for Israel, not just for His Covenant people whether Old or New, but for all the earth and its families of nations. He made the whole world; He has a right to the praise of the whole world. More, “the gods of the nations are idols”, and ascribing God’s majesty and attributes to a created thing is enslaving yourself to a lie.

It doesn’t much matter if that created thing is money, sex, power, the stars and planets, a carved block of wood or a human philosophy or ideology, it’s a made thing, not a Maker. And when you attribute to it that which is rightfully God’s, that’s the point at which it becomes an idol.

And the passage goes on even more remarkably: “Bring an offering, and come into His courts”. This is, of course, a reference to the Temple worship in Jerusalem.

Under the Law of Moses, Gentiles were forbidden from coming into the Temple beyond the outer court, known as “the court of the Gentiles”. They could observe and listen, but they were outside the Covenant and barred from participation unless they became a Jew by being circumcised and obeying the Law of Moses. “Bring an offering and come into His courts” is especially shocking because it follows on from “Ascribe to the LORD, o families of nations”. In Hebrew, the words “nations” and “Gentiles” are the same, so the sense is pretty clear. Here is King David, prophetically reaching forward to a time when Gentiles will no longer be barred from the worship of God. A time when the invitation to “bring an offering and come into His courts” is for everyone, not just a chosen few.

Part of what the Cross does is open doors and destroy barriers. The sacrificial death of Jesus opens the way for the Gentile, the outsider, to be brought all the way inside the promises of God. And what Psalm 96 helps to show is that this was always the plan. The Gentile Church wasn’t a surprise to God. It was already in the plan. It was the plan: no division any more, but one people worshipping one God.

We can see foreshadowings of it with the Egyptians who chose to go with Israel (ref), with Rahab (a Canaanite), Ruth (a Moabite), Bathsheba (probably a Hittite), Naaman (a Syrian) and others. All the nations of the world being blessed and coming to know God.

Loving Isaac Without Rejecting Ishmael (Part 2: Ishmael)

 

In part 1 of this study, we looked at the beginning of Ishmael’s story, with Hagar becoming Abram’s wife and her flight from Sarai. In part two, we will look at Ishmael himself.

Ishmael doesn’t play much of an active role in the story of the patriarchs, but then, neither does Isaac really. The parts of the Bible where he appears are Abraham’s story, and he comes in more or less as he relates to Abraham and Sarah.

For such an effectively minor character, however, he certainly gets treated with a great deal of importance. The love Abraham has for him is evident, as is God’s care and concern for him. He is, after all, one of only eight people in the Bible to be personally named or renamed by God.

I’ve noticed a tendency among Christians to denigrate and downplay Ishmael. We make statements basically dismissing him as “Abraham’s mistake” or “the result of Abraham’s lack of faith”. We want to elevate and focus on Isaac as the son of the promise, but we do so to such a degree that we often seem to reject his elder brother entirely. I don’t think this is fair to the Scriptural account; God doesn’t seem to treat Ishmael as an unfortunate mistake, but rather He takes care of him and provides for him. We should not go so far in loving Isaac that we reject Ishmael. After all, as we shall see, God did not reject him.

Chapter 16 of Genesis leaves off with Hagar returning to Abram’s household and giving birth to her son Ishmael. Chapter 17 picks up thirteen years later with God instructing Abram to circumcise every male in his household who was eight days old, as a sign of the covenant God was making with him.

Abram’s name is changed by God, from Abram (“Exalted Father”) to Abraham (“Father of a Multitude”). And Sarai is renamed Sarah (“My Princess” to the more powerful “The Princess”), and named as a mother of kings and of a special son to be named Isaac.

Abraham’s reaction when God says that Sarah will bear him a son is the entirely human one of incredulous laughter. It’s not like he and Sarah hadn’t been trying for lo these many years. Now, after all this time, now will Sarah bear a child?

The other part of Abraham’s reaction is the very natural and right concern for his other son. The son he had been given every reason to expect was the son who would inherit the covenant relationship with God.

God’s words to Abraham promising him a son by Sarah are very reminiscent of the words spoken by God the other times God specifically speaks to him, bringing him out of Haran to Canaan, and promising him a son of his own flesh. “Sarah will conceive a son. I will make her the mother of kings, many nations will come from her.” If Sarah’s son is all of that, what is to become of Ishmael? Is there something wrong with him? Is God rejecting him?

Naturally and rightly, as a father and a man before God, he’s concerned.

“Oh, that Ishmael might live under your blessing!” he says. Good for him. I would hope any good parent would echo that.

The next verses we need to read carefully, because our focus on Isaac as the child of promise can make us miss things. We’re apt to look at Ishmael through the lens of Galatians, where he’s serving in a symbolic role for the Jewish people, and that, too, can make us prone to gloss over things.

God’s response to Abraham’s desire for Ishmael is a clear and simple “Yes”.

It’s not often in the Scripture that we get such a simple and straightforward “Yes” from God, and it shows that God was fully and completely on board with Abraham’s fatherly desire for his son. He goes on to say that Isaac will have a particular covenant relationship with God, but Ishmael is in no way rejected. He, too, is still part of the household of faith.

It’s as if God says “Yes, Abraham. Everything you want for your son Ishmael – the relationship with Me, the inheritance, the becoming a great nation – I want too.”

Is Ishmael included in the Abrahamic covenant, then?

Well, kind of, maybe. Certainly he has a relationship with God; one of the last things we’re told about him is that “God was with him as he grew up.”

But equally certainly, the Bible account makes it clear that Isaac is the one through whom Abraham’s offspring will be reckoned. It’s Isaac, not Ishmael, who is in the line of the Messiah. Isaac is the primary heir of the covenant.

Ishmael, however, isn’t rejected. He’s part of God’s family and a partaker of Abraham’s covenant relationship with God. And presumably, because of the way covenants work, passing that partaking in a covenantal relationship with God (or at the very least its potential) down to his children.

This is not to say that either Arabs or Muslims don’t need to be saved. They need to know Jesus just like their brothers descended from Isaac do. What I take issue with is the idea you sometimes seem to get from very pro-Israel people that Ishmael’s descendents are basically barred from salvation and eternally outside the covenant. Enemies of Israel and thus cursed by God and rejected.

They aren’t. Even when God is confirming the covenant through Isaac, he’s taking care of Ishmael too. And even the most ardently pro-Israel people seldom explicitly take it that far. It’s more of an underlying attitude that gets communicated whether they mean it to or not.

In the fullness of time, Sarah gives birth to Isaac. Named “Laughter”, he’s the son of promise, the one with whom God makes a special covenant.

It won’t be the last time God chooses a younger son over his older brothers. Jacob, Moses (probably), Gideon and David were all younger sons whom God chose. The culture common throughout the Biblical period was that it was the eldest son who was important. Even today, it’s the eldest son of the monarch who will inherit the crown.

But God frequently sets cultural norms aside when they don’t fit His purposes. It’s Isaac who gets chosen for the job of fathering the nation to which God would make a particular covenant. It’s David who gets anointed as the next king.

But Ishmael still isn’t abandoned. He’s still in Abraham’s household, elder brother of the heir of the promise.

His role as the elder brother is fascinating to me. Typically, the role of an elder brother is to take care of and guard his younger sibling. Is this a prophetic role God has for Ishmael? Is this something we should be praying into with regard to the descendents of the two sons of Abraham? I don’t know. Given the adversarial relationship they have today, it might seem unlikely, but for centuries, one of the safest places in the world to be a Jew was in a Muslim kingdom. And it wouldn’t be the first time that something that God intended gets totally inverted by Satan.

It’s my prayer that Ishmael will rediscover this calling and role, if such it is.

On the day Isaac is weaned (which according to Middle Eastern custom could even be as old as seven, though four would be more usual), Abraham has a big feast for his son Isaac. And now Ishmael’s thirteen-to-seventeen-year-old heart fills with envy.

It’s easy to imagine the source of his discontent. It’s the same thing Abraham had to work through with God earlier. It’s the same thing every parent has to work through when they have a second child. How do I love both my children equally yet differently? Ishmael was the centre of attention, the heir apparent, the son of the covenant. Now here comes Isaac. Son of Abraham’s first and senior wife, and according to God Himself destined to be the heir of a great promise. Teen angst, 2000 BC. Just add religious overtones.

Ishmael starts to mock.

As a Westerner, and particularly as a Brit, it’s difficult to get a grasp on how serious a cultural sin this is. We Brits mock everything; it’s our national pastime. Politicians, leaders, friends and foes. We even mock ourselves.

In this Bible culture, however, mockery is serious business. Saul wants to kill David because of a single line in a celebratory victory song that he thinks is mocking him. The prophet Elisha is jeered by some youths, and responds by calling down a curse on them so that they are mauled by bears. The wisdom book of Proverbs uses the word “mocker” to denote the sort of wilfully stupid and morally bankrupt person we would call a “jackass”. Jesus Himself says that anyone who calls his brother a worthless fool is worthy of judgement. We are told categorically that God Will Not Be Mocked.

We can see this attitude carrying through today in the reaction of Muslims to Western cartoons depicting their prophet. To us, it’s supposed to be amusing, and we don’t remotely understand why it’s a big deal. But Arabs are and have always been closer in culture to parts of the Bible. They understand this teaching on mockery far better than we.

Mockery takes something that someone else treats as important and denigrates it for the sake of humour. It shows a basic contempt for the thing being mocked and for the person who is offended by it. Contempt is directly counter to the ways of God because God values people.

So do I need to watch what kind of jokes I make? Probably. It’s easy to slip across the line from humour to contempt. In fact, it’s probably when we tell jokes that our inward attitudes are most revealed. We should be careful that we don’t secretly harbour contemptuous attitudes towards people Christ died for.

Does it mean we’re all at the mercy of whoever shouts “I’m offended” first?

Not necessarily. “I’m offended by this” is an easy claim to make, and I suspect some people claim offence which is not real. However, it’s not my place to determine which offences are real and which aren’t. I cannot get inside your head to know for sure if you’re genuinely offended or just disapproving, or even miffed at being called out for your crap. I have no way of knowing. So how can I set myself up as judge to arbitrate on what is or is not offensive to someone else?

Sarah is the one who sees what’s going on, and her reaction is swift, and to our eyes brutal. “Get that slave woman and her son out of here, because they will never share in the inheritance”.

Abraham is “greatly distressed, because the matter concerned his son”.

Is this a fatal character flaw in Ishmael? What about God’s “yes” to him? Is God now rejecting him? Do I really need to send him away?

God tells Abraham to listen to Sarah, because “it is through Isaac that your descendents will be reckoned”. It’s Isaac who bears the covenant, and Isaac who is in the lineage of the Messiah.

But even now, Ishmael isn’t forgotten or abandoned. “I will make him into a great nation also”, says the Lord. Twelve rulers will come from him, paralleling the twelve tribes of Israel. Though Isaac is the heir of God’s direct covenant, Ishmael, even with his unacceptable mockery of Isaac, is still the subject of God’s blessing and care.

Abraham sends him off with Hagar, and some provisions. According to Islamic tradition, Abraham himself went with them at least part of the way, and periodically visited them later on. This is not in the Bible, but it’s not unreasonable. Abraham is, for all his faults with deceptiveness, a good man and a good father to both his children. And certainly there was some sort of contact that went unrecorded by the Scriptural account, because Ishmael was at Abraham’s funeral. He wasn’t conpletely cut off, never to be heard from again.

At any rate, Ishmael and Hagar set off. They enter the desert region around Beersheba and run out of water. Ishmael gets weak. He’s a teenager, remember. He’s not going to have the same endurance as an adult. Maybe, too, he was being the responsible one and taking care of his mother by letting her get most of the water. But in the end, he’s almost dead from thirst.

Hagar lays him down and moves away from him, thinking that this is the end and not able to watch her son die.

But then God intervenes in Ishmael’s life, saving him and his mother for the second time. God references the boy’s name, saying that He has heard the boy crying. As we saw last time, God’s hearing is always connected with God’s acting. As it is written: “And if we know that He hears us, then we know that we have what we ask of Him”. There is suddenly a spring of water. Ishmael is saved, and his mother with him.

Furthermore, we’re told that God was with the boy as he grew up. God was not done with Ishmael. As shown by God’s rescue of him from death, He continued to care and provide for both of Abraham’s sons.

I cannot believe that God intends us to reject Ishmael’s descendents as part of showing love to Isaac’s. Yet I’ve heard “If Ishmael hadn’t been born, we wouldn’t have an Arab-Israeli conflict in the Middle East” more times than I can count. It’s true; we wouldn’t. But we might have something worse instead. For all their current conflicts, at least Israel and Ishmael are brothers. They share Abraham, and understand each other on a level that would probably not be the case with an Elamite-Israeli conflict, or a conflict with remnants of the Hittites, or anyone else. And as I said before, for a long time in history when Christians were inflicting horrible persecutions on the Jews, one of the safest places to be a Jew was under a Muslim ruler.

Ishmael was a partaker of his father Abraham’s covenant. That was not changed by his leaving Abraham’s household, as shown by the fact that God was with him. That covenant would be transmitted through Isaac to Jacob and his sons, to Moses and David, and would come to fruition with Jesus the promised Messiah. But Christ died for Ishmael and his descendents as surely as He died for Isaac and his.

Let’s not get so caught up in loving Isaac that we lose sight of that.