“See how I bare you on eagles’ wings and brought you unto myself.” Ex.19: 4.

Royce Kennedy ◊ 909 Whistling Duck Drive ◊ Largo, MD 20774




“Did God Establish “A Man’s World?”   February 2010    part 4.


Throughout scripture, whenever God gives a name to begin with or changes one name to another, it normally comes with a specific reason, task, mandate, or honor. It is evident that God named the man and the woman in Genesis 5, “Adam” or “Man.” As we have established earlier in this series, both were given equal charge over creation, and both shared the same authority, not over one another, but a joint-venture over creation. Let us now take a step forward and bring into focus a woman named Sarai whose Iraqi or Sumerian name meant prince or princely. She and her husband along with a nephew, servants, handmaids, herds, cattle, silver and gold, and great wealth between them, left Ur and headed for a land that was yet to be shown to Abram. God takes Abram out of his tent and said to him: “Look now toward the heavens, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be.” Here is an old man with a well aged wife being told all of the amazing things that will happen to them both. It would have been easy for Abram to say, “Lord, excuse me, but you must be joking!” Instead, what happened? “And he believed God; and he counted it to him for righteousness.” Genesis 15: 5, 6.


In what we could call “an interim period” while time is slowly passing by, Sarai decided on what some have called by all sorts of names. The majority blame Sarai for taking things into her own hands by giving her Egyptian maid to her husband, for him to go in to her so that she would have a child by Hagar, who became Abram’s wife by the consent of Sarai. Commentors and preachers alike suggest that Sarai just got impatient and ended up trying to help God. After Ishmael was born Sarai found herself despised and hurt and her idea seemed to have backfired. At the age of ninety nine God appeared to Abram to renew the promises he had made to him before, and in the process God introduced circumcision which became a blood covenant between God and Abram and his household. But to add more muscle and reality to their relationship, God announced: “Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham.” Okay, Lord, it sounds good to me, but what significance is there in making this little change to my name?  What does it really mean? “For a father of many nations have I made thee.” Genesis 17: 5. Put your thumb right here and hold that thought for a moment while we move forward to bring Sarai into the mix of this exciting brew.


“And God said unto Abraham, As for Sarai thy wife, thou shalt not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall her name be.” Again, what is the difference in this slight name change? What does it mean to this old woman? “And I will bless her, and give the a son also of her: yea, I will bless her, and she shall be a a mother of nations; kings of peoples (different races) shall be of her.  In a football game we would call this “time out!” Abraham could not handle ideas and circumstances of this magnitude! “Then Abraham fell upon his face, and laughed, and said in his heart, Shall a child be born unto him that is an hundred years old?? And shall Sarah that is ninety years old bear?” Genesis 17: 15-17. Please notice the high place of honor and importance God placed Sarah in, that was up to par with her husband. He is being made a father of nations, and kings were to come out of him. And for Sarah, she was to be a mother of nations, producing kings of the peoples of the earth. I have been in meetings where God spoke directly to me in prophetic language that shook me to the soles of my feet. I sat and trembled in the presence of a Holy God. These pronouncements made to Abraham conveyed the very signature of a living God whose might and power cannot be comprehended by man’s finite mind. Here is Sarah’s response! “After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also? Why did she make that remark? “Abraham and Sarah were old and well stricken in age; and it ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women.” Genesis 18: 11,12. She had no more monthly cycles and thus had passed the age of child bearing, but God had an answer for her. “And the Lord said unto Abraham, Wherefore did Sarah laugh, saying, Shall I of a surety bear a child, which am old? Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the time appointed I will return unto thee according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son? Genesis 18: 13, 14. We notice that Sarah referred to her husband as “lord” but there is no indication from scripture that she used the term from a position of being subordinate or being the subservient one. We call people “lord” all the time, such as Lord Snowden, Lord Phillips, or Lord Mountbatten. In Britain, there is the House of Lords and the House of Commons. We call people lords out of respect and for those knighted by the Queen we afford them the title Sir.

Sarah calling her husband lord should not be construed to mean that she saw herself as one of lesser stature than her husband. God bestowed equal blessings upon both as both were to produce kings among peoples and nations. We cannot be sure how God’s promise to Abram of children too numerous to count impacted Sarai (before both names were changed.) But we do know that she offered her Egyptian maid to her husband to become a surrogate mother to Ishmael. As noted in other scriptures, it seemed to have been a middle-eastern custom, because in Genesis 30: 1-6 we notice that Rachel was desperate for a child and actually demanded that Jacob give her children or she’d die. She embraced the custom by giving her maid Bilhah to Jacob to a surrogate mother and the process produced a son named Dan, who later became listed as one of the 12 tribes of Israel.


The general consensus among preachers, bible teachers and altar workers is that Sarai became impatient and jumped the gun by offering Hagar her maid to Abram, a process that back fired in her face which was a just reward for her impatience.  That is the conclusion by many based upon their vantage point, but later on in this series we will observe the real story behind Sarai’s action. In the mean time, a lot transpired in the home of these two fine people. “And Sarai said unto Abram, My wrong be upon thee: I have given my maid into thy bosom; and when she saw that she conceived, I was despised in her eyes” the Lord judge between me and thee. But Abram said unto Sarai, Behold, thy maid is in thy hand; do to her as it pleaseth thee. And when Sarai dealt hardly with her, she fled from her face. And the angel of the Lord found her b y a fountain of water in the wilderness, by the fountain in the way of Shur. And he said, Hagar, Sarai’s maid, whence camest thou? And whither wilt thou go? And she said, I flee from the face of my mistress Sarai. And the angel of the Lord said unto her, Return to thy mistress, and submit thyself under her hands. And the angel of the Lord said unto her, I will multiply thy seed exceedingly, that it shall not be numbered for multitude. And the angel of the Lord said unto her, Behold, thou art with child, and shall bear a son, and shalt call his name Ishmael; because the Lord hath heard thy affliction.


Remember we said as it was in the case of Adam and Eve, when God gives a name to a person, it carries great import and something realistic. Here, the angel of the Lord personally offers the name of Hagar’s soon to be born son. “And he shall be a wild man.” The Hebrew word for wild is peh’-reh from the root word paw-raw meaning to be fruitful, the secondary sense of running wild. “His hand will be against every man, and every man’s hand will be against him; and he shall dwell in the presence of his brethren. And she called the name of the Lord that spoke unto her, Thou God seest me: for she said, Have I also here looked after him that seeth me? And Hagar bare Abram a son: and Abram called his son’s name which Hagar bare, Ishmael.” Genesis 16: 4-15. One cannot help but wonder why throughout ensuing years, countless numbers of ministers have spent time, energy, and money in preaching and teaching about Isaac pointing to Christ, and the Jews being God’s chosen people. But where are the sermons and lessons about Ishmael? Isn’t he a part of the biblical narrative? I remember some years back when bombing in Israel were frequent and for each attack, Israel would strike back with force. After one of those Israeli counter attacks a man covered in blood was seen on television walking among the debris with his arm outstretched and weeping he said, “But we are also the children of Abraham!”


After placing Isaac as the son of choice after whom Abraham’s seed should be called, we read: “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.” Genesis 17: 20. How many ministers have you heard preaching sermons on this touchy subject? And why is it a “touchy subject?” Because over the years we have made it so! How many sermons have you heard coming out of Texas, California, Florida, or New Orleans, emphasizing the blessings God has placed upon the descendants of Ishmael? God said he would bless Ishmael and would make him fruitful, and would multiply him exceedingly. Who then is then is the Christian minister or lay person to take issue with that? Arabs and Palestinians look at the Christian world and see only bias against them while the Jews seemed favored. As a Christian, I am pro-Israel, but I am also pro-Arabs, pro-Palestinians, I am PRO-PEOPLE—period! If we, as a nation are going to champion the cause of “human rights” we cannot be hypocrites in mastering the cause of some while treating others with impunity and disdain. It is amazing that in this country we have animal rights groups, save the whales groups, save the forest groups, and yet people around the world live their lives as if they don’t exist, or as if they are not human beings, the very crowning touch of God’s creation. Sarah took her rightful place in God’s master plan and so did Hagar. God honored his promise that “In Isaac shall thy seed be called” but Ishmael was not forgotten. Let me interject a thought at this juncture! The multitude of angels said unto the shepherds on that memorable night: “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to ALL PEOPLE. Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men Luke 2: 10,14. God, in this exciting and sublime moment extended peace and good will to all of mankind, the world over. But as children of God are we in essence extending that same peace and good will to ALL? Was this grandiose act of God relegated to once a year around Christmas time? Let us be quite frank that inequity and bias permeate churches, clubs, fraternal organization, the courts of law, and society at large. Let me remind the children of God that Jesus said to his disciples, “Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5: 20.


We are told in scripture that Abraham loved Ishmael and even voiced his hope that this son would be the one to obtain the promise. “And Abraham said unto God, O that Ishmael might live before thee.” Genesis 17: 18. But true to his word that he would return next year and Sarah would have a son, what some people call coincidence, among us Christians it is God being faithful to his promise. “And the Lord visited Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did unto Sarah as he had spoken. For Sarah conceived and bare Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him. And Abraham called the name of his son that was born unto him, whom Sarah bare to him, Isaac. Genesis 21: 1-3. Let us remind ourselves how some names were given and what mandate was attached! Adam and Eve got their name (ADAM) from God and they were placed as rulers over creation. Sarah and Abraham got their new names from God with a mandate to be father and mother of kings and nations, and peoples. But the name Ishmael was also given by God on this wise: “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.” Genesis 16: 11. We already gave an assessment of what Ishmael would be like so we won’t repeat it here. The name Isaac means laughter; “And Sarah said, God hath made me to laugh, so all that hear will laugh with me.”


When we talk about overcoming the odds and biting the bullet this is a classic! Few humans can ever muster such courage and faith to accomplish this! Paul as the master of communication offered his personal narrative in words that hold us spell bound. “As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations (not only Jews as we know them today) before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which are not as though they were. Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be. And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah’s womb. He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; and being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able to perform. And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness.” Romans 4: 17-22. Friend, I don’t know about you, but this story and this passage of scripture seem to grab the inner man and demand that it stands forth in faith, basking in his divine providence, and seeing new creations rise all about us. Paul effectively put his narrative in words to grab our attention and demand that we lean back on good old fashioned faith and hope as these two aged people did.


Abraham’s household now has four main characters: Abraham, Sarah, Hagar, Ishmael, and Isaac. Two spiritual realities are now walking hand in hand under the same tent. Isaac is the son of promise, elected by God through whom the rightful Seed (Christ) would come. Ishmael is right there also, being blessed by God with a promise of becoming a great nation, with a great exception, his birth was not according to the promise. In the broadest sense of the word, we could say that one represented a walk by faith, and the other a walk according to the flesh or by works. It did not take long for sparks of conflicts to erupt within the family’s inner circle, and hearts began to be enflamed. “And the child grew (Isaac) and was weaned: and Abraham made a great feast the same day that Isaac was weaned. And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, which she had born to Abraham, mocking. Let us now see if Sarah was just a love slave, jumping to every wish and whim of Abraham, or if she had clout in the family! Wherefore she (Sarah) said unto Abraham, Cast out this bondwoman and her son: for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, even with Isaac. And the thing was very grievous in Abraham’s sight because of his son. Was Sarah’s rage unwarranted? Was she blinded to the facts by a mother’s love and by being over protective of her own son? “And God said unto Abraham, Let it not be grievous in thy sight because of the lad, and because of thy bondwoman; in all that Sarah hath said unto thee, harken unto her voice; for in Isaac shall thy seed be called. And also the son of the bondwoman will I make a nation because HE IS THY SEED” Genesis 21: 8-13.So then, my Friend, it seems to matter to God who is Abraham’s seed. In other words, being Abraham’s seed cannot be counted as nothing. God could have banished Ishmael and cast him as a nonentity. But his father was a friend of God! His father was in line to become the father of kings and nations, so this lad was covered under this superb umbrella of faith and hope by his father.


Turn on your television or radio on any given Sunday morning, and I guarantee that you will not hear a sermon about God blessing Ishmael and made of him a great nation. God paid great attention to this son of Abraham, but for us Christians it’s as if Abraham had only one son, Isaac, and when Ishmael is mentioned, it is in the context of Sarah getting impatient and could not wait on God, and in the process, she produced this unwanted boy. Such argument is born out of gross ignorance concerning the workings of God, who expresses his will and purpose in the things and people he creates. He makes vessels designed for destruction to show forth his wrath, and he makes vessels designed for mercy. Frankly, I feel ever so sad for Hagar and her son, as they were made to wander in the wilderness of Beersheba. Do you think Hagar’s role was that of a villain, or that Sarah was unmerciful? We’ll tie up the loose end later.


The narrative of scripture from which we glean knowledge and strength is unlike the works of Mark Twain, Earnest Hemmingway, Edgar Allen Poe, and unlike Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” or “The Merchant of Venice”. This is not walking through the works of the notable writer Dashiell Hammett, the writer of “The Maltese Falcon”, “The Thin Man” and “The Glass Key.” Hammett is buried in Arlington Nation Cemetery marked by a simple regulation headstone on the left side along Grant Avenue as you approach MacArthur’s Circle. The works of these famous people serve to inspire people who thrive in the secular world. But what we are discussing here has travelled down the corridor of time, cuddled in the arms of prophecy, as if compelled by destiny to accomplish that for which it was designed. Adam, Eve, Sarah, Abraham, Jacob, Ishmael! They all took to the stage of life to play the role that was assigned to them before time began; as such we cannot find fault. Their stories are real and meaningful to me because I put myself on the street where they lived. I feel their pain! I see their anger and a great many more human emotions. That is why my bible stays alive; for me it is not just a book packed with historical data. I put myself in each story as if in real time and tap into the realities being spoken of. After the water ran out Hagar took the lad and set him under one of the shrubs. She then went some ways off, for she said; Let me not see the death of the child. And she sat over against him and lifted up her voice and wept. My Friend, this is real human drama and not something made for the movies in Hollywood’s Burbank Studios.


“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. And God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water; and she went, and filled the bottle with water, and gave the lad drink. And God was with the lad (God was with Ishmael) and he grew, and dwelt in the wilderness, and became an archer. And he dwelt in the wilderness of Paran: and his mother took him a wife out of the land of Egypt.” Genesis 21: 13-21. God knew what he was doing all along, but remember that the people or “players” involved did not know what, when, where, how,  or why! The truth is that both Sarah and Hagar were playing assigned roles that would come to fruition in the age of New Testament redemption through Christ. In the end of what seemed to be trials and gross afflictions, these two women have crossed over the thresholds of thousands of years to stand prominently in the majesty of the New Testament Church. Sarah has been exalted to the highest plateau of human thinking!

Did God keep his promise to Abraham regarding his son Ishmael? Let me offer a brief list of his offspring which was God’s word being fulfilled. “Now these are the generations of Ishmael, Abraham’s son, whom Hagar the Egyptian, Sarah’s handmaid, bare unto Abraham. (I like how this narrative pinpointed the person and persons being featured so that we cannot make any mistake in identifying the subjects being discussed) And these are the names of the sons of Ishmael, by their names, according to their generations: the firstborn of Ishmael, Ne-ba-joth; and Ke-dar, and Ad-be-el, and Mib’sam, and Mish’ma, and Du’mah, and Mas’sa, Ha’dar, and Te-ma, Je’tur, Na’phish, and Ked’e-mah. These are the sons of Ishmael, and these are their names, by their towns, and by their castles; twelve princes according to their nations.” Genesis 25: 12-16. Isn’t it just like God? See how faithful he is to people at large and how he keeps his promises without respect of persons. Back in Genesis 17: 20, when Ishmael was only thirteen years old God promised Abraham that his son Ishmael would be fruitful, and that he would greatly multiply him and he would beget twelve princes. In Genesis 25 we have a list of Ishmael’s offspring and a list of twelve princes according to their towns and their castles. The narrative continues: And these are the years of the life of Ishmael, an hundred and thirty and seven years: and he gave up the ghost and died; and was gathered unto his people. And they dwelt from Havilah unto Shur, that is before Egypt, as thou goest toward Assyria: and he died in the presence of his brethren.” Genesis 25: 17-18.


It is evident that we seldom hear this part of the Abraham/Sarah story from our pulpits and over the airwaves. Are we to suppose that if the story isn’t about Isaac who was a figure of the Christ of the New Testament, the story is not worth telling? My interest is not about claiming land, vineyards, buildings, and cities. As I surf the Internet I see many websites that refute the idea that either the Arabs in other countries, or the Palestinians in the West Bank or Gaza are the descendants of Ishmael. However, I have not found one that has pointed out their current existence. Palestinian Arabs like Syrian Arabs, likewise Lebanese Arabs were made distinct during the 7th century during the Islamic Conquest of the area. As indicated before, when we get into the New Testament narrative of God’s plan of redemption, we will see that both Sarah and Hagar became large and important figures whose importance applies to us even in these closing days of our world as we know it. Let us turn the spotlight on Rebecca (spelled differently in scripture).


“And Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebekah to wife, the daughter of Bethuel the Syrian of Padanaram, the sister to Laban the Syrian. (I call upon Damascus and Jerusalem to go back to these roots and reexamine the marriages and interlocking family ties between Jews and Syrians.) “And Isaac intreated the Lord for his wife, because she was barren: and the Lord was intreated of him, and Rebekah his wife conceived. For the first time in human history, God introduces a system that was to change forever a practice that had become an integral part of life in those days. “And the children struggled together within her; and she said, If it be so, why am I thus? And she went to enquire of the Lord. And the Lord said unto her, Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger.” Genesis 25: 20-23.


These are some heavy concepts that are being thrown at us here! Who is willing to step up to the plate with all the correct answers? Whose idea was behind the invention of one nation being subjugated to another, and why? No rational thinking is going to do it justice! As far back as can be remembered, the elder has never served the younger. God knew the upheaval and trauma that this would bring to the family. A practice that had become legendary by now, was about to be turned upon its head, and it was all because wanted it so. But in time we are going to see that this was to be something much bigger than a pair of twin brothers. Its truth was to resonate beyond valleys and glens and over mountain tops, reaching across the years to where we stand today. We are still highlighting the role of women in what is deemed to be a “Man’s World.” Obviously, Rebekah is about to bring forth two nations whose lives are going to evolve into a major conflict on the world stage. “And when her days to be delivered were fulfilled, behold, there were twins in her womb. And the first came out red, all over like a hairy garment; and they called his name Esau. And after that came his brother out, and his hand took hold on Esau’s heel; and his name was called Jacob: and Isaac was threescore years old when she bore them. And the boys grew: and Esau was a cunning hunter, a man of the field; and Jacob was a plain man, dwelling in tents.” Genesis 25: 24-27.  Over time the issue of the family inheritance came into focus, and since it determines who will take the lead in the family, the two men became major players in the hand of the Master.


Royce O. Kennedy