THEOLOGY & APOLOGETICS
Why did God bless Ishmael?
By Beth Hyduke
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This comes into the clearest, sharpest focus when we look at the example of Jesus Christ. Acts 2:23 says, "...this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men." In other words, God providentially foreordained the death of His innocent Son. From the greed and betrayal of Judas Iscariot, to the frenzied jealousy and dirty dealings of the Sanhedrin, to the crowd-pleasing Pontius Pilate, even down to the unnamed centurions who drove the nails through Jesus' hands and feet, the Bible tells us that none of it was a tragic accident or epic misunderstanding, but rather the deliberate orchestration of a sovereign God who raised each of these individuals up and arranged to put them in that exact place at that precise time, just as He had done with Pharaoh in Egypt and with Joseph's jealous brothers, to accomplish what God had purposed to do. Paradoxically, the Crucifixion — the worst crime ever committed in human history, the worst evil ever executed by mankind — was done to bring about the best good and the best benefit to mankind. That's really what John 3:16 tells us when it declares that God's motive for sending His Son to His death was love, and that ultimately that love, through Christ's death, has purchased and secured the way to what we all so desperately need, even more than physical life and safety and deliverance — spiritual life and safety and deliverance through salvation and reconciliation with God.
Understanding this difficult biblical principle — that sometimes God deems it good to permit evil and use it to accomplish His purposes — is key to understanding why God would bless Ishmael when He knew the evil that Ishmael's offspring would do. Ultimately, God blessed and prospered Ishmael because through the adversity that Ishmael's descendants would bring upon Israel and other peoples, God would bring glory to Himself by saving many people out of that danger and into repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, many of whom might otherwise never have been reached. Incidentally, but far from coincidentally, there has been a record number of Muslim-to-Christian conversions within the past few decades that has dramatically spiked with the rise of radical Islam and terrorist organizations like Hamas, al-Qaida, and ISIS. Some statistics estimate as many as 2 to 7 million former Muslims have come to Christ in the last twenty years. If even a fraction of that estimation is true, it would mean that more Muslims have come to Christ in the last twenty years than in the entire 1400-year lifespan of Islam. In 2014, World Magazine interviewed David Garrison, a Christian missionary and author of A Wind in The House of Islam which he wrote to document this massive exodus out of the darkness of Islam and into the light of Christianity that he and other missionaries were witnessing. You can find the interview with David Garrison here.
Also check out Leading The Way ministry which utilizes "Kingdom Sat" (Christian satellite broadcasts that specifically target Muslim countries and communities) and Help The Persecuted (an organization that helps refugees fleeing from ISIS and other religious persecution with material resources like food, housing, lawyers, etc.) to spread the Gospel of Jesus to unbelievers around the world, many of whom are Muslims. LTW's Youtube channel provides many testimonies of former Muslims who have converted to Christianity and are now leading other Muslims to Christ within their own communities. Shahid's powerful story is just one of many such testimonies you can view here.
From numerous personal accounts like this, we can start to glimpse God's steady hand in all this chaos and begin to view even the most horrendous and personal persecution, affliction, and evil as Joseph did his own unfair enslavement and imprisonment by his closest family members — as something sinful men intended for evil but which God will use for eternal good. This awareness can and should inspire us to become actively and compassionately involved in spreading the Gospel to unbelievers, and in strengthening and encouraging our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world.
In the midst of severe persecution and opposition, it is sometimes hard to see the bigger picture of what God is doing, but Christians can rest assured that God is somehow using even the worst kind of evil "to work all things together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28).
Image Credit: Benjamin West; " Hagar and Ishmael "; 1776; Public Domain
Tags: Biblical-Truth | Controversial-Issues | Current-Issues | God-Father | Hardships | Jesus-Christ | Sin-Evil
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