Summary: Look at the promises that God made to the Arab peoples. Continuation of the Middle East Crisis series.
Today we are going to continue our study on the Mideast with part 2 of “The Middle East Crisis: Land for Peace?”. I’m constantly surprised and even disgusted by the news reports I see from major news networks presenting heavily biased, anti-Israeli accounts of what is occurring between Israel and her neighbors.
As I told you last week, I believe it is imperative for Christian to know from a Biblical perspective what is truly going on. The Bible has all of human history etched upon its pages from the very beginning to the very end. If we want to know what is happening in the world today and why, all we have to do is study this ancient text. It is just as relevant today as it was when it was first recorded.
Last week we began looking at the main point of contention between Israel and her Arab neighbors. That is the argument over who is entitled to a very important piece of real estate. And we went all the way back to the beginning of time and Genesis 1:1 to see that the first owner of the land was the One who created it, God. And only He has the right to decide who utilizes His land and how it is used.
Then about 2500 BC we read in Genesis 12 how God made a covenant concerning the land with a man named Abraham. It was an unconditional promise in which God said that He would give Abraham the land of Canaan and spelled out its borders in Genesis 15. He also promised Abraham a son, a mighty nation from his descendants, divine protection, and that the entire world would be blessed through him because the Messiah would come from his line.
We also saw that this promise was and everlasting one. That it holds true to this very day. So, therefore, we concluded that the land being fought over in the Mideast rightfully belongs to the Jews. And it always has since the very moment God promised it to Abraham 4000 years ago.
Today, we are going to turn our attention to Israel’s enemies in this dispute, the Arabs. If the Abrahamic Covenant that we looked at last week established the title deed as belonging to the Jewish people, where does that leave the Arabs? Well, believe it or not, God made a promise to them, too. I call it the Arabic Covenant.
I. The Arabic Covenant
If I were to ask you to name the descendents of Abraham, you’d more than likely tell me that Isaac was his son and Jacob his grandson. And if you really knew your Bible, you may even go on to list his great-grandson Joseph, and maybe even his great-great grandsons Manassah and Ephriam. And you would be correct. These men do make up the descendents of Abraham through his son Isaac, and are the first generations of the Jewish nation.
But many people would forget that Isaac wasn’t Abraham’s only son. In fact, Isaac wasn’t even Abraham’s first-born son. Abraham actually had several sons by two other women besides his wife Sarah, and the most famous of these sons was Ishmael. Ishmael was the first-born son of Abraham and Hagar, Sarah’s Egyptian maid. And even though he was not the son that God had promised to give to Abraham and Sarah, he did receive some promises from God.
In Genesis we find that God made a promise concerning Ishmael, first to his mother Hagar, and then to his father, Abraham.
First, let’s see what God said to Hagar in Genesis 16:10-12 (NIV). In this passage Hagar has run away from her mistress because Sarah was jealous of her and had been mistreating her. She is in the desert near a spring when the angel of the Lord appears to her and tells her to return to Abraham and Sarah. Verse 10 continues the story with, “The angel added, ‘I will so increase your descendants that they will be too numerous to count.’  The angel of the Lord also said to her, ‘You are now with child and you will have a son. You shall name him Ishmael, for the Lord has heard of your misery.  He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers.”
Now, I also have a footnote in my Bible that tells me that the last phrase “toward all his brothers” has a second meaning. It could also mean, “to live to the east of all his brothers.” Either definition is fascinating and meaningful, as we will see in a minute.
God also makes a promise concerning Ishmael to his father Abraham in Genesis 17:20, “And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation.”