In case you have got the impression that all the sons of Ishmael and Isaac do is fight – think again. The Bible also shows an extraordinary intertwining of their linked destinies.
For example, Ishmaelite traders rescued Joseph from a desert pit (Gen.37:23-28); when Moses was exiled to the wilderness it was the Midianites (descendants of Ishmael) who took him in (Ex.2:11-25). Symbolically-speaking, Ishmael (through his offspring) had a role in supporting Isaac’s offspring in their destiny; a novel thought indeed!
But there’s more.
Only four people in the Bible have a divinely announced birth – Ishmael and Isaac, John the Baptist and Jesus.
John Baptist prepared the way for Jesus and Ishmael prepares the way for Israel. As Muslims turn to Christ it will provoke Jewish people to engage with their destiny in the Messiah (Rom.11:30-31).
The twist came when Rebekah (Isaac’s wife) birthed twins – Esau and Jacob. God described them as: “two manner of people” (Gen.25:22-23). Like Ishmael with Isaac, so Esau also suffered bitter rejection when Jacob was preferred before him. His anger was only consoled by plans to kill Jacob (Gen.27:42).
Esau was to “live by the sword” (Gen.27:40); destined to be a symbol of Islam and become father of the Edomites (southern Jordan). Edom sided with the Babylonians against Israel (Ps.137:27).
This attitude drives a minority of Muslims who embrace this alternate ‘spirit of Esau’, which is working itself out in violence and terrorism today; as well as a death-wish against the sons of Isaac (Jewish people).
Islam is an Ishmaelite (i.e. Arabised) reflection of ancient Judaism. The ‘cry of Ishmael’ has so far gone unanswered and “hope deferred makes the heart sick” (Prov 13:12). This makes young Muslims vulnerable to radicalisation.
The spirit of Esau pursued his brother (Jacob) with the sword, had no pity and allowed anger to tear at them continually (Amos 1:11). The prophecy of Obadiah addresses Esau and his descendants.
There is hope because: “…saviours will come up on mount Zion to judge the mount of Esau; and the kingdom will be the Lord’s” (Obadiah 1:21). The ‘mounts’ of Esau and Zion speak of the contrasting ‘spirits of Esau’ and the Kingdom of God.
These ‘saviours’ believe and understand the authority of the Kingdom of God. The language is that of spiritual opposition: “we don’t wrestle against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers” (Eph.6:12).
So while some Christians reject all reference to Muslims as ‘sons of Ishmael’, claiming it softens the harsh reality of Islam, what they are doing is confusing the religion of the ‘sons of Ishmael’ with the ‘spirit of Esau’ – a demonic violent under-belly.
Esau’s spirit masquerades as Ishmael; portrays all Muslims as the same – they are not; this elicits fear and diverts Christians from praying and reaching out.
Be assured that ultimately: “all the glory of Kedar (n.b. the second son of Ishmael) will fail and the archers be diminished…” (Is.21:16-17).
Terrorism is slowly convincing fair-minded Muslims that the ‘cry of Ishmael’ can only be answered by Jesus Christ.
Note: I am indebted to Faisal Malick for some seminal thoughts echoed in his book ‘The Destiny of Islam in the End times’, (Destiny Image Publishers Inc.)