Sunday at our church, Community Christian, we began to study a book called The Story, a historical view of the Bible, making it relevant to our lives today.
In chapter two, “God Builds a Nation,” the focus was on Abraham and his willingness to pick up his family and all possessions to follow God’s direction. Pastor Scott Eynon gave us this definition of faith, “obeying God even when you don’t know where you are going, even when you are not sure where He is leading. It is walking with God during doubts, delays, and difficulties. It is trusting God when the story He presents makes no sense.”
Think about it. God told two senior citizens, Abraham and Sarah, they would have a child and their heritage would populate the earth. Even in their full faith they still doubted God. After all, at Sarah’s age, how could God’s promise for conception come to fruition? So Sarah offered up to Abraham her Egyptian maid, Hagar. Sarah did as we often do in our lives today – think we know what God intends but try to control the means to the end. Abraham complied, slept with Hagar and she conceived a son.
And here is the residual effect from the impatient decision of Sarah and Abraham from Genesis 16:10-12:
The angel added, “I will increase your descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count.” The angel of the Lord also said to Hagar: “You are now pregnant and you will give birth to 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.”
Abraham was 86 when Ishmael was born, and it was from Ishmael that all Arab people descended. Some 14 years later, Sarah conceived and bore a son, Isaac, from whom the Jewish people descended.
If you view the Middle East from this biblical perspective, it is God’s direction playing out in the conflict between Ishmael and Isaac, the Arabs and the Jews, the West and Islamic totalitarianism. Nonetheless, there was relative peace in the Middle East until Mohammad appeared on the scene around 612 AD and introduced a new belief system, Islam.
For 10 years Judaism, Christianity, and this new belief did indeed “coexist.” However when Mohammad was rejected by his own tribe, he departed Mecca for Medina. With new permission from Allah to fight back, this once “peaceful religion” turned violent and spread throughout the Arab nation not by peaceful proselytization, but by the sword. Mohammad returned to Mecca in 628 AD and conquered the city, and as the Angel of the Lord foretold some 2500 years earlier, raised his hand against his brothers and massacred thousands of Jews at what was called the “Battle of the Trench.” Subsequently, Mohammad turned his bloodthirsty quest towards the Byzantine Empire, sending a letter to Emperor Heraclius demanding he convert, submit and be subjugated, or be destroyed — and we know what eventually happened to Constantinople in 1453.
And so it continues to today, not just in the Middle East, but across the world. I am so thankful to have a Pastor like Scott Eynon who makes the Bible relevant and forces us to think in not only a biblical but also a historical perspective. Interesting, isn’t it?