Often times it seems like famous families have at least one member who has a normal life. For instance the manning family has Peyton and Eli but there is also their older brother Cooper. I wonder what it’s like when his brothers start comparing the designs on their Super Bowl rings, I bet it make his funny story about the office picnic he went to seem a bit anticlimactic. Or worse yet what about famous siblings where one has far more success than the other. It must be an awkward moment at the Baldwin house when Alec talks about the big role he just landed and all Stephen has to talk about is how luck he was when he bought some runts and the whole package was banana.
(Seriously why do those other flavors even exist)
Or when Sylvester and Frank Stallone get together and after Sylvester talks about his big summer blockbuster does Frank spend the next several hours seeing if anyone remembers that he was in Staying Alive the 1983 to Saturday Night Fever?
(I remember Frank, I remember!)
It seems that a forgotten sibling is not that uncommon. It does seem a bit unfair that they become the punchline of jokes just because their brother or sister is a celebrity but that seems to be the way things work out sometimes. This paradigm even pops up in the Bible too.
The child grew, and was weaned; and Abraham made a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned.
But Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, playing with her son Isaac. So she said to Abraham, “Cast out this slave woman with her son; for the son of this slave woman shall not inherit along with my son Isaac.” The matter was very distressing to Abraham on account of his son. But God said to Abraham, “Do not be distressed because of the boy and because of your slave woman; whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for it is through Isaac that offspring shall be named for you. As for the son of the slave woman, I will make a nation of him also, because he is your offspring.”
So Abraham rose early in the morning, and took bread and a skin of water, and gave it to Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, along with the child, and sent her away. And she departed, and wandered about in the wilderness of Beer-sheba. When the water in the skin was gone, she cast the child under one of the bushes. Then she went and sat down opposite him a good way off, about the distance of a bowshot; for she said, “Do not let me look on the death of the child.” And as she sat opposite him, she lifted up her voice and wept. And God heard the voice of the boy; and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, and said to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Do not be afraid; for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is. Come, lift up the boy and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make a great nation of him.” Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. She went, and filled the skin with water, and gave the boy a drink. God was with the boy, and he grew up; he lived in the wilderness, and became an expert with the bow. He lived in the wilderness of Paran; and his mother got a wife for him from the land of Egypt.
So Abraham has a son named Issac who has a son Jacob who has a son named Joseph (who starred in that technicolor dream coat musical). This family and their descendants would become the people of Israel, the Jewish people. So Issac son of Abraham and his wife Sarah would become the forefather of a tribe that would become a nation. The Jewish people who have survived the worst that history has to offer can all trace their beginnings back to Issac, not a bad legacy to have. On top of that the Bible talks about the Jews as God’s chosen people. The whole old testament is pretty much focused on telling the story of these chosen people and the involvement of God in their life. The problem is Abraham has two sons.
(And when I say problem I mean someone is probably not going to live)
Ishmael is Abraham’s son with his slave Hagar. He was in effect plan b, his wife Sarah was unable to get pregnant and he needed an heir. When Sara gave birth Ishmael was no longer needed and he and his mom were sent away into the wilderness. If ever there was a slighted sibling story this is it. Issac gets to inherit his father’s everything (including some big promises made by God) and Ishmael gets sent of into the wilderness where death was more or less expected. What makes this really harsh is that other slighted siblings get talked about more than Ishmael we hear some of their stories, Ishmael on the other hand is little more than a footnote that many people are unaware is even in the Bible. But something strange happens in the wilderness.
At he moment that Hagar is ready to throw in the towel God steps in and saves her and Ishmael. On top of that God makes a big promise to Ishmael that he will become the father of a nation to just like his baby brother. By the way that nation is also still around today. Muhammad the founder of the Muslim faith is a part of that nation which Ishmael founded. So just as the Jewish people, and by extension Christians, identify Issac as a forefather Muslims identify Ishmael as a forefather. Turns out Ishmael isn’t a slighted sibling after all.
The Bible despite being a huge tome essentially tells one story. The old testament is the story of the Jews, God’s chosen people and the New Testament is the story of how Jesus’s life death and resurrection brought God’s grace into the story in a New and all encompassing way. What this Ishmael story reminds us is that when we focus our attention on one area or person we can miss the significant contributions of the other.
What makes this truly note worthy is when the passage says that God was with Ishmael. It doesn’t say it in a way that means just at that moment but that God was with him forever, just like God was with Issac. People of one faith or another often times make the mistake of thinking God is only with them. This is particularly true when it comes to Christians and Muslims since we both are talking about the same God. Sure we have differences is how we understand God’s involvement with us has transpired. They would say Jesus is a prophet not a messiah but at the end of the day we are all talking about the same God. A God who was with and continues to be with both sides of this family tree since way back in the Book of Genesis.
Perhaps we should stop thinking that God is closer to one person than another. We tend to want to make distinctions that separate people. God doesn’t seem to make those distinctions. God doesn’t care if you are famous or not or is you can throw a football well or not I don’t even think God is too concerned if you spend your Sundays in a Church or a Mosque God wants you to Love him and to love one another. So lets focus on love rather than our divisions in understanding.