One of the worst feelings of powerlessness one can feel comes from watching all the horror occurring all around the world and not being able to do anything to stop it.
That was how I felt as I watched the news in Paris that horrible late Friday afternoon while preparing for Shabbat. Everything was still coming to light, no one had the full story, but everyone just knew for sure that there was utter mayhem in the streets of Paris that night.
I wanted to do something. I wanted something that I could say or some sort of action that I could do to help alleviate the suffering and fear that the Parisians were experiencing, or to be able to contribute to foiling these terrorists’ rampage. Alas, I had nothing to give to help with any of that. Just prayers.
A Cataclysmic Mistake
Whenever something like this happens, whether these current terrorist attacks, whether the prolonged and unending terrorist attacks that occur every single day in Israel, whether the events of 9/11, or any number of attacks that are carried out by the hands of radical terrorists, there is always some sentiment that faintly arises in the believing community to this effect: “If only Abraham had been obedient and not jumped the gun, we wouldn’t be in this mess today!”
In the distant past I, too, have entertained this thought a time or two once I heard it vocalized, but this cannot be. This cannot be the narrative to which we revert. Ishmael was not a mistake. Arabs are not a mistake. In fact, they are our cousins, blessed by God, viciously oppressed by the evil one, and decreed for redemption.
I have a friend who is a beloved sister. She is a Palestinian Christian who has come to love the Jewish people through the Messiah. She will speak to anyone who will listen, and may even speak to you even if you don’t listen, about the love and reconciliation that can and does occur when Yeshua enters into the Arab-Jewish dialogue.
She told me a story of when she belonged to a certain church, and how the pastor gently but clearly intimated to her that had Abraham not preempted God, the world would be a better, safer place today. Essentially, this pastor told my Zionist Palestinian friend that she was some sort of cataclysmic mistake! God obviously did not know what he was doing when he created her, her people, and she was an unfortunate bi-product resulted from a premature element introduced within the biblical test tube. If this does not introduce a level of insecurity, I don’t know what would.
Blessing on Ishmael, Blessing on Egypt
However, my friend realized that she was blessed! That Ishmael was blessed and loved by God! For God blessed Ishmael on account of Abraham (Genesis 21:13), heard Ishmael’s cry and tended to him (21:17), and had even commanded Hagar his mother to name him Ishmael (“God has heard”) to indicate that HaShem heard her suffering and paid attention to her and her son (16:11). The seed of promise is reckoned through Isaac and not Ishmael; nevertheless, Ishmael was loved by Abraham. Ishmael was loved by HaShem.
Another interesting fact is that Hagar, Sarah’s slave, was an Egyptian. In Isaiah 19, God has some harsh decrees for Egypt, many of which sound similar to the harsh decrees issued against Israel. However, toward the end of the chapter, redemption is decreed for Egypt, together with Assyria, and it says that they will know and worship HaShem. God even calls them his people! “Blessed is Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel my inheritance” (Isaiah 19:25). We know these Egyptians and Assyrians are not Jews or a part of Israel, but they are nevertheless his people. He loves these children of his, for they are still the children of Abraham.
Prime Candidates for the Messiah
The pastor I’m sure was well-meaning, but utterly wrong. My friend is not a mistake, nor are any of the Arab peoples, but they are beloved children of God that are being called back to him, back to their full, godly potential. In fact, their true place, they place where they will thrive the most spiritually, physically, economically, etc., is together in peace, love, and harmony with their Jewish brothers.
I do not live in lands where terror is an everyday reality. I do not live in Israel. I do not live in France. I will not pretend that I have waded through all the emotions and realities in a sober manner and come to this conclusion with all the facts and experiences under my belt. I cannot speak as one who has truly overcome every factor. But what I can say is that I dearly love my Arab brothers and sisters. When I see radical Islamists on TV, beheading Christians, chanting hatred for Jews, Israel, and the United States, and every other evil we witness, my heart utterly breaks and my soul weeps. This is not what they were fashioned for.
I cannot hate them, rather I hate the evil many of them perpetrate. I cannot ask for God to erase radical Ishmael and Esau, rather to radically return them back to him. I pray that seeing them would again, for their brother Jacob, be like seeing the face of God himself. They, too, possess a calling as children of Abraham. They, too, possess a promise of multiplication and blessing. May their blessing be a blessing—not a curse—to the Jews and the entire world.
My Arab brothers and sisters are not prime candidates for curse and annihilation; they are prime candidates for the Messiah. May the Messiah infiltrate their ranks and their hearts and overwhelm them with intense love. May their nations be great and mighty, may their children be blessed, may their people be free, and may they lovingly and humbly submit to Sarah and fall in love with their brother Israel.