Minimalist Bible: The Covenant — Birth of Ishmael

Written by Chad -

God has given me the idea to pursue a personal design project of creating minimalist posters to share the awesome stories of the Bible. If you missed out on previous posters, don't worry, I have created a landing page where you can easily catch up. Check it out here.

This poster series comes from the book of Genesis. It is a story filled with tests of faith, promises and miracles. I'm excited today to reveal The Covenant: Birth of Ishmaelpart four of an eleven part series.

The Covenant: Birth of Ishmael  begins in Genesis 16:1-16 (NLT) which says, "Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had not been able to bear children for him. But she had an Egyptian servant named Hagar. So Sarai said to Abram, 'The Lord has prevented me from having children. Go and sleep with my servant. Perhaps I can have children through her.' And Abram agreed with Sarai’s proposal. So Sarai, Abram’s wife, took Hagar the Egyptian servant and gave her to Abram as a wife. (This happened ten years after Abram had settled in the land of Canaan.) So Abram had sexual relations with Hagar, and she became pregnant. But when Hagar knew she was pregnant, she began to treat her mistress, Sarai, with contempt. Then Sarai said to Abram, 'This is all your fault! I put my servant into your arms, but now that she’s pregnant she treats me with contempt. The Lord will show who’s wrong—you or me!'

Abram replied, 'Look, she is your servant, so deal with her as you see fit.' Then Sarai treated Hagar so harshly that she finally ran away. The angel of the Lord found Hagar beside a spring of water in the wilderness, along the road to Shur. The angel said to her, 'Hagar, Sarai’s servant, where have you come from, and where are you going?'

'I’m running away from my mistress, Sarai,' she replied.

The angel of the Lord said to her, 'Return to your mistress, and submit to her authority.' Then he added, 'I will give you more descendants than you can count.' And the angel also said, 'You are now pregnant and will give birth to a son. You are to name him Ishmael (which means ‘God hears’), for the Lord has heard your cry of distress. This son of yours will be a wild man, as untamed as a wild donkey! He will raise his fist against everyone, and everyone will be against him. Yes, he will live in open hostility against all his relatives.'

Thereafter, Hagar used another name to refer to the Lord, who had spoken to her. She said, 'You are the God who sees me.' She also said, 'Have I truly seen the One who sees me?' So that well was named Beer-lahai-roi (which means 'well of the Living One who sees me'). It can still be found between Kadesh and Bered. So Hagar gave Abram a son, and Abram named him Ishmael. Abram was eighty-six years old when Ishmael was born."

Taking Things Into Our Own Hands

I enjoy movies—A LOT. When I watch movies, I get involved. I allow my mind to wander into the film and I start to envision myself as the lead character. I do this in books, video games and other forms of entertainment.  It's a weird thing that I do, but it makes me feel like I'm a part of the film rather than just watching it. For example, when I watched Batman Begins, I felt for Bruce Wayne when he saw firsthand what corruption, violence and greed did to Gotham. I became excited when he donned the cape and cowl to strike fear into the bad guys. Bruce was willing to take matters into his own hands to bring justice to a city that desperately needed it.

Now, don't get me wrong, I won't go around dressing up in spandex and jumping from roof top to roof top. That's just not in the cards for me, but the movie did get me thinking about the times that I have taken matters into my own hands. Many of us find ourselves in situations where we pray to God about something and we are so anxious, we can't wait for His timing to play out. Instead, we rush ahead and find our own solutions.

This is where we find Sarai and Abram. God promised Abram that he would become "the father of a multitude of nations," but Sarai had trouble believing in such a promise when she had been barren all her life. She decided to give her servant girl, Hagar, to Abram to ensure that a son would be born. Abram agreed and God allowed Hagar to become pregnant. This caused Sarai to go off the deep end a bit and become extremely jealous and angry toward her, which caused Hagar to run away. Thankfully, God intervened and encouraged Hagar to return and she gave birth to Ishmael.

Chapter 16 is such a powerful story of the importance of relying on God's timing. We must trust him to follow through and leave room for God to work. In this story, we saw three believers struggle with trusting God:

  • Sarai was impatient and lacked confidence in the situation, so she gave Hagar to Abram.
  • Abram went along with Sarai's plan showing his lack of trust in God's promise. Plus, Abram completely ignored the heated emotions between Hagar and Sarai rather than solving the conflict.
  • Hagar ran away from the situation instead of confronting it.

The coolest part of the story is God's faithfulness in the midst of their trust issues. He took the situation and turned it into something great—the birth of Ishmael. Like the people in the Bible, we often slip up and take things into our own hands, maybe because we are impatient, we are worried God won't act, or because we assume God will act in way that will not make us happy. If we would just sit back and trust God, we would see that he always comes through perfectly—it's his nature! Time belongs to him and he is incapable of making a promise he can't keep.

We must learn that we are not the archer, but the arrow. There is a target in front of us that God has placed before us to hit. Too often we try to rush things by taking it on ourselves instead of waiting for God to aim us correctly. The beauty of the story is, even when we do rush ahead, God is able to use us anyway. If we allow him, he can still cause us to land somewhere near the target. BUT, when we are patient and trusting, God will draw the bow, take aim and release us at the perfect moment. And we will hit the bullseye every time.