Reply To: Who was Ishmael in the bible

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When we are seeking the will of God but run into a roadblock, we may start to ask, Have I made a wrong turn? Will I miss out on God’s good plan for me? Has God changed His mind? Should I come up with a plan B? These questions were no doubt on Abraham’s mind, too, as he contemplated God’s plans for him and for his son, Ishmael.

God had promised to bless Abraham and make his descendants into a great nation, a chosen people of God (Genesis 12:1–3; 15:1–6). But Sarah, Abraham’s wife, was about seventy-six years old and had not yet borne any children. So, in keeping with ancient Near Eastern customs, Sarah offered her handmaid, Hagar, to bear a child for Abraham—and Ishmael was born.

Based on Abraham’s limited knowledge at that point, he had no reason to think that Ishmael was not the fulfillment of God’s promises. But later God made it clear that it would be through Sarah herself that God’s chosen people would come (Genesis 17). So what about Ishmael? Did he have any significance in his own right?
Or would he simply be cast aside by God as a leftover plan B?

Not at all. Though he was not to be the ancestor of God’s chosen people, Ishmael was in fact part of God’s plan as well. He would become the father of another great nation (Genesis 17:20), traditionally believed to be the Arab peoples.

The will of God for our future can be a difficult thing to discern clearly, and we may even find that what we thought was God’s will was not. As we continue to seek His will, however, we can rest assured that God is always working, and what may seem like “wrong” turns are in fact part of God’s good plan as well (Romans 8:28).