A Hope for Prodigal People

I believe that the Gospel will reach the Muslim people and release them from a legacy of pain and anger, and from the anger against them. I believe that many of Abraham and Hagar’s sons and daughters will be constrained with the compelling love and deep-healing grace of Jesus Christ our Lord. I believe that many in the East who are crying, “On to Jerusalem!” with the Gospel of Jesus, as a genuine revival movement of God spreads towards the place of the ethnic Old Covenant people of God, also means “On to the Middle East!” And thus, “On to Hagar’s sons and daughters! Give them life and calm their troubled souls with the blood of Jesus which has covered our own sins.”

 

I read Genesis 16 this morning as part of my M’Cheyne Reading Plan. As the complex relationship between Sarai and her handmaid, Hagar, the surrogate in the bearing of a child for Abram, turns into the inevitable scenario of jealously and hatred from such unwise judgment, we see Hagar fleeing from the camp out of fear of Sarai. She is in the wilderness when the angel of Jehovah God, the covenant name of the God of Israel, comes to this Egyptian handmaiden. It is there, by a fountain, where the God who spoke to Abram speaks to Hagar. He gave her promises similar to those that He gave to Abram: no land, but a promise of descendants and even a nation (21:13).

The scenario does not end with those descendants bringing salvation to the earth, however, but rather bringing pain.

And though shalt bear a son; and thou salt call his name Ishmael, because Jehovah hath hearth thy affliction. And he shall be a wild ass among men; his hand shall be against every man, and every man’s hand against him; and he shall dwell over against all his brethren.

It is a hard promise. But the hope of the passage is that Jehovah God comes to her. She is not left alone. And her progeny, forever linked to her master, Abram, is linked to this moment when Almighty God, the God of Abram, is a voice to them.

 

I cannot read this chapter without my mind moving to our loving Savior Jesus, in John chapter four, at the well in Samaria with another broken woman. In both cases, the desire for water leads the heartbroken women, burdened by troubles in relationships with men, and put down by relationships with the society around them, if not with their own religion, to a well. There, both women, receive very hard words from the LORD:

And the angel of the Lord said to her, “Behold, you are pregnant and shall bear a son. You shall call his name Ishmael, because the Lord has listened to your affliction. He shall be a wild donkey of a man, his hand against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he shall dwell over against all his kinsmen” (Genesis 16:11-12 KJV).

Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” The woman answered Him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, I have no husband; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true” (John 4:16-17 KJV).

Yet we note this: the covenant God of Israel speaks to these women: the Angel of the Lord (the pre-incarnate Christ by some) to Hagar, and the Son of God Himself to the Samaritan women. His voice in their pain, and through Jesus, His invitation to receive “living water” (v. 10), transforms the incident into a moment of hope and grace. This is a moment of hope because God speaks His transforming promises of new life and living water to all who come to the wells in the wilderness of life. This is a moment of grace for God has come to the sinner in need and gives her promises. Yes, He comes even to Hagar. We read in Genesis 21:

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? Fear not, for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is. Up! Lift up the boy, and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make him into a great nation.” Then God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water. And she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink (Genesis 21:17-19 ESV).

These moments of hope and grace are not just for Hagar and her son, or for the Samaritan women and her village. These are testimonies of God’s love now available to all who come, in their wilderness experiences, to the covenant God of grace, our Lord Jesus Christ. This is an invitation to drink deeply of the refreshing promise that God will do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. This is the invitation that breaks old curses and ushers in fresh, living legacies of joy. The woman at the well becomes a mouthpiece of heaven as she announces His divine Lordship so that “many more believed because of His Word” (v. 42). Hagar, in her pain, nevertheless, cries out to the God of the father of her child. She is rejected in her condition, yet her cry is accepted.

This is why I am most optimistic as I seek to announce the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is why I am most hopeful that the cry to Jerusalem is also a cry to Palestine, to the children of Abram and Hagar that the wildness born out of pain shall become hallelujahs born out of revival.

This is my hope. This is my prayer for the people of the Middle East, even as we in the West are at war with them now. For I know that many of our soldiers who bear arms also bear Bibles and bear the experience of Jesus Christ coming to them in their need. I know that many who see the wildness and hatred also believe in Samaritan revivals and tender moments in the desert when the God of the covenant visits rejected women and their sons.

O come, Lord Jesus and revive the ancient churches that arose in Persia and in the Middle East in those twilight years after Pentecost. Come, O Christ of the Covenant and stir the hearts of people to love the sons of Hagar and Abram. Come, O Savior and bring peace to hearts that political treaties can never secure. Come and send revival in our generation to those with whom we contend. It is not only for our sake that I pray this but also for theirs. It is for Thy glory that I ask these things, O Lord. For Thou alone will receive honor and glory when the legacy of militancy and wildness is replaced with a new Gospel legacy of peace and joy in the Lord! Do it, O God! I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

See the companion link to the music, “Christ Has Died,” a music for world missions and revival hope by Michael Anthony Milton on iTunes.

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About Michael Milton, Ph.D.

Michael A. Milton, Ph.D. (University of Wales, Trinity Saint David's College), is an American Presbyterian pastor, theologian, and author. He is, also, an alumnus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
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