Chart: “Abraham’s Two Sons of Mercy”
From Common Path Alliance website (no longer active)
The most interesting element of the chart entitled “Abraham’s Two Sons of Mercy” is the one that pertains centrally to the diagram but that is not included, the element of COVENANT. A biblical understanding of the Old and New Testaments presupposes a perspective foundational in Scripture, that it was through his covenant that the LORD established himself in the life of his creation, and that it is by covenant that we truly comprehend ourselves, our lives, and God, the LORD.To accurately interpret the chart, its reader should begin at the top, with Abraham. We know of Abraham because the Bible says he was chosen by God: “Now the LORD said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed’” (Genesis 12.1-3: English Standard Version). Previously the LORD established his covenant with Adam and all creation, Noah and his sons and their offspring, and next, through the choice of one man. Read the following: “When Abram was ninety-nine years old the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, ‘I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless, that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly.’ Then Abram fell on his face. And God said to him, ‘Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations….And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you’” (Genesis 17.1-7). It becomes apparent, the many through whom the covenant has come, that they are less important than the covenant itself, including Abraham (J. Hudson).The account of Hagar, mistress of Sarai, and how she was given to Abram for the purpose of obtaining children at Sarai’s urging, is the prelude to the conception of Ishmael. Ishmael was born to Hagar when Abraham his father was eighty-six years old. Thirteen years later (having changed Sarai’s name to Sarah), God promised Abraham a son by Sarah: “Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed…” because Sarah and he were ninety and a hundred years old respectively; and the Bible indicates that Sarah’s body no longer had the capacity of child bearing (Genesis 17:15-17). Having believed God, Abraham had immediate concern for the standing of his heir, Ishmael: “Oh that Ishmael might live before you! God said, ‘No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him. As for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I have blessed him and will make him fruitful and multiply him greatly….But I will establish my covenant with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this time next year’” (Genesis 17.18-21). And so it was.
It is important here to note that Ishmael is excluded neither from the God of the covenant nor from the Abrahamic covenant, but of the covenant God established with Isaac and his offspring Ishmael is not heir. The chart implies that shared human genealogy is of ultimate importance, but it is not. The half-brothers share blood but not the ultimate purpose for which Isaac is chosen, the purpose to which I turn.
The supernatural event that is the birth of Isaac has the utmost relevance to the fallacious implication of the chart. It implies that, because Ishmael and Isaac are equally sons of Abraham, the significance of their offspring is mutual in every way. But in contradiction the sovereign LORD of the Bible and of history demonstrates the uniqueness of Isaac’s life, his lineage, and his posterity’s ultimate culmination.
“Is anything too hard for the LORD? At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son” (Genesis 18.14). Compare the following verses: “Is anything too hard for the LORD?” ≈ “For nothing will be impossible with God” (Genesis 18.14; Luke 1.37). Luke is recounting the words of the angel, Gabriel, who, in one sentence, foretold two supernatural births: that of John, the Baptist and Jesus, the Christ. The two verses hearken what is the ultimate purpose of the covenant the LORD established between himself and Isaac: Jesus Christ, the ultimate fulfillment of all covenants! Even the explanation for how in the person of Jesus this achievement would be realized is included in Isaac’s life.
The weaning of young Isaac with its celebration marks the point of the separation of Ishmael and Isaac. Sarah, protective of her long-in-coming only son, notices what may have been Ishmael mocking the young child. So, she appeals to Abraham for protection: “Cast out this slave woman with her son, for the son of this slave woman shall not be heir with my son Isaac” (Genesis 21.10). Abraham was displeased by Sarah’s plea, but God told Abraham to grant her request, and he did. Centuries later the Holy Spirit inspired the Apostle Paul to write of this in his epistle to the Galatians, to which I will later refer.
Isaac had become a young man, and God, to test Abraham, said: “Take your son your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you” (Genesis 22.2). It is to the terminology “only son,” the foreshadowing of the founding of the New Covenant, that I draw your attention. At this theological juncture of my paper it is appropriate to remind the reader of the chart, that the Qur’an says, “It is not befitting to Allah that he should take unto himself a son” (Maryam 35). Curiously, the Qur’anic reference I quoted is the next verse in the Qur’an from the Qur’anic reference on the chart. It is almost as if the designer of the chart intends the reader familiar with the Qur’an to notice it, but I digress. Abraham and Isaac reach the place of God’s instruction, build an altar, and put in place the wood. Isaac, unsuspecting, has already asked, “My father….Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” to which his father replies, “…God will provide for himself the lamb…” (Genesis 22.7,8 cf. Exodus 12.1-11). And God did and has again, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3.16). Isaac was not sacrificed but Jesus was, for as John the Baptist said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1.20).
The chart illustrates a false parity between Mohammad and Jesus. It is Jesus, not Mohammad, who is “the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant” (Hebrews 9.15). Jesus, with the Apostles on the night of Passover, explained to them that he, himself, THE LAMB OF GOD, was about to be sacrificed. Jesus said to them, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood” (Luke 22.20). It is Jesus, not Mohammad, to whom the covenant came, through Isaac, not Ishmael. Furthermore, only Jesus was sinless, capable of atoning for the sins of the whole world. As it is written, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (II Corinthians 5.21). The writer of Hebrews says, “The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, ‘You are a priest forever.’ This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant” (7.21, f.).
Finally, as it pertains to the practical theological differences symbolized by the two sons, they are Law and Grace, Slavery and Freedom. Paul writes the Epistle to the Galatians, a letter to a church being persecuted by legalists (Judaizers). It includes an allegory that employs as metaphors Hagar and Sarah (4.21-5.10). Hagar symbolizes the slavery of the Law, the position of bondage those under the Law are held in by plenary requirements of perfect obedience. But Sarah symbolizes freedom from the Law, new covenantal Grace, freedom by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. The two sons of these two women in Paul’s allegory figure as two covenants, Law and Promise. Ishmael figures as the son born of natural means subject to natural limitations and their consequences. Isaac figures as the son born of supernatural means, the result that Sarah’s natural limitations could never have produced, means by which the LORD “did to Sarah as he had promised” (Genesis 21.1). This brings us to the bottom of the left side of the chart, where it says of Mohammad, “Last and Only Prophet in the Line of Ishmael…Slave of Allah.” The truth about Islam and Mohammad is depicted and stated inadvertently here. It is a religion outside the covenant of promise from Isaac, one very much of bondage and Mohammad is its prophet. The bottom of the chart, with the positions of Mohammad and Jesus at their line’s respective ends, implies parity. Reader, be reminded of the Qur’an verse, Maryam 35, and what it says, how “It is not befitting to Allah that he should take unto himself a son.” To those who argue the interchangeability of the names of God, saying that Allah and Yahweh are the same God, the Bible says, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God” (Luke 1.35). The God of the Bible is not the god of the Qur’an. The excellence of Jesus, that he is the Son of God, nullifies the chart’s implied parity between Mohammad and Him. On the right side of the chart it says of Jesus, “Last Prophet in the Line of Isaac,” and, again, inadvertently, the truth is stated. There is a definite covenantal difference between that of the world, to which Islam belongs, and the covenant of promise, to which the Church belongs. Jesus Christ is the door of the covenant of promise through which, by grace through faith in him, you may become heirs!
“For it is written, ‘Rejoice, O barren one who does not bear; break forth and cry aloud, you who are not in labor! For the children of the desolate one will be more than those of the one who has a husband’” (Galatians 4.27).