Genesis 17 - Steve Wiggins Daily Devotional
“So Abraham said to G_d, ‘If only Ishmael could live in your presence.’ But G_d said, ‘No. Your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will name him Isaac. I will confirm my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant with his offspring after him. As for Ishmael, I have heard you. I will certainly bless him; I will make him fruitful and will multiply him greatly. He will father 12 tribal leaders and I will make him into a great nation. But I will confirm my covenant with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you at this time next year.’” Genesis 17: 18-22
In religious Jewish culture, lineage is traced through the mother. There are several reasons for this thinking. One is that the mother is the children’s chief nurturer. She does the primary function of instilling religious values until adolescence.
When a Jewish boy (from a religious family) comes of age, the occasion is recognized with a ceremony called “Bar (son) Mitzvah (commandment)”. Thus, he becomes a “son of the commandment”. This ceremony happens at age 13.
**There is no Biblical command to perform the ceremony of Bar Mitzvah, but that is not to say that there is anything wrong with committing oneself to follow G_d’s Word!
For the Orthodox and Chassidic Jews, women are not allowed to participate in the religious services. Thus, Bar Mitzvah also acts as a handoff from the maternal, to the paternal guidance.
When G_d told Abraham that Ishmael would not live in His presence, it was less a curse, and more a statement of the L_rd’s knowledge of the future. Hagar’s Egyptian mindset and values were transferred to Ishmael. By the time Ishmael was circumcised…interestingly, at age 13…his values were well established. It’s not that Ishmael could not live in God’s presence; he simply would not faithfully choose God, given his upbringing. It is also not that Ishmael could not have turned to the Lord, but G_d, in His wisdom, knew that he would not. And G_d ALWAYS chooses rightly.
Isaac and Ishmael shared the same father, but Isaac was nurtured by his mother, Sarah. Having experienced God’s fulfilled promises, Sarah raised a faithful son. Furthermore, faith built upon faith throughout the generations, confirming God ‘s Word to Abraham.
Similarly, it is important how “baby believers” are taught & brought up in the L_rd. The early discipleship experience is absolutely vital to the long-term maturity and faithfulness of the individual.
~Steve Wiggins, Associate Leader, Worship Leader
Daily Devotional, Monday, January 27, 2014