The Story of Ishmael; or, God Will Hear. - 1

Genesis 16:1  •  4 min. read  •  grade level: 7
“Thou . . . shalt call his name Ishmael because the Lord path heard thy affliction” (Gen. 16:1).
ISHMAEL lived a very long time ago, but it is just as true that he lived and spoke as if he had lived in the next street, and had passed up and down every day. How can I be so sure about him? Because all that we know of Ishmael is written in the Bible, which is God’s own true Book: and it is there that we can read of what he did. We can read of many wonderful things and persons in God’s own wonderful Book, but the most wonderful of all is, that God gave His only Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to come down to this world and die on the cross, that all who believe in Him should live for ever. The little hymn says:
“And so He died, and this is why
He came to be a man and die:
The Bible says He came from Heaven
That we might have our sins forgiven.”
The name of Ishmael’s mother was Hagar. She had not to choose a name for her little baby when he was born, because God had sent word to her what she was to call him: the Angel of the Lord had said to her, “Thou shalt call his name Ishmael.” Hagar was very sad and in great trouble when the Angel of the Lord spoke to her: he said that her little son should be called Ishmael, because the Lord had heard her sorrow. Ishmael means “God will hear.”
There are many names in the Bible that have very nice and special meanings—not only names, of people, but names of places. If you have a marginal Bible, you will be able to look and find many of these meanings. You will see that Ishmael means “asked of God,” and Bethel means “house of God.” You will notice that El means God, and there are numbers of Scripture names in which you can see the letters El.
We do well to think of the words that Hagar spoke at the time when the Angel had been speaking to her. She said, “Thou God seest me.” We should always think of this. If we are in a lonely place, or a place of danger, the thought “Thou God seest me” should comfort us. If we are tempted to do what we ought not to do, the same words would help us to do what is right. Do you know a lovely verse in the 139th Psalm? “The darkness hideth not from Thee: but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to Thee.” So God can see in a dark night just as well as when the sun is shining. “Thou God seest me” is true for each one of us, in the daylight or in the dark.
When Ishmael was a big lad, perhaps about fifteen or sixteen years old, he and his mother had to go away from the home where they had been living, and they had very little to eat or to drink to take with them—only some bread and a bottle of water. They must have walked on and on till they got into a desert place, and they had drunk all the water that had been in the bottle, and most likely they had eaten all the bread. Think of them—this lonely mother and her boy! Do you not pity them? Ishmael lay down under one of the shrubs, and his mother sat a little way off, but not very near, as she said, “Let me not see the death of the child.” Very likely she thought that he would die, after the fatigue, the hunger and the thirst, for she had no more food to give him, and she lifted up her voice and wept. She must have thought of the day, many years before, when she had said “Thou God seest me,” and her heart must have been full as she thought that her dear child seemed almost dying: and yet God had promised that Ishmael should grow up to be a man; and if she thought of that she would have found comfort, for she might have known that God always keeps His promises.
[We shall give a further article in our next issue on this subject, and shall then ask our young friends to answer various questions in connection with Ishmael, of whom and his descendants God often speaks in His Word.]