Faith and Obedience or Works and Performance

Both Christians and Muslims share the ultimate goal of living forever in a place far superior to this earth as we know it. Perhaps the major difference, however, is that Christians are taught to depend on a proactive God to fulfill the ultimate goal while Muslims depend on their individual efforts and performance to please Allah to earn a place in paradise. Heaven is a gift to the Christian while paradise is an earned reward for the Muslim. Heaven to the Christian is substantially grander than the finite mind can fathom, while paradise to the Muslim is described in terms that appeal to the senses. Both Christianity and Islam claim their heritage from Abraham and both are products of the ‘seed of the woman.’ In other words, both religions were delivered to and illustrated through men.

Before the foundation of the world, God had a plan of redemption for man ready to implement. Several millennia had passed since man’s fall in the Garden of Eden when God called out the man Abraham about 2100 BC and told him he would be the beginning of a great nation and would reveal God and His plan of redemption to the world.

“Now the LORD had said to Abram (Abraham)… ‘I will make you a great nation; I will bless you…and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’”
Genesis 12:2-3

This promise, or covenant, between God and Abraham was confirmed several times in Genesis. God’s promise to Abraham also included the gift of certain land described as the area from the river of Egypt to the great river Euphrates for an everlasting possession.

The scriptures also reveal that Abraham and his wife Sarah were getting old and they began to wonder how their descendants could inherit God’s promises if they didn’t have any children as heirs. Remember that first Abraham suggested to God that He recognize Abraham’s servant as the legal heir. God quickly dismissed that suggestion and reminded Abraham that he would father a child who would be the heir of the promise. More time passed and Sarah suggested to Abraham that he father a child with her maid, Hagar. That would, she reasoned, fulfill the requirement of a legal heir inasmuch as Sarah was far past her child bearing years. Again God rejected that plan restating that Abraham would father a child with Sarah. God even pre-named that child Isaac. In the meantime Abraham did father a child with Sarah’s maid. A boy child named Ishmael was born to Sarah’s maid Hagar 13 years before Sarah gave birth to Isaac.

And even though Ishmael was not to inherit the promise God made to Abraham, he would be powerful and influential with his own offspring.

“And as for Ishmael…Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful and will multiply him exceedingly. He shall beget twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation. But my covenant I will establish with Isaac…”
Genesis 17:20-21

Before Ishmael was born the Angel of the LORD revealed some interesting facts to Hagar.

“Behold, you are with child, and you shall bear a son. You shall call his name Ishmael, because the LORD has heard your affliction. He shall be a wild man; his hand shall be against every man, and every man’s hand against him. And he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren.”
Genesis 16:11-12

The presence of Hagar and Ishmael in the household caused great animosity between Sarah and Abraham.

“So the child (Isaac) grew and was weaned. And Abraham made a great feast on the same day that Isaac was weaned. And Sarah saw the son of Hagar…whom she had borne to Abraham, scoffing. Therefore she said to Abraham, ‘cast out this bondwoman and her son; for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, namely with Isaac.’”
Genesis 21:8-10

Hagar and Ishmael were indeed cast out and they lived in the wilderness where Ishmael grew to manhood.

“He dwelt in the Wilderness of Paran (Arabia) and his mother took a wife for him from the land of Egypt”
Genesis 21:21

“And these were the names of the sons of Ishmael…the firstborn of Ishmael, Nebajoth; then Kedar; Adbeel, Mibsam, Mishma, Dumah, Massa, Hadar, Tema, Jetur, Naphish, and Kedemah.”
Genesis 25:13-15

Ishmael was, therefore, the progenitor of the Arab nations. The famous prophet of Islam, i.e. Mohammad is a descendant of Ishmael.

There is a New Testament passage that confirms the covenant God made with Abraham was to pass on through Isaac and not Ishmael.

“For it is written that Abraham had two sons: the one by a bondwoman, the other by a freewoman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and he of the freewoman through promise…Now we brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise. But, as he who was born according to the flesh then persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, even so it is now. Nevertheless what does, the Scripture say? ‘Cast out the bondwoman and her son for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman.’”
Galatians 4:22-30

Islam extols Ishmael and acknowledges him in the lineage of Mohammed. Likewise Christianity accepts the Biblical account of the linage of Isaac and Christ, the ultimate ‘seed of the woman.’

“The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham: Abraham begot Isaac, Isaac begot Jacob, and Jacob begot Judah…”
Matthew 1:1-2

For further study, Google ‘Ishmael and Islam’

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