Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Good in a Brother Who Has Become a Bother

In preparing for Sunday morning's exposition of Genesis 25 I came across an interesting observation about Ishmael from the pen of John Gill. Gill, in his Exposition of the Scriptures, comments on the names of three of Ishmael's sons, 'Mishma, Duman, and Massa' (25:14):

Of Mishma and Massa, and of their posterity, there is not anything said elsewhere, unless the Masani, Ptolemy {p} places near Arabia Felix, came from Massa. Dumah seems to be the same Isaiah speaks of in Ge 21:11; and in Arabia Deserta, where some of Ishmael's posterity settled, is a place called Dumaetha, by Ptolemy {q}, which perhaps had its name from this son of his. The Targum of Jonathan translates these three names,

"hearing, silence, and patience;''

which the Jews use as a proverb, when they would signify that 'there are some things to be heard and not spoken of, and to be patiently borne.' If Ishmael had in view to teach such lessons by the names he gave his children, he will seem to be a better man than he is usually thought to be (emphasis mine).

It was that last phrase that caught my attention. "He would seem to be a better man than he is usually thought to be." I think that could be said of all our brothers or sisters in Christ within the SBC. We may not all agree, and we may not like everything that our brothers in Christ say or do, but it would be intersting to see the transformation that would come to the SBC if we could intentionally focus on the good in that brother who has become a bother.

In His Grace,



Anonymous said...

I could not agree more. I am constantly fighting my urge to criticize my fellow brother when I hear them say things that I find hurtful, untrue, or simply unfounded.

On a side note, John Gill might have been on to something. I am currently reading a very interesting book by a SWBTS professor that takes the view that Ishmael is indeed a better man than usually thought to be. If it scratches your itch, you should check out "Arabs in the Shadow of Israel: The Unfolding of God's Prophetic Plan for Ishmael's Line" by Tony Maalouf.

A Simple Student @ SWBTS

Jeff Whitfield said...

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Philippians 4:8

greg.w.h said...

I'd almost encourage you to add the phrase: "permitting the Holy Spirit the freedom to conform our brother or sister to the likeness of Christ Jesus in the way the Spirit sees fit."

Life is intended to be filled with God's glory. And part of God's glory is that he works with each individual, well, individually. We need to be patient to permit God's strength to be shown in each person's weakness.

Greg Harvey

Bob Cleveland said...

It always intrigues me when people complain that they didn't agree with this point in a sermon, or that point in a lesson, or even simply over someone else's differing point of view. I discovered a few years ago that when someone I respected (or even someone I didn't) said something with which I didn't agree, that whether or not I voiced it, I was affirming what I do believe, myself. And it finally occurred to me: that's a good thing.

When someone or something "bothers me" (I don't agree with that term anyway as I choose how I will react, not someone or something), I get to affirm my standards for my own behavior, right then and there.

But even beyond that, if I acknowledge the sovereignty of God, I have to acknowledge that what happens TO me is exactly what God had in mind FOR me. Hence, when I'm "bothered", the question isn't why did they do that, but how will I react?

And that is easy to answer. Just follow His lead.

Rex Ray said...

October 1, 2007
“He will seem to be a better man than he is usually thought to be.” The question arises: who does what?

1. The man seems better if his pears practice “hearing, silence, and patience.”
2. The man seems better if he practices “hearing, silence, and patience.”
3. The man seems better if they all practice “hearing, silence, and patience.”

Of course, if # 2 and #3 were practiced, no one would be a bother.

Wade, its good you are trying to create peace in the SBC, but the old-age question is ‘who is the bother?’

Christ did not use this philosophy in cleansing the temple.

david b mclaughlin said...

Good post. I've always been fascinated in the meanings of names. I think though that we read too much into the meanings of names in the OT. Often times, I have noticed the "meanings" of the names seem to be attached after the fact. For example, David means "beloved." Isn't it likely that meaning was attached after King David?

I also noticed that you get alot less comments on the posts that are not critical of something in the SBC.

Anonymous said...

I heard someone say once that he was not as good a man as some people thought, nor as bad a man as others thought...When I am honest about my own faults, weaknesses and sins I am usually much more gracious toward others.

Rex, Jesus did cleanse the Temple, but he also would not quench a smoking flax nor break a bruised reed.

Steve said...

Wade, this is so true. While a given dish may vary a bit from diner to diner, and preachers will take different views of the same text, nothing can be so mind-boggling as the view of a person in a positive circumstance surrounded by positive people as contrasted by the impression the same person can give when doing a totally worldly thing in an unremarkable place.

To see the potential in the person no matter where you behold him is a gift. To not complain about his acts of worldliness while waiting to see his positive action at a better time - that is a blessing.

Tom Parker said...

K. Michael Crowder:

Why do you even bother to blog on this site? You do not add anything of value.

greg.w.h said...


Another word for seeing potential--in addition to the word blessing that you used--is grace. I've consistently taught believers to put on "grace-colored glasses" in order to see fellow believers the way God does.

On the one hand, of course, the view through grace-colored glasses sees Jesus's sacrifice as sufficient for every person. On the other hand, the view through grace-colored glasses sees the believer as being the completed, Christ-conformed result that the Holy Spirit is working to achieve in them.

That doesn't mean they have arrived, and it certainly does not mean they should fail to be accountable to the body. And it isn't STRICTLY about potential but more about trusting God to finish the good work he has begun IN the other believer.

But I think the final thing that grace-colored glasses cause us to see is this: when we see the other person's failures, instead of condemning we reflect honestly and clearly on how the Holy Spirit has used our failures in order to be strength for us and strong through us.

Have you ever felt at a complete loss for how to deal with a specific situation AND THEN the right words just fall out of your mouth? That's this kind of grace in action...being what we could not possibly be without the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

When we come face-to-face with our own failings by gracefully allowing others to work through their own failings is when grace is especially blessed, because it allows us to love ourselves precisely the way we love our neighbors.

While Jesus intended the Second Great Commandment (love your neighbor as yourself) to be personal and to motivate us, it clearly--when it is actively working in a body of believers--is also reflexive and creates a network of faith that also provides a safety net for failure and for disaster. But only if we truly see each other the way God sees all of us.

Even KMC. ;)

Greg Harvey

Tom Parker said...


You are right he bothers me, but I do not think I am alone in that regard.

Anonymous said...

Wade, a good and positive thought. And thanks too to "greg-w.h.": I love your phrase "grace-colored glasses"!

John Fariss

greg.w.h said...

Thanks, John. The phrase is not original with me, though I don't know who to give credit for introducing it to me.


david b mclaughlin said...

Anonymous 01 October, 2007 16:53,
Don't know if you are a regular reader of this blog, but frankly, KMC has stomped most of our grace-colored glasses into pieces.

But aaahhh, 1984, it was a good year. I can hear the refrains of "Jump" in my mullet-brained memory. said...

Thank the Lord for IP's.


GeneMBridges said...

A couple of other things about Ishmael.

He is depicted as a "donkey of a man" (eg. stubborn), his hand against everyone, and with everyone's hand against him." In short, he would be stubborn and a man without peace with others in his lifetime.

Some would say that he was unsaved too. However, by way of reply, he, but not his descendents, were circumcised, which, in that era, was the sign of the covenant. In addition, Genesis records that at his death, "he was gathered to his people," a term generally used of those who were regarded as having died within the covenant, not as apostates.

Think on how that applies to some of the conflicting personalities in the SBC.

Wayne Smith said...

Wade and Gene,

This is what John Gill has to say about Ishmael's respect for his Father.

Gen 25:9 - And his sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah,.... Isaac, though the younger brother, is set first, because he was born of the lawful wife of Abraham, the free woman, whereas Ishmael was born of a concubine and a bondwoman; Isaac was heir not only to Abraham's temporal estate, but of the promise made concerning the Messiah, (not so Ishmael,) and was on all accounts the greater man. It appears from hence, that, though them had been a quarrel between Ishmael and Isaac, and the latter had been persecuted by the former, yet the difference was now made up, and they were reconciled, at least they agreed in this act of showing their last respect to their father; and that, though Ishmael had been expelled his father's house, yet he was not at any great distance from him, and there was a correspondence between him and his father; nor was he forgotten by him, as is clear from Gen_25:6; and he retained a filial affection for him; and Jarchi from hence concludes, that he was a penitent and a good man. The place where these two brothers buried their father was the cave of Machpelah:

In His Name