Go forth from your country, and from your relatives and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you; and I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great. … And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.
–Genesis 12:1-3

What is the origin of Islam? Contrary to what you may think, Islam did not originate 1,400 years ago with Muhammad. Its beginning was 4,000 years ago with a man named Abram (later Abraham). We find the story in Genesis 12. Abraham was a wealthy man who lived in Ur of the Chaldees, in modern Iraq. God appeared to Abraham and said, “Go forth from your country, and from your relatives and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you; and I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great. … And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed” (Genesis 12:1-3).

There are three elements in God’s promise to Abraham. First, God promised Abraham and his descendants a land. In Genesis 15, God outlines the borders of the land that would belong to Abraham’s descendants forever. Second, God promised a seed. He told Abraham that he would be the father of people as innumerable as the stars in the sky. Third, God promised a blessing. He was referring to the fact that one of Abraham’s descendants would be the Savior of the world.

Who are the descendants of Abraham who receive this blessing? That’s the key question. Abraham was 75 years old when God made this promise. Ten years later, he finally settled in the land. The only problem was, he had no descendants. Abraham and his wife thought, “If we are going to have a great nation, I guess we need to help God out.” So Abraham and Sarah concocted a plan whereby Abraham had sexual relations with Sarah’s handmaid, Hagar. Hagar became pregnant, but Sarah kicked her out, into the desert. God appeared to Hagar in the desert and gave her two promises. He said, “I will greatly multiply your descendants” (Genesis 16:10). Then He said, “You will bear a son; and you shall call his name Ishmael” (v. 11). In verse 12, God makes this prophecy about Ishmael: “He will be a wild donkey of a man.” That means he will be fiercely independent. “His hand will be against everyone, and everyone’s hand will be against him.” That is, he will be in conflict with everyone around him. “And he will live to the east of all his brothers.” God said that the descendants of Ishmael (the Arabs) would live to the east of the descendants of Isaac (the Jews), who would dwell in the land God gave to Abraham.

Thirteen years later, God appeared again to Abraham. He said, in essence, “Remember My promise that I am going to make you a great nation?” Abraham blurted out, “Oh that Ishmael might live before You!” But God said, ‘No, but Sarah your wife will bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; and I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him’” (Genesis 17:18-19). God was very clear: the promise He made to Abraham was going to be fulfilled through Isaac, not Ishmael.

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Today’s devotion is excerpted from “The Rise of Radical Islam” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2015.

Scripture quotations are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.