ADVERTISING
 
Monday, December 9   Sign in or Register
 
Evangelical Focus
 

 
 
 
FOLLOW US ON
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Google +
  • Instagram
  • Soundcloud
 

Newsletter
Newsletter, sign up to receive all our News by email.
 
 

POLL
Society
Should Christians join social protests?



SEE MORE POLLS
 

 
TOP 10 MOST VIEWED



Michael Gowen
1
 

Ishmael – Homelessness

I was reminded of Ishmael when recently I saw a homeless teenage boy being interviewed on TV. He explained that he was on the streets because his step-father had thrown him out of the house.

FAITHFUL UNDER PRESSURE AUTHOR Michael Gowen 27 FEBRUARY 2016 14:05 h GMT+1
homelessness, rain, window, city, quality Photo: Vyacheslav Beda (Unsplash, CC)

The issue of homelessness is something that we cannot avoid if ever we venture into a major city. All over the place we see homeless people in the most tragic circumstances: some trying to sleep in a doorway with their few worldly possessions in carrier bags around them, maybe with a scrawny dog to guard them; some clearly under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or both, even early in the morning; some reduced to begging from passers-by; some being constantly moved on by the police.



Where I used to live, in Brussels, it was especially difficult. We knew that some of the beggars from Eastern Europe were being controlled by criminal gangs, who dropped them off in the morning at their begging stations from sleek Mercedes cars. We knew that some of the young children with their mothers were deliberately being drugged to elicit sympathy and donations. We knew that some people chose to live as homeless because they liked the sense of independence that it gave them. And we knew also that some were homeless simply through the tragedy of personal misfortune. But how to tell which of these applies to any particular person whom we come across?



Encountering homeless people on the street is really hard for me. I know that if Jesus had been passing by them he would have known exactly what to do; but I don’t seem to get guidance from him very often, and mostly I really don't know what to do. Charitable organisations working with the homeless tell us very definitely not to give them money, as this will not help them in the long term.



Sometimes I offer them food; and on one occasion recently in Brussels I had the most wonderful experience. A man from Bulgaria who was begging eagerly took up my offer of some food from the nearby sandwich bar. I asked him to order whatever he wanted; the sandwich was made up and he chose a drink. Then when I asked how much it came to, the assistants said, “No, there is no need to pay for this”; and when I insisted on paying, they remained quite insistent. I was deeply touched by this small yet significant display of human kindness.



What does all this have to do with Ishmael? I was reminded of him when recently I saw a homeless teenage boy being interviewed on TV; he explained that he was on the streets because his step-father had thrown him out of the house. That is exactly what happened to Ishmael: he and his mother were thrown out of the family home by his father at the instigation of his step-mother, Sarah – you can read about it in Genesis 21. Sarah saw him playing with her own son Isaac (the Hebrew word can mean either that they were playing together or he was mocking him), and something in her snapped. That boy and his mother have to go, she told her husband Abraham; and despite his misgivings, he sent them away, encouraged by God that this was the right thing to do and that he would look after them.



So off they went, a mother and her 15-year-old son, into the desert – the prospects for them were not good, especially in that male-dominated society. Yet God was as good as his word – as he always is. When they were ready to give up and die, he showed them a well of water, and that kept them alive. After that we know relatively little about Ishmael's life. He grew up to manhood, became an archer, married (Genesis 21:20-21), had 12 sons who were each tribal rulers, helped his half-brother Isaac with their father Abraham’s funeral, and died at the age of 137 (Genesis 25).



We are not told in the Bible whether Ishmael was a religious person. He was certainly not included in the covenant that God made with Abraham, but maybe his teenage experience of being miraculously provided for by God left a lasting impression on him. What we do know is that “God was with the boy as he grew up” (Genesis 21:20) and that he fulfilled the promise given to his mother, “I will so increase your descendants that they will be too numerous to count” (Genesis 16:10) – and that is exactly what has happened, 4,000 years later; for it is Ishmael who is the ancestor of many of the Arab peoples in the Middle East today.



So, next time you encounter a homeless person, remember that God has good purposes and plans for his or her life, just as he did for homeless Ishmael. That realisation may prompt you to speak to them, or to offer them some food, or maybe just to say a prayer for them, that God will protect them from adverse circumstances and provide for them, that he will help them to find the good purposes that he has for their life.


 

 


1
COMMENTS

    If you want to comment, or

 

Dennis
17/03/2016
19:45 h
1
 
"We are not told in the Bible whether Ishmael was a religious person. He was certainly not included in the covenant that God made with Abraham..." But certainly Ishmael had been circumcised along with Abraham and all the other males in the camp . Genesis 17:9-14 & 23-27. Doesn't that make him and his descendants children of the covenant? And God also promised that He would bless all nations through Abraham!
 



 
 
YOUR ARE AT: - - - Ishmael – Homelessness
 
ADVERTISING
 
 
AUDIOS Audios
 
Julia Doxat-Purser: 25 years of EEA office in Brussels Julia Doxat-Purser: 25 years of EEA office in Brussels

An interview with the socio-political representative of the European Evangelical Alliance about how evangelical Christians work at the heart of the European Union.

 
Ruth Valerio: A lifestyle that cares about creation Ruth Valerio: A lifestyle that cares about creation

Are Christians called to make a difference in environmental care? What has creation care to do with "loving our neighbours"? An interview with the Global Advocacy and Influencing Director of Tearfund.

 
Lars Dahle: Nominal Christianity, a mission field for the church Lars Dahle: Nominal Christianity, a mission field for the church

An interview with Lars Dahle, of the Steering Committee of the Lausanne Movement Global Consultation on Nominal Christianity held in Rome.

 
Testimony: Wildfires near Athens Testimony: Wildfires near Athens

Nico Spies, a Christian worker in Athens, gives details about the wildfires in Greece.

 
PICTURES Pictures
 
Min19: Childhood, family and the church Min19: Childhood, family and the church

The first evangelical congress on childhood and family was held in Madrid. Pictures of the event, November 1-2.

 
IFES World Assembly: ‘Messengers of Hope’ IFES World Assembly: ‘Messengers of Hope’

Students, graduates and staff of the global evangelical student movement reflected together on how the books of Luke and Acts apply to today's universities.

 
Christians at work - the missing link in fulfilling the Great Commission Christians at work - the missing link in fulfilling the Great Commission

Photos of the Lausanne Movement Global Workplace Forum, celebrated in Manila.

 
European Freedom Network Bridge 2019 conference European Freedom Network Bridge 2019 conference

Images of the fifth EFN gathering. Experts, activists, counsellors and church leaders met in Pescara, Italy.

 
VIDEO Video
 
World Evangelical Alliance General Assembly highlights World Evangelical Alliance General Assembly highlights

The World Evangelical Alliance's General Assembly 2019 in Jakarta, Indonesia, brought together 800 evangelicals from 92 countries to pray, worship and cast vision for the new decade of holistic discipleship.

 
What defines a godly leader? What defines a godly leader?

Adrian Reynolds, Associate National Director for the Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches (FIEC), explains how a godly leader should be.

 
Kanye West sings to Jesus with inmates Kanye West sings to Jesus with inmates

The hip-hop artist and his gospel choir performed ‘Jesus Is King’ songs in a Houston prison. Images of the Harris County Sheriff's Office.

 
How can we encourage believers to serve Jesus with us? How can we encourage believers to serve Jesus with us?

“It is not just pastors who do ministry. When the saints are doing the ministry too, the Body of Christ is build up and grows towards maturity in the faith”, says Greg Ogden, Chairman Global Discipleship Initiative.

 
 
Follow us on Soundcloud
Follow us on YouTube
 
 
WE RECOMMEND
 
PARTNERS
 

 
AEE
EVANGELICAL FOCUS belongs to Areópago Protestante, linked to the Spanish Evangelical Alliance (AEE). AEE is member of the European
Evangelical Alliance and World Evangelical Alliance.
 

Opinions expressed are those of their respective contributors and do not necessarily represent the views of Evangelical Focus.