When Life is Unfair

If we could unfold the years packed into the first eighteen verses of Genesis 25 I wonder what we would find. Joy, pain, laughter, heartbreak… It’s easy to just read over names we can’t pronounce with little thought to the stories behind them.


Devotional Scripture: Genesis 25:1-18
Key Verse: “But you are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and did not forsake them.” Nehemiah 9:17b


But verse 2 lists six more sons born to Abraham by a wife named Keturah. A wife he likely took after Sarah’s passing. I’m confident Abraham enjoyed his children. Watching them grow. play. laugh. learn. It’s a joy for any parent. But in the end…he sent them away. Away from his son Isaac. Was there jealousy? hurt? confusion? Did they know it would be that way?

Maybe he had a couple adventurous sons, eager to see the world outside camp Abraham. But was there a son or two who dreaded it? One particularly close to his mother? One who had always longed to be the center of his father’s affection? Yet felt slided. Wondering what kind of God would pick and choose and send him away?

Did Keturah care? Surely she cared. How could a mother not care! These were her children. Gone. Probably never to be seen again. Did she get upset with Abraham or did she understand? Did she think it unfair? Or did she expect it? Did it taint her view of God? Presuming Him to be a God uninterested in her and her children. Ever felt that way? As though God cares little for you. Little for your feelings and dreams and desires.

Yet God blessed her children and multiplied them into nations just as He promised Abraham. One such nation being the Midianites (from Abraham’s son Midian). We see them pop up several times in Scripture. Joseph was sold to Midianite slave traders. Moses stayed with a Midianite priest when he fled Egypt. And married one of his daughters.

Years later certain Midianites seduced the Israelites into worshiping Baal (Num. 25). So God commanded Moses to defeat them in battle. Then God used the Midianites to oppress Israel for seven years (Jdg. 6:1). Until Gideon finally defeated them.

They were enemies. Clearly. Two nations with the same father. One chosen by God and one not. No wonder there was hostility. But God’s choice of Isaac over Midian or Israel over the Midianites was not because he’s mean or uncaring. But for their benefit. For our benefit. To make way for the Messiah. A Savior who could bring salvation to all the nations.

Isaiah 60 describes the future glory of Israel. When Christ will reign from Jerusalem. It describes those who will come and be welcomed into the city. Look who verse 6 specifically mentions, “A multitude of camels shall cover you, the young camels of Midian and Ephah; all those from Sheba shall come. They shall bring…good news, the praises of the LORD.” (Is. 60:6). Did you catch it? God specifically mentions Midian entering into the New Jerusalem. Along with his son Ephah and one of his nephew’s, Sheba. (All listed in Genesis 25) God didn’t reject them…he made a way for them! A way for them to come home.

Now look who’s listed in verse 7, “All the flocks of Kedar shall be gathered to you; the rams of Nebaioth shall minister to you; they shall come up with acceptance on my altar…” (Is. 60:7). Nebaioth and Kedar are the first two sons of Ishmael! (Also listed in Genesis 25) They too are welcome in Jerusalem. Welcome in the city of God. Accepted at his altar! God did not reject them, though it may have felt that way. And seemed them way. He was simply making a way for them to come home…forever.

Oh how we need to take this to heart. Letting it penetrate the dark corners of doubt and frustration that tend to surface when life gets a bit unfair. When it feels as though God’s forgotten about us. Or handed us the short end of the stick. Maybe it’s actually for our benefit. Or for the benefit of someone we love. Who may see the power of God working in and through us. And decide to come home. Home to a Father waiting to forgive. Waiting to bless every soul who seeks Him.

Soak it in. Soak in every word. Because Genesis 25 isn’t just a boring genealogy. It’s a record of God’s abundant faithfulness. Deeply seeded in who He is. “A God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love” (Neh. 9:17).

If the sons of Midian and Ephah who seduced the Israelites to hore after other gods;  who oppressed God’s people; and made themselves enemies of the LORD can find forgiveness and reconciliation and be welcomed into the New Jerusalem, then so can we. If the sons of Ishmael, the Arab nations, who have persecuted their brothers for thousands of years can be accepted at the altar, then so can we. There’s no sin God can’t forgive. No sin he can’t wipe clean with the precious blood of Jesus.

Christ came to save sinners, not saints. (So we need not pretend to be one.)

His blood is satisfaction for even the most vile wickedness. We simply must turn to Him. “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and he will draw near to you…” (James 4:6-8).

For He is faithful to his word. Just as he was to Abraham. To make him “the father of a multitude of nations” (Gen. 17:5). To bless Ishmael and make him fruitful, the father of twelve princes (Gen. 17:20). To give Abraham long life and peace at his passing (Gen. 15:15). Exactly as recorded in Genesis 25.

And he’s still faithful today. Faithful to his word. Faithful to his children. Faithful to one day…take us home.

Contemplate and Evaluate:

  1. Have you found forgiveness and reconciliation in Christ? If not, I beg you to do so today.
  2. Do you believe God is faithful to you? Or does it feel as though He is faithful to everyone but you?
  3. What “unfair” situation might God be using in your life to display his power and glory and majesty? Have you let him?

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2 thoughts on “When Life is Unfair

  1. Such a relatable & interesting way to look at the stories behind those names. I really like the reminder that we need not pretend we’re saints. I often wonder how He can be so merciful. Thanks as always for your hard work on these “weeklies”!

    Liked by 1 person

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