And the Angel of the Lord said to her: “Behold, you are with child, and you shall bear a son. You shall call his name Ishmael, because the Lord has heard your affliction.” (Genesis 16:11)
Within the name Ishmael is the word for “hearing” and the word for “God” — El. Though she came from a presumably idolatrous background, God heard her affliction. It is not recorded if she called out to God to petition Him for help but nevertheless He heard and He responded to her.
Sometimes we forget that the God of Israel is the God of all. Yes, He called Israel to be a special, set apart people — His chosen — but they were chosen to set an example for all men. They were to be separate from the nations in how they lived their lives but always with the notion that they were to lead the nations to the one and only God. In other words, they were called, not just to be different, but to make a difference in the lives of others.
Through the prophet Isaiah, God prophesied of a time when others beside the sons of Jacob would come and worship in His house.
Also the sons of the foreigner who join themselves to the Lord, to serve Him, and to love the name of the Lord, to be His servants—everyone who keeps from defiling the Sabbath, and holds fast My covenant—even them I will bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on My altar; for My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations. The Lord God, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, says, “Yet I will gather to him others besides those who are gathered to him.” (Isaiah 56:6-8)
It is comforting to know that One who sees all, hears all and is responsive to the needs of all according to His purpose. As His people, our mission is to live life in such a way that people are drawn to Him by the fruit we produce. In fact, it might be that our interaction with those we encounter is an answer to their prayers. Being the Light He has called us to be might be the way He demonstrates to them that He has heard their prayer and is responding to their affliction. So remember the words of Paul:
“Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.” (Colossians 4:5-6)
Blessings and Shalom,