My last post ended with God’s conversation with Abraham ending and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah set in motion. Our next stop along the journey of Prayer will be the blessed event of the arrival of the long promised son, Isaac. This son of promise was promised by God 30 years earlier. However, before God could fulfill His promise, Sarai and Abram took matters into their own hands and tried to “help” God along. This resulted in the birth of the son Ishmael (before God changed their names to Sarah and Abraham – see Prayer – Abraham and Sarah post). This son was born of an Egyptian maidservant of Sarai’s and was not the promised son. This is a quote from that post, but I encourage you to read the entire post, if you have not been following the story.
“They did not wait for God’s plan to unfold because of their unbelief that with God all things are possible! They spent 13 long years in bitterness and misery because of their unwillingness to trust God’s plan. Because of their actions, a child named Ishmael, was born of Hagar, the maidservant, and Abram. As I said yesterday, this child grew to be the Father of the Arab nation, who has been a thorn in the side of Israel, to this day! These 13 years were spent out of the presence of God and His grace and mercy. The baby Ishmael grows to be a teenager and when he was 13 years old things began to change. However, I believe that things were changing over the course of these 13 years but things really changed when he was 13.”
So let’s begin this post with the scripture that introduces us to the “Promised Son”.
And the Lord visited Sarah as He had said, and the Lord did for Sarah as He had spoken. 2 For Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him. 3 And Abraham called the name of his son who was born to him—whom Sarah bore to him—Isaac. 4 Then Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him. 5 Now Abraham was one hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. 6 And Sarah said, “God has made me laugh, and all who hear will laugh with me.” 7 She also said, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? For I have borne him a son in his old age.”
This was definitely a blessed event. What a miracle has occurred! God made it physically possible for this 90 year old woman and this 100 year old man to have a baby. Something that is beyond man, God can do! Always!
How many times do we doubt God’s power in our lives? God can make anything happen if it is His will. God loved Abraham and Sarah and gave them this wonderful promised son and through Isaac many will be born and inhabit the land that had been promised to Abraham many, many years earlier.
As young Isaac grew and was weaned they had a feast to celebrate. This is a day of gladness and excitement throughout the camp. As the scripture goes, as the festive occasion is going on, Sarah glances over and happens to see Ishmael, who is 14 years old now, and Isaac. The young lad of 14 is playing with his new half-brother. Sarah realizes that the two cannot possibly co-exist. Isaac is the promised son and the Covenant is to be fulfilled through him and not Ishmael. As Sarah sees this unfolding, she can see that there could be real trouble. She knows what God has promised and now she believes the two shall not dwell together any longer. The maidservant, Hagar, the mother of Ishmael, and Ishmael must leave the camp. Sarah tells Abraham that they must leave and this is very disturbing to Abraham – rightfully so… however, God speaks to Abraham. Here is the scripture.
12 But God said to Abraham, “Do not let it be displeasing in your sight because of the lad or because of your bondwoman. Whatever Sarah has said to you, listen to her voice; for in Isaac your seed shall be called. 13 Yet I will also make a nation of the son of the bondwoman, because he is your seed.”
14 So Abraham rose early in the morning, and took bread and a skin of water; and putting it on her shoulder, he gave it and the boy to Hagar, and sent her away. Then she departed and wandered in the Wilderness of Beersheba.
Now, let’s stop here and think about this situation. Here is Abraham at 100 years old and Sarah at 90. Abraham has a 14 year old son that he had with his wife’s maidservant and now he has a brand new baby – Isaac. Abraham loves them both. However, Ishmael is a product of his flesh, when he allowed himself to be pulled into the “helping God” story. This is of the flesh no matter how you slice it. Isaac, on the other hand, is of the Spirit. He is the product of years of waiting and praying and much changing in both Sarah and Abraham’s life. They softened over time and became more pliable by God. God waited until it was well past the time of child bearing years for both of them to make sure they understood it was of God and not man.
The same goes in our lives, we try to “help” God sometimes and it becomes an effort born of the flesh and not of the Spirit. When we walk and talk with God daily and are in close communion with Him regularly, we know how we must walk, what we must say and which direction to put our feet in. That is walking “in the Spirit”. When we go off on our own and do what we want, say what we want to say, and go where we want to go without talking to God about any of it, then that becomes walking “in the flesh”. I have walked in the flesh before, for years, and I tell you one thing, walking in the Spirit is a much sweeter place.
Another scripture that references Ishmael being of the flesh and Isaac being of the Spirit is this:
22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman. 23 But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, while the son of the free woman was born through promise. 2
The next thing to look at is the need for Ishmael to go! You say, oh how terrible that is to cast out this woman and her child into the wilderness. It had to be a very, very hard thing for Abraham to do. He loved Ishmael greatly, I feel certain. However, he was born of the flesh and had no place in the lives of those walking in the Spirit.
When we are new Christians, there are many things in our lives that change. Some things seem to change overnight (i.e., quit smoking, quit drinking, quit carousing, etc.) and other things seem to linger for years. God allows things to remain and others he takes the desire for them away totally. I for one, when I re-dedicated my life totally to God, was smoking 1-1 ½ packs of cigarettes a day. God spoke to me one night while I was praying and said “Leah, you are not being the example I need you to be with your smoking.” I stopped that very moment and never wanted another one. That has been 24 years ago November 1, 2014. Praise God! Other things didn’t leave so fast. Things born of the flesh are hard to let go of sometimes – most of the time. However, we reach a point in our walk with God when we must let go of things that were of the flesh so we can grow in the Spirit. God doesn’t promise an easy time always, but He does promise that it will be well worth every bit of the effort!
God was serious about Ishmael. For the journey that Abraham, Sarah and now Isaac was on with God to progress, Ishmael must go. Now. God is serious about you too! If you want to grow in the Spirit, you must cast out the Ishmaels that linger in your life.
All of us have Ishmaels in our lives. Things (or people) we don’t want to let go of. Things that we have, or things that we have done, and continue to do or ideas that we have had for many years. Or places we have gone for many years. I know this first hand. I also know that God’s love and plan is perfect and if you let them go and trust God, He will replace them with Isaacs – laughter, goodness, happiness, fulfillment, a deeper relationship with Him. God is a good God that loves you so much. Talk to God today. He is waiting to hear from you. He calls you His beloved.
The Song – Voice of Truth – Casting Crowns