And the LORD said unto Abram, after that Lot was separated from him, Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward:
For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever.
And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered.
Arise, walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it; for I will give it unto thee.
Waiting for Issac
The passage from Genesis records the second time God promised to bless then Abram with a kingdom. God said his descendents would be as the dust. As the story progresses, we know that Sarai made arrangements to give Abram a child by her servant Hagar in order to help her husband's vision come to pass.
I used to have mixed feelings about the story of Ishmael and Issac, particularly as it relates to their mothers, Sarai and Hagar.
First, there's Hagar who was an Egyptian slave girl given to Abram (he wasn't Abraham yet) as hush money. Remember, Abram had passed of Sarai as his sister to the pharaoh who tried unsuccessfully to seduce her. Pharoh was so offended that he almost took this “good man’s” wife that he said…”take all this and just get out of here so I won’t be cursed.” Hagar was likely among the goodies.
Poor Hagar! She had to learn the customs of these foreigners. And ultimately, she was sent to the old man of the tribe, possibly without knowing what was going on, in order to get pregnant. Then, when she did do what was supposed to do, she was punished for having an attitude about doing well.
Then there’s Sarai, the beautiful elder wife of this very wealthy man. Sarai was the original “sexy senior citizen,” when we meet her, but she was also the barren first wife of a very rich man. By the standards of the time, Sarai was a failure. Sarai had to put up with this ungrateful little Egyptian girl who had the nerve to get cocky about doing what was assigned! You can almost hear Sarai thinking "She’s treating me badly AND IT WAS MY IDEA! I hate her."
What a mess! No wonder wisdom finally prevailed and we got rid of polygamy. Could you imagine?
But even through all this, God kept assuring Abram that he would be the father of many nations, and to prove it, God changes Abram’s name to Abraham…which literally means “Father or Chief of a multitude" God also changes Sarai’s name to Sarah or "princess", so she’d know how she plays in this arrangement.
With this personal guarantee from God even after Ishmael is born, it is still years before Issac shows up fulfilling God’s promise. And almost as soon as the promised child arrives, God lets Abraham and Sarah know that it is time to put Ishmael out.
I used to think that this was so cruel. Hagar and her son had no say in what had happened to them and now they were being thrown out of the camp. Hagar played her part as directed in the plan that “seemed like a good idea at the time.” She did what her mistress told her to do and now she was going to be punished…banned from her new home and her child’s father.
But I understand now that Ishmael had to go. Ishmael represented those actions in our lives born out of impatience and lack of faith. They end up being distractions from the perfect will of God.
If Ishmael had stayed, Abraham’s natural pride for his first-born son would have distracted Abraham from the glory of God’s promised child. He would have put his energy into Ishmael, and loss sight of Issac. In our own lives, those things we aquired outside of our relationship to God can often block out our own Issac, Jesus.
Child of God, there are still Ishmael's in the camp. They are like silk flowers that look right, but they don't grow and they don't produce fruit.
Maybe your Ishmael is a relationship that brings you no joy…no peace…you thought it was love, but love is patient, kind, longsuffering and all you're getting out of it is the longsuffering part. There is no peace, no joy, nothing positive. It’s the wrong relationship. Put Ishmael out and embrace Issac.
Maybe your Ishmael is a job you took because the money was good. Now you get up every morning hating what lies ahead. We’re supposed to be salt and light in our walk, but when you get to that job you’re more like stuff and vinegar. You can’t witness because “you hate those people.” You knew deep inside that you weren’t supposed to take that job. Put Ishmael out, and embrace Issac.
Perhaps you're sitting under a ministry with a leadership you don’t trust, a vision you can’t see and you’re starving spiritually because you haven’t been fed in years. No growth means no fruit. Put Ishmael out and focus on Issac.
You know every plot line on every show on tv between 6 PM and 11 PM. You blow up your TiVo because you try to record Mad Men and True Blood every week, but you wonder why you can’t seem to get a breakthrough when you pray. You're distracted. Put Ishmael out and focus on Issac.
We have our Issac! He is here…He is Christ Jesus…He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. No man comes to the Father except by Him. Your Ishmael will only keep you from focusing on Jesus…the promised One…the perfect One. God has a perfect will for each of us, in all areas of our lives – but we won’t find it until we fully trust and fully obey and take God at his word.
That is, they which are the childen of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promis are counted for the seed.
Resist feeding the “flesh children”, those ideas birthed outside of your relationship with God. Flesh can only produce more flesh. God is Spirit and Spirit produces Spirit.
Call out your Ishmaels. If your Ishmaels involve other people, consider that you might be their Ishmael.
When you put your Ishmaels out, you can focus on the Perfect One and He brings all of the promises and blessings of God. Can your Ishmael really top that?
Are you really so committed to that idea…that person…that activity that it means more to you than your eternal life? It means more to you than being found blameless before God?
Behold, the Lamb who takes away the sins of the world.
Don’t miss Issac for Ishmael.
-Sis. Stephanie Robinson
Lifeline is the evangelistic ministry of Fellowship Church in Jonesboro , GA.
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455 HWY 138 Suite C
Jonesboro, GA 30236
Alton Watkins, Pastor