November 27, 2017
(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)
We are looking at the Two sons of Abraham, Ishmael and Isaac. Ishmael, we saw in the last blog, was the child who was born as a result of Abraham and Sarah not trusting God and trying themselves to bring about the LORD’s promise of an heir produced from their own bodies! (See Genesis 15: 4; 17:16; 18:10). Our featured Scripture is from Galatians 4:22, 23, 28, and 31 – part of Saint Paul’s commentary on the incident:
…Abraham had two sons; the one by a bondwoman, the other by a
freewoman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born according
to the flesh, and he of the freewoman through promise….Now we,
brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise….we are not children
of the bondwoman but of the free.
The bondwoman is Hagar, Sarah’s servant. The freewoman is Sarah herself. God had been promising Abraham a son for years! (See Genesis 12:2; 13:15, 16; 15:4, 18; 17:6-8). The promises started when he was 75 years old (see Genesis 12:4). Ten years later, God had still not fulfilled His promise to the old man, now at least 85 years old! (See Genesis 16:16). While that seems a long time to wait for a divine prophecy to be fulfilled, it is but a blink of an eye to our eternal God! Sarah’s pre-conversion name was Sarai (see Genesis 17:15) which means “dominative”. She was a forceful woman! And she ‘forced’ her plan for producing an heir upon her husband! “ See now, the LORD has restrained me from bearing children. Please go into my maid; perhaps I shall obtain children by her.” (Genesis 16:2). Ishmael was the result – and (as we saw in the last blog) Ishmael was trouble!
Why did God wait another 14 years for Sarah to become pregnant? (See Genesis 21:5). He wanted this to be a miracle that no one could deny was from His hand! Paul says it this way in Romans 4:16 through 21:
…Abraham…contrary to hope, in hope believed, so that he became the
father of many nations, according to what was spoken, “So shall your
descendants be.” And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his
own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and
the deadness of Sarah’s womb. He did not waver at the promise of
God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to
God, and being bully convinced that what He had promised He was
also able to perform.
But it took Abraham years to come to this firm faith! Do not beat yourself up over your faith that seems weak at times. You must grow your faith! You do this through reading, studying, even memorizing the Scripture! For it says in Romans 10:17, “…faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Take out the “…by hearing, and hearing…” (in Paul’s day many were illiterate, and there was much oral teaching) and you have the core of the truth: “…faith comes…by the word of God.”
Isaac was the “…child…of promise.” (Galatians 4:28). Good things came from this heir of Abraham!
• Genesis 21:12 – “…in Isaac your seed shall be called.” (See also Hebrews 11:18). The ultimate heir in the line of descent from Abraham through Isaac is, of course, Jesus Christ – and through Him all true believers! Paul says the same in Romans 9:6 through 8, and 24:
…they are not…all children because they are the seed of Abraham; but
“in Isaac your seed shall be called.” That is, those who are the children
of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the
promise are counted as the seed…not of the Jews only, but also of the
• We have a beautiful picture of substitutionary sacrifice when the father Abraham willingly offered the son Isaac on Mount Moriah (see Genesis 22:1-13). The substitution was the ram caught in a thicket by its horns. The fulfillment of this shadow prophecy is in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Jesus took our place – substituting Himself as the sinner (you and me), to take our eternal punishment on the cross, so we could live!
• It was Isaac who inherited what is called ‘the Abrahamic Covenent’ (see Genesis 12:1-3; 17:8; 26:3-5), God’s promise of blessings, land, and descendants!
The following is a brief contrast between “…he who was of the bondwoman [who] was born according to the flesh, and he of the freewoman [who was] through promise.” (Galatians 4:23):
✡ Ishmael was born according to the flesh! His conception was the result of Abraham and Sarah’s attempt to fulfill God’s promise by their own means. We have seen that it did not work out! Isaac, on the other hand, was through promise – his parents relying on God totally, because there was no way a couple of that age (Abraham at 100 and Sarah at 90) could ever have a baby!
✡ Ishmael is said to be born according to the flesh but Isaac through promise. Paul discusses these to concepts in Romans 8:5 through 8 (Literal Translation of the Holy Bible). In this passage, he refers to promise as the things of the Holy Spirit :
For the ones that are according to flesh mind the things of the flesh.
And the ones according to Spirit mind the things of the Spirit. For the
mind of the flesh is death, but the mind of the Spirit is life and peace;
because the mind of the flesh is enmity towards God; for it is not being
subjected to the Law of God, for neither can it be. And those being in
the flesh are not able to please God.
The contrast is stark when we compare the works of the flesh with the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:16 tlhrough 23. Study these two lists and see for yourself.
What is the ultimate truth we can learn from Ishmael and Isaac?
• We must follow the path of faith as did Abraham and Sarah when Isaac was born! For it is only through faith that we sinners become the children of God! (See John 1:12; Ephesians 2:8, 9; I John 5:11-13).
• We must then live faithfully, for as we are told multiple times, “The just shall live by faith.” (Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11; Hebrews 10:38 – see Habakkuk 2:4). As we are reminded in Galatians 3:3, “Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect in the flesh? ”
The Christian life is all by faith! Remember this, and live it out – for the glory of God!