Isaac grew and sometime between the age of three and five years old he was fully weaned. This was an important and joyous occasion because a child which reached this age was far more likely to survive to adulthood. The family celebrated this event with a great feast. But there was trouble brewing just under the surface. (Genesis 21:8)
Ishmael, who by now was a young man between sixteen and eighteen years old, would not have seen this as a reason to celebrate. Isaac’s survival meant he would not receive Abraham’s fortune or God’s covenant blessings. So Ishmael began to “mock”- i.e. persecute Isaac.
But as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so it is now also. (Galatians 4:29)
Sarah understood this to be more than just childish play. She realized as long as Ishmael was around, he would be a threat to Isaac inheriting the promise and blessings of God. She suggested that Abraham “get rid of that slave woman.” I find it interesting to note Hagar’s status in the past twenty years. She began as a handmaid to Sarah. Then she was promoted to be Abraham’s second wife. Once the promised seed Isaac was born, Sarah called her a “slave.” How we view things differently when God’s promises come to pass in our life. How differently we talk when we want freedom for ourselves and our children. If we would just view and speak the way God speaks before the promise comes to pass.
Getting the Fraudulent Heir out of Their Hair
This was a most difficult situation. Ishmael was still Abraham’s son. For the last sixteen years he has fathered this boy and loved him. How could Abraham just toss Ishmael out? Wouldn’t this be considered child abuse?
Understand, the more critical the issues are, the more critical our obedience. I could literally spend a whole day talking about the ramifications of the decision Abraham made by sending Hagar and Ishmael away. Some have even suggested that Abraham should have sacrificed Ishmael for the future good of the world and Middle East Peace. But this is man’s solution, not the Lord’s.
The real issue here was who would be the heir according to the Promise of God? God made it clear many years earlier that Isaac was the ONLY child He would receive. Why could only Isaac be the heir? Was God being unfair or hard nosed by not receiving Ishmael? No, Isaac had to be the heir because this was God’s original word. (By the way… When you have to use the word “orginal” and “God’s word” in the same sentence, something is wrong!) If Abraham’s heir was from any other woman, God’s word would be false and He would be a liar.
What should Abraham and Sarah do? They have birthed the Promised Child, but in the process have also birthed Ishmael. Should they allow God’s Promised Child to grow up as rivals in the same home with the fraudulent heir? Should they simply let Isaac fight it out with Ishmael. No, Sarah had a word from the Lord. “Hagar and Ishmael must go!”
Let me chase a rabbit for just a moment. Gentlemen….use your spouse’s discernment. What we cannot see due to our proximity to the problem, our wives can easily discern. Listen, your wife was not given to you by God to torture you. No, God has blessed you with a helper. This is especially true in the areas of discernment. It is high time you use her gifting.
At some point-in-time we have to give back to God all our sins, errors, and mistakes. Most of these are birthed by our own hands. Even though we did it doesn’t mean it has to remain this way.
Abraham did exactly what the Lord told him to do and sent Hagar and Ishmael walking. But don’t think for a moment God had abandoned Hagar and Ishmael. This was the God’s best for both camps. Now God could provide Ishmael the one thing Abraham could not give him, legitimacy. In Abraham’s world Isaac must be God’s chosen heir.
God cared deeply for Ishmael. He had previously told Hagar He would take care of them and we learn later that is exactly what the Lord did.
All those who choose to walk in the promises of the Lord must follow the same process as Abraham and Sarah. What “fleshly impediments” have we left uncrucified which are now challenging God’s real or legitimate work in our life?
Paul likens the removal of Ishmael with the removal of the flesh. (Galatians 4-5) Why must the “flesh” be removed? Like Ishmael, the flesh challenges, mocks, and ultimately persecutes the Lord’s spiritual work in our life. If you are going to walk in the Spirit and Power of God, then you must remove the impediments to the Spirit of God. These impediments are our flesh, which belong to our old nature. That which is fleshly can never inherit the promises of God. The Ishmael in you must go!
Allow the Lord through His Holy Spirit to point out to you what things you have allowed to grow in your flesh. Remember, it is these very things which choke the real legitimate work God has desired to accomplish in you. The flesh rivals God’s promises to us. This is one of the main reasons why many men and women of God miss their ultimate calling in life. They have yet to ask the Holy Spirit to examine them for needless fleshly growths. If you are sitting there today and you want to move higher in your walk than ever before… this is the move you need to make.