FIRST ISHMAEL, THEN ISAAC
Many of us, like Abram, long to hear the voice of God and the specific word He has for our life. However, many of us also make the same mistakes Abram, later called Abraham, did while waiting for the Father to fulfil His promise to us. Being creatures of the flesh, we get tired of waiting and take shortcuts or try to apply a different standard or understanding to the word God has given us, often resulting in additional problems. Somewhere in between the promise and the fulfilment comes the waiting period where God tries our heart. Long before Isaac (promise), comes Ishmael (fleshly substitute).
Our Nature Changed
In changing our carnal nature, the Lord sometimes gives us a promise to hold onto, a direct word of prophecy. This is what happened with Abram. God told Abram to leave all that he knew and go to "a land that I will show you" (Gen. 12:1). He went on to say He would "bless him and make him a great nation". So at the age of 75, Abram obeyed God, took all that he had and departed for Canaan. The Lord again affirmed His word to Abram and made covenant with him as Abram offered a sacrifice (Gen. 15:8-10). These actions were the preliminary steps to Abram's conversion. They mirror the radical changes we sometimes go through in our walk with the Lord. He "calls" us and tells us to depart from "what we knew" and go to somewhere "He will show us". We know nothing of the kingdom of God when we are initially saved, so our great adventure now starts. So it was with Abram. As the Father makes "covenant" in the sacrifice, we see the "shadow" of Jesus and His sacrifice on the cross, a work of grace that only He alone can do (Gen. 15:17-21). Some 24 years later, Abram's name was changed to Abraham, when all the strength of his flesh had been exhausted.
In Due Season
In the 24 year "waiting period", Abram yielded to the suggestion of his wife and went unto her handmaiden, Hagar, which bore him Ishmael. Ishmael's birth was the human reasoning and timetable we sometimes measure against the Lord's promises. How many times do we hear His voice and know His word, only to "grow weary" in well-doing and decide to take shortcuts, thinking somehow we must have misunderstood what He said? Doesn't the word say "we will reap, IN DUE SEASON, if we faint not"? Isn't the "vision for an appointed time"? Aren't we instructed to "wait for it, it will not tarry"? Yet, how many times do we give up just about the time God is ready to move? The "spirit of Ishmael" urges us to take shortcuts, to give up on God, or worse, pervert His method by taking an alternative course to what we believe is the end result, only to find out the the promise is not with the child of the "bondwoman", but with the "seed of promise".
Cast out the Bondwoman
The Holy Spirit of God is urging the body of Christ to "lay aside every weight that so easily besets us" and "cast out the bondwoman and her son". By this I refer to the "spirit of compromise", the human reasoning to the things of God that prevent us from inheriting all that He has for us. God is "not a man that He should lie". His promises are faithful and true, but will only be given to those who walk after His ways, keep His commandments and "walk after the Spirit". Like Abraham, we must be circumcised, but not after the flesh but after the Spirit of God. Paul mentions the "circumcision of the heart", our covenant with God. We must hold onto Him with all of our strength and not waiver from what He has told us and shown us.
While waiting upon the Lord, beware of "Ishmael" and the temptation to accomplish the things and vision of God through works of the flesh. God will finish the work He has started in each of us and bring forth the "child of the promise", which is Jesus Christ the Lord.
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