I saw something the other morning that had me take a fresh look at both Ishmael and Isaac. It wasn’t an earthshaking revelation. It was just a reminder of the struggle we face every day; the spirit versus the flesh. As I have always said… I don’t need another Ishmael in my life but it seems that I all to frequently bring one in.
Let’s consider the key players.
Gal 4:22, 23 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the free woman. 23 His son by the slave woman was born in the ordinary way; but his son by the free woman was born as the result of a promise… .
24-26 These things may be taken figuratively, for the women represent two covenants. One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves: This is Hagar. 25 Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children. 26 But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother.
Hagar, Abraham’s bondwoman, represents the “Law” (the present city of Jerusalem) and her son, “Ishmael,” represents the flesh. As we have seen over and over in the Old Testament, the Law can only produce the flesh. Our best efforts, even as they are directed at righteousness, always end up in self-righteousness… our goodness always falls short. On the other hand, Sarah represents the “gospel,” the covenant of “grace,” (the Jerusalem that is above) and “Isaac” represents the life of the Spirit, which is the result of “grace.”
28 Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. 29 At that time the son born in the ordinary way persecuted the son born by the power of the Spirit. It is the same now. 30 But what does the Scripture say? “Get rid of the slave woman and her son, for the slave woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with the free woman’s son.” 31 Therefore, brothers, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman.
Just as Ishmael persecuted Isaac, the flesh persecutes the spirit. Ishmael could never be improved and had to be cast out with his mother. The Law (Hagar) had to be cast out along with its foil, the flesh (Ishmael). It is the same today, but the problem is that we try to cast out Ishmael (our flesh) without casting out Hagar (legalism/self-righteous works). We try in our own strength and the results are always failure… we fail to call upon God’s grace. Our self-centered effort (works) always ends up in some form fleshly life.
Paul put this in perspective for us…
Rom 6:14 For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.
God’s free grace is the only thing that can make men holy. Instead of encouraging men to sin (the Law), grace inspires men to love and serve God in the Spirit. Our responsibility is to stand in The Spirit and cast out Hagar. We do not need any Ishmaels (works of the flesh) in our life as they are most certainly destined to fail.
Welcome Sara and her offspring, Isaac, and life will get a lot better.