God's Promise to Ishmael--Part 2
May 01, 2008
Genesis 16 tells us that Ishmael was the son of Abram the Hebrew and Hagar the Egyptian. Because Sarah was barren, she gave her servant (Hagar) to Abram as a wife in order to bring forth a son who could be the heir of God's promises. But when Hagar became pregnant, she became arrogant, as verse 4 says,
"And he went in to Hagar, and she conceived; and when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised in her sight."
Pride was the first heart problem. The second problem was that Sarai reacted by mistreating her. The result was that Hagar ran away, intending to return to Egypt. But an angel of the Lord found her. Verses 9, 10:
" (9) Then the angel of the Lord said to her, 'Return to your mistress, and submit yourself to her authority.' (10) Moreover, the angel of the Lord said to her, 'I will greatly multiply your descendants so that they shall be too many to count'."
The angel first addressed Hagar's heart problem and told her to return and submit to Sarai's authority. Secondly, as a result of submitting to proper authority, she would have many descendants of her own. These, of course, would not receive the highest promise of God--the Birthright from Adam--but even so, her children would receive a lesser promise of God.
Many years later, in the story of Israel and Judah, we learn more about how this principle actually works. Joseph received the birthright, while Judah received the promise to provide the kings (Messiah) for Israel. After the death of Solomon, when the nation was divided, there was a breach between Israel and Judah, and it brought about a breach between the Birthright and the Scepter. Because of Solomon's mistreatment of the Israelites (high taxation), they refused to submit to the rightful king, the son of Solomon. Only when the two nations were in unity could each benefit from the other's calling.
On a secondary level, we find the same problem with Hagar, and the same kind of resolution. She should swallow her pride and submit to Sarai's calling, and this was the condition by which she would be blessed.
How does this actually work out prophetically, and how does this apply to the current Middle East crisis?
First, keep in mind that Sarai's mistreatment of Hagar occurred before God had changed Abram's name to Abraham and before Sarai had become Sarah. Their names were changed 13 years after Ishmael's birth, when God added the Hebrew letter hey to their names. Hey is the breath of God, and it indicates inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Not until God changed their names to Abraham and Sarah was it possible to conceive and bring forth the promised seed, Isaac. It was done by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Ishmael, then, was born from fleshly Abram, and his birth was "natural," that is, "of the flesh" (Gal. 4:29). Later, Isaac was born from spiritual Abraham, and his birth was "by promise," that is, "according to the Spirit" (Gal. 4:29).
This teaches us that the promises of God cannot come about by the power of the flesh or by the natural man (i.e., the "soulish" man, or the Adamic man). God's promises are brought forth only by the power of the Spirit.
Ishmael was the son of Abram; Isaac was the son of Abraham. That is the difference. The story has allegorical significance to us all, both personally and corporately as well as prophetically in the present condition of the Middle East.
First, on a personal level, our Adamic nature corresponds to Abram and Sarai. It cannot bring forth the promises of God. Anyone who depends upon the flesh, or who thinks that God will bless the flesh and give the Birthright to its genealogical "seed," will be disappointed. Paul and John tell us that the Gospel is a seed that has begotten a new creation man within us, "Christ in you," which is of the Last Adam. This is the "Isaac" within us, and it is the true inheritor of the promise of God. The Adamic flesh has already been condemned to death, and it will not inherit the promise, even if it enjoys a certain level of faith and righteousness through the Old Covenant.
You may want to read that last sentence again, since I threw a lot into it.
Corporately speaking, since Hagar represents the Old Covenant (Gal. 4:24), Ishmael represents the people who adhere to Old Covenant religion. This is a religion that attempts to discipline the old Adamic man into submission to the law of God and thereby make this old Adamic man righteous enough to inherit the promises of God. It cannot be done.
The story of Ishmael and Isaac are an allegory of the distinction between the first Adam and the Last Adam. They are our two identities--fleshly and spiritual identities, of whom Paul speaks in Romans 7:20, saying, "But if I am doing the very thing I do not wish, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me."
Note that the "I" which sins is not the same "I" that "am no longer the one doing it." Paul chose to identify, not with the fleshly "I" from Adam, but with the spiritual "I" that is from the last Adam. 1 John 3:9 confirms this, saying literally,
"no one who has been begotten by God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin because he has been begotten by God" (Emphatic Diaglott).
In other words, when God begets an embryo within us by the Word of God, the Son of God has been conceived within us, which cannot sin any more than Jesus could sin after being conceived in Mary by the Holy Spirit.
This holy seed within us is the Son of God because God is its Father; but it is also the son of man because we in our flesh are its mother. This is the seed which Isaac typified, while all other children born naturally are mortal children typified by Ishmael.
Our "Ishmael" can be trained to be righteous, but he can never be righteous enough to be spiritual or to inherit the promise. Only that which is begotten by God will receive the promise and live forever. That is our "Isaac."
Yet Ishmael has been given a promise. It is a secondary promise, however, and should not be confused with the promise given to Isaac. There are three main religions that have Hagar as their mother--that is, the Old Covenant. Islam, Judaism, and pre-Tabernacles Christianity. Their adherents are Ishmaelites in different ways, but they all have this one feature in common--they all want to make Adamic flesh righteous enough to inherit the promises of God.
True Christianity among the overcomers is different because it recognizes that the Holy Spirit must beget the inheritor of the promise. The promise will not come to Adamic flesh or to any other genealogy from the first Adam. Being a genealogical Israelite is as insufficient as being a genealogical Ishmaelite. Both are from Adam who has been condemned to death.
So of what benefit is religion? Religion is not the answer, nor is it synonymous with being begotten by God. Religion rules the flesh, and religious leaders tell fleshly people what to do to be "righteous." It restricts sin by enforcing laws--even the divine Law itself. But the law is weak in that it cannot change Adamic nature into the nature of Christ. Religion is an Old Covenant measure to restrain the flesh until the Sons of God are manifested.
The day will come when God will reveal or unveil the true inheritors. It is called the manifestation, or unveiling, of the Sons of God (Rom. 8:19). They will be called, not to oppress or mistreat the Ishmaels in the world, but to show them the way to experience the same thing in the age to come.
This is the second part of a series titled "God's Promise to Ishmael." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones