God's Promise to Ishmael--Part 5
May 05, 2008
The Promise to Ishmael is bound up in his divinely-revealed name as well as the place where his name was revealed by the angel--"the well of seeing after hearing."
This is not only a revelation about Hagar's descendants. It is also part of the great historical allegory of that which Ishmael represents as a child of the flesh (Gal. 4:29). Yet all of the story's layers of meaning have a common thread insofar as the outworking of the promise is concerned. It is a story of the salvation of Ishmael in all his manifestations.
The promise to Ishmael is that after he "hears," he will also "see." His name is from the Hebrew root word shema, which means "to hear" as well as "to obey." The angel called him a "donkey," partly because a donkey has big ears and represents the ability to hear. Yet he is a wild donkey until he learns to obey the voice of God. Obedience is the evidence of hearing.
When the wild donkeys of this world learn to hear, then they will "see." The question is, "See WHAT?" The answer is found in the story itself, as recorded in Gen. 16:13, when Hagar said, "Have I even remained alive here after seeing HIM?"
In other words, it is about SEEING GOD and living.
Job 42:5 references this at the end of his revelation of the sovereignty of God, saying,
"I have HEARD OF THEE by the hearing of the ear; but now my eye SEES THEE."
This progression is also seen in the New Testament when Simeon sees Jesus as a baby for the first time. Simeon's name means "hearing," because it also comes from the Hebrew root word, shema.
Simeon was an old man to whom God had revealed that he would see the Messiah before he died (Luke 2:26). He was in the temple waiting when Joseph and Mary showed up with their eight-day-old baby, Jesus (Yeshua). Apparently, God had also revealed that His name would be Yeshua, or "Salvation." When he heard the name of the baby, he instantly knew that this was the Messiah. He then blessed the baby, saying in Luke 2:29, 30,
" (29) Now, Lord, Thou dost let Thy bond-servant depart in peace, according to Thy word;(30) For my eyes have SEEN Thy Yeshua."
Simeon means HEARING, but finally, he SAW as well.
Hearing makes people Pentecostals; but seeing turns them into Tabernacles people. The purpose of Pentecost is to hear the voice of God, as evident in Exodus 20. When hearing has been proven by obedience, they will see God and live.
This progression is clearly seen in the story of Israel in their journey from Egypt to the Promised Land. The Israelites did not leave Egypt as the sheep of God's pasture. They left Egypt as wild donkeys. Though God was their Father, Egypt was their mother, and so they were spiritual Ishmaelites. They were following the same pattern as when Abram took Hagar and begot Ishmael. So also did God conceive Israel in Egypt and brought forth a nation of wild donkeys (Jer. 2:24).
Hosea 11:1 says, "When Israel was a youth, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called My son." The passage goes on to show how they disobeyed God by refusing to hear His voice (as wild donkeys).
Israel was God's first-born son. Exodus 13:12 and 13 tells us that the first-born of both man and beast belong to God. However, it also says that the first-born of a donkey must be redeemed with a lamb, because a donkey is an unclean creature. He must be redeemed with a lamb, a clean animal, in order to show us the progression of character from rebellious, stiff-necked, fleshly people to the lamb-like nature of Christ.
Israel came out of Egypt as the first-born of the donkeys. But by law they had to be redeemed by a lamb. Hence, they were unable to leave Egypt until the Passover lambs had been offered to God (Exodus 12). That was the substitution, or redemption, of the first-born of the donkeys. It signified that God was imputing to them a lamb-nature through the feast of Passover.
So it is with all mankind. When we are justified by faith through the blood of the Lamb, we are all experiencing Passover, and our wild donkey nature is being redeemed by the Lamb which takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). The righteousness of Christ is imputed to us, as if we were the Lamb--even though we yet have much to learn insofar as obedience is concerned.
After Passover justifies us, we then begin the sanctification process, learning to hear and obey through the feast of Pentecost. Israel's first Pentecost was at Mount Sinai, where God spoke, and all the people heard. Unfortunately, most of the people were too afraid to hear more than just the Ten Commandments, for their hearts were hardened. The call since then has been the same: "Today if you hear My voice, harden not your hearts as in the day of provocation." (Psalm 95:7, 8; Heb. 3:7, 8)
The Apostle Paul himself provides us with a New Testament example of this allegory of Ishmael. In his earlier years, when he went by his birth-name, Saul, he was a type of Ishmael, who persecuted the Church, even as his ancestor, King Saul, had persecuted David. In Galatians 1:13 Paul writes,
"For you have heard of my former manner of life in Judaism, how I used to persecute the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it."
So when Paul later wrote in Gal. 4:29 that Judaism was an Ishmael, and that Ishmael persecuted Isaac, it was as much a confession as an indictment upon Judaism's wild-donkey attitude. Saul had been an Ishmaelite. He had been a wild donkey. But then on the road to Damascus, Jesus Christ spoke to him in a great light. That was the point where he HEARD.
Saul was then blind for three days before Ananias prayed for his healing. Acts 9:18 says,
"And immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he regained his sight, and he arose and was baptized."
Do you see the pattern here? The pattern is manifested in a two-step process from HEARING to SEEING. It is the primary N.T. pattern showing us how Ishmael can become Isaac. This is how Saul became Paul.
Ultimately, this is about coming into the body of Christ and manifesting the character of Christ fully. It begins with an imputation of righteousness and ends with an actual manifestation of the righteous character of the Lamb of God. This is our journey to the Promised Land, marked by and commemorated by the feast days of Israel.
As we see, the Ishmaelite stage takes us through our pre-Tabernacles experience from Egypt (Passover) to Sinai (Pentecost) and to the border of Canaan, the Promised Land. There are many who have "left Egypt" by believing that Jesus Christ died for their sin as their Passover Lamb. Others have gone to Sinai (Pentecost) to learn obedience and to receive the law on their hearts by hearing His voice. Unfortunately, many have also followed the pattern of those Israelites under Moses, who remained wild donkeys and have refused to hear the law and who prefer their freedom as WILD donkeys. They do not want to be burdened with the laws of God, and they think their "freedom in Christ" means they can do as they please. They think that they may sin that grace may abound.
These are the lawless ones who will remain "donkeys" in the age to come. If they do not learn obedience in this present age, they will not inherit life (immortality) in the first resurrection as overcomers, but will have to learn obedience in the age to come. The N.T. speaks often to those who are "lawless" (Gr. anomia).
But if we follow the pattern of Caleb and Joshua, the overcomers, we will inherit the Promised Land, the glorified body, the true real estate of God.
This is the fifth part of a series titled "God's Promise to Ishmael." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones