Taking the Kingdom by Force--Part 2
Jun 23, 2010
There have always been multiple contenders for the Birthright, that is, the inheritance of the Kingdom. Each group believes that it is worthy or that it has the divine right to rule the earth. But the Bible gives us clear guidelines to show us the character of both those who are called and those who are not.
In the end, God will give the Scepter and Birthright to those who have His character, those whose thoughts and actions reflect His own values. So ultimately, the dispute centers on how men view the very character of God. Many religions worship God, but each has a different revelation of who He is. The accuracy of that revelation is at the heart of all disputes.
Christians, of course, have the example of Jesus Christ to show them the character of God. Other religions have examples of their own, whose views of God have become established religious teaching.
The biblical discussion sets forth the distinction between carnal and spiritual, between the first Adam and the last (i.e., Christ), and between the Old Covenant and the New. The various Bible stories are historical allegories that reveal this distinction and the conflict occurring between the adherents of each. We cannot understand much about any single individual involved without knowing his nemesis.
Two of the most important conflicts portrayed in Scripture are between Ishmael and Isaac and again between Esau and Jacob. In each case we see the flesh and the fleshly view conflicting with the spirit and the spiritual view. Ishmael and Esau were fleshly men in the image of the first Adam. Isaac and Jacob-Israel were (or became) spiritual men representing the last Adam.
Those fleshly men were not afraid to use violence to attain what they believed to be their right to inherit the Kingdom. The angel prophesied to Hagar of the character of her son, Ishmael, in Gen. 16:12,
"And he will be a wild donkey of a man [pereh adam], his hand will be against everyone, and everyone's hand will be against him."
In other words, he and his descendants will have constant conflict with "everyone." Speaking of Ishmael, Paul says in Gal. 4:29,
"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."
Because Ishmael was born first and it was Abram's intention to make him the inheritor of the Kingdom, he grew up believing that the Birthright was rightfully his. He and his descendants could not "hear" a different revelation when it came later that the child of promise would be born of a different mother (Sarah). The flesh seeks its own welfare and cannot hear a contrary word.
We know that we have begun to develop spiritual ears when we obtain the ability to hear a word that does not pamper the flesh or run contrary to its will.
When Abram and Sarai went to Egypt in the time of famine, Pharaoh took Sarai into his harem, being told that she was Abram's sister, instead of his wife (Gen. 12:13). When the lie was discovered by divine revelation through a dream, Pharaoh paid restitution, giving silver, gold, cattle, and servants to Abram. This is recorded in Jasher 15:30, though the detail is left out of Scripture. He then gave his daughter Hagar to Sarai as a handmaid. Jasher 15:31, 32 says,
"And the king took a maiden whom he begat by his concubines and he gave her to Sarai for a handmaid. And the king said to his daughter, it is better for thee, my daughter, to be a handmaid in this man's house than to be a mistress in my house."
They all left Egypt and returned to Canaan. Ten years later Sarai still had no children. We read in Jasher 16:24 and 25,
"And when she saw that she bare no children, she took her handmaid Hagar, whom Pharaoh had given her, and she gave her to Abram her husband for a wife. For Hagar learned all the ways of Sarai as Sarai taught her, she was not in any way deficient in following her good ways."
When Hagar became pregnant, however, she began to think of herself as being more God-blessed than Sarai. This problem of pride caused conflict. Jasher 15:29 says,
"And when Hagar saw that she had conceived, she rejoiced greatly, and her mistress was despised in her eyes, and she said within herself, this can only be that I am better before God than Sarai my mistress, for all the days that my mistress has been with my lord, she did not conceive, but me the Lord has caused in so short a time to conceive by him."
Though Gen. 16:4 does not give us as much detail, it is not hard to accept the account in Jasher. When we read Paul's exposition in Galatians 4 and know that Hagar represents the Old Covenant, we can then understand the prideful attitude in all who attach themselves to that Old Covenant. The idea that Hagar is "better before God" is manifested in Judaism as the Chosen-people syndrome. They believe that they are better and more chosen than Sarah and her New Covenant children.
But 13 years later, when Abram was 99, God gave him revelation that he would have another son, this time through Sarai. God changed their names at that point to Abraham and Sarah, and a year later Isaac was born. Paul says that Ishmael "persecuted" Isaac (Gal. 4:29). The account in Gen. 21:9 only says vaguely that Ishmael was caught "mocking." This appears to be normal childhood behavior and hardly warrants such a severe response that he received. But once again, Jasher provides us with more details (21:12-14):
"And God was with Ishmael the son of Abraham, and he grew up and he learned the use of the bow and became an archer. And when Isaac was five years old he was sitting with Ishmael at the door of the tent. And Ishmael came to Isaac and seated himself opposite to him, and he took the bow and drew it and put an arrow in it, and intended to slay Isaac."
This is what got Sarah upset. Genesis 21:10 now makes more sense:
"Therefore she said to Abraham, Drive out this maid and her son, for the son of this maid shall not be an heir with my son Isaac."
Ishmael's fleshly tendency toward violence had finally developed to the point where it was plain for all to see. To cast him out before then would have been premature. This historical allegory thus plays itself out in the New Testament period, where, as Paul says, the children of the Old Covenant intended violence against Jesus and later against His children (the early Church). The divine verdict is the same, as we read in Gal. 4:30,
"But what does the Scripture say? Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be an heir with the son of the free woman."
Any Jew, then, who remains a son of the Old Covenant, is an Ishmaelite in the eyes of God and is NOT an heir of the promise. The only ones "chosen" are the children of Sarah, whom Paul identifies in the next verse as the followers of Jesus Christ.
Paul knew both sides of this conflict intimately, for he had persecuted the Church as a son of Hagar in his earlier life (Gal. 1:13). In 1 Thess. 2:15 he says of them,
"who both killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and drove us out. They are not pleasing to God but hostile to all men."
This is the outworking of Gen. 16:12, "his hand will be against everyone." It is the violent nature of Ishmael seen most clearly today in modern Zionism.
This is the second part of a series titled "Taking the Kingdom by Force." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones