Afterthoughts on Ishmael
May 07, 2008
The "Ishmael" series just completed focuses more upon the spiritual, or allegorical, significance of the story. But I thought I would comment upon the physical application to the descendants of Ishmael today--that is, the Arab people. These comments, of course, have broader application to all those who have adopted the Ishmaelite (Arabic) religion, Islam.
The angel told Ishmael's mother that her son would be a violent man, and that people would be violent to him as well. Gen. 16:12 says,
"And he will be a wild donkey of a man, his hand will be against everyone, and everyone's hand will be against him; and he will live to the east of all his brothers."
This violent tendency is not unique with Islam. It is common to all fleshly religion, where men use religion in the attempt to perfect the old Adamic flesh. Because the old man cannot be perfected from within, the only way to alter his behavior is by law and by fear and coercion. When this does not seem to work, the laws tend to become more and more severe, and religious leaders tend to become more and more violent in their attempts to make the flesh conform to the religious standard of perceived righteousness.
This is the heart of "legalism." Legalism is the attempt to coerce the flesh into acting in a righteous manner in order to attain salvation. Virtually all religions have attempted to do this. All have failed. Though some have produced great men, Scripture says, "there are no righteous men, no, not a single one." Judaism has attempted to produce righteousness through legalism. Christianity has done the same.
The Old Covenant failed to bring righteousness, because it was designed to coerce the old Adamic nature. It could never bring in righteousness. It was designed to reveal to us the impossibility of reforming the old man. Thus, it paved the way for the New Covenant, promised from the beginning, in which the Holy Spirit would indwell us and work within our hearts to accomplish what the Old Covenant could not do.
This is true Christianity. True Christianity is not that which is visible on CNN. True Christianity does not reside in the priests or buildings or organizations. Those structures are leftovers from the Old Covenant. The heart of true Christianity is that the Holy Spirit is willing and is able to indwell human flesh.
This was pictured by the prophet Jonah. Jonah means "dove." On one level of meaning, the dove represents the Holy Spirit. Jonah's experience of being swallowed by the great fish pictures the Holy Spirit indwelling human flesh. (The "fish" was the early Christian symbol.)
Paul tells us the result of the Holy Spirit's indwelling--that is, the evidence of His presence--in Gal. 5:22, 23,
" (22) But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, (23) gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law."
Take note that hatred is not one of the fruits of the Spirit. Nor is violence. Not even in the name of God. Not even to defend God's honor. When I see a religion that turns hatred, violence, and force into virtues, I see a fleshly religion that is trying desperately to make the old Adamic nature righteous by the imposition of behavior patterns by external forces of law. I see this feature in many religions, including fleshly Christianity.
My appeal is to men of all religions to understand that there is a better way. There is a way that actually works. It is true Christianity. It does not do away with the law of God, which will always provide us the standard by which righteousness and sin is measured. Rather, it is about the Holy Spirit begetting within our hearts a NEW MAN that cannot sin, because it has no Adamic father. In other words, this new man does not violate the laws of God, because he is in perfect agreement with the law (Rom. 7:22).
As this new man within us comes to maturity, and as we begin to identify with him (Christ in us), we show love and kindness toward others--even toward those who do not deserve it. The love of God is demonstrated for us by Jesus Himself, who was willing to die even for the unrighteous ones. Romans 5:7, 8 says,
" (7) For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. (8) But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."
Many Muslims would be honored to die for their prophet. Many Jews would be honored to die for Moses. Many Christians would be honored to die for Jesus. This is because each group would die for a "good man." But the love of God, which is the fruit of the Spirit, is evident when a man loves even the unrighteous and is willing to die for him.
This is what Jesus did. No other man or prophet has demonstrated such love, but expect others to die for them. And, indeed, men have even desired to die for their good men. But too often, their love has taken the form of being willing to KILL OTHERS for God's sake.
Ishmaelite religion, in whatever form it takes, is a biblical metaphor describing fleshly religion. It is legalistic, and it considers forced conversions to be virtuous. Judaism forced the conversion of Edom (Idumea) a century before Christ. Christians forced people in the New World to become Christians as well. Islam has also forced people to become Muslims, and many even consider it their duty to kill family members who forsake Islam for another religion.
These actions are not the fruit of the Holy Spirit. I am presenting another way, a better way, set forth in the New Testament and brought to us by Jesus Christ. For all who are weary of bloodshed, violence, and force, Jesus invites you to come to Him. Ask Him to send the Holy Spirit to beget in you a new creation man. Nourish that new man with prayer and, if possible, by the Word of God.
The people of Ishmael today have a promise of God in the Bible. It is the promise that was given to their mother, Hagar. The angel met Hagar when she was fleeing persecution and hardship. I believe this is prophetic of today more than any other time in history. I believe that God is going to meet Hagar's children today and open their eyes to this new way so that they may obtain LIFE. I believe that God is about to pour out His Holy Spirit upon Muslims in an unprecedented way. In fact, this is already beginning to happen.
My advice to Christians, then, is to view Muslims as future Christians, rather than as "the enemy." Christians today are being manipulated in the attempt to make them hate Muslims. This is part of the war of propaganda, where Zionists are trying to gain political support for their cause. In fact, both sides of the political war want to stir up Christians to hate the other side. My warning to Christians: Do not consider it a virtue to hate anyone. Christian Zionists especially are being led to believe that it is pleasing to God to stir up hatred against Muslims. Those who fall for this propaganda are not being led by the Spirit. So be watchful of fleshly manipulations, and know that it is only a matter of time before God will open the eyes of all Ishmaelites everywhere. When they see, they will live.
Dr. Stephen Jones