The Inescapable Separation (Zacharias T. Fomum)
Every action carried out outside the will of God will ultimately cause pain; for all sin will turn into lashes and lash those involved.
Every action carried out outside the will of God will ultimately cause pain; for all sin will turn into lashes and lash those involved. There was a time when Abraham was very happy about Ishmael. He had proved his point to everyone that he was a man able to have children of his own. As the child grew up, he must have loved him dearly. Then came the words of Sarah his wife, “Cast out this slave woman with her son; for the son of this slave woman shall not be heir with my son Isaac.” The words must have come like a bomb on Abraham. It was easy for Sarah to speak those words. After all, Ishmael was not her son. However, he was the son of Abraham. He was his first son. We do not know what Abraham would have done had God not stepped in to reinforce what Sarah said, by saying to him, “Be not displeased because of the lad and because of your slave woman, whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for through Isaac shall your descendants be named.”
It is here that we see God’s insistence on that which He originates. The good intentions of man, his sincerity, his innocence can never cause God to transform that which He did not originate into that which He gave origin to. Ishmael could never be acceptable to God. In fact, from the time that Ishmael was born (Abraham was 86 years then) to the time when the season of Isaac’s birth was announced, a period of thirteen years, God was silent. He did not speak to Abraham. When people choose to go their own way, God is forced to be silent. Because there was no place for Ishmael in the purpose of God, God asked that he be sent away.
It was painful. It appeared harsh, but what other solution was there? A lot of the things being done in His name, but which He did not originate, will all be put away. They are wood, hay, and stubble. Fire will consume them on that day. Because God cannot incorporate into His purposes that which originates in man, it would be good for each believer to say to the Lord now, “Lord, bring to naught all that is Ishmael in my life. Destroy it at all cost. Do not spare it. Do not spare me. I would rather have it destroyed now than to have it destroyed on that day. Lord, look at all the plans before me. Put all of them to naught if they are just the products of my own plans and schemes. Pull out any parts of them that are not of Your origin, if some parts are Yours. Lord, I beg of You to do it quickly and then to lead me into Your perfect will for me.”
Abraham had really made progress. He was bent on pleasing the Lord. He loved the Lord and He loved Ishmael. God wanted Ishmael to be cast away. His heart ached at the thought. He did not meditate on how he felt. He meditated on what God said and he decided to put his feelings aside and obey the Lord. He did not only decide to obey the Lord. He carried out the act of obeying the Lord. The Bible says, “So Abraham rose early in the morning and took bread and a skin of water, and gave to Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, along with the child and she departed.” He obeyed early. He obeyed. He obeyed. He obeyed. He was indeed God’s friend; for His friends obey Him always and they obey Him in everything.
WHY GOD COULD NOT PERMIT ISHMAEL TO STAY
There is a deeper reason why God did not allow Ishmael to stay. The reason is that his mother Hagar represents the law, while Sarah represents grace. Abraham represents faith.
God’s purpose was that faith and grace should go hand in hand. God really had no place for faith and the law. The child Ishmael represented the unholy marriage between Faith and the Law. Because such a marriage has no place whatsoever in the purposes of God, Ishmael had to be sent away.
God could not allow two contradicting principles - one of His origin and the other of His enemy’s origin - to dwell side by side. He, therefore, put away Ishmael, so that all who deal with Him would deal with Him on the basis of the salvation offered by Grace through Faith.
One cannot just look at the surface issues of a man sending away his son. One must see it from God’s perspective and face the questions, “Should God offer salvation on a two-fold basis; of what only He can do, which is grace, and also offer another kind of salvation on faith and works?” We know that God offers salvation on the basis of Grace through faith and on no other basis! So Ishmael had to go.
THE GOD WHO DOES THINGS AT GREAT COST
It would look as if God demanded much from Abraham. However, things begin to be seen differently when we see the cost at which He Himself carries out His acts. He is a very unsparing God. He did not spare His Son, His only begotten Son, but allowed Him to die on the Cross like a foremost criminal in order to purchase our pardon. He never asks from anyone anything greater than that.
Is He asking you something you consider too great? Look, compare what he is asking you to what He gave for you. He gave Jesus for you. What have you given for Him?
He demands a total response to His total love for you. Is that not fair?
ISHMAEL LIVES ON
Ishmael lives on today. The Arabs are his descendants. The conflict between Ishmael (the Arabs) and Isaac (the Israelites) continues today. How little did Abraham foresee this! At the spiritual level is a worldwide conflict between Ishmael (Islam) and Isaac (Christians) and the consequences of Ishmael take on eternal dimensions. This should serve as a drastic warning to all of us. Anything outside of God’s will may do untold damage.
Lord, help us!