The Faithfulness of God
Dr. Joe Temple

Will you open your Bibles, please, to the book of Genesis, chapter 21. We will read the major portion of this chapter and then go back and see what the Holy Spirit might teach us from it:

Genesis 21:

1And the Lord visited Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did unto Sarah as he had spoken.
2For Sarah conceived, and bare Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him.
3And Abraham called the name of his son that was born unto him, whom Sarah bare to him, Isaac.
4And Abraham circumcised his son Isaac being eight days old, as God had commanded him.
5And Abraham was an hundred years old, when his son Isaac was born unto him.
6And Sarah said, God hath made me to laugh, so that all that hear will laugh with me.
7And she said, Who would have said unto Abraham, that Sarah should have given children suck? for I have born him a son in his old age.
8And the child grew, and was weaned: and Abraham made a great feast the same day that Isaac was weaned.
9And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, which she had born unto Abraham, mocking.
10Wherefore she said unto Abraham, Cast out this bondwoman and her son: for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, even with Isaac.
11And the thing was very grievous in Abraham's sight because of his son.
12And God said unto Abraham, Let it not be grievous in thy sight because of the lad, and because of thy bondwoman; in all that Sarah hath said unto thee, hearken unto her voice; for in Isaac shall thy seed be called.
13And also of the son of the bondwoman will I make a nation, because he is thy seed.
14And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and took bread, and a bottle of water, and gave it unto Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, and the child, and sent her away: and she departed, and wandered in the wilderness of Beersheba.
15And the water was spent in the bottle, and she cast the child under one of the shrubs.
16And she went, and sat her down over against him a good way off, as it were a bowshot: for she said, Let me not see the death of the child. And she sat over against him, and lift up her voice, and wept.
17And God heard the voice of the lad; and the angel of God called to Hagar out of heaven, and said unto her, What aileth thee, Hagar? fear not; for God hath heard the voice of the lad where he is.
18Arise, lift up the lad, and hold him in thine hand; for I will make him a great nation.
19And God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water; and she went, and filled the bottle with water, and gave the lad drink.
20And God was with the lad; and he grew, and dwelt in the wilderness, and became an archer.
21And he dwelt in the wilderness of Paran: and his mother took him a wife out of the land of Egypt.

The subject matter of the chapter stops there. Verse 22 introduces a very ordinary incident at which we will be looking, but it will not be necessary for us to consider it along with the chapter we have just read.

Chapter 21 is a chapter we have been working toward ever since we were in chapter 12. I do not mean chronologically or numerically, but rather I am thinking of the spiritual truth contained in it. You will remember that in chapter 12 God told Abraham that He was going to have a son. The son is not born until chapter 21.

With that fact in mind, several lessons can be learned from this chapter. There is a sense in which all of the Old Testament, according to what Paul said in I Corinthians, chapter 10, verse 11, is written for our learning, for our exhortation. All these things in the Old Testament are supposed to be examples for us. There is a sense in which that is true of the whole Word of God. But this chapter 21 is one from which the Holy Spirit particularly likes to quote to emphasize certain spiritual truths. Let us look at this chapter not only for the information contained in it, but for the lessons that may be learned through it.

Faithfulness of God According to His Word

The first lesson is related to the faithfulness of God. The information contained in this chapter is one of the clearest illustrations of the faithfulness of God we could find anywhere in the Word. That will become evident if you will notice with me some of the phrases in the first few verses. Notice verse 1:

Genesis 21:

1And the Lord visited Sarah as he had said [notice that phrase], and the Lord did unto Sarah as he had spoken.
2For Sarah conceived, and bare Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him.

These phrases as he had spoken , as he had said , and at the set time of which God had spoken to him , illustrate, I repeat, the faithfulness of God. First, let me suggest that God always acts according to His Word. Sometime, when you have time, read the farewell speech of Joshua as it is recorded in chapter 21 of the book which bears his name. You will find that in taking farewell of his people he closes his address by saying, “I want you to remember that not one good word of all that God has promised has failed to come to pass. If God said, it, you can be sure that it will happen.”

Back in chapter 12 God said to Abraham, “I am going to let you become the father of a son.” In chapter 15 He reiterated it, and in chapter 17 He emphasized it once again. As God had spoken, it came to pass.

Faithfulness In His Program

As the Holy Spirit records the incident in chapter 21, He says it happened just as God said it would. But we noticed as we read those verses another phrase, at the set time . So we would remind you that God's faithfulness is related not only to His Word. God's faithfulness is related to His program: at the set time . Have you ever prayed and asked God for something and then had to wait for the answer? There are some people who say, “God always answers every prayer. He says either yes or no.” That is not always true. Sometimes He does not say yes. He does not say no. Sometimes He says, “Wait a while.”

How long would you wait if God said, “Wait a while?” How long would you wait before you changed your way of praying and said, “Maybe God does not want me to ask him for this thing. Maybe God does not want me to believe Him for this thing. Maybe He wants me to try another attack, another approach.” How long would you wait? I am going to be honest with you. I do not know how long I would wait. But I am quite sure that I would not have waited as long as Abraham did.

Do you know how long he waited? He waited 30 years before God answered his prayer. The thing I want you to see about the faithfulness of God is that God's set time was 30 years in the future. God, though He said He was going to send Abraham a son, waited 30 years to do it. Why did He? There is no verse of Scripture that says exactly one, two, three, four, five, why God waited 30 years to send the son to Abraham, but Abraham was a tremendously human person. We are quite sure that it was necessary for God to wait for a number of things in Abraham's life before He could send his son.

Delay To Bring God Glory

For example, God waited the 30 years before He sent that son to be absolutely, positively sure that no one could say Isaac was born with human instrumentality. The birth of Isaac, as we are going to see, was a miracle. Abraham's body was as good as dead. Sarah's womb was dead. And God waited well beyond the appointed time so that no one could take any glory for it. You know we are all prone to take the glory. Did you ever stop to think about that? Did you ever stop to think that when we are ill we ask God to heal us. We ask God to undertake for us. We go to a doctor. We take medicine. There is certainly nothing wrong with that. The Bible teaches that there are three approaches to illness as far as God is concerned. One of them is when God heals miraculously without the aid of human effort. One is when He heals with the aid of human effort. The other is when He refuses to heal, and gives grace that is much better than any medicine you can take. But how often we ask God to heal us, we go ahead and visit the doctor, we go ahead and take the medicine, and then when someone talks to us about it, we give the medicine credit, we give the doctor credit, and we hardly ever think to mention that we prayed about it, too. Somehow or other we just do not give God the glory that He needs. So I am quite convinced that God was waiting until every human effort was exhausted, and then He would work. He had to wait until Abraham came to the end of himself. That is one reason He waited.

So we might remember that if God waits to answer your prayer and mine, one of the reasons He waits is that we may come to the end of ourselves so that we will know that He has done it.

Delay To Fit God's Plan

There is another reason, and this will develop as we go along a bit further, why God had to delay the birth of Isaac, and that was in relation to his whole program, in relation to His general plan. It is true that you are a very small person in all of God's universe. It is true that I am only one in a multitudinous number of people who fit into God's program and plan, and so are you. That is why God can never consider us separate and apart from everyone else. You see, God might say to me, “Joe, I would love to do the thing that you are asking me to do. I would love to do it, and I can do it. But if I did it for you right now, it would work a hardship on Tom over there. So we are just going to wait. We are going to wait until everything is exactly right. Then we will do it.” You see, God had a plan for Ishmael, and God had a plan for Ishmael's descendants. God could not let Isaac be born before these things came to pass in Ishmael's life to work out God's final and complete plan. If you can understand that, then you will not be discouraged when it seems some time before God answers your prayer. You will not be discouraged when you feel as if God may be making you wait. He has a plan. He has a purpose. Because you know He does everything right, you can trust Him to do what is right.

Delay To Show God's Power

The third thing I would like for you to notice about the faithfulness of God is that God's faithfulness is inseparably related to His power. Notice verse 5:

Genesis 21:

5And Abraham was an hundred years old, when his son Isaac was born…

What does that mean? Let us turn to the book of Romans and get an idea of what the Spirit of God meant when He said that Abraham was an hundred years old when Isaac was born. That is not just a statement related to his birthday. It has a very definite significance. Notice in chapter 4, verse 17.

Romans 4:

17(As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were.

Notice closely Abraham's attitude of heart:

Romans 4:

18Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations; according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be.
19And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sara's womb:
20He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God;
21And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform.

These verses describe the attitude of heart that Abraham had when Isaac was born. They are a commentary on verse 5 of chapter 21 of the book of Genesis, where it is stated that Abraham was an hundred years old when Isaac was born.

Go back over those verses with me and notice some suggestions as in verse 18, Who against hope believed in hope . There was absolutely no hope, but to combat that hopelessness was the hope that Abraham had in God. Where was Abraham's hope placed? Look at verse 21‘:

Romans 4:

21And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform.

Is that not the problem of most of us? We are not fully persuaded that what He promised, He is able to perform. We know that He is able in a general way. We know He has done it for other people. And we know that maybe He will, but we are not fully persuaded that He will. Abraham was fully persuaded that He would do it. Look at verse 19:

Romans 4:

19And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sara's womb:

As far as the powers of procreation were concerned, Abraham's body was dead, and so was the womb of his wife. But the Scripture says that he considered not those things. He refused, if we use the translation that is before us, he refused to let those things enter into his thinking. When someone said, “Abraham, you are too old to be the father of a son,” he said, “So what? That does not have anything to do with it.” He considered not his own body. If you are familiar with the original text, you know already that the word not is missing in the original text. But it does not change Abraham's marvelous act of faith as far as I am concerned. It does not change his grasp of faith, because if you read that verse leaving out the word not , it seems to me to be an even greater manifestation of his faith. Look at verse 19:

Romans 4:

19And being not weak in faith, he considered his own body now dead, [you see, we left out the word “not”] when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sara's womb:

He considered the deadness of Sarah's womb, and he staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief. You see why I say that it is even greater faith? He looked at himself and said, “I am helpless.” He looked at Sarah and said, “She is helpless.” But even when he looked the facts full in the face, he staggered not at the promise of God. That is real faith. You know, there are some people who can keep up their faith by refusing to look at the facts. They are the kind of people who say, “I am very happy the way I am, so do not confuse me with the facts.” They are afraid to look at them. If they look at them, their faith wavers, and they do not know whether they can go on or not. Sometimes when you are dealing with folk who are not very strong in faith, someone will say, “Do not tell them all those things, because they are having a hard time believing. Do not bring up those things that will really discourage them.” Well, Abraham looked at the whole thing, and he staggered not at the promise of God.

Power To Overrule Nature's Laws

Let us go back to Genesis, chapter 21, so you can see again why I say that the power of God is very definitely related to the faithfulness of God. Look at verse 6:

Genesis 21:

6And Sarah said, God hath made me to laugh, so that all that hear will laugh with me.
7And she said, Who would have said unto Abraham, that Sarah should have given children suck? for I have born him a son in his old age.

Sarah said, “Who would have believed it? Who would ever have thought it?” You see, there was no question in Sarah's mind but that this was an act of God. As we look at the faithfulness of God, it is wise for us to remember that God's faithfulness is such that He is not restricted to the ordinary. He is not restricted to common law. He is not restricted to what you and I are able to comprehend. He can supersede any law that He wants to, because He made every single one of them. Sarah said, “It is God that hath made me to laugh.” Did you ever stop to think about God's making someone laugh? He made Sarah laugh. To understand that, you have to be familiar with this word laugh as it has occurred in the life of Abraham and Sarah.

When we were studying this I told you that this laugh is not so much a giggle and not so much uproarous laughter, as a word that means an amazement, a joyful amazement, or an amazement that can be doubtful if faith is not in the right place.

God came to Abraham and said, “I am going to see to it that you have a son.” Abraham laughed, and his was a laugh of joyful amazement. “I am amazed, Lord, but thank You,” he said.

Sarah overheard the angels saying to Abraham another time that Sarah would give birth to a son. She laughed. Inside the tent she was eavesdropping. I do not know that you could blame her. After all, if two angels came to see your husband, I guess you women would have the right to listen in a little bit. Anyway, Sarah was eavesdropping, and she heard what was said, and she laughed. The angels knew it, and they said to Abraham, “Why did your wife laugh?” She was acting pretty naturally. She was scared to death, but she did not want to admit it: “I did not laugh.” The angels said, “But you did laugh.” The Lord rebuked her for it, because her laugh was a laugh of doubt. God could do what He said.

But she had a change of heart between the time when she laughed and the present time. If you will read chapter 11 of the book of Hebrews, you will find that between the time that she laughed the laugh of doubt and the time when Isaac was born, her faith was renewed. She says in this chapter, “God had made me to laugh. He has given me something to laugh about.” I say this reverently by way of question, trusting that the Holy Spirit will use it to probe our hearts and our minds: Has God made you laugh lately? Has He? Sometime when you have time, read Psalms 126. It tells the story of some people who were greatly burdened and in very great trouble. God delivered them. He answered their prayer. He did a very great thing for them. When they gave testimony, they said, “God has made us to laugh.” Laughter is good medicine. What a spiritual uplift it is when God makes you laugh…when God does something so wonderful and so amazing that it just fills your heart with joyful laughter. That is what He did for Abraham and for Sarah.

The Ordinary Human Side

If we were thinking about only this first paragraph, we might get the idea that Abraham and Sarah were unusual people, and that that is why God did these wonderful things for them. If we think that, then we will miss the blessing altogether. Because you see, we are not unusual people, let's face it. We are very ordinary people. We have our victories, and we have our defeats, and I am afraid that most of us have our defeats more than we have our victories. We might be inclined to think that God could not do anything for us, so I want you to notice how God deals in righteousness with His children in spite of and in view of all their failings:

Genesis 21:

8And the child grew, and was weaned: and Abraham made a great feast the same day that Isaac was weaned.

You must keep in mind when you are reading the Word of God that you are reading about oriental settings, so do not jump to conclusions. Isaac was approximately 5 years old when this great feast took place. Hebrew children were not weaned as early as our children are. They were not weaned from their mother's breast until they were approximately 5 years old, and when they were weaned, it was a big day. It was a sign that they were beginning to grow up. So when Isaac was weaned, his father Abraham had a great feast for him.

Genesis 21:

9And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, which she had born unto Abraham, mocking.
10Wherefore she said unto Abraham, Cast out this bondwoman and her son: for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, even with Isaac.

We are getting tremendously human here. Ishmael was 17 years old when the feast occurred. Isaac was 5. The Scripture said that Ishmael was mocking Isaac. A more literal word for mocking is persecuting . He was not just making fun of him. He was tormenting him. That is pretty human, isn't it? Ishmael, you see, for 12 years had been the delight of Abraham's heart and had thought that he was to be the heir to everything that Abraham had. Then this little old Isaac was born, and he threw a monkey wrench into the machinery, so to speak. Ishmael was going to lose out on everything, so the more he saw of Isaac, the madder he got, and every time he had a chance when Sarah was not looking, he took a good lick at him. I am sure he kicked him in the shins and knocked his head about whenever Sarah was not looking. Isaac would be crying and Sarah would want to know what had happened. No one would know, but Ishmael would know.

One day when he took a good kick at Isaac, Sarah found out. She said, “I have had all of this I am going to have,” and she called Abraham in and said, “You put that woman and her boy out. Throw them out. I am not going to have them around here any more. That boy is not going to be raised with my boy.” You see how spiteful Sarah was. This act of Sarah's was spiteful. It was envious. It was devilish. It was unkind. When you find out what Abraham had to do to Hagar, you see there was not any love connected with it. And mind you, this was the woman who just a little while ago had such a tremendous answer to prayer that she said that God could make her laugh.

Not By Our Merit

The reason I am taking the time to emphasize this is that I want you to see that God does not answer prayer because of our merit. He answers prayer because of His faithfulness. These people were very human.

You will notice in verse 12 that Abraham felt very bad about it. He had learned to love Ishmael. He had had him for 17 years. For 12 of those years, he had built all his hopes on him. He was the delight of his father's heart. In verse 11 we read:

Genesis 21:

11And the thing was very grievous in Abraham's sight because of his son.

He loved Ishmael, and he hated to see this thing. Notice verse 12:

Genesis 21:

12And God said unto Abraham, Let it not be grievous in thy sight because of the lad, and because of thy bondwoman; in all that Sarah hath said unto thee, hearken unto her voice; for in Isaac shall thy seed be called.
13And also of the son of the bondwoman will I make a nation, because he is thy seed.
14And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and took bread, and a bottle of water, and gave it unto Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, and the child, and sent her away: and she departed, and wandered in the wilderness of Beersheba.

Damaging Effects of Self-Will

This sad thing at which we are looking was all the result of self-will. It was all the result of human rebellion. It was all the result of human frailty. Remember that after she had waited 13 years for the promise of God, Sarah got tired of waiting, and she said, “You know, I think God wants us to put feet under our prayers, Abraham. It is one thing just to wait around on God. It is another thing to help God out. I think God wants us to put some feet under our prayers, and I have figured out how we can do it. I cannot have any chidren, but Hagar, this Egyptian maid…” They ought never to have had Hagar to begin with. You know that was another result of self-will. They went down into Egypt when God told them not to go, and they picked up Hagar while they were down there. “Now,” she said, “Hagar is a young woman, and she is able to bear children. Let her be the channel through which God shall give us the child. I have thought about it, and I believe that is what God wants.” I do not know whether Abraham was tired of waiting or whether he took the line of least resistance, but he agreed to the proposition. And sure enough, Ishmael was born, and Abraham was thrilled to death, and he talked to God about it. God said, “Ishmael is a child of the flesh. The child that I have promised shall be a child of faith. I will not recognize Ishmael. He will not be the one by whom I will bless the world. He will not be the one through whom I will bring blessing to you and your family. I will not recognize him. That is your doing. You will have to make the best of it.”

When real trouble came, as we see in this chapter it did come, God might have said, “I wash my hands of the whole thing. You have gotten yourself into this, and you must do the best you can.” But He did not. Did you notice how God took over? To me this is a wonderful illustration of how God does deal with His children and how God in mercy and in grace overrules our mistakes and our failings and our rebellions. I think of the words of the Psalmist, “If God remembered iniquities, who shall stand?” (Psalms 130:3). We do get an exalted opinion of ourselves sometimes. We think we are pretty good. But let's face it. If God held you responsible without mercy and without grace for all your self-will, you could not stand, and you know that. If He held you responsible for all the mistakes and the failures, you could not make it. God in His grace and His mercy overrules.

Sending Ishmael Away

Notice what He did here. Poor Abraham. His heart was broken, and he was grieving about it. And God said to him, “Now don't worry, Abraham. You do just exactly what Sarah has suggested, because I have a plan. Sarah does not know that she is doing something that really is going to work out for the good of everyone. She is doing it because she is selfish. She is doing it because she is full of envy, but I have a plan. You let me worry, Abraham. I will take care of the thing.” I believe that is the only reason in the world why Abraham could have taken Hagar and Ishmael his son that early morning, put nothing more than a bottle of water and a loaf of bread in their hands, and sent them out into the desert. I do not believe he could have done it, because he loved Ishmael. He could not have done it if God had not said, “Abraham, don't worry.” He encouraged Abraham's heart.

Then notice what He did for Hagar. He conforted Hagar's heart. Poor Hagar. She had gone part way into the desert, and certainly it was not a comfortable journey. The heat was terrible, and she was discoouraged. She thought that surely when the water was spent in the bottle, that was the end. So she put her child under a little shrub, all the shade there was. Seventeen years old…they felt differently about their children from the way we do now. We want to push our children out to dating when they are twelve and get them married when they are sixteen and be grandparents when we are hardly ready to raise our own children. We are rushing everything these days, but back then they were still children at seventeen. The Word says that she put this boy under a shrub, and then she walked away from him and sat down so she would not see him die, because she thought surely he would, and her eyes were blinded with tears…tears and discouragement to the extent that she could not see even something good. Have you ever been to that place in your life when you were so blue and discouraged, and had so many tears in your eyes, that you could not see even God's provision for you? Oh, how good and gracious God is. He might just have said, “That is Sarah's business. That is Abraham's business.” But in verse 17 He said:

Genesis 21:

17And God heard the voice of the lad; and the angel of God called to Hagar out of heaven, and said unto her, What aileth thee, Hagar? fear not; for God hath heard the voice of the lad where he is.
18Arise, lift up the lad, and hold him in thine hand; for I will make him a great nation.
19And God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water; and she went, and filled the bottle with water, and gave the lad drink.

Notice that God did not dig that well. It was there all the time. In the providence of God when she came to the end of herself, Hagar found herself at the brink of a well. Realize that God leads His dear children along in just that way. He knoweth the way that we take, quite often when we are not conscious of it. We think we are wandering around in the desert, and we think we are coming to the end of everything, and there is no more hope. But God is directing our steps to the brink of a well. Do you realize that many of God's dear children like Hagar could die of thirst within inches of water because discouragement has so overwhelmed them, and they have so many tears in their eyes that they cannot see even God's provision? This suggests to us that when God deals with His children, He deals in mercy and in Grace. Perhaps you are wondering why God found it necessary to remove Ishmael from the camp of Abraham. There were several reasons.

Preparing Abraham For Future Tests

One of them is found in the verse, “Cast out the bondwoman and her son,” and we will be looking at that by and by. One of them must be interpreted in the light of chapter 22. In this chapter is found the story of how Abrahm was going to offer up his own son on the altar 17 years after this time, and God had to prepare his heart for that great ordeal.

Sometimes you may wonder why a particular thing happened, but later when you must go through a very trying ordeal, you find that in the mercy and grace of God your heart was prepared for it by that thing that happened months or weeks or even years ago. I believe with all my heart that the reason Abraham could so boldly march up Mount Moriah to offer his 22-year-old son as a sacrifice to God was that one time years before he had given up a 17-year-old son. When you have been through the fire once, it is not so hard to go through it again. God had a purpose to accomplish, and He did it.

Saved By Grace

Will you turn with me to chapter 4 of the book of Galatians, because there we have the Holy Spirit's comment on this incident. The Holy Spirit uses this as an illustration of a great spiritual truth. You will remember that the Galatian Christians had been saved by grace through faith, without the aid of human effort. Then someone got hold of them and said, “You know, we are glad that you folks say you are saved, but are you really saved?” These Galatian Christians, said, “Of course we are. What do you mean?” They said, “Well, we just had not heard that you were circumcised.” They said, “What has circumcision got to do with salvation?” These Galatian Christians said, “Why, we remember the time when we accepted Christ as our Savior. It is all very clear to us. We do not…” “Well, you may have had some sort of experience, but you could not be saved if you were not circumcised.”

That is just as people today meet you and say, “I am glad that you are trying to do what God wants you to do. You say you are a Christian. When were you baptized?” You say, “I do not know that I was baptized.” “Oh, well, then you are not a Christian.” “Oh, but I know that I am. I know that I received Jesus Christ as my Savior.” “Well, you could not be, if you were not baptized. If you were not baptized our way, and if you were not baptized…so on and so on…you just could not be.” That is the way it was with these Galatian Christians. They had placed their faith and their trust in Christ, but what were known as Judaizing teachers came along and tried to rob them of their faith. They came to these Galatian Christians and tried to rob them of their faith. They came to these Galatian Christians and said, “You say you are a Christian, but do you keep the Ten Commandments?” These Galatian Christians said, “Well, no. We are saved by grace. We do out of the love of God in our hearts what is right, and we do not keep a law or rule and all the rest of it for fear we will go to Hell if we do not.” “You could not be saved, because if you are saved, you have to keep every single one of the commandments of Moses.” They were in quite a turmoil. They were in quite bitter distress. So Paul said, “I want to tell you a story. After I tell you this story, I think you will be able to understand that it is salvation by grace and grace alone.” So in Galatians, chapter 4, verse 21:

Galatians 4:

21Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law?
22For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman.
23But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise.

That is what we have already touched on. The son of the bondwoman was the result of human effort. The son of the freewoman Sarah was the result of a miracle. In verse 24 Paul said:

Galatians 4:

24Which things are an allegory:…

Now wait just a moment. He does not mean that those things never happened. He said, “I am going to use them as an allegory, as an illustration:”

Galatians 4:

24Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is [Hagar]Agar.
25For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children.
26But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all.
27For it is written, Rejoice, thou barren that bearest not; break forth and cry, thou that travailest not: for the desolate hath many more children than she which hath an husband.

Let us stop for a moment and get the facts straight in our minds. We have two women before us. Hagar is one, and Sarah is another. Paul said that Hagar will stand for Mount Sinai, the place from which the law of Moses came, and for the literal city of Jerusalem which has its dominion over only the Jewish people. Sarah will stand for the new Jerusalem which is above, that city which hath foundations whose builder and maker is God, that city that Abraham looked for while he was traveling in the wilderness, that city described in chapter 21 of the book of Revelation…the new Jerusalem. He said that Sarah was going to stand for that. He said, and quoted a passage of Scripture, “New Jerusalem hath many more children than old Jerusalem ever thought of having, because new Jerusalem is free and old Jerusalem is in bondage with all of her children.” Look at verse 28:

Galatians 4:

28Now we, brethren [we Christians], as Isaac was, are the children of promise.

Miracle of Regeneration

Therein lies a tremendous statement. Every one of us who is born again is typified by Isaac. Have you ever stopped to consider how the birth of Isaac is representative of the new birth? Let me run hurriedly over a few things with you. Isaac was born out of death. Sinners are dead in trespasses and in sin. Isaac's birth was a miracle. Our regeneration is a miracle. Only as we consider that do we see the parallel. Look now at Galatians, chapter 4, verse 29:

Galatians 4:

29But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now.

He was speaking first of all of a very local thing. Judaizing teachers, the Jews, were persecuting the Christians. Paul says that is just the way it was back yonder in Abraham's home. The child born after the flesh, Ishmael, was persecuting the child born after the spirit, Isaac. He was talking about a very local thing, but there is a deeper meaning than that. You read carefully the record and you will not find that Ishmael did a thing out of turn until Isaac was born, but when Isaac was born it stirred up Ishmael, and things began to happen.

Have you said about yourselves, or have you heard someone say at some time or other, “You know, I have had more trouble since I have been saved than I ever had before I was saved. I have more problems since I came to know the Lord than I ever did before, and I cannot understand it.” Beloved, I can understand it. You see, you have an old nature. It is called Ishmael in the terms of our story. As long as you do everything your old nature wants you to do, you will not have any trouble. As long as you do everything the Devil wants you to do, you will not have any problems. But when you are born again, you have a new nature. Isaac is its name. The very moment the Lord Jesus Christ comes to live in your heart, the new nature begins to struggle with the old nature, and there is a constant warfare going on. Some people cannot understand it. Sometimes they see us and they see Isaac, and they think that oh, we are so nice. We are just the loveliest people they have ever seen. Another time they see us and they see Ishmael, and they cannot stand the sight of us. One person sees us and he sees Isaac, and he says, “Oh, he is such a fine Christian man.” Someone says, “I do not know about that. He did not act like one yesterday.” Well, he was acting like Ishmael yesterday. A lot of Christians do not understand that. Because they do not understand that Isaac and Ishmael are dwelling together, they are having a real problem and will have it until Ishmael is cast out.

There are some of God's dear people…I love them, but I disagree with them theologically…who tell you that Ishmael can be cast out in this life. I am perfectly frank with you when I say I wish he could. I just wish I could get rid of Ishmael. I would not have any problem if I could. But you cannot get rid of Ishmael in this life. Ishmael is going to stay. But one of these days, thank God, Ishmael is going to be cast out. When the Lord Jesus Christ returns to this earth, we will get rid of Ishmael, and when we do, everything will be all right.

Our New Body

Turn to Philippians, chapter 3, and notice one of many passages of Scripture that tell when you will get rid of Ishmael:

Philippians 3:

20For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:
21Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.

Notice in verse 21, “Who shall change our vile bodies.” Your body is not vile because you need a bath. Some people do, but if you live the way you ought to, that is not why your body is vile. The reason your body is vile is that Ishmael is there. But one of these days you will get rid of Ishmael, and then you will have a body like unto the body of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul said that this thing that occurred in chapter 21 of the book of Genesis was recorded that you might have an allegory of these things.


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