2002-11-20 - Faith
Encore from 1999-01-16
True faith is always tested, for it is only through testing that we discover what kind of faith we have. Tests of faith are opportunities for growth and victory. The Lesson from Genesis Chapters 21 through 22 is about Abraham's faith. All Scriptures are from the 1901
I. A Test from the Family (21:121)
It is often hardest to live for Christ at home. Abraham had already been tested in his family.
By his father: Genesis 11:2732
By his nephew Lot: Genesis chaps. 1213
By his wife: Genesis Chap. 16.
Here we see conflict between the two sons, Ishmael (who would be in his late teens, according to 16:16), and Isaac (who was weaned at about the age of 3). At first, Isaac's birth brought joy and laughter. (Compare 21:6 with 17:17 and 18:12.) For the very name "Isaac" means "laughter." But soon there was conflict, as Ishmael constantly persecuted his younger brother. There are some valuable lessons here:
A. The flesh vs. the Spirit.
Ishmael was a child of the flesh (chap. 16), while Isaac was a child of promise, born miraculously. Isaac's presence in the home was not due to Abraham's strength (for Abraham was as good as dead, Rom. 4:1920), but to God's promise and power. There is always conflict between the flesh and the Spirit, the old nature and the new (Gal. 5:1624). Salvation does not change the old nature, nor can the old nature be improved or disciplined (see Rom. 67). The only way to overcome the old nature is to accept God's estimate of it and obey God's Word. Abraham loved Ishmael and longed to hold to him (21:1011, and see 17:18). But God said, "Cast him out!" Romans 6 informs us that our only victory over the flesh is crucifixion - reckoning ourselves dead. Christians who cater to the old nature (Rom. 13:14) will always have conflict and trouble.
B. The Old Covenant vs. the New Covenant.
Galatians 4:2131 explains that these events with Ishmael and Isaac are an allegory that symbolizes God's Old Covenant with Israel and His New Covenant with the church. We may briefly summarize the main ideas as follows: Hagar symbolizes the Old Covenant of law, identified with the earthly Jerusalem in Paul's day. Sarah symbolizes the New Covenant of grace, identified with the heavenly Jerusalem. Ishmael was born of the flesh and was the son of a slave. Isaac was "born of the Spirit" and was the son of a freewoman. The two sons, then, picture the Jews under the slavery of law and the true Christians under the liberty of grace. Paul's argument is that God commanded Abraham to cast out Hagar (the Old Covenant), because His blessing was to be upon Isaac. All of this fits into Paul's argument in Gal. 34 that Christians today are not under the law.
In His Service,