The Seed Of Ishmael
By Jan Austin Antonsson
The Glory Road
"He who sows the good seed is the Son of man." (Matt. 13:37).
Did you ever wonder why the Bible names all three of the patriarchs in connection with the promise God made to Abraham? I looked it up in the computer program I have, and found some 31 times that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are all named together in references to the oath God swore to Abraham. I always assumed that this was poetic language, but it struck me this morning that the reason is deeper than that. There's a glorious truth there that God does not want us to miss. Ishmael, child of the slave woman, Hagar, was also heir to a promise of God. As you probably recall, like a lot of us, Sarah grew weary of waiting on God to come through with the goods, or perhaps she thought the whole thing was a figment of her husband's imagination. Whatever the reason, she took the reins into her own hands and decided to help God out by giving Hagar, her slave, to Abraham as his concubine. I got the picture today of Sarah planting a tare (the seed of Ishmael), in God's field. That seed, man's efforts to play God, produced a bumper crop, more weeds than the world has ever seen or knows what to do with. (Matt. 13:24-30).
I've often thought how the Jews, the descendants of Isaac, have lived to rue the day she made that decision. They still struggle, bleed and die, because Sarah put her hands on the Divine and tried to bring God's oath to pass by the strength of her own will. Like Adam and Eve, she ate of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and it was bitter fruit indeed, for her and for all her heirs and assigns, even now, unto this day. Not to worry, though, it was always God's problem from start to finish. In His time, Jesus will send His messengers to introduce the tares inside us and outside of us to the cleansing fire of His love and His corrective judgment. When the dross is burned off, our righteousness will "shine forth like the sun" in the kingdom of our Father. (Matt. 13:37-43; I Cor. 3:11-15).
Listen to the words of God regarding this child Ishmael, "And Abraham said to God, 'If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!' Then God said, 'Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him. And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation. But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year'." (Gen. 17:18-21).
God is so honorable, so faithful, and so completely trustworthy, that He honored His commitment to Abraham, even though the patriarch had attempted to bring it to pass by the strength of his own right arm. In spite of this, God said, "As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. No longer will you be called Abram ; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations." (Gen. 17:4-5).
Today, many of the problems in Israel have very much to do with the descendants of Ishmael. I heard a news story the other day about the conflict in the ancient city of Hebron, which was where David was crowned king. (II Sam. 2:4). The news reporter interviewed the Palestinians, armed to the teeth, belligerent, and ready to fight, living among the Jewish settlers who were also armed to the teeth, belligerent, self righteous, and ready to fight. He said to the children of Ishmael, "But this is where Abraham buried Sarah, in the field of Machpelah. (Gen. 23:19). Because of that, the Jews believe it is theirs by legal right." The Palestinians replied, "We know that, but Abraham is our father too!" And on this dilemma, in the physical realm rests world peace or as God wills, World War III.
However, a more serious question exists for all of us today, unbelievable as that sounds, for on this dilemma of the two seeds, Isaac and Ishmael, rests a huge spiritual problem, one which many Christians do not seem to be aware of. The problem is that we have failed to realize the import of God's promise to Abraham, that only in the seed of Isaac, would all nations be blessed. Even among church people, there is apparent confusion. Paul explained it very well in Romans 9:6-8, "For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his descendants; but 'Through Isaac shall your descendants be named.' This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are reckoned as descendants." Church people know that God's promises comes from the seed of Isaac, yet they often behave as though they were descended from Ishmael. When He was poking holes in the Pharisees pride, Jesus told them that God could raise up children of Abraham from stones! (Matt. 3:9). And actually, when you think of what He had to work with, God has done exactly that with us, mud creatures all. He formed us from the dust of the earth, breathed into us His life, and purposed to make us light beings who will rule and reign with Him. (Rom. 8:17). What a glorious thought, what a glorious Father we have.
And yet, in spite of the glory, the divine purpose of God; the plan hidden from before the foundations of the world; (Matt. 13:35; Eph. 1:4; Heb. 4:3; Rev. 13:8; Rev. 17:8) still, we often forget that it is His life and His works (Jn. 8:28) which count. To repeat, we may have our theology straight insofar as we know intellectually that we are heirs to the promise because we are of the seed of Isaac, not Ishmael, but in practice and in thought, we behave as though Ishmael were our father. Isaac was a man like we are, and so the important person in our spiritual lineage is Christ. Paul says, The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. The Scripture does not say "and to seeds," meaning many people, but "and to your seed, meaning one person, who is Christ." (Gal. 3:16).
In his books, "Coming Out of Darkness," Gary Sigler does an excellent job of explaining that God's covenant with us, is, in actual fact, with the seed of Isaac, which is Christ Jesus within each of us. (These are free upon request. He'll mail you hard copy, or download them from his website at http://www.sigler.org). God is transforming us into the image of Christ, (Rom. 8:20) by way of the new creation, (II Cor. 5:19) which effectively takes the natural man out of the loop, so to speak. God deals with us on the basis of the seed of Christ within us, not upon our flaws, sins, and shortcomings. We are the soil in which that seed is planted. Our churches today are filled with self-righteous souls who, like the Pharisees in Jesus' time, are so consumed with being doctrinally correct, that they would bind the letter of the law upon anyone who will listen. Obviously, they cannot live up to it themselves, but perhaps they think if they bind it on others, they will get credit somehow. I understand such thinking. All of us have been guilty of the "Do what I say, not what I do" mentality. It is the human condition, but so very lethal, for the letter kills. Only the Spirit gives us life! (II Cor. 3:6).
These same folks will protest loudly that they know we don't live by law. "We live under grace," they announce proudly, all the while behaving as if there were a code of behavior out there somewhere that must be adhered to in order to be acceptable to God; in order to come into His presence. Trying to live by a code of rules produces the sting of death, which is sin, and sin gets its power from the law! (I Cor. 15:56). Even though we surely know that "no man is justified before God by the law," (Gal. 3:11) still, we continue to try to live as though we were bound by it.
We are not of the lineage of Hagar and Ishmael. Paul explains it this way: "For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the free woman. His son by the slave woman was born in the ordinary way; but his son by the free woman was born as the result of a promise. These things may be taken figuratively, for the women represent two covenants. One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves: This is Hagar. Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother." (Gal. 4:22-26).
There are many Christians who by virtue of trying to justify themselves by law, "have fallen away from grace." (Gal. 5:4). I'm not talking about their eternal destiny here, but rather their ability to live overcoming, abundant lives (Jn. 10:10), here and now, free from condemnation and the domination of sin, by the power of the life giving Spirit. (Rom. 8:2). I'm talking about those dear ones who are exhausted from carrying the load. To these weary souls, Jesus said, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matt. 11:28-30). Anyone can observe that some Christians are carrying a heavy burden of guilt and works. They are not enjoying the kingdom of heaven, because they are dsentenced to hard labor, breaking up rocks in the prison yard of the enemy.
You simply cannot have grace or peace if you choose to try to earn God's promises by your own works, your own efforts, for "if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace." (Rom. 11:6). How do we know if we're living by law or grace? Simply put, Paul characterized the law by the following statement: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." (Gal. 5:14). He continues, "But if you bite and devour one another, take heed that you are not consumed by one another. ...walk by the Spirit, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you would. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law." (Gal. 5:15-18).
Now, of course the Pharisees we know and love most certainly preach the loudest sermons against the works of the flesh, but which ones? I have noticed that mostly, they pick on the more lurid sins of the flesh: "immortality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, drunkenness and carousing." (Vs. 19-20). Indeed, these are on Paul's list, and we all have been in congregations where if a member of the church went forward during the invitation hymn, our first thought was "sex sin!" From the sermons I listened to as I was growing up, I was sure it must be the worst one.
Recently, I had occasion to check out a website in which a whole bunch of doctrinal watchdogs, legalists, and gatekeepers were having a free for all. Don't ask me for the website address, for I will probably erase it from my "Favorite Places," and may never go there again after I post this journal. I was so depressed after reading some of the entries, that I couldn't even tell Lenny, my husband, what it was about until the next day. I really felt burdened down with sadness that these folks would spend this kind of energy trying to prove they were right. Listen to the rest of Paul's lists of the works of the flesh: "enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, and envy." (Gal. 5:20). "Oh, but wait now," you protest. "Sometimes, we have to protect doctrinal purity." I couldn't help but think that if Paul were to log onto this website, he would ask, "Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that a man stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Master is able to make him stand.....Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God: for it is written, 'As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall give praise to God'." (Rom. 14:4, 10-11).
To these WebCrawlers, these bulletin board brawlers and chat room chafers, who flame and spam (insult and aggravate), each other for sport, creating a blot on Cyberspace, Paul would ask, "O foolish web warriors, Who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law, or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun with the Spirit, are you now ending with the flesh?" (Gal. 3:1-3).
To me, the worst thing about all this judging, anger, and petty ego inflating, is that "those who do such things shall NOT INHERIT THE KINGDOM OF GOD. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law." (Gal. 5:21). Yesterday, I got an E-mail from a friend containing an article entitled, "How To Rebuke Scripturally." Was I convinced of the need to fight? No, I most certainly was not! That's God's job, not mine. Besides, isn't it pretty obvious, that if someone standing outside the door were to take a peek into the kingdom of heaven and see the brothers and sisters fighting, judging, and condemning each other, he or she would just want to keep on walking down the road?
No matter how you slice it, justifying oneself by law and beating each other over the head with a Bible is returning to the old wineskins which are decayed, full of holes, and most certainly will result in the new wine spilling out on the ground, never to do anyone any good. (Matt. 9:17). Peter compares this behavior to the dog who turns to his own vomit or the sow who after having a bath, returns to wallowing in the mire. (II Pet. 2:22). He concludes, "For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them." (II Pet. 2:21). One of Paul's problems, was the Judaizers who were trying to add circumcism to the list of what it took to be pleasing to God. Paul made short work of them. "Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation." (Gal. 6:15). Today, we could replace circumcism with almost anything the churches fight and debate each other over, and not do too much disservice to the text.
A legalist, a Pharisee is one who does not see the sovereignty, the righteousness of God, but who seeks to establish his own righteousness. (Rom. 10:3). They have not learned that everything depends "not upon man's will or exertion, but upon God's mercy." (Rom. 9:16). It does me no good to condemn the Pharisees out there, however, without allowing God to deal with the Pharisees inside Jan.
The Spirit of God is delivering me from my own legalism, which was exceedingly great. One important point He has shown me is that the promises of God are by Divine indicative, rather than man's imperative. Pardon me for sounding like an English teacher, to which I plead guilty, but let me quickly explain the difference between the two "modes of communication." The Imperative is the command mode. When Pharisees and legalists read the Bible, they hear, "Thou Shalt!" That means man has to perform. When the heirs of the promise read it, we see the indicative mode, or that which already is, that which God will bring to pass. For example, consider Ishiah's prophecy, "And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together." Most would acknowledge that this cannot be accomplished by man's ability or effort, but we can rest assured that it will come to pass. Why? "For the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it!" (Is. 40:5). Another way to put it is, "The Zeal of the Lord of Hosts shall perform it." (Is. 9:7; 37:32; II Kings 19:30-31).
All the promises of God are YES! and AMEN! in Christ, to the glory of God. (II Cor. 1:20). How can this be? Not by "a legal requirement concerning bodily descent, but by the power of an indestructible life." (Heb. 7:16). Why does it work? When God made His promise to Abraham, "since He had no one greater by whom to swear, He swore by himself, saying, 'Surely I will bless you and multiply you'." (Heb. 6:13). We can all relax, "Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek." (Heb. 6:17-20).
We are God's children now, and when we see Him as He is, we shall be like Him. (I Jn. 3:2). How will we behave when we become like Him? Well, like Christ, of course. I need to make it very clear here, that I'm not talking about sitting around eating bon-bons as the legalists seem to fear. For as the Spirit flows through us, we will do the work of Him who birthed us into the kingdom. What Jesus said of himself, will be true for us: "Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever he does, that the son does likewise." (Jn. 5:19). On another occasion, He said, "My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work," (Jn. 4:34) and this, fellow travelors on The Glory Road, will be our meat as well. Along the way, we may need a major overhaul or a "tune-up" by the Spirit of God in our relationship to our brothers and sisters, or perhaps we will need the refiner's fire to burn up a few tares (Ishmael's seed) still growing in God's garden within us, but God is faithful to perform that which He swore on His oath to Abraham so long ago. When he has transformed us into the image of Christ, we will bring the gospel of the kingdom to the world, for in that day, what Jesus said of himself will surely be true of us as well. "When you have lifted up the Son of man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority but speak thus as the Father taught me." (Jn. 8:28).
"The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." (Luke 4:18-19). As God tends the seed planted in our soil, He will water and He will prune, and as a result of His labors, not ours, we will be like him, what a glorious thought. "Now to him who is able to guard you from falling, and to place you blameless in the presence of his glory, with great joy, to God alone, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, power, and authority, both now, and throughout all the ages. Amen." (Jude 24-25, The Emphatic Diaglott).
Jan and Lenny Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)
"The Glory Road"
We'd like to hear from you!
Last edited on 11/07/08.