But God said to him,Do not be so distressed about the boy and your maidservant. Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.Genesis 21:12
If Isaac represents the gladsome fullness of the fruit of the Spirit, then Ishmael represents some pet manifestation of our self-life in which we find comfort and delight and that we do not want to surrender. Some place value on what they have long suspected is not what God would have but that they were reluctant to give up. Perhaps it is some long-standing habit that we have been defending. There can be habits or values in our lives that are really some form of self-indulgence. God may allow them for a while, but the time comes when He says,
Now, these have to go.
God says that Ishmael could never share in the inheritance with Isaac. This is exactly what Jesus meant when He said,
Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit (John 3:6). When the time comes for us to stand before our Lord at the judgment seat of Christ, our lives will be classified into two areas: works of wood, hay, and straw, which are of the flesh; and those of gold, silver, and precious stones, which are of the Spirit (see 1 Corinthians 3:10-15). The Lord says to us as he says to Abraham,
Ishmael must go. If you refuse to expose, examine, and remove that which is born of the flesh, even though God has said that it hurts you and He has shown you the peace, joy, and love that is the fruit of the Spirit, then you must face this choice as Abraham did.
Dr. Barnhouse once wrote,
Early in my ministry, I had the idea that I must strike out against all error wherever I saw it... if error was in some fundamental leader with whom I was in 95% agreement, I swung hard at the 5%. This made Dr. Barnhouse a highly controversial figure, often unmercifully sharp and dogmatic. This zeal for truth became an Ishmael in his life. Then he tells how there came a time when the Spirit of God taught him to love, and he faced the choice—Ishmael had to go. He had to learn to be more understanding and more tolerant of some of the variant views of others.
Some time ago, I published a New Year's resolution expressing regret that I had had differences with men who are truly born again. The results of that resolution were astounding. In the years that followed its publication, my ministry has been transformed. The closing years of his life show much of his mellowing and of the sweetness of the fruit of the Spirit in one who before had been so harsh, critical, and demanding.
I don't know what form Ishmael may be taking in your life, but I know there are times when God says to us, simply, this must go. There can be no manifestation of the life of the Spirit any longer until this is dealt with. Abraham obeyed. Early in the morning, he got up and took bread and a skin of water and, though it cost him heartbreak to do it, sent Hagar and Ishmael out, so that he might have the fullness of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.
Lord, I ask that I would sincerely long to be a completely yielded vessel of Your joy and strength and peace. May I have the grace to cast out Ishmael and find the fullness and joy of Isaac.
Old habits and thought patterns can become comfortable. Do we respond obediently when God asks us to put them away so our inner healing can bring lasting joy?