The following is an excerpt from “Do Not Grow Weary in Prayer and Fasting,” written faithfully each week for nearly 10 years by Jerry Hale, Spiritual Emphasis Committee Chair for the Growing and Building Campaign.
I read more about Abraham in my devotions this past week. The life of Abraham is a great study in the life of faith. Abraham had a remarkable relationship with God, yet even he had problems trusting God in all areas. The most telling example of his lack of trust came in the birth of his sons Ishmael and Isaac. God promised him a son and countless descendants, yet no son came. Since his wife, Sarah, had not been able to conceive, she and Abraham came up with a plan to have a son born to them via her maidservant, Hagar. The Apostle Paul comments on the wisdom of this decision:
Galatians 4: Hagar and Sarah
21 Tell me, you who want to be under the law, are you not aware of what the law says? 22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the free woman. 23 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.
24 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. 25 Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children. 26 But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother. 27 For it is written:
“Be glad, O barren woman,
who bears no children;
break forth and cry aloud,
you who have no labor pains;
because more are the children of the
than of her who has a husband.”
28 Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. 29 At that time the son born in the ordinary way persecuted the son born by the power of the Spirit. It is the same now. 30 But what does the Scripture say? “Get rid of the slave woman and her son, for the slave woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with the free woman’s son.” 31 Therefore, brothers, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman.
We know that in spite of Abraham and Sarah’s lack of faith, God intervened in their lives and Isaac, the child of the promise, was born to them in their old age. As a result, we too are figuratively children of the promise. We modern-day believers trace our spiritual roots back to God’s dealings with Abraham. We are able to do this because God gave Abraham a final test and he passed with flying colors. The account of Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac is a picture of God’s willingness to sacrifice his own son for our sins.
We have approximately 30 Muslim students enrolled in our school. As I have gotten to know them, I learned that the Koran says that it was Ishmael that God asked Abraham to sacrifice, not Isaac. What a difference that makes in the lives of vast numbers of people. If it really was the child of the slave girl that Abraham placed on the altar, then there is no promise and we are all lost in our sins!
Thankfully, brothers (and sisters) we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman! God’s promises to Abraham were ultimately fulfilled in Jesus. The scriptures tell us that we today are heirs of those promises. Through Jesus we are able to have the same relationship with God that Abraham enjoyed.