Faith and Obedience

9 And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, which she had born unto Abraham, mocking.

10 Wherefore 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.

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

12 And 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. Gen. 21:9-12

Long ago, we used to sing a song:

Trust and obey

For there is no other way

To be happy in Jesus

But to trust and obey.

There are many beautiful and spiritually satisfying songs that we used to sing in the old days.

But let’s get down to this post…

Abraham is called the father of faith. He is also called the friend of God. Let’s see how much of a friend Abraham was to God.

When God was going to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, His was a top-secret, highly classified military operation. He had no intention of informing anyone about His mission. But something made God to stop in His tracks, so to speak.

“And the LORD said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do” (Gen. 18:17).

God came to a decision. He decided He could not hide from Abraham the thing He intended to do. Abraham pleased God so much that God decided to reveal His plans to him!

That was how much a friend of God Abraham was.

God is no respecter of men. He certainly wasn’t with Abraham. But somehow Abraham was able to please God through his faith, and they became intimate friends. That is an incredible feat.

We all love to think that we are pleasing to God. But we can only please God when we have faith, and faith goes with obedience, as we are about to see with Abraham.

We can see from the scripture above that Abraham had two sons, Ishmael and Isaac. One, Ishmael, was born by his slave, Hagar; the younger, Isaac, was born by his wife Sarah through a promise of God. As is normal with most men, the first born is always very dear to them, for he is the first-fruits of their strength. And so it was with Abraham. His heart lay with Ishmael, his firstborn son.

But we can also see that Abraham’s love for Ishmael clouded his spiritual sight. Now Abraham was seeing things in the natural. He was very happy for Ishmael. At 13 years old, Ishmael must have been a strapping, promising young man and Abraham’s pride most likely was fully vested in him.

But Sarah saw in the Spirit, and she saw Ishmael “mocking”.

Now, “mocking” is not a good word at all. The word “mocking” indicates a revulsive, worldly spirit. It speaks of contempt. It is a spirit that has no boundaries; it cannot define the sacred from the unholy. It is the spirit that we are increasingly seeing in the world today – an anti-God spirit.

That was not a good thing this boy was doing. In fact, it was downright evil. In Galatians 4:29 it says that Ishmael “persecuted” Isaac.

Sarah saw the evil in Ishmael. She decided the boy and her mother had to go. She spoke to Abraham about it and Abraham, poor man, was loathe to send them away. It appears that, left on his own, Abraham would have given his inheritance to Ishmael! We thank God for Godly women like Sarah who can put the brakes to the madness of their husbands. Sarah takes much credit here.

Abraham tried to defend his choice to remain with Ishmael, but God told him, “Listen to Sarah.” Listening to Sarah meant Ishmael and his mother had to go, and this was extremely painful to Abraham. But painful as it was, Abraham obeyed. He sent Ishamel and Hagar away.

That was faith! Through losing in the natural, Abraham proved his faith in God.

We have no idea where Ishmael’s persecution of Isaac would have led to. Probably Ishmael would have kept on bullying the younger boy until Isaac would have become a vegetative youth of no consequence. Or he probably would have killed him outright once he became strong enough.

In casting out both the slave and her son, Abraham suffered, but he obeyed God. He kept his faith.

And in that, God must have been very happy with him.

The word “happy” is not a word that we can easily apply to the relationship between God and the church today. It is no secret that today the church is too much in cahoots with the world. There is too much compromise with the world! So much so that “Isaac” is about to be buried under.

Particularly, these three things are there in the church today:

  • Sin
  • Worldly influences, especially celebrity worship/Christianity and political correctness
  • Law and principles. Far from having no power to enable God’s people to live a victorious life, law binds them even tighter in the bondage of sin.

But we must strive to please God. We must separate the spiritual from the worldly in the church. The church must walk under the full power of God’s grace.

In order to achieve what he did, Abraham walked in the revelation of the cross. There was total denial of self involved. Abraham took up his cross and followed Christ.

When we, too, walk in the revelation of the cross of Jesus Christ we are able to cast off the old man of the flesh through crucifying it on the cross, and only through the cross can we hope for “Isaac” (the spiritual man) in us to be free to inherit.

If we do not cast out the flesh through crucifying it, we will see the influences of the flesh and of the world increasingly manifesting themselves in our lives, a scenario that is becoming more and more a reality in God’s people’s lives today.

[Below: Dar es Salaam: In the afternoon heat, passengers in city buses take time to snooze]

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