“Therefore she said to Abraham, ‘Cast out this bondwoman and her son; for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, namely with Isaac.’”
On the day Isaac was weaned, Abraham and Sarah celebrated by throwing a party. Because they had waited so long for a son, and since Abraham’s camp was large, this would have been quite a celebration. Tragically, this joyous occasion is cut short when the teenage son of Hagar began to mock his half brother Isaac. While it is not shocking to any parent that one child could tease another, we might all be taken back a bit by the strong reaction from Sarah. When she hears his scoffing, she calls on Abraham to “Cast out the son of the bond woman…” In response, Abe will give Hagar and Ishmael a canteen of water and a loaf of bread and send them packing. On the surface this seem like a colossal over-reaction. What was it about Ishmael’s actions that warranted such a harsh reaction?
Two thousand years later, Paul explained to the Galatians church that this event, while literal, is also designed to illustrate one of the oldest and most difficult struggles we face. That struggle is the battle within, between the flesh and the Spirit. This is a struggle every child of God knows all too well. Each and every day we find that some of our desires are pleasing to God and complementary to Scripture, while other desires are an out right rebellion against God. Just about every night, we lay our heads down on our pillows regretting some action or reaction from our day. This is not the struggle of some, but is the struggle of all. Fortunately, the Bible gives us insight into how we can be victorious in the battle between flesh and Spirit. Paul gives the following recipe for success:
“A little leaven leavens the whole lump.”
“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.”
“Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.”
We need to cast off our flesh or our own desires. If we want to see victory in our lives, we need to be sowing to and walking in the spirit; only then can we see the battle being won in our lives.