Tell me, you who want to be under the law, are you not aware of what the law says? 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 according to the flesh, but his son by the free woman was born as the result of a divine promise.
– Galatians 4:21-23
“Paul was not dealing with sin in this chapter of Galatians, but with the relation of the natural to the spiritual. The natural can be turned into the spiritual only through sacrifice. Without this a person will lead a divided life. Why did God demand that the natural must be sacrificed? God did not demand it. It is not God’s perfect will, but His permissive will. God’s perfect will was for the natural to be changed into the spiritual through obedience. Sin is what made it necessary for the natural to be sacrificed.
“Abraham had to offer up Ishmael before he offered up Isaac (see Genesis 21:8-14). Some of us are trying to offer up spiritual sacrifices to God before we have sacrificed the natural. The only way we can offer a spiritual sacrifice to God is to “present [our] bodies a living sacrifice…” (Romans 12:1). Sanctification means more than being freed from sin. It means the deliberate commitment of myself to the God of my salvation, and being willing to pay whatever it may cost.
“If we do not sacrifice the natural to the spiritual, the natural life will resist and defy the life of the Son of God in us and will produce continual turmoil. This is always the result of an undisciplined spiritual nature. We go wrong because we stubbornly refuse to discipline ourselves physically, morally, or mentally. We excuse ourselves by saying, “Well, I wasn’t taught to be disciplined when I was a child.” Then discipline yourself now! If you don’t, you will ruin your entire personal life for God.
“God is not actively involved with our natural life as long as we continue to pamper and gratify it. But once we are willing to put it out in the desert and are determined to keep it under control, God will be with it. He will then provide wells and oases and fulfill all His promises for the natural (see Genesis 21:15-19).”
– Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest
I first wanted to copy a single paragraph of the Chambers quote, but it grew to the entire daily devotion.
I have read the Bible many times through. The story of Hagar and Sarah is not new, but Chambers put the story into perspective and ties that concept into our lives. Abraham had two sons. The son born under the natural world concept had to be sacrificed. The words are there in Galatians, but the import may be missed. Why did Abraham have a son, Ishmael, in the first place? Abraham had a moment of poor faith. He allowed his eyes to veer from God’s goal. He did the earthly fix to solve something that had been ordained by Heaven. There was a problem. The results led to a mother and her child being cast out.
Then God tests Abraham’s faith by asking him to sacrifice Isaac. Does sacrificing Ishmael first give the Isaac sacrifice more meaning to Abraham? “Yes, God, I did not believe You then, but I do now.” Is that it? That tells a tremendous tale about the faith of Abraham.
But what of our faith? What crumbs of this natural world are we to give up or sacrifice to gain the great treasures that God has in store? I am not preaching prosperity Gospel here. The treasures may be greater understanding, wisdom, and knowledge. The crumbs may be the great wealth of this earth, but when you fill you pocket at the point of death, how much reaches Heaven’s gate? You will not have lint left in your pocket, maybe not even a pocket.
We all must leave the old life behind. After a time, these sacrifices may not be considered sacrifices at all. Our new life with Jesus will be far superior to what we left behind, even in suffering.
And in looking at this devotion and the new view of an old story, it amazes me that we can read the Scriptures many, many times and still find nuggets that point toward greater faith in God upon the tenth or twentieth reading of the same passage. The Holy Spirit guides us, but sometimes He reveals a nugget only when we are ready.
And then, the day after I read my dose of Chambers, I read a dose of A. W. Tozer, from his book, I Talk Back to the Devil.
“We forget so easily that in the spiritual life there must be the darkness of the night before there can be the radiance of the dawn. Before the life of resurrection can be known, there must be the death that ends the dominion of self. It is a serious but blessed decision, this willingness to say, “’I will follow Him no matter what the cost. I will take the cross no matter how it comes!’”
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.