Hebrews 11: 13 The next step in the progression of faith is embracing the promise. Many times, after God has helped us to deal with the doubts that have plagued our minds, we find some of these same old doubts returning to trouble us again. The problem is usually connected to something we hold in our heart and refuse to release. We have “a double heart.” Psalms 12:2 Until we ”purify our hearts” of all impurities we will continue to have problems with doubt. James 4:8
After thirteen years of silence God spoke to Abram again. Genesis 17: 1 That was a long time for him to go without any new revelation from God. Psalm 28: 1 God began to deal with the problem of Abram’s double heart. God said, “I will establish my covenant between me and you.” They had already made a covenant in Genesis 15:18, and God was now ready to fulfill His promise to Abram about a son. The time of the promise was no longer afar off but was ready to be fulfilled.
God revealed Himself as the Almighty God, meaning “The All-Sufficient God,” and changed Abram’s name, which means “Exalted Father,” to Abraham meaning “Father of a Multitude.” God gave Abraham the covenant sign of circumcision and brought Sarai into the covenant by renaming her Sarah meaning “Princess.” God stated specifically that it was Sarah who would bear Abraham a son who was to be named Isaac, meaning “Laughter.” Abraham laughed and began to pray, “0 that Ishmael might live before you!” Genesis 17:18 God had not mentioned Ishmael. Why was Abraham talking about him? Because Ishmael was in his heart.
When Sarah realized she was barren and couldn’t conceive a child she came up with a plan for Abraham to marry the servant girl she had acquired while down in Egypt. She offered her husband to another woman. There was nothing illegal about such a marriage in that culture; however, this was not the will of God. Never exalt culture above God’s will. But notice that Abraham did not object to Sarah’s idea and how quickly he obeyed her voice. Genesis 16:2 This is significant because later we find him struggling with obeying Sarah’s plans. Genesis 21: 11, 12 Abraham did not ask for a second wife but there was something in his heart that caused him to quickly go along with the plan even though he knew God had said nothing about a second marriage. We must beware of anything in our hearts that causes us to embrace something other than the promise of God.
Abraham had a “double heart.” He could not embrace the promised son of the spirit because he refused to release the son of his flesh. God made it very clear that He was not making a covenant with Ishmael; however, because Ishmael was Abraham’s son and he had prayed for him, God says, “I have blessed him and will make him fruitful and will multiply him exceedingly.” Genesis 17 :20 If we could somehow talk with Abraham today and ask him about his prayer for Ishmael, I wonder if he would have any regrets about praying such a prayer? Psalm 106:15
Sometimes the prayers we pray are not God’s will or in our best interests. Like Hezekiah whom God told to get his house in order because he was going to die, we begin to try to change the mind of God concerning our situation. God added fifteen years to Hezekiah’s life in answer to his prayer but in those fifteen years ten terrible things happened that would have never taken place if he had simply accepted the will of God. Manasseh, the worst king in Judah’s history was born during those fifteen years and became the main reason God had to destroy Judah and send them into slavery in Babylon. II Kings 20:1, 21 II Kings 21:1-16
God kept His promise to Abraham and Sarah bore him Isaac, the promised son. Even after the birth of Isaac Abraham was still struggling with releasing Ishmael. The time to wean Isaac had come and Abraham made a great celebration for this special occasion marking the time that Isaac was no longer a baby. Ishmael was threatened with all of this celebrating over Isaac. For almost eighteen years he was the only heir to his father’s riches, and now he saw himself losing this position to his younger brother. Genesis 21:9 says Ishmael was “mocking” but according to Galatians 4:29 he was ”persecuting him.” What was happening? Behind the teasing Sarah saw Ishmael’s heart. He hated Isaac! Sarah demanded that Abraham put him out of the house, but he did not want to listen to her. Why? He was still holding on to Ishmael. It was only after God spoke to Abraham telling him to listen to Sarah about this matter that he was able to release his embrace on Ishmael.
It was “very distressing in Abraham’s sight” because this was his son. He did not want to let Ishmael go even though he was now about eighteen years old. Many times, we find things in our hearts that are not from God. They are our plans, our ambitions, our desires and ideas. If we are to receive what God has promised us in our lives, then we must be willing to cleanse our hearts of anything that is not from God and only embrace God’s promise. You cannot embrace both of them.