Hagar and Ishmael
November 9th, 1988 @ 7:30 PM
HAGAR AND ISHMAEL
Dr. W. A. Criswell
11-6-88 7:30 p.m.
Once again we welcome the multitudes of you who share this hour on radio. This is the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message on Hagar and Ishmael; on the world as God purposed His plan of salvation and grace to the families and nations of the whole earth. As I attempt the subject, it is kind of like taking as your theme “the world, and all that is in it.” There is so very much in this story of Abraham and Sarah his wife, and Hagar her slave, and the two children that were born into the family, Ishmael of the slave girl, and Isaac, the child of promise given to Sarah.
I am going to read first two passages that illustrate how very much the reading that we find in Genesis, how very much it concerns all of us in our relationship to God. For example, in the Book of Romans 9:7-9:
Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called.
That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.
For this is the word of promise, At this time will I come, and Sarah shall have a son.
And I read once again from Galatians chapter 4, beginning at verse 22. Galatians 4, beginning at verse 22:
For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a slave, the other by a freewoman.
But he who was of the slave was born after the flesh, but he of the freewoman was by promise.
Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the Mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Hagar
For this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children.
But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all.
For it is written, Rejoice, thou barren that bearest not; break forth and cry, thou that travailest not: For the desolate hath many more children than she which hath a husband.
Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise.
But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so is it now.
Nevertheless what saith the Scripture? Cast out the slave and her son: for the son of the slave shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman.
So then, brethren, we are not children of the slave, but of the free.
The passage that I have just read is a contrast between the works of the law and the free grace of the gospel of Jesus. Hagar, the bondwoman, the slave, had her son, and Sarah, her son. The one was a son after the flesh. The slave had a boy born to her that was natural. But the free woman, Sarah, had a son born to her by the grace of God [Galatians 4:30].
Now both of them, the son of the slave and the son of the freewoman, it was not possible for them to be together. There was no room for both of them. If Ishmael was chosen, then there was no room for Isaac. And as soon as Isaac was born, Ishmael was cast out [Genesis 21:10, 14]. Legalism, the works of self-righteousness, the things that we can do, cannot coexist as the way of salvation with the gospel of grace. It has to be one or the other. They are morally incompatible. Romans 11:6 avows, “If we are saved by grace, then it is no more by works. But if it is by works,” by something we do to commend ourselves to God, “then it is no more grace.”
Why was not Ishmael chosen instead of Isaac? He was born first. Because Ishmael is a child of the flesh, of Abraham’s natural life and power. He came because of the ableness of Abraham. Hagar represents all we can do in the flesh, and it is rejected. Romans 7:14-25 describes our inability ever to be good enough to commend ourselves to God.
Isaac and aged Sarah represent what God does in grace for the spiritually dead and for the absolutely helpless. As long as you think you can save yourself, and as long as you are persuaded that your goodness will commend yourself to God, God’s grace can never reach to you. It is only in our helplessness that God presents Himself as all-sufficient Savior.
Now I want to review for a moment the Bible story. In Genesis 16:2 it says, “And Abraham hearkened to the voice of Sarah.” She could not conceive. She could not think of God fulfilling His promise that they have a son [Genesis 15:2-6]. She is old; she’s toward ninety years of age. He’s toward one hundred years of age. She could not think of God fulfilling a promise that she would have a son other than by natural means. She did not believe that God was able to fulfill that promise of her having a son by any other means than by natural means. So she persuaded her husband to lie with her slave in order to have a child [Genesis 16:2-3]. And both of them, both Abraham and Sarah, listened to the reason of expediency [Genesis 16:4].
Now in that same chapter, verse 4: Hagar, the slave, was raised into a position of rivalry with Sarah, and she took no pains to conceal her contempt for Sarah [Genesis 16:4]. And don’t you think it will be otherwise in your life. If you ever persuade yourself that you can be saved by your goodness, by your works of righteousness, you will be proud of yourself. If you don’t believe that, you just talk to somebody who is not a Christian and listen to him as he will describe for you: he is good as anybody else, and he is better than most, and he is going to commend himself to God, and he will stand [at] the great judgment day and tell the Lord how he is. It goes on and on and on, boasting of his righteousness. That’s Hagar, that’s the slave.
In verses 9 and 11 when she is cast out, when the slave is cast out, the Angel of the Lord [Genesis 16:6-7]—that’s the first time He is referred to in the Bible, “the Angel of the Lord.” That’s the preincarnate Christ. The Angel of the Lord visits Hagar, and in compassion promises her that she will have a child [Genesis 16:9, 11]; he will be the father of many nations [Genesis 17:20].
And so when the child was born, she named the youngster Ishmael [Genesis 16:11]; el. In the Bible, E-L, whenever you come across it—and it is in many, many names, worlds of names, el, Nathanael, just multitudes of them—the word el is the word for God in Hebrew, el. So Ishmael; shama is to hear, and she named the boy “heard of God, God hears” [Genesis 16:11].
Now in Genesis 21:9 the child is 16 years old, and the child mocks, makes fun of, belittles the child of promise, Isaac. So in verse 10 they are cast out [Genesis 21:10, 14]; in verse 14 they are wandering around aimlessly in the desert of Beersheba [Genesis 21:14]. And in verses 15-21 God provides for them a second time; the Lord in His compassion remembers [Genesis 21:15-21].
Now just to continue in it, Genesis 25:-10: the exiled son Ishmael is assisting his brother Isaac in the burying of their father Abraham. In verses 12 to 18 of that chapter 25, the twelve sons, the twelve princes of Ishmael father of the twelve Arabian nations [Genesis 25:12-18]; and in Genesis 28:9 the daughter of Ishmael, Mahalath, marries Esau. Well, those twelve princes of Ishmael became the founders and the fathers of the twelve Arabian nations. In Genesis 25:18, “And they dwelt from Havilah to Shur, that is before Egypt,” east of Egypt.
So the children of Ishmael inhabit the Arabian Peninsula. They are the Arabians of today, and their great son is Muhammad. Muhammad is looked upon as the greatest son of Hagar through Ishmael. The Kurdish tribe of Mecca, from which Muhammad traced his lineage, boasted that they were the true sons of Abraham through Ishmael. According to Muslim tradition and belief, Ishmael helped his father Abraham build the temple at Mecca. There in the Kaaba, Ishmael lies buried with his mother Hagar. In the Koran, Ishmael is mentioned several times. In the Bible we call them chapters; in the Koran they are called surahs. And in surah 2, verse 119, Ishmael, along with his father Abraham, is commanded to purify the whole house at Mecca. In surah 4, verse 161, it is recorded that he received revelations from Allah. And in surah 19, verse 55, Ishmael is called a prophet.
There are three great Muslim feasts: one is Ramadan. On the ninth month of the year, on the ninth month of the year, each ninth month of the year, the Mohammedans spend the month in fasting from sunrise to sunset. They do that because in the ninth month the Koran is supposed to have been revealed to Muhammad. The calendar of the Arabian is lunar, so there are several days added to the year that we do not have. So in thirty-three years the month falls in all the seasons of the year. Ramadan may be in any season of the year because of the lunar months.
The second great feast of the Mohammedan is on the birthday of Muhammad, and the third is the feast of Ishmael. They say that Ishmael and not Isaac was the son offered by Abraham on Mount Moriah. And they look with disdain and contempt on the story in the Bible that on Mount Moriah Abraham offered this child of promise, Isaac, and the angel stopped, stayed his hand, and a ram was substituted for the life of the lad [Genesis 22:9-13]. They look upon that as something untrue. It’s a forced thing upon us by the Jewish people. And the Mohammedans believe that it was Ishmael who was the child of Abraham through whom the great revelations of God were to be made, and that it was Ishmael that was offered on Mount Moriah and not Isaac.
I haven’t time, and you wouldn’t feel comfortable if I followed the life of Muhammad. He couldn’t read. He couldn’t write. He’s one of the most violent, vicious men who ever lived. He believed in blood vengeance against his enemies, and he believed in the propagation of the faith by the sword. And they have succeeded in unbelievable measure in bringing into the Mohammedan faith millions and millions and millions of people.
I read, and I don’t believe it, I read within the last few days where a man avowed there were more Mohammedans in the world than that there are Christians. In any event, when you go to Africa, beginning from the western shore, through all of Africa, through all of the Levant, through all of the Middle East, through all of Turkey, through Iraq, through Iran, through all of Indonesia, about a half of the world, it is almost solidly Mohammedan.
If you have ever been in Istanbul—Istanbul, old Constantinople was the capital of the Greek Eastern Orthodox Church, and in my humble persuasion there has never been a church imagined like St. Sofia in Constantinople. The great dome, bigger than a baseball diamond, and the domes and the domes that lifted up, oh, I’ve never seen anything like that! Built before there was such a thing as steel; it’s made out of rock. And when you stand in St. Sofia, where John Chrysostom preached, the greatest church, I say, that’s ever been built; it is a Muslim mosque. After 1453, the Muslims captured the city, and it is just one, now, of a whole series of mosques that dominate the skyline of that great city of Constantinople, Istanbul.
And if you have ever been to the Holy Land, when you go on Mount Moriah and stand there where God’s holy Temple was built, you will look at a Muslim mosque. The turn of life is almost unbelievable. And if you’ve ever tried to witness to a Muslim—and I have all over this world—it is like talking to solid stone. You have them now here in the city of Dallas; you might try it. It is, ah! so difficult.
Well, what of the future? These things as I described them and as I have experienced them, seem so hopeless and so dark. How do you witness to the Muslim world? In the sixtieth chapter of the Book of Isaiah is recorded one of the most unbelievable prophecies in the Bible, Isaiah chapter 60. It is a glorious chapter. It is a marvelous revelation of God. It begins with, “Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee” [Isaiah 60:1].
Now we haven’t time, I must close. We haven’t time to speak of this marvelous incomparable, glorious vision of God for His people in the sixtieth chapter of the Book of Isaiah. I just point out one thing: verse 7:
All the flocks of Kedar shall be gathered together unto thee,
the rams of Nebaioth shall minister unto thee:
they shall come up with acceptance on Mine altar,
and I will glorify the house of My glory.
And who are these people that are coming in order to bow down and worship before the great God of all the earth? Verse 6:
The multitude of camels shall cover thee,
the dromedaries of Midian and Ephah;
all they from Sheba shall come:
They shall bring gold and incense;
And they shall show forth the praises of the Lord.
Who are these Midianites, Ephathites, Kedarites, Nebaiothites? Who are they? They are Arabians. They are Arabians. God’s Book says, God’s Book says that the day is coming when the children of Ishmael—they are the nations of the world—will bow down with us before the high and holy God [Psalm 22:27]. And with the converted Jew, the children of Isaac, and with the converted Arabians, the children of Ishmael, and with the converted Gentiles, that is we; we will all be singing the praises of God [Psalm 86:9]. We will be calling upon His holy name. We will be bowing in His presence. And we are going to be there.
If we die, we will be raised from the dead [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17]. We will have new bodies [Philippians 3:21]. We will have a new life. We will live in a new home [John 14:2-3; Revelation 21:1-5]. Every good thing that God Himself could provide is purposed for us [1 Corinthians 2:9]. We are going to be there. The saved of the Gentile nations of the earth are going to be there. Converted Israel will be there, and the children of Ishmael who have found the true Lord Christ will be there, too. It is a great hope and a marvelous gospel that we have to preach in the name of Christ Jesus our Savior.
Now Brother Fred McNab, let’s sing us a song of appeal. And a family you, coming into the fellowship of our dear church, a couple you, a one somebody you; as we sing this song, if God has put it into your heart to give your life to Jesus [Romans 10:9-13], or to come to be with us, a thousand times welcome, while we stand and while we sing.
HAGAR AND ISHMAEL
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. Contrast between works of the law and grace of Jesus Christ
1. Ishmael born under the bondwoman
2. Isaac born under the free woman
3. Self-righteousness cannot co-exist with gospel of grace
4. Ishmael mocks Isaac – Hagar and Ishmael cast out
1. Father of 12 Arab nations
2. Muhammad; a descendent of Ishmael, founder of Islam religion
1. Believe they are the true sons of Abraham
2. Koran calls Ishmael a prophet
3. Three feasts of Islam: Ramadan, Muhammad, Ishmael
4. Spread worldwide by violence per Koran
1. Isaiah 60 – Arab believers will bow and worship the Lord Jesus when He returns
2. Every nation, all people will bow down to Jesus when He returns and establishes His kingdom