The birth of Isaac was a miracle. It made Sarah smile at God’s timing and laugh at the word “impossible.” It was contrary to nature. The book of Romans sheds light on the physical impossibility of Isaac’s birth:
Without weakening in his faith, he [Abraham] faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what He had promised.
(Romans 4:19-21, NIV)
Sending Ishmael away was difficult for Abraham. From a physical standpoint Ishmael was just as much Abraham’s son as Isaac was. Abraham had become attached to him. But there was a major difference between the two sons: Isaac represented the life of faith. This newly-weaned little boy proved what would happen when Abraham trusted in God’s promise, relied on God’s power, and believed in God’s plan.
But Ishmael, the insolent boy who stood mocking the faith-child, represented Abraham’s old life of trusting in himself. Ishmael was conceived because Abraham didn’t believe that God could make Sarah conceive. Ishmael was born because Abraham believed what his wife said instead of what God said. Ishmael came to be because Abraham thought his timing was better than God’s timing.
As cruel as it seems, Ishmael had to go. Abraham had to be rid of that way of life forever. As the rest of the chapter reveals, God would take care of Ishmael. But Abraham had to focus on raising Isaac, the heir of the covenant.
There comes a time when I must choose between living life my way and living life God’s way. Will I live by faith or by the flesh? Is there anything I need to send packing so that I can go on with God?