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And the child grew, and was weaned: and Abraham made a great feast the same day that Isaac was weaned. And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, which she had born unto Abraham, mocking. Wherefore she said unto Abraham, Cast out this bondwoman and her son: for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, even with Isaac. And the thing was very grievous in Abraham’s sight because of his son. And God said unto Abraham, Let it not be grievous in thy sight because of the lad, and because of thy bondwoman; in all that Sarah hath said unto thee, hearken unto her voice; for in Isaac shall thy seed be called. (Genesis 21:8~12)
He Probably Loves Ishmael. Why Did He Say to Cast Him Out?
There were two sons in the house of Abraham. One was Ishmael, who was borne through humanistic methods, and one was Isaac, who was borne through the faith to believe in God. These two sons grew up in the same home. Since the son who was borne following the flesh was much older than the son borne through the promise, Ishmael mocked Isaac whenever he had the chance. Sarah, upon seeing Isaac being mocked, tells Abraham, “Cast out this bondwoman and her son.”
Abraham was the father of faith, yet he had many humanistic thoughts.
“Although Ishmael was born of distrust as a result of me having no faith, he still is my son . . . .”
Ishmael was already grown and Abraham had great expectations in him. Abraham had no intentions of casting Ishmael out. He was thus deeply worried when he heard Sarah’s words. However, God told Abraham to cast this son out as well.
Long ago, I used to wonder, “How could merciful God say such a thing? Ishmael is also a son of Abraham and God must love Ishmael as well. Why did he say to cast him out?” I just could not understand it. There are many parts of the Bible that we do not understand. But after some time, we come to know that God accepts nothing done through the methods of man and only accepts the things accomplished through God, having come from the heart of God.
A story similar to this is the story of Cain and Abel’s offerings. Abel offered the firstling of the flock and the fat thereof to God. Abel did not know how to give the offering and wanted to gain the heart of God. “I wonder what offering pleases God.” Abel asked and sought of God, and came to know that the firstling of the flock and the fat thereof is the offering that pleased God.
Cain was not so. The crops and fruits from his farming looked so desirable that he offered them to God. This was Cain’s heart, but was not something that pleased God. The “fruits of the ground” Cain offered refer to the fruits of the cursed earth, but also represents the product of the thought of man. It means that God cannot accept the fruits of the ground that come from the flesh.
Though they may be things not of faith in God, there are things in our lives that seem to a certain extent good, honest, and holy in the eyes of man. People, for the most part, trust in this.
“He is such a good person.” “That person is so good he needs no laws.” “He is such a moral person.” “That person is so godly.”
But God has never said this. This is the difference between God and man. God said, The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. (Jeremiah 17:9) God said that good does not dwell inside man. It is completely different from our thoughts.
You Must Choose One or the Other
Abraham took a handmaid and bore a child of distrust. Even so, Ishmael was held in high hopes by Abraham because he had grown so much. God, however, said for Abraham to cast out this bondwoman and her son. This means that God will not accept things accomplished by the methods of man. That which you have done honestly and good, as well as the thanks you have given from your heart, God does not accept. God accepts the things that emanate from God, which are the things that come from the heart of God.
There are two ways to receive the forgiveness of sins. There is the way of receiving it through repenting of yourself, praying zealously, and being loyal to God. There also is the way of receiving forgiveness through the crucifixion of Jesus. Both of these ways cannot be chosen. Humanistic methods must be done away with if forgiveness is to be gained through the faith to believe in God. On the other hand, everything Jesus has done must be thrown away if you are to receive forgiveness through your effort and zeal. Only one of the two can be chosen. Both cannot.
The Bible tells us that God rejects everything that comes from man. Abraham was the father of faith, but placed hope in Ishmael. He thought, “Ishmael is growing so well and he will lead our family well from now on.” However, God told him to cast Ishmael out.
As I read these verses I truly felt that I was like Abraham. In the past, when I did not have the faith to believe in God I said, “Since I went to church this Sunday, God will happily receive me. Since I tithed; since I showed compassion to a beggar; since I did church work; since I gave all-night prayers; since I repented; since I fasted and prayed . . . .” I put all my expectations in and upon myself. I did not want to receive what Jesus accomplished, but placed my hope in my accomplishments. Nevertheless, as God spoke to Abraham, God was telling me to throw away everything I did through my methods. He was telling me that they were all useless.
Alchemists, Who Tried to Make Gold
There were the alchemists during the Middle Ages. They tried to make gold by mixing copper and zinc. One day, when they came up with brass, the color was similar to gold and they rejoiced. They said, “If we experiment a bit more we can make gold!” and many alchemists experimented, trying to make gold. They sold their houses, land, and borrowed money to come up with funds for experiments in their efforts to make gold. However, they all ended in failure. As time passed and as their knowledge increased, people came to know that gold is an element. They discovered that since gold is an element, it cannot be made through mixing metals. Afterwards, people quit trying to make gold and there is no one today who tries to make gold.
They can make metals similar to gold, but no one can make gold. Likewise, holiness and righteousness are things that belong to God and must come from God. You cannot become holy or righteous through your labor and effort. Regardless of this, however, just as the alchemists tried to make gold, many people today try to accomplish spiritual life through their effort, laboring to become righteous and holy. Just as the alchemists thought making gold was possible when they came up with something similar to gold in their experiments, many people today think that they can become righteous because they see that at times their ambitions and greed have been calmed when they fast and try not to sin.
“Now I will reach the level of righteousness God requests! I will become holy! This is what Apostle Paul must have been like!” Actually, this was only a temporary shortness in lust due to fasting. Because one cannot continue going hungry, he starts eating, and the evil and lustful heart arises once again. Nothing has changed. Even so, people think, “This was just a bad ending. Let me begin again.” Again he fasts, reads the Bible, and tries to become righteous.
I, too, have attempted this many times. When I fasted the sinful heart would disappear, but would come back to life after I had eaten. It is because, by nature, the flesh is ultimately filthy and dirty. God knows that we cannot become righteous through trimming and bettering the flesh. That is why He tells us to throw away everything that is of the flesh. Therefore, I threw away from my heart all the fasting prayers I had prayed. Sadly, some people keep the good they have done as crowns in their heart.
“I fasted for 40 days.”
“I read the New Testament 100 times.”
“I have never missed a Sunday service.”
But in the eyes of God, a person who has never missed Sunday service or a person who has never attended a service are the same sinners. We are righteous when Jesus comes into us. Everything that proceeds from man is the same.
Among ants there are those with thick legs and those with thin ones. Some ants boast that they have thick legs and some boast that they are good looking, saying, “I am Miss Ant.” However, in the eyes of man, this ant and that ant are all the same. A turtle that wins a gold medal for sprinting at the Turtle Olympics is still nothing but slow in the eyes of man.
You may be clean in your own eyes or in the eyes of your neighbors. You may also be truthful. You may even be honest. But in the eyes of God, we are all the same dirty humans. God has already crossed us out.
There is none righteous, no, not one . . . (Romans 3:10)
If not Exposed, It Loses the Opportunity to Be Cured
Because man cannot become righteous on his own, God sent Jesus Christ. We put Jesus aside, however, and try to become good, holy, and truthful ourselves. We try ourselves to not sin. To a certain extent, it seems as if it is working and people put their hopes there. But this should not work. It is a problem when it goes well. Even during the time of Jesus, it was the harlots, publicans, and people like the woman caught in the act of adultery who received the grace of Jesus. The scribes and Pharisees who thought they did well all went against Jesus.
A wild olive tree should bear wild olives. If it bears good olives, this is a serious problem. We dirty, filthy, and evil humans should bear wickedness and commit sins. If we dirty humans do good, it is a problem. We should be dirty. There can be only one who is good, and that is God. Therefore, you must first discover that there is no good in you in order for you to have true faith.
God told Abraham to cast Ishmael and the handmaid out. Why did God say this when Ishmael is also Abraham’s son? It was because he was of the flesh. Just as God said this to Abraham, God tells you to throw away everything that is of man. You may not want to throw it away but keep everything, but they should be thrown away.
If you have good works such as, “I built a chapel. I established a church. I gave a large offering and was in charge of the church finances. I fasted for 40 days. I have never withheld tithes. I did not sin,” such things cover your sinful nature. It keeps your sinful nature from being revealed and distracts you from receiving salvation. If you are a dirty human being, your dirty nature should be revealed in order for you to be saved. However, it is a problem when this is not revealed and only the cleaner things are. A person with cancer should have his cancer revealed; someone with leprosy should have his leprosy revealed; and someone with tuberculosis should have his tuberculosis revealed to have the opportunity to have the disease cured. If the disease is not revealed, it is like someone dying without knowing the reason and losing his or her opportunity to be healed.
We should not be good. If God says that we are evil, then we should be evil. When there is no good in you and the evil is revealed and you say, “Ah, a body of death I am! I am sick of this man! This dirty man!” giving up on yourself, you can accept Jesus. However, Satan constantly tries to reveal goodness in us and deceives us into thinking there actually is some good within us. This keeps us from going to the side of the faith in God and makes you put expectations in yourself.
Throw Everything Away and Turn to Jesus
Abraham was content with Isaac, but also put much expectation in Ishmael. God told Ishmael to be cast out. This is also true with us. We have many things we received when we relied on God, but we also have many things derived from the goodness we have done, the kindness we have bestowed, and the compassion we have given to others. These things become a distraction to our spiritual life and keep us from accepting true salvation. Because people do not know this, there are so many people who are deceived by this and proudly boast of what they have done. Such people cannot receive the grace of God.
The Bible tells us to coldly cast this flesh of ours out. It is because we lost the opportunity to receive the grace of God unless we throw this away. I was a truly dirty, evil human being but the little good I had done, having gone to church, and having gone to early morning services became my own righteousness, covering my sins, and I almost did not receive salvation. Thankfully, one day God lent me His eyes. For the first time I saw myself through the eyes of God. I saw myself till that day as an okay, faithful, and honest person, but my image in the eyes of God was so dirty and filthy.
Right then I believed the Word of God.
The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. (Jeremiah 17:9)
This is when I discovered that there is no good, righteousness, or holiness inside of me. I then naturally began to give up on myself. I came to distrust myself. When I realized that I was a dirty human and that I could do nothing, all my expectations of receiving salvation through my good deeds fell apart. When that expectation fell apart, I was able to receive the grace of Jesus. Since I was now saved by the grace of Jesus, it did not matter what good I did or did not do.
I once was attempting to travel somewhere by car, but my car was broken down so I had to ride in my friend’s car. Therefore, the fact that my car was broken would have nothing to do with me getting there. Whether my car had a flat tire, whether the ignition did not turn on, or whether the engine was broken, none of those things mattered. I can leave it behind and ride in my friend’s car.
I left everything of me behind and am riding in Jesus’ car. Now, my evil and filthiness are not problems anymore. I am strengthened by the righteousness of Jesus, and strengthened by the power of Jesus. Because the holiness of Jesus comes to me and sanctifies me, whether I do well or not has nothing to do with my sanctification.
Cast Out Everything Done by the Efforts of Man
Salvation cannot be achieved through your own goodness. It is achieved through Jesus. Therefore, our works are not necessary. It must completely be through Jesus. If you rely on your goodness, your works, and your efforts, you can never be saved. And God, to have us realize this, told Abraham to cast out Ishmael. He is telling us to cast out everything done through man.
Loving folks, you must throw away all the good you have done in order for you to receive the grace of God, because with it, you can never stand before God. Those things may appear precious and beautiful in your eyes, but they keep you from being able to stand before God. We are humans who can only be cursed and destroyed. Only the blood Jesus Christ shed on the cross has cleansed us. We are, by nature, dirty humans and we can only go to heaven through the grace of the cross. We need to have this faith and must deny all the good we have done. When we deny the good we have done, true faith comes upon us and the grace of salvation accomplished at the cross reaches us.