Galatians 4:22-31… In these verses, Paul is teaching truths concerning two kinds of births. He calls it an allegory. An allegory is one in which the characters and events stand for a different application. For example, Isaac represents the “birthing” of the Spirit. Ishmael represents things birthed by the flesh. One birth leads to freedom and liberty, the other to bondage and servitude. Paul also said, “the desolate [Hagar] hath many more children” (v. 27), referring to the truth that flesh gives birth to a lot of problems. When the Lord gave Abraham the promise of a son (Isaac), He was laying a foundation for a proper birth. It was improper conception that produced Ishmael. The folly for this lay at the feet of Abraham and not God. What is the fruit of an “Ishmael”? What kinds of trouble does the flesh give to people? To answer this we must look what Ishmael birthed. Ishmael had twelve sons, and they give us a picture of what “flesh” is and what it will do for you…
Genesis 25:12-18… “Now these are the generations of Ishmael, Abraham’s son, whom Hagar the Egyptian, Sarah’s handmaid, bare unto Abraham. And these are the names of the sons of Ishmael, by their names, according to their generations: the firstborn of Ishmael, Nebajoth; and Kedar, and Adbeel, and Mibsam, and Mishma, and Dumah, and Massa, Hadar, and Tema, Jetur, Naphish, and Kedemah” (KJV).
Nebajoth… “to germinate, to make increase, to flourish.” Flesh always births something that will increase and take root. Not necessarily sinful, but weak, limited, and subject to temptation.
Kedar… “dusky, desert-dwelling nomads, to be heavy in spirit.” Flesh never settles down. Many Christians are like this–nomadic in their Christian life, no abiding spirit, always on the dark side of things. Their life is joyless…
Adbeel… “chastisement, corrections of God.” The truth is that flesh never seems to learn righteousness. Many Christians never see the importance of right living, or living under the rules that God lays down. They are always under chastisement.
Mibsam… “a spicy aroma is emitted, odorous.” Flesh does not produce a good fragrance. Ephesians 5:1-2 tells us that Jesus gave Himself as a sweet-smelling savor to God. To put it bluntly, flesh stinks. Jeremiah 48:11 tells us how Moab never changed his scent.
Mishma… “stretching, distortion, perverseness, iniquity.” Flesh stretches the truth, distorts it, perverts it, lies about it, and commits iniquity. Many believers have been caught up in lies and ended up doing wickedness. The Bible calls it “believing a lie.”
Dumah… “to be dumb or silent, figurative of doom and death, without response and inability to understand.” In contrast, walking in the Spirit produces life. It has a voice. It has a response. It has illumination and understanding. Flesh has no voice. It is dead and doomed.
Massa… “to be burdened as an ox, a load on your back.” Flesh puts a weight on you. Your problems weigh you down (Romans 7:24). Flesh gives something to carry, burdens that only Christ can lift off you.
Hadar… “to swell up, to honor through crooked means.” In other words, flesh cheats you and is prideful. It seeks position and honor at any cost, even at the cost of righteousness and holiness. Flesh avoids the honor that comes through humility.
Tema… “desert, dry.” Flesh produces dryness, unfulfilled desires, loss of direction, withering, and no spiritual growth.
Jetur… “an enclosed wall.” Flesh walls you in, keeps you in confinement, and keeps you from enlargement.
Naphish… “to breathe upon, a current of air that refreshes.” Flesh is always looking for something new, a fad or fantasy that will relieve boredom. Flesh is never satisfied.
Kedemah… “to precede, to project, to run before, to hasten.” Flesh is always in a hurry. It runs ahead of God. It bypasses the rules that are established. Flesh does not wait for the right timing. Flesh says, “God is too slow.” Flesh says, “I want it now.”
Ishmael had twelve sons. Twelve is the number of government. The twelve sons of Ishmael are the foundation of all works of the flesh. It all started with improper conception by Abraham; i.e., Ishmael was never God’s will for Abraham. Anything that is not God’s will, will give birth to something that becomes a burden and not a blessing. The works of the flesh described in Galatians 5:19-21 are the increases from Ishmael, but Christians are born again to walk free in the Spirit.
Pastor George Belobaba
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