God promised Abraham a son but Sarah was barren so she gave her husband her slave by which to have a son. God had to point out that He promised a son to Abraham through his wife, not through a slave woman. When Isaac was born Abraham continued to favor Ishmael and God had to emphasize to Abraham that Isaac was the promised son. Ishmael was a counterfeit. He was Abraham’s effort to help God fulfill His promise. God didn’t need any help, however. Finally, to remove the temptation to compromise, God commanded Abraham to cast out the slave woman and her son. As difficult as that was for Abraham, he obeyed. You can read the story in Genesis 16,17, 18.
We have Ishmaels in today’s religious system. The first twelve, including Paul, saw Jesus with their own eyes. They went where God told them to go; they were not invited. And those places were not easy places to break fallow ground. Paul refused steadfastly to build on another man’s foundation. He refused to accept financial support and worked as a tent maker so that he wouldn’t be a financial burden on the people he came to serve. Tent makers were not high on the social scale but he used his time to teach about Jesus as he worked his trade.
The early apostles refused to compete. They refused to draw people away from their established places of worship. They simply taught who Jesus was and how He fulfilled the Old Testament prophesies. The early apostles were passionate in their efforts and not shy in their claims of the Gospel. Paul knew the law of his day and when he was jailed at Philippi he refused to leave quietly the morning after the earthquake opened the prison doors. Another seldom observed comparison of today’s apostles and prophets is that the early ones encouraged other believers’ gifts and abilities. The early apostles and prophets were the foundation of the church and in their lowly positions they urged and encouraged others to build up their giftings.
What do we observe in today’s apostles and prophets? We see men and women who unashamedly ask for support and make outrageous claims of blessings for those who give to their ministry. From personal experience I have found those blessings to be counterfeit. They want to be honored as the top of the heap. They like power and authority and give or refuse to give permission to those who are less prestigious to do things – even things that God has already spoken to those less prestigious ones.
I’ve been told that since the church I attended did not send me as a missionary, they could not support me. I don’t need anyone’s permission to obey God! I don’t care for religious retreats and seminars, but a couple of years ago a man I respect was to be speaking in a city near by, so I attended. During an open time for attendees to speak from the floor, a lady came forward to read a prophesy. To my horror the host pastor quickly stopped her and castigated her for ten minutes or so. I was deeply appalled at his humiliation of the woman. Their competition and arrogance sickened me. Even if the woman were wrong, the situation could have been handled graciously in public and then addressed in private later. The special speaker is coming to that church again this spring but I won’t be attending.
I believe it is appropriate to call these leaders Ishmaels. They are impostors. They do not have God’s heart for people and they do not wish to take the lowest position by doing the hard work of building a foundation for others to build on.
Today’s true church will exceed the early church in God’s poured out grace and glory but there will be some shuffling as people come into alignment with His supernatural government.