Get Rid of the Ishmaelite in Your Life

by Pastor Edwin Lehmann on March 8, 2024 in

Fourth Sunday in Lent: Laetare (Isaac/Ishmael)   March 10, 2024

Text: Galatians 4:21-5:1 Historic Series                                 24:2434

Theme:   Get Rid of the Ishmaelite in Your Life.

Are you an Ishmaelite? If you have enslaved yourself inwardly and chained your hope of salvation to the Law, you are an Ishmaelite. Ask a simple question: “Why do I keep the Commandments? Is it because I don’t want to go to hell? Do I think that I will get to heaven by means of my own accomplishments?” If I have that thinking, I am an Ishmaelite, doomed to spiritual slavery to the Law.
Here’s another test. Do you remember the acronym WWJD, “What would Jesus do”? If you did what Jesus would do, then you would be a “good Christian” on the way to heaven. Does my activity make me a better Christian? If I see it that way, I could be an Ishmaelite.
“Well, Pastor,” you might ask, “what could possibly be wrong in keeping the Ten Commandments or in doing What Jesus Would Do? They point us to a life of good morals and Christian values. Goodness knows, that’s what our society needs in our day.”
Yes, we need a more moral society. But good morals and values do not save a person. If that’s my goal in life, to save myself through my own human contributions and performance, I am an Ishmaelite.
I am not saying that it doesn’t matter if you lead a Christian life. I am not implying that a moral lifestyle is not important and that Christian principles can be ignored. I am not encouraging you to throw out the Ten Commandments or to put aside what Jesus would have you do. But you cannot become an Ishmaelite in such things, or you will be lost eternally. In all spiritual and eternal matters, trust God’s promises rather than trying to make things happen by your own contributions and accomplishments.
Although Paul doesn’t specifically say it, he admonishes Get Rid of the Ishmaelite in Your Life. Let’s start by asking some questions.

I. Does God Need Your Help? To answer that Paul takes us back to the Old Testament story about Abraham and his two sons – Isaac and Ishmael. God promised Abraham that He would give him a son and from that son the nations of the earth would be blessed in the coming of the Savior. But Sarah, Abraham’s wife, was barren. She was in her late 70s. Give birth in her 70s? Things looked bleak for Sarah and Abraham. How could the promise be fulfilled?
In desperation they devised a plan whereby Abraham would take
Sarah’s slave girl, Hagar, and have a child by her. The result of their union was the natural birth of a child whom they named Ishmael. All were happy because of their accomplishment. But it was an ill-advised plan that attempted to help God fulfill His promise by adding a human contribution to the divine plan. It was the result of human distrust at best, and unbelief at worst.
Did God really need Abraham and Sarah to help Him carry out His will and plan for salvation? God promised to raise up a great nation through them from which the Savior would come. Salvation could only be accomplished through the holy God’s gracious work and not through sinful human contributions which would be inadequate. But isn’t that typical? In sinful pride people feel that God needs their help.
He needs our help to solve the climate problem. He needs our help to solve the overpopulation problem. He needs our help to solve the gender-identity problem. He needs our help to solve ministry problems. He needs our help to carry out His divine designs. Isn’t that rather arrogant of us? His response? “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; lean not on your own understanding” (Pv.3:5). “Pray the Lord of the harvest to send forth workers into His harvest field” (Mt.9:38).
Does God need our help to carry out His will, especially regarding His promise of eternal salvation? That is the subject Paul addressed here. If you think He needs our contributions, you have an Ishmaelite in Your Life. Get Rid of It. That leads to a second question:

II Does Our Help Really Help Him? Through Abrham’s “help” Ishmael was born. But the fact remained. The son, through whom God’s promises would be carried out, was to be born of Sarah, not Hagar. The son was not to come “according to the flesh” or in an “ordinary” way because of human contribution, just like salvation can’t. It is purely the result of God’s promise. What Abraham did was all for naught and helped nothing. Indeed, it was an act of misbelief at best and unbelief at worst. And it caused problems.
Fourteen years later, at the ripe old age of 90, God opened Sarah’s womb and she had a son at God’s gracious intervention. It was by His plan, a miracle birth, for “nothing is impossible with God.” They named the boy Isaac. This was the son of the Promise, through whom the Savior would come. Abraham was happy. But problems developed because of what Abraham had sought to do with his own actions.
Ishmael bullied his younger brother. This was no ordinary bullying
or child’s taunting. This was persecution aimed at God’s gracious
promise. Sarah insisted that Hagar and Ishmael had to go: “Get rid of the slave woman and her son, for the slave woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with the free woman’s son” (Gn.21). A fine mess Abraham’s plan got his family into – bickering, fighting, quarreling, strife, persecution, mockery of God’s promise, and now sending one son away. Had Abraham’s “help” to God really helped?
Consider our own lives when we do things our way, according to the flesh. More than likely if we followed our own ways, God had to come to bail us out. And faithful to His Word, He did just that for He promises: “I am your help and your shield, your exceeding great reward (Gn.15:2)…..If you make the Most High your dwelling, then no harm will befall you…for He will command His angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways” (Ps.91:9f). How often has He come to bail us out of the sad situations into which we get ourselves.
How sad that can be, like the strife and sadness in Abraham’s family. But the worst mess of all is the sin and unbelief that dwells within us for “the wages of sin is death.” “The soul that sins shall die.” Eternal damnation. And the more we follow our own thoughts on this, the worse it gets because, as Paul says: “I know that within me, that is within my flesh dwelleth no good thing” (Ro.7:18). No good thing! Boy, if that doesn’t rattle you. As God says, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not my ways.”
Does our help, born of the sinful flesh, really help Him? Relying simply on God’s promises might seem to be slow and ineffective, especially in the building of His Church. So we try to make things work more efficiently by enlisting human help and participation to make grace work. But that is mistaken and misplaced zeal if we walk outside of His Word and promises. Then beware: You Have an Ishmaelite in Your Life. Get Rid of It. That leads to the final question:

III. Why Do We Need His Help? Why? Because our ways and thinking are not divine. And the more we pursue our ways, the worse it gets, especially in matters of eternal salvation.
At the start Paul tells us that his use of this story with Abraham is figurative. He wrote: “These things may be taken figuratively, for the women represent two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are slaves. Hagar stands for Mount Sinai and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem that is above is free. She is our mother.”
At Mt. Sinai God gave the Ten Commandments: “Do this! Don’t do that! Do it perfectly and you will live!” You could save yourself if you would also keep the Law’s demands. That’s what the so-called Christians in the city of Jerusalem in Paul’s day taught. But salvation rests on God’s grace alone, to which the true Church of God, called here “the Jerusalem that is above and is free,” clings.
That Jerusalem is the assembly of all who trust in God’s promise of a Savior. They are brought to faith by the Gospel in Word and Sacrament. They are kept in faith during their pilgrimage here on earth. And eventually they will be gathered around the throne of the Lamb above to thank and praise Him eternally for the free gift of salvation in Christ. As the hymn writer says, “My hope is built on nothing less, than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.” Or again, “Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to Thy cross I cling.” The Scriptures says it this way, “You were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1Co.6:11).
In other words, when it comes to salvation, it’s not a matter of (WWJD) what Jesus would have you do, as these Galatians were falsely taught, but a matter of (WJHD) what Jesus has done for you. In a word – grace, not by human contributions or by works of the law.
By God’s gracious, miraculous plan through Isaac, down to Christ, God has helped us eternally in the all-atoning death of Jesus on the cross. His blood washes away sin. His resurrection gives us life. It is through faith and faith alone in what God has done that changes the sinner into saint and an heir of heaven above. In Christ you are free, no longer enslaved. It is not through Mt. Sinai but through Mt. Golgotha from which God’s help that we needed flows.
So, in all matters, especially of salvation, lay everything on Him. Get Rid of the Ishmaelite in Your Life and rely on God’s promise of grace. God grant it to us in faith for Jesus’ sake. Amen

Zion Lutheran Church of Springfield

4717 S Farm Rd 135 (Golden Avenue)

Church phone: 417.887.0886            Pastor’s cell phone: 417.693.3244               email:

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The Fourth Sunday in Lent – Laetare         March 10, 2024

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm then.” Galatians 5:1

Welcome: The family of Zion welcomes you as we worship the Lord today. We encourage children to worship with us. However, if you need to leave with your child, there is a nursery room to the right as you exit the sanctuary. The rest rooms are located in the hallway between the sanctuary and the fellowship hall. Visitors, please sign our guest book to the right, just outside the sanctuary. We’re glad that you are here and pray that through our worship the Lord grants you peace.

U p o n   E n t e r i n g   G o d’ s   H o u s e

“I rejoiced with those who said to me, ‘Let us go to the House of the LORD.’ May those who love you prosper. May there be peace within your fortifications….I will seek good for you” (Psalm 122).

W h a t   T h i s   S u n d a y   i s   A b o u t

Rejoice in Christ, the Bread of Life. On the three remaining Sundays in Lent, our attention is focused on Christ as heaven’s King. He is not the kind of king that worldly-focused people want to make Him for He came to redeem us from sin, death, and the devil’s power. He did not come to establish an earthly kingdom in which He would supply all our earthly wants. He came to establish His Kingdom of Grace. Still, He also provides for our daily needs.

This is reason to rejoice. So it is that in the middle of this season of repentance, the theme “Rejoice” reminds us that in the midst of the austere regulations of Lent, we rejoice in all that the Redeemer means for us in time and eternity. Christians are not eternally somber people, but ones who have been refreshed with the Bread of Life, glad in the salvation He brings. The psalmist invites: “Taste and see that the LORD is good. Blessed is everyone who takes refuge in Him” (Ps.34:8).

So it is that we pray: Almighty God, we confess that we deserve to be punished for our evil deeds. Cleanse us from all sin and comfort us with Your salvation, through Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

T h e   W o r d   o f   G o d   f o r   T o d a y

(The Lessons of the Day are from the Historic Pericope Series of the Christian Church.)

The Old Testament Lesson: Isaiah 55:1-7

The Lord invites the hungry and thirsty soul to come to the banquet of salvation which He has prepared in Christ. Those who seek Him in faith will find refreshment for their souls. They will rejoice and draw people from other nations to Him.

The Epistle Lesson: Galatians 4:21-5:1

The allegory of two Old Testament mothers, Sarah and Hagar, and their two sons, Isaac and Ishmael, illustrates the freedom Christ brings from sin in comparison to the bondage which the works of the Law yield. God’s grace, based in His promises in Christ, is the source of the sinner’s spiritual freedom and joy.

The Gospel Lesson: John 6:1-15

Jesus’ miraculous feeding of the five thousand prepared the people for His coming discourse on Himself as the Bread of Life. In Him alone they would find refreshment and joy, not because He could fill their stomachs, but because He can feed souls eternally with salvation and life.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The Organist: Jane Rips                 The Preacher: Pastor Edwin Lehmann

Points to Ponder: The Children of Israel returned from the land of Babylonia where they had been held captive for many years. Repentant for their sins, eager to be accepted back into God’s loving-kindness, their hearts cried out for reassurance that God “would remember their sins no more” and that He would “revive” them so that they might “rejoice” in Him (Psalm 85).

So it is with us in the Season of Lent. Lent is a season of repentance, a time for serious introspection as we ponder our transgressions and long for reassurance of God’s loving forgiveness. It is also a season in which we eagerly look forward to the joy of redemption that Christ won for us in His suffering and death, and which was sealed to us with His resurrection to life. Sorrow for sin and anticipation of Christ’s salvation go hand in hand. Together they make Lent a special time, a time which revives our spirits as we prepare our hearts for Easter when repentance leads to faith and faith leads to unspeakable joy.

Outline of  Our Worship

The Preparation

Opening Thoughts on the Service

 The Entrance Hymn: #394

Order of Worship:     The Service: Setting One   page 154-160

Prayer of the Day

The Ministry of the Word

Isaiah 55:1-7

Psalm 34

Galatians 4:21-5:1

Gospel Acclamation: Lent   pg.161

John 6:1-15

Hymn: #509

Sermon: Galatians 4:21-5:1     Get Rid of the Ishmaelite in Your Life

The Apostles’ Creed pg.163

Our Response to the Word

Prayer of the Church: pg.164

The Offering

Hymn: #517

The Lord Blesses Us

The Closing Prayers and Blessing   Hymnal page 171

Closing Hymn: #575 st.1-2,5

Silent Prayer

Lent 4 – Laetare (“Rejoice and Be Glad”) – Historic Series

Old Testament Lesson: Isaiah 55:1-7 – Come! Buy and Eat.

1Hear, all of you who are thirsty, come to the water, even if you have no money! Come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why do you spend money on something that is not bread? Why do you waste your labor on something that does not satisfy? Listen carefully to me and eat what is good. Satisfy your appetite with rich food. Turn your ear toward me and come to me. Listen, so that you may continue to live. Yes, I will make an everlasting covenant with you, the faithful mercies promised to David.

Look, I appointed him as a witness for peoples, a leader and commander of peoples. Look, you will call out to a nation you do not know, and a nation that does not know you will run to you, on account of the Lord your God, because of the Holy One of Israel, for he has glorified you.

Seek the Lord while he may be found! Call on him while he is near! Let the wicked man abandon his way. Let an evil man abandon his thoughts. Let him turn to the Lord, and he will show him mercy. Let him turn to our God, because he will abundantly pardon.

Epistle Lesson: Galatians 4:21-5:1 – Christ Sets Us Free.

1Tell me, you who want to be under the law, are you really listening to the law? 22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman, and one by the free woman. 23 However, the son by the slave woman was born according to the flesh, but the son by the free woman was born through a promise. 24 These things can be used as an illustration; namely, the women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children into slavery. This is Hagar. 25 You see, this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and she corresponds to present-day Jerusalem, because Jerusalem is in slavery along with her children. 26 But the Jerusalem that is above is free. She is our mother. 27 For it is written: “Rejoice, barren woman who does not give birth. Break forth and shout for joy, woman who does not suffer birth pains, because the barren woman has more children than does the woman who has a husband.”

28 Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of the promise. 29 But just as back then the one who was born according to the flesh persecuted the one who was born according to the Spirit, so this is also the case now. 30 But what does the Scripture say? “Throw out the slave woman and her son, because the son of the slave woman will certainly not receive the inheritance with the son of the free woman.” 31 For this same reason, brothers, we are not children of a slave woman, but of the free woman. 5 1It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not allow anyone to put the yoke of slavery on you again.

Gospel Lesson: John 6:1-15 – Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand.

1After this, Jesus crossed over to the other side of the Sea of Galilee (or Tiberias). A large crowd followed him because they saw the miraculous signs he was performing on those who were sick. Jesus went up on the hillside and sat down there with his disciples. The Jewish Passover Festival was near. When Jesus looked up and saw a huge crowd coming toward him, he asked Philip, “Where can we buy bread for these people to eat?” But Jesus was saying this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread would not be enough for each of them to have just a little.” One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, “There’s a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what is that for so many people?” 10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, so they sat down. There were about five thousand men. 11 Then Jesus took the loaves and, after giving thanks, he distributed pieces to those who were seated. He also did the same with the fish—as much as they wanted. 12 When the people were full, he told his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over so that nothing is wasted.” 13 So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with pieces from the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten. 14 When the people saw the miraculous sign Jesus did, they said, “This really is the Prophet who is coming into the world.” 15 When Jesus realized that they intended to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself.                                                      The Holy Bible, Evangelical Heritage Version® (EHV®) copyright © 2019

People Of The Passion

The Passion of Jesus Christ was all about people. Jesus suffered and died for all people. People were there. People took part. People stood by and watched. What do we know about these people? Each service in our midweek Lenten series centers on a key person or people and their roles in Jesus’ death and resurrection—from Judas, to Pontius Pilate, to the women who first saw the resurrected Jesus.    Through our observance of their place in the Passion, may God help us gain insights into our lives in Him and strengthen our faith to follow Him more dearly.

People Of The Passion

# 1: Judas, the Opportunist – Luke 22:1-6; John 12:4-6

# 2: Caiaphas, the Schemer – John 11:47-53; February 21,2024

# 3: Nicodemus, the Silent Believer – John 3:1,2

# 4: Peter, the Impetuous yet Faithful Disciples – Luke 22:31-34

# 5: Pontius Pilate, the Thinker – John 19:12

# 6: One of the Mob, the Follower – Matthew 27:20-23


Calendar & Announcements for Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church


March 10


March 11


March 12


March 13


March 14


March 15


March 16

Next Sun.

March 17

9:00 am

Divine Worship Service

online -Facebook

10:15 am

Fellowship & Bible Study


Lent 4 – Laetare

11 am

Midweek Bible Class

5:45 pm

Supper: Irish

6:45 pm

Midweek Lent 5

Youth Retreat at Christ Alone LC, Friday and Saturday


9:00 am

Divine Worship Service

with Holy Communion online – Facebook

10:15 am

Fellowship & Bible Study

Lent 5 – Judica


A Brief Bible Study on God’s Word for Today

Our Savior is a God of mercy and kindness; He is the God of promise. Our very existence is testimony to that fact. Daily He provides us with all that we need to keep our body and life. He also grants protection from all earthly dangers. But most of all our Savior provides us with food for the soul. In His Word we receive the promise of sins forgiven and free salvation. All is accomplished through grace.

The Old Testament Lesson: Isaiah 55:1-7 (answers are found on the back side)

  1. What satisfying sustenance does God promise to His people?
  2. What is the imitation bread in which some invest?
  3. To whom do verses 4-5 point?

Those We Remember In Our Prayers: Greg Miller; William & Laurie Moon; Pauline Jaeger; Kirsten Jaster (Laurie Moon’s sister); Greg Pierson (Long’s son-in-law); Libya, (Jodi Milam’s granddaughter); Barbara Long; Kathy Workentine; Robbie Woessner; Kay Schmidt at Quail Creek Rehab after tumor removal; Liz Lisenby as she undergoes treatment for her blood disease; Norine Richardson; Loise Wiese.

Forward in Christ’s latest edition for March has arrived. There are copies in the narthex for family and friends.

Divine Call Sent At the joint call meeting of Zion and Peace this past Thursday, Pastor Steven Bauer was selected to whom our call for pastor will be sent. He is 49 years old and presently serves Immanuel Lutheran Church, Gibbon, MN. He and wife Karin have two older children, 20 and 17 years old. Please keep Pastor Bauer and family in your prayers over the next few weeks as he prayerfully considers where the Lord would have him serve in His Kingdom of Grace.

Looking at the Lenten Season This coming Thursday, March 14, we return to our mid-week Lenten observance time with our suppers and services – at Zion, Thursday evenings, 5:45 and 6:30 pm, and at Peace in Marshfield, Wednesday evenings, 6 and 7 pm. The Lenten theme this year is People of the Passion. Each service in our midweek Lenten series centers on a key person or people and a characteristic of them that played into their roles in Jesus’ death and resurrection. This week’s focus will be Pontius Pilate – The Thinker.

Upcoming Services and Events

Thursday, March 14 – Midweek Lent 5: Supper at 5:45 pm; Service at 6:30 pm

Friday-Saturday, March 15-16 – Youth Retreat at Christ Alone LC, Dardenne Prairie, MO – “Preparing to Give an Answer”

Tuesday, March 19 – Elders, Trustees, and Church Council Monthly Meeting

Next Sunday’s Lessons:               

Lent 5 – Judica: Numbers 21:4-9; Hebrews 9:11-15; John 8:46-59 (Historic Pericope Series)

Answers to Today’s Old Testament Lesson Brief Study:

  1. In His Word, Jesus promises to give us food and drink that is truly satisfying, for it will quench the hunger and thirst we feel because of our sin. This spiritual food and drink offer us forgiveness of sins and eternal life, a truly satisfying fare!
  2. The imitation bread might look appealing on the outside, but it offers no relief from hunger. Consider the many religious practices performed to make oneself right with God. But we can never know with certainty if we’ve offered enough; therefore, we are never truly satisfied—a most unsatisfactory fare!
  3. The Holy One of Israel must be pointing to our Savior, Jesus Christ.

This week I am praying for……  


Pastor Edwin Lehmann

Preacher: Pastor Edwin Lehmann