I just preached this evening on, at least to me, a very difficult passage, Genesis 21:8-21. This is the narrative about Abraham's and Sarah's sending Hagar and Ishmael away after the birth of Isaac. I don't pretend to know all there is to know about any given Scripture, and preaching is a very humbling experience for me. This passage pushed me to really understand it; reconciling the incongruence of the necessity of sending Ishmael away and how hard this must have been for Abraham with the necessity of safeguarding the promises of God and Sarah's callousness toward the boy overwhelmed me with emotion and anxiety.
I spent a great deal of time struggling through this passage trying to get it "right" and preached it in fear of "overspiritualizing." I simply could not produce an outline to my satisfaction. Eventually I gave way and preached it the same way Paul applied it in Galatians 4, teaching that there are terrible spiritual consequences for the believer who doesn't "send Ishmael away." I almost felt like I was somewhat unfaithful to the entire text of Genesis 21:8-21, not really dealing with the entire passage and focusing on verses nine and ten.
However, I concluded with a challenge; Amy Carmichael who was a missionary to India, is quoted as saying, "Oh, that Ishmael might die within me!" We all have our "Ishmaels" that trouble us from day to day, and just as Abraham and Sarah tried to procure God's promises through the flesh, so we try to accomplish the will of God devoid of the Spirit of God. That Ishmael might die within me is a worthy endeavor.