Thursday, February 20, 2014

Galatians 4:21-30 Sibling Rivalry

There are so many lessons to be learned from the dysfunctional families of the Patriarchs! I love their stories, because they have been told with “warts and all” truth. Our patriarchal heroes are not fairy tale men who always slay the dragon and come through without a hint of smoke stench and not a hair out of place. These were REAL men, with REAL flaws. And, I don’t know about you, but it blesses me to know that God chose these ordinary people for his extraordinary plans!

Our father of faith, Abraham, received ten verses extolling his trust in God in the roll call of faith in Hebrews 11. Yet, he blew it big time more than once! When God promised him that his offspring would be more than the number of stars in the sky, Abraham believed Him. But when the promise was delayed, Sarah put forth her own plan: she encouraged Abraham to take Hagar, her servant, and have the child through her, which would then legally be Sarah’s child. From the slave came the child of bondage, Ishmael. The trouble just began there.

Abraham and Sarah’s plan to help God out introduced a whole boatload of problems for this family, that continue to this day between the descendants of Ishmael and Isaac!When he was a teenager, and the true son of promise, Isaac, had been weaned, Ishmael began to taunt and bully Isaac. The solution: Abraham had to send Hagar and Ishmael away.

In this chapter of Galatians, Paul tells us that this story is an allegory for the fight between legalism and the doctrine of grace:

Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law?  For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman.  But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, while the son of the free woman was born through promise.  Now this may be interpreted allegorically: these women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar.  Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children.  But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. (Galatians 4:21-26 ESV)

Mount Sinai is where the Law was given to Moses. Paul tells us here that Hagar represents the Law - all of the rule and regulations of religion. It can only give birth to slaves, people in bondage to their futile attempts to keep it. But the mother of the promise, Sarah, represents those who live in the heavenly Jerusalem where there is freedom from the Law and where grace abounds.

And you, dear brothers and sisters, are children of the promise, just like Isaac.  But you are now being persecuted by those who want you to keep the law, just as Ishmael, the child born by human effort, persecuted Isaac, the child born by the power of the Spirit. (vs.28-29 NLT)

In the same way that Ishmael taunted Isaac, those who are in bondage to the law taunt those who live under grace. Those Judaizers that were trying to pull the Galatians back into slavery to the Law were belittling their “saved by grace” gospel. They were saying, “Unless you keep these special rituals, unless you are circumcised, you cannot be part of our spiritual elite corps. Yes, you need to believe in Jesus, but then to truly grow closer to God, to be a true child of Abraham, you need to also do these other things.”  

Even as Abraham had to send Hagar and Ishmael away, Paul tells the Galatians they need to cast out the child that represents bondage:

But what do the Scriptures say about that? “Get rid of the slave and her son, for the son of the slave woman will not share the inheritance with the free woman’s son.”  So, dear brothers and sisters, we are not children of the slave woman; we are children of the free woman. (vs.30-31 NLT)

We are children of the promise. We are not slaves. We are free in Christ. Are you listening to the taunting of the Judaizers, wondering if you will ever be good enough, wondering if you need to “do” more to gain God’s favor and to earn more of His love, struggling with sins of the past which you are sure can’t be forgiven? If so, you will lose your joy. And joy is the hallmark of a Christian. Jesus said that we would KNOW the truth and that truth would set us FREE! Are you walking (and dancing) in that freedom?

In the next chapter, Paul will sum up his argument and then describe for the Galatians what freedom in Christ looks like.  

No comments:

Post a Comment