By Brooke Holt
“Tell me, you who want to be under the law, are you not aware of what the law says? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the free woman. His son by the slave woman was born according to the flesh, but his son by the free woman was born as the result of a divine promise. These things are being taken figuratively: The women represent two covenants. One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves: This is Hagar. Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother. For it is written: ‘Be glad, barren woman, you who never bore a child; shout for joy and cry aloud, you who were never in labor; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband.’” (Galatians 4:21-27 NIV)
Throughout this letter, Paul refers to Abraham and many Old Testament teachings. He does so for two purposes: to help the Galatians understand the story of God’s people and to provide a new covenant perspective for that Old Testament. The new covenant perspective was essential in equipping these new believers to withstand the false teaching of the Judaizers among them.
In today’s reading, Paul does something quite unexpected and even abhorrent to a Jewish person. In teaching the Galatian Christians about the Old Testament, the law, and the sons of Abraham through Sarah and Hagar (Genesis 16 and 21), Paul turns the story upside down. The Jewish people had always considered themselves to be the children of Isaac; they were God’s chosen people and thus children of the promise. However, Paul declares a different interpretation of these Scriptures. It is the Gentile Christians who are children of Isaac and consequently recipients of the promise.
No doubt, the Judaizers would be outraged by this interpretation Paul provided! They had used that same story to convince the Gentiles they must adhere to the law to become the children of Isaac. How could Paul say such a thing?
Remember why Abraham was declared righteous, “Abraham believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness” (Genesis 15:6). As Paul taught earlier in this letter, it was not the law that made Abraham righteous but his faith. Isaac was a child of the covenant, a miracle child the Lord provided. Ishmael was a child of the flesh. Not trusting in God’s timing and provision, Sarah gave Hagar to Abraham for the procreation of a son. As a child of the slave woman, Ishmael now represented Mt. Sinai and the law.
A barren woman well beyond her childbearing years bore a son to Abraham. Isaac was the child of the promise as God kept his covenant with Abraham. Those who looked to Jesus were children of the promise, the recipients of the new covenant, and heirs through God.
God’s ways far exceed man’s ways and thinking. God’s way is through his Son. Paul’s prayer and passion were for these Galatians to accept the Son and all the privileges of being a child of God. His prayer and passion are for you to do the same.
Are you living as a child of God or a child of the law? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
Why is trust so difficult? Unlike all the broken promises of this world, God’s redeeming promises are absolute, trustworthy, and true. The covenants of God afford us with abundant reasons to trust God with his plan for our lives. Trusting God: Redeeming Promises of the Word small group Bible study explores the six major redeeming promises of God found in his Word. Learn more about God’s commitment to his people, the nature of a covenant, and how you can find your security in being a child of God’s redeeming promises. Learn more about God’s promises today.
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