Thursday, July 30, 2009

Galatians 4:21-27

21Tell me, you who want to be under the law, are you not aware of what the law says? 22For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the free woman. 23His son by the slave woman was born in the ordinary way; but his son by the free woman was born as the result of a promise. 24These things may be taken figuratively, for the women represent two covenants. One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves: This is Hagar. 25Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children. 26But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother. 27For it is written: ‘Be glad, O barren woman, who bears no children; break forth and cry aloud, you who have no labor pains; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband’ [Isaiah 54:1].

Paul relates the historical account of Abraham, Hagar, Sarah, Ishmael, and Isaac, to his Galatian Gentile audience as allegory. In other words, this real life history has a much greater and deeper significance for us now than it did for them then (1 Corinthians 10:11). Also, the New Testament interprets the Old Testament, not the other way around. Therefore, the present application of this passage is different than the natural meaning. Have you seen the despair poster that shows a sinking ship with the caption, “It could be that the purpose of your life is nothing more than to serve as a warning to others”? It’s true, but that’s no reason for despair. How amazing that God has a good purpose for your life!

Essentially, on the one hand Hagar and Ishmael are tied to the law, slavery, the flesh, and the physical Mt. Sinai (notably located in Arabia, in the land of Midian rather than on the Sinai peninsula as most maps depict) that God visited; on the other hand, Sarah and Isaac are tied to the covenant promise of God, freedom, the Holy Spirit, and the Jerusalem above where God dwells. Both have Abraham as father, but the important element here is the mother. Slave women give birth to slaves, and free women give birth to free children. So are you a child of Hagar, conceived by the flesh, enslaved by the law? Or are you a child of Sarah, conceived by the Spirit, free indeed? Paul answers that in the next section.

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