‘Who do you think you are…?’

‘Who do you think you are…?’

8th February 2017

GALATIANS 4 v. 21 – 26
‘Tell me, you who want to be under law, do you not listen to the law?
For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the bondwoman and one by the free woman.
But the son by the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and the son by the free woman through the promise.
This is allegorically speaking, for these women are two covenants, one proceeding from Mount Sinai, bearing children who are to be slaves; she is Hagar.
Now this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children.
But the Jerusalem above is free, she is our mother.’

To drive home his point, before moving on to the outworking of this life of freedom in the final two chapters (5 and 6), Paul uses a form of allegory, and refers right back to Genesis 17 (onward) and the promise God gave Abraham and Sarah that they would have a son in their old age, and Abraham would become the ‘Father of many nations / peoples’.
When it looked like God was taking too long over His promise, or had forgotten it altogether, Sarah and Abraham devised a plan ‘to help God along’, involving a surrogate pregnancy with Sarah’s maidservant, Hagar. Hagar gives birth to Ishmael.
Later, of course, Sarah becomes pregnant, ‘at the time God had promised’, and she gives birth to Isaac (meaning ‘laughter’).
So, for Paul, this story, which describes the deep origins of the birth of the Hebrew peoples (the people of promise, through Isaac), and the Arab peoples (the people enslaved, through Ishmael), describes the Old and New Covenant.
In the Old Covenant, based on the laws of Moses, there’s a self-serving, self-made, ‘helping God out’ plan of action, which will never outdo the purposes of God, and will often-times leave us in a much worse position, rather than trusting God, discovering His utter faithfulness towards us – what God promises, He will fulfill, in His own perfect time.

(For me, the shocking part of Paul’s use of this part of the Old Testament, is that he equates the Judaisers (guardians of the Hebrew heritage) to Hagar and Ishmael (the enslaved ones), and clearly equates the Gentile Christians in this scenario to the recipients of ‘the promise’, Sarah and Isaac. This could only have shocked and outraged those who misguidedly thought they were protecting the integrity of the line of Isaac!!)

I’m coming back to the heart of worship
and it’s all about You –
it’s all about You, Jesus.
I’m sorry, Lord, for the thing I’ve made it
when it’s all about You –
it’s all about You, Jesus.

Think of the many promises God makes throughout scripture – are there any which are particularly special or personal to you? Memorise them, and lean on them. God, the Faithful One, will always fulfill His promises to you.


Phil Gough