Galatians 4:21-23

21Tell me, you who desire to be subject to the law, will you not listen to the law? 22For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and the other by a free woman. 23One, the child of the slave, was born according to the flesh; the other, the child of the free woman, was born through the promise.  Galatians 4:21-23

 

You can’t read the stories in the first several books of the Old Testament and not come away surprised that there was so little attempt to “clean them up.”  Most of us have some black sheep in the family history.  We tend to “forget” those stories as soon as possible.  But Israel captured them.

 

Some stories might seem scandalous to us today but weren’t in the cultural standards of that day.  Like Abraham’s relationship with Hagar.

 

God promised Abraham that he would be the father of a great people who would be a blessing to all the people’s of the world.  It was an amazing promise.  Abraham was nothing special.  He was already old.  And he and his wife, also old, were childless.  It became ever easier to doubt that Godly promise.

 

So Abraham and Sarah jumped the gun.  They got a better idea than God.  Now, mind you, it wasn’t that they lacked patience.  Genesis 16:3 says they had already lived in Canaan for ten years when Sarah determined to use Hagar to produce a child.  Ten years is a long time to wait.  But jumping the gun on God seldom works out for the best.  Ishmael’s birth didn’t exactly fill Sarah’s heart with joy.  It also didn’t fulfill the promise of God.

 

And now we, over three thousand years later, are still feeling the effects as the children on Abraham’s family tree battle for the hearts and minds of people.

 

So Paul, looking back at this story, looks out at the Christians in Galatia who are being pressured to incorporate Jewish ritual practices into their new-found freedom in Christ.  His whole letter to them is an argument to resist the voices who would reduce following Jesus down to following human rules and regulations.  He likens those who would live according to the law to the children of Hagar, slaves born of a slave woman.  And those who trust in Jesus, who live in freedom, to children of Sarah, born according to the promises of God.

 

My sense is that the Galatians were feeling the same pressure as Abraham and Sarah.  Their lives had been captured by a promise but they weren’t seeing it yet.  So they want to get the jump on God.  They want to MAKE something happen rather than trusting God to do what God would do in God’s time to do it.  They want the good they expect (perhaps that they think that they deserve) more than they want God to have God’s way with them.

That seldom works out.

 

Let us pray:  Gracious Lord, may we be patient today as we wait on your promises.  Forgive us for taking into our own hands what we ought to wait for from you, and for failing to use those same hands as you would have us.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

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