A tale of two women

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24 November, 2019Graham BuxtonOne road to freedom

The whole history of the people of God is full of the miracle of God’s promise of a son to Abraham. It’s the miracle of the new covenant of God’s grace, in contrast to the old covenant based on human effort to fulfill the law. We need to interpret what Paul is saying to the Christians in Galatia in the first century AD, not only in the light of our personal lives as ‘children of promise’, as we heard last week, but also in the light of today’s cultural landscape. Because we are now free in Christ, we are free to think and speak with a clear gospel voice. We are free to speak out boldly against the often outrageous diktats of today’s cultural ‘Judaizers’, who insist that we align ourselves with their progressive ideological agendas.

Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian slave named Hagar; so she said to Abram, ‘The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.’

Abram agreed to what Sarai said. So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian slave Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. He slept with Hagar, and she conceived.

When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress. Then Sarai said to Abram, ‘You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my slave in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the Lord judge between you and me.’

‘Your slave is in your hands,’ Abram said. ‘Do with her whatever you think best.’ Then Sarai ill-treated Hagar; so she fled from her.

The angel of the Lord found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur. And he said, ‘Hagar, slave of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?’

‘I’m running away from my mistress Sarai,’ she answered.

Then the angel of the Lord told her, ‘Go back to your mistress and submit to her.’ 10 The angel added, ‘I will increase your descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count.’

21 Tell me, you who want to be under the law, are you not aware of what the law says? 22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the free woman. 23 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.

24 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. 25 Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children. 26 But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother. 27 For it is written:

‘Be glad, barren woman,

    you who never bore a child;

break forth and cry aloud,

    you who were never in labour;

because more are the children of the desolate woman

    than of her who has a husband.’

28 Now you, brothers and sisters, like Isaac, are children of promise. 29 At that time the son born according to the flesh persecuted the son born by the power of the Spirit. It is the same now. 30 But what does Scripture say? ‘Get rid of the slave woman and her son, for the slave woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with the free woman’s son.’ 31 Therefore, brothers and sisters, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman.

Chapter 5

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

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