Galatians 4: “Born of the Free Woman”

The story of Sarah and Hagar is so symbolic of the promises of God that the apostle Paul uses it to explain how we, as followers of Jesus Christ, are children of the free woman, not the slave woman — that we are saved by grace as a free gift from God, not bound as slaves to the law to be judged by our failure to obey. Why, Paul asks the Galatians, would you want to rebind yourselves to the law when God through His Son has freed you by His grace! Why would we, as His followers today, want to bind our souls to the misery of being slaves to our works, our fears, our doubts — our guilt. Jesus has freed us from all of that!

“So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.” (Galatians 4:7 NIV)

“There is a Scripture that tells us what to do: ‘Expel the slave mother with her son, for the slave son will not inherit with the free son.’ Isn’t that conclusive? We are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman.” (Galatians 4:31 MSG)

This meditation is Part 4 of a 6-part series on Galatians. Part 1, “No Other Gospel,” is available here. Part 2, “Crucified With Christ,” is here. Part 3, “Law and Promise,” is here.

Missed a blog post? Find prior posts at LoveAndGrace and tweets at Twitter.

THERE WAS A FAMILY THAT HAD A YOUNG SON AND ALSO OWNED A  SLAVE.

51. adam-eve-teaching-children-82611-galleryAt first, when the boy was young, the slave, who was an adult and trusted by the child’s father, watched over the boy and guided his steps. You might say, the slave “ruled over” the child.

As time went on, however, their roles changed. The child grew to be a man, while the slave remained … well, a slave.

As the child became a man, he was entitled to an inheritance from the father. Not so the slave, whose term of service never changed.

Enter a benevolent outside force that scrambled the picture in a way the world had never seen before. This external force said it could do for the slave what the law was unable to do.

This external force could graft the slave onto the family tree, giving him the same rights as the natural child; in fact, freeing him from his servitude, making him a co-equal son with the natural son, and granting him an equal inheritance from the father.

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THAT’S ONE WAY OF LOOKING at Paul’s letter to the Galatians. In what our Bibles call 51. Envelope-to-the-Galatians“Chapter 4,” (the chapter headings were not in the original text of the letter), the apostle explains the migration that God the Holy Spirit provides everyone of us who progresses from our natural state — that of “unbelief” — to a new, born-again, state, that of “belief.”

In Paul’s terms, we are all slaves from birth by virtue of Adam’s and Eve’s rebellion against God, which ushered in our sinful state. To correct our behavior, God issued the Law, which started with the Ten Commandments. Paul tells us that the Law could not make us virtuous because we could never obey it entirely and consistently.

It’s main function, Paul said, was to show us our inequities, our imperfections, our sins, so that we would realize our need for the saving power of God the Son.

Once we accept the saving power of the Son, the Holy Spirit floods our hearts and takes up residence, creating within us a new person. Paul explains, “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” (2 Corinthians 5:17 NLT)

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TO EXPLAIN HOW THIS SLAVE-SON-HEIR transition takes place, Paul took the Galatians (and us) back to the days of Abraham, the Jewish patriarch, and his wife, Sarah.

51. abraham-and-sarah-bible-storyGod had promised Abraham and Sarah that He would provide them with a son and that through that son, Abraham’s descendants would populate many nations and would become as numerous as the stars in the sky.

Speaking of Sarah, God said to Abraham, “I will bless her, and moreover, I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall become nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.” (Genesis 17:16 ESV)

As time went on, Abraham and Sarah, by this time 90 to 100 years old, felt that God had not provided the son He had promised them, so they wanted to help Him out, without asking His consent. So Sarah “gave” Abraham her maidservant, Hagar, to bear a son for her.

They named this son “Ismael.” Ismael was beloved by Abraham, but God said Ismael was not the child of God’s promise to Abraham. There would be a second son, this one born of Sarah. They would name him “Isaac,” and Isaac would be the son of God’s promise. The covenant would pass through Isaac, not Ismael.

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PAUL WALKS US THROUGH the story by recounting the tension that developed in Abraham’s house between the two son-bearing women—Hagar, the maidservant who provided a son (Ismael) for Sarah when Sarah remained barren, and Sarah, who later provided a son (Isaac) when the Lord opened her womb.

The Bible tells us that when Isaac was weaned, Abraham threw a great feast for him, but Sarah pleaded with him to discard Hagar and her son, saying Ismael’s continued presence could jeopardize Isaac’s inheritance. (“That slave woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac,” Sarah told Abraham. Genesis 21:10 NIV)

When Abraham asked God what he should do, God told Abraham to obey his wife, Sarah, reaffirming for Abraham that the covenant that God declared would pass through Isaac, not Ismael.

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THAT BRINGS US BACK to the beginning of our account where there are two sons — one son born of a slave woman into slavery and one son born of a free woman into the rights 51. Hagar & Ishmael Augo4of inheritance.

Here’s where Paul wants us to take special note. As he continues his letter from the points made in Galatians 1-3, that it is God’s grace that provides us with salvation, not our good works, Paul reinforces this amazing truth: that the Lord transforms us, we who are born with sinful natures as slaves of sin, into sons of the Father and, as sons, then as heirs of his good fortune (Galatians 4:7).

Paul tells us that the Law, expressed in the Old Testament, was meant “to lead us to Christ” (Galatians 3:24 NIV) so that He could save us through our faith and His grace (Ephesians 2:8 NIV).

Once the we have been led to God the Son through God’s grace, we become sons of God the Father. Because we are sons, along with the Son, God the Father then sends God the Holy Spirit into our hearts.

Through that transition, done entirely by God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we are transformed from slavery into sonship and, as sons, “God has made [us] also an heir” (Galatians 4:7 NIV).

51. Holy-Spirit-descendingIn effect, we who once were born of the slave woman now are children of the free woman and, thus, of God’s promise.

Born into sin; reborn into salvation!

All because of God’s grace.

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PRAYER: O LORD, our Heavenly Father, it is only by Your grace and mercy that we can enjoy life and have it abundantly, as Your Son assured us. We give You all the glory for the blessings You have given us. Help us understand, or at least appreciate, the transition You have provided for us from our birth into sin and slavery under the Law to sonship with the Eternal Son and, with Him, being heirs of the promise. We thank You, we praise You, we honor You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

God to Me: Let My Son Out of Your Wagon!

Kingdom work is serving Jesus fueled by the power of Jesus; it is not about getting ahead of Jesus and doing the job as we see it on our own. The beauty of God’s grace is that He knew in advance when He made us and gave us independent wills we would misuse the privilege and rebel against His authority. Yet with love so supreme, He sent His Son to bear our punishment, so that, believing in Him, we would become right with God again.

“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.”  (John 15:3 NASB)

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5 NIV)

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28 ESV)

TODAY, GOD TOLD ME TO LET HIS SON OUT OF MY WAGON.

I’m serious. I was deep in thought, walking some pain out of my back, when the Holy Spirit painted a very clear picture for me. 

Here I was, laboring along, feel stressed under the load of “Kingdom work,” when the  image suddenly flashed before me that I was laboring under my own power for, probably, my own glory, while I was straining to pull a wagon, you know, the kind little kids ride in, and there sitting in the wagon was34. Red Wagon.gif Jesus Christ!

The Second Person of the Trinity was right there with me, as He said He would be, but somehow, I had managed to shift Him from a leadership role into a support position, and the strain of it all was harming me.

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THE SHIFT IN HIS POSITION was odd, for sure, because I am one of those fairly new Christians who grabbed ahold of Jesus when He told us: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 ESV)

So, what happened?

How come I was now pulling the wagon, and He was riding in it?

Let’s get to that in a minute. Here’s what God told me to do: He said to let His Son out of the wagon where I had put Him and let Him lead me, encourage me, and prop me up.

You see, Jesus should be walking in front of me, leading me as a light along the 34. ManCarriesHeavyLoadstraight path (Proverbs 3:5-7; Psalm 119:105). He should be walking alongside of me, to encourage me (1 Thessalonians 5:11). He should be walking behind me to pick me up when I stumble (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10).

Yes, He can be in all four positions — in front of me, flanking me, and behind me — at once. He just can’t be in the wagon, riding along as I drag Him, my back hurting from the strain, my legs buckling, my heart pounding.

Kingdom work is serving Jesus fueled by the power of Jesus; it is not about getting ahead of Jesus and doing the job as we see it on our own.

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BACK TO OUR QUESTION: WHAT HAPPENED?

Simply this: human pride, my own arrogance, my own desire to control and to make the world around me conform to my image. It’s safer that way, really. Didn’t the Christian singer/songwriter Matthew West recognize that fact in his song, “My Own Little World,” with these words, “population — me”?

This resistance to Divine authority is nothing new to mankind. It started in the Garden of Eden when the original man and woman, Adam and Eve, decided it would be okay to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil — even though God specifically told Adam it would not be okay to eat from that tree.

In fact, God told Adam, eating from that tree would cause death.

Still, even with that threat hanging over their heads, our forefath34. ManRefusesToListener and foremother thought they knew better. So, they disobeyed. God was true to His Word. He banished them from the Garden; their work, once glorified, now became a burden; and they were under a death sentence.

Many of us who follow Jesus recognize too often we lay our burdens down at the foot of the Cross, where every book in the New Testament tells us to take them, and then we … kind of … hold on to them … or, if we let go, we mark the spot and then … rush back to pick up our burdens … and carry them off as though we have stolen plunder.

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JESUS TOLD US HE CAME TO GIVE US LIFE.

In John 10:10 ESV, He said “The thief [Satan or the devil] comes only to steal and kill and destroy.” Then Jesus contrasted that reality with the new reality that He offers: “I came that they [us, mankind, you and me] may have life and have it abundantly.”

That looks more like the deal I wanted when I heard the Master implore me to “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28 ESV).

So, I know that His promises are true. I believe every word He says. Why, then, do I act as though I haven’t heart a word He says, a promise He makes, an offer I can’t refuse.

Back in Deuteronomy 30:19 NIV, our Heavenly Father speaks to the Israelites through Moses, where He issues the famous commandment to “choose life!”


“This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.”

Yet, we read time and again, the Jews in the Old Testament and then the Christians in the New Testament, failed to keep that Commandment.

The same failure that befell Adam and Eve.

The same failure that I make, and — maybe — even you make?

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THE BEAUTY OF GOD’S GRACE is that He knew in advance when He made us and gave us independent wills we would misuse the privilege and rebel against His authority. Yet with love so supreme, He sent His Son to bear our punishment, so that, believing in Him, we would become right with God again.

34. JesusEmbracingMan.pngNow, about that back pain.

He has that one covered, too.

See, in Proverbs 3:8 NIV, right after that verse that tells us to lean on God and not on our own understanding is another one of those grace notes, another promise God offers, if we’ll only listen and obey Him.

“This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones.”

It’s time for me to stop pulling the wagon so I can let God’s Son hop out and take His rightful places — all four of them — in front of me, alongside me, and behind me.

Thank you, Lord!

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PRAYER: Our Heavenly Father, Abba, Daddy, we are so blessed to be so loved by You. Thank You for Your promises, and thank You for your admonishments when we disobey. Thank You for Your love and mercy. We praise You, we thank You, we love You. In Jesus’ Holy and Precious Name. Amen

Trusting in the Lord’s Promises

The Lord holds out His promise of eternal life for those who believe in His Son and who hold on until the end, even though our earthly pathway may be rocky. He tells us to focus on the heavenly (that which is “unseen”) instead of the earthly (which is what we “see”). The “unseen” is eternal, but the “seen” is temporary.

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:18 NIV)

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. (Hebrews 10:23 NIV)

THIS MEDITATION HITS HOME.

Like many people who reach adulthood before accepting Jesus’ love and grace into their hearts, I responded to the Master’s promise of what He could do for me — that He would provide rest for my troubled soul and  eternal life with Him in Paradise.

FlowerSproutingInWood.jpegI did not “sign up” for the rest of it — spiritual warfare, condemnation from loved ones, or conviction for sinful thoughts and behavior. In other words, I wanted what Jesus could do for me, without thinking I would be called on to do anything in return.

Oh, yes, I assumed I would be made more aware of other people’s hurts and needs and maybe asked to do something about it, you know, from time to time. Nothing really inconvenient and probably nothing right away.

I had no idea. Continue reading “Trusting in the Lord’s Promises”

Failing to See the Truth; Do We Miss Seeing Jesus?

Our broken world seeks answers to troubling questions, yet when God reaches into our lives with grace, too many people miss it or reject it. Let us pray that, in our lives, we will accept His redeeming offer.

He (man formerly blind) replied, ‘The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see.’” John 9:11 (NIV)

“The man (formerly blind) answered, ‘Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly person who does his will.’” John 9:30-31 (NIV)

HOW COULD THIS POSSIBLY BE?

Jesus passes by a man who we learn is blind from birth, takes pity on him, and without asking if the man wants to see, makes some mud from dirt in the ground, rubs it  on the man’s eyes, and tells him to “go” wash the mud off in the Pool of Siloam. The man does as he’s told and, lo, he can see!

Jesus Heals Blind ManIncredible for several reasons: one, unlike most of the Bible stories where Jesus applies His healing touch, there is no record in the Scriptures that the man asked anything of Jesus; and, two, there is no record in the Scriptures as to what would happen to the man if he obeyed Jesus.

In fact, John’s account of the encounter tells us the man didn’t even know who Jesus was!

Jesus was telling His disciples several truths here, two of which we’ll cover: one is that, as God, He could give the man sight, not merely restore the man’s sight, for the man was born blind and, therefore, had never seen; and two, that as God, He was Lord of the Sabbath and the Sabbath was made for man, not the other way around.

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OH, THAT SABBATH THING AGAIN.

How is that significant?

Well, this where the story, which begins as a really nice story of Jesus healing a blind man and everyone lives happily ever after, turns ugly. Really ugly. (It ends well, but we have to go through the ugly part first.)

John tells us in v. 13 that “they” brought to the Pharisees the man who had been born blind and now could see. The Pharisees were the religious leaders of the day and, basically, busybodies who had arrogated to themselves the job of putting everyone else down to puff themselves up.

 

Rest Area SabbathIn this case, they actually find fault with Jesus—who, let’s remember, had just given the gift of sight to a man who had never, ever, from Day One, been able to see—simply because He healed the man on the Sabbath, the Day of Rest.

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THE PHARISEES COULDN’T GET OVER THAT FACT.

Yes, Jesus healed on the Day of Rest, which violated the Pharisee’s law. True, the Pharisees based their regulations on God’s commandment to honor the Sabbath and keep it holy, but Jesus tells us the purpose of the Sabbath was to give men a day of rest, not to set on men a whole new set of burdens that made that rest difficult.

Jesus routinely challenged the Pharisees, telling them in Matthew 12:8 (NIV) that “the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.” In other words, He was saying it is MY  commandment to keep the Sabbath holy, so listen to me when I tell you you’re not honoring it the way I intended.

So, the Pharisees went to work doing what they did best — making things difficult for the flock.

First, they called the formerly blind man to the Temple to tell them who had healed him and how. Were they thrilled that the man could see? No, they were angry that he was healed on the Sabbath. By the way, they, like many in their day, thought the man’s congenital blindness was caused either by his prenatal sin or their parents sin, whatever that might have been, so, in their minds, he had no business being healed in the first place.

Then, because Jesus healed the man on the Sabbath, they concluded that Jesus, the Son of God, could not have been sent from God.

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NEXT, THEY CALLED THE MAN’S PARENTS IN.

They questioned them as to whether this man, now able to see, was actually their son and had been born blind.

Did the parents express gratitude to Jesus for His healing grace? No, they were more afraid of the Jewish leaders and being thrown out of the Temple than they were of the God they claimed to serve. They said they didn’t know how their son was healed nor who healed him. They didn’t seem all that interested in finding out, either.

So, the Pharisees calledBlind Man Thrown Out the man back in after his parents had left and again asked him how it was he could see. The man, exasperated at this point, asked if their interest  meant they, also, wanted to believe in the man who had healed him.

Instead of saying “Yes,” which seems the reasonable thing to have done, they insulted the man for daring to suggest they were in need of the Lord’s healing grace and threw him out of the Temple, effectively cutting him off from polite society.

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THE STORY ENDS ON A HIGH NOTE.

When Jesus heard the man had been thrown out of the Temple, He found the man and asked him, “‘Do you believe in the Son of Man?’”

The man replied that he was not sure who the Son of Man was, but he certainly was willing to believe. When Jesus then said, “‘You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you,’” the man replied in the way we would have hoped the Pharisees and the man’s mother and father would have replied, “‘Lord, I believe,’ and he worshipped him.” (vv 35-38).

We need to pause here. Let’s count up the number of people who have touched this story. There’s Jesus and the man born blind, his two parents, maybe 30-50 Pharisees, probably a dozen or two neighbors and townsfolk who saw Jesus apply JesusTruth Sabbathmud to the man’s eyes and later saw him with restored sight (plus those who heard the story and those who heard the story from them), and we count up at least 50 people, maybe 100, excluding the disciples, who already believed in Jesus.

Yet only one of them — the man healed, the man ostracized from community, the man virtually disowned by his parents — only that man saw Truth when Truth stood in front of  him.

The rest of the cast missed it completely.

Jesus concluded this vignette by rebuking the Pharisees in front of the townspeople, humbling them in front of those who, themselves, could not see, and reassuring those of us who do believe in Him that He came into the world to give sight to us when we were blind in our sin.

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THIS IS A STORY OF REMARKABLE GRACE on Jesus’ part, yet it captures so painfully the broken state of today’s world.

Even when Truth — God’s remarkable Grace offered to us with no strings — is offered to us and standing right in front of us, most people don’t even see it. Even when they get a glimpse of it, they don’t want it.

Sadly, John was right when he told us (John 3:19 NIV) that Jesus, the Light, had come into the world, but His own creation rejected him because “[they] loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.”

As sad as that is, sadder still is the world’s continuing failure to see the Truth, the Light of the world. Are we failing to see Jesus in our own lives? Do we miss him when He is standing right in front of us?

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PRAYER: O LORD, Our Heavenly and Gracious Father, we are in desperate need of Your healing grace, your loving arms, your comforting smile. We know our sin keeps us from complete fellowship with You, so we would ask You to expose our sin, lead us to repentance, and restore us to a right relationship with You. In Jesus’ Holy Name.  Amen

Touching Christ’s Cloak

Touching Jesus’ cloak. A simple act. Such power in his response. Problem brought; problem solved. What makes the transaction possible? Faith, trust, confidence. ‘Heal me, O Lord, if You will.’ ‘I will,’ He says. ‘Be healed.’ His healing power and our trusting faith yields positive results. Amen

 

Mark 6:56 (HCSB) Wherever He would go, into villages, towns, or the country, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and begged Him that they might touch just the tassel of His robe. And everyone who touched it was made well. 

 

THROUGHOUT THE GOSPELS, we read that common men and women sought just to touch the tassel of the Lord’s robe or let him lay hands on them to make them well, yet in every case, the illness or condition they wanted healed was limited to their physical  bodies.

Woman Touching Jesus
“She came up behind him and touched the edge of his clock, and immediately her bleeding stopped.” Luke 8:44 NIV

Only those religious leaders seeking to trip him asked the important questions about their souls. Even the disciples, who journeyed with him daily, failed to understand who He was (Mark 6:52).

How often do we ask the Lord for limited gifts — an end to sickness, a new job, grace in our marriage, strength during tragedy — when the King of the Universe longs to give us living water. We come so close to receiving everything, yet stop short because we don’t see beyond our immediate physical need.

The apostle Paul tells us in Ephesians (3:20) that the Lord can give us “above and beyond all that we ask or think” and yet, because of our limited faith, we ask for so little. We fail to see the bigger picture.

So often we’re content to touch the Lord’s robe for immediate healing and ignore him when He calls us to follow him. His plans for us (Jeremiah 29:11; Ephesians 2:10) are far grander than what we seek.

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Prayer: Lord, forgive our limited and selfish visions. You offer us living water and a future glory that far surpasses the struggles and failures of our present lives, yet so often we neglect to ask your help in our daily walk. Too often, we’re content to ask for  earthly healing and then we’ll be good on our own. Help us to see our daily and constant need for you. Amen

Marcos 6:56 (EM) Dondequiera que entraba, ya sea en aldeas o ciudades o campos, ponían en las plazas a los que estaban enfermos, y le rogaban que sólo pudiesen tocar el borde de su manto. Y todos los que le tocaban quedaban sanos.