Paul didn’t want his readers to be in the dark. After all, they hadn’t been brought up their whole lives hearing the stories of the same ancestors Paul had. Because he wanted to figure out what their intentions truly were, he asked, “Tell me, you who want to live under the law, do you know what the law actually says?” I can just picture them looking around at each other with a blank stare. Who was going to speak up? What did they actually know other than what some Jews were spewing at them? Obviously, Paul wasn’t going to let them rely on what might be misinformation, even it if was from another Jew.
They Gentile congregation was starting to believe that circumcision was the way to be saved, not Jesus. We know that Jesus died to set us free from the law and the long list of regulations the Jews had followed for generations. Our freedom is in Christ. Paul goes back to Abraham and tells the story of Abraham’s two sons, one from his slave, Hagar, and one from his wife, Sarah.
It’s important to remember God’s promise to Abraham. Paul had spoken of this in Chapter 3:8-9. For “all nations to be blessed” through Abraham, he would need to have a child to leave his inheritance. Paul tells them, “The son of the slave wife was born in a human attempt to bring about the fulfillment of God’s promise.” I’m surprised Paul didn’t go into more detail than this to explain how Sarah just couldn’t wrap her head around the fact that she, in her old age, would bear a son. She questioned how God’s promise could ever come true with her by Abraham’s side. Her faith was not sufficient, so she “helped” God, or so she thought, by having her slave, Hagar, bear Abraham a son. God allowed Hagar to conceive.
The lesson of this passage is not just to trust God, rather than doubt his power like Sarah had. It also points out that God’s blessing came to us through Sarah and Abraham’s union, their son Isaac, the miraculous child of the promise. “And you, dear brothers and sisters, are children of the promise, just like Isaac.” Paul wanted to drive home the idea that by God’s grace the Gentile congregation belonged to God just the same as those naturally born in Isaac’s line. It was interesting to me how Paul took this story and wove into it this theme of following the law versus trusting God’s grace.
I think what Paul is trying to say here is that when we act on our own, trying to be like God or do God’s work, we will never find success or freedom. We have to allow God to work in our lives what he wills for us. His plans for us are so much better than what we could possibly dream up ourselves. Why do we get caught up trying to make our own success like Sarah did? Shouldn’t we rather let God direct our path and trust him and his Word?
Take some time today to reflect on areas of your life where you might be holding tight to “doing it all yourself.” Can you loosen the grip, let go, and let God?
Let’s pray … Lord, forgive me for the many times I have relied on my own power to get a job done or make a decision. This passage has again opened my eyes to the truth that freedom is found in you. You’ve got everything worked out, why do I try so hard to get in the way? Help me to be more trusting and patient as I wait for you to work in my life. In Jesus’ name. Amen.