Chapter # 4 Paragraph # 4 Study # 5
December 9, 2012
25 For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children.
26 But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all.
27 For it is written, Rejoice, thou barren that bearest not; break forth and cry, thou that travailest not: for the desolate hath many more children than she which hath an husband.
28 Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise.
29 But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now.
30 Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman.
31 So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free.
1901 ASV Translation:
25 Now this Hagar is mount Sinai in Arabia and answereth to the Jerusalem that now is: for she is in bondage with her children.
26 But the Jerusalem that is above is free, which is our mother.
27 For it is written, Rejoice, thou barren that bearest not; Break forth and cry, thou that travailest not: For more are the children of the desolate than of her that hath the husband.
28 Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise.
29 But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, so also it is now.
30 Howbeit what saith the scripture? Cast out the handmaid and her son: for the son of the handmaid shall not inherit with the son of the freewoman.
31 Wherefore, brethren, we are not children of a handmaid, but of the freewoman.
- I. Hagar As The Jerusalem of Paul's Day.
- A. The reference to "Arabia" is one of two in the New Testament and the other one is Galatians 1:17 where we read that Paul got his grasp of the Gospel while "in Arabia". It is at least possible that Paul's trip into Arabia on the heels of his conversion to Jesus as the Christ was a trip to Mount Sinai -- but this is conjecture rooted in his identity as a full-blown legalist whose personal theological roots were in the Law from Sinai.
- 1. Since Stephen identified "Sinai" as the place in which Yahweh appeared to Moses at the burning bush so that He could send him to Egypt to effect a deliverance for His people, "Sinai" has the "identity" as the place where Yahweh revealed His intention to "deliver" His people.
- 2. Since Paul's "Gospel" is a message in which "deliverance" is detailed and offered to men, it stands to reason that he went to Mt. Sinai "in Arabia" to get his "theological" head on straight. It is as clear as can be that Paul went to "Arabia" and came back with a totally new and different conception of "Law" than that by which he was trained as a Pharisee.
- a. Saul of Tarsus was confronted by Jesus on the road to Damascus by all accounts. This made it impossible for him to continue his "life" as he had been living it. This is no small "problem". For him to be able to adjust to the reality of Jesus as the Christ, he had to be able to see more clearly what had been driving his way of seeing things. It is no wonder that he went into "Arabia", a well-known wilderness of few people and enormous solitude. How else was he to get his head on straight?
- b. Given the prominence of the "Hagarian" Law in Jerusalem, there were two issues that had to be resolved: Saul had to ask himself what the real bottom line was in his "heart, mind, soul, spirit" complex; and Saul had to ask God what the real bottom line was in the angelically mediated "Law".
- 1) We are not left to wonder what the answers were. Paul's letters are forthright.
- 2) As to his own "heart, mind, soul, spirit" complex, Paul is as clear as can be that his goal was to be the most recognized pharisee of his generation (Galatians 1:14). This was, and is, an extremely "fallen" goal for living as it ranks right up there with Lucifer's decision to exalt himself above the throne of Yahweh.
- 3) As to God's purpose in giving the "Law" through mediators, Paul is just as clear: God gave the Law through angels to exalt His Justice to the highest possible reality in the minds of men so that they might see the impossibility of ever being pure enough to be "justified" by the works demanded by Justice. In other words, God gave the Law to expose men's sinfulness and to make their sin exceedingly vile.
- 4) Once these two "bottom lines" snapped into place, Paul could see clearly how the grace espoused by Jesus of Nazareth was not just a good idea; it was an inescapably crucial necessity for the participation of man in Yahweh's eternal kingdom. When a man's "heart, mind, soul, spirit" complex drives him into "position" as "the chief of sinners", and the Law of God makes the redemption of sinners impossible (especially for the "chief"), that man has a real need to look into the grace of Jesus as a possible source for reconciliation with God.
- 3. Since it is our task as students of the Word to attempt to identify the meaning and significance of the words used in inspired Scripture, that Paul identifies Hagar as Mt. Sinai "in Arabia" means that he wanted us to think in terms of "Arabia". Thus, the earlier reference in Galatians 1:17 rises in importance: Mt. Sinai in Arabia is very likely to be the place where Saul of Tarsus went and returned as Paul the apostle (in terms of the "message"--which is the point of our current study).
- 4. The fact is that no one can come to "Gospel" without first being "tutored" by "Law" (Galatians 3:24).
- B. The alignment of Hagar with "the Jerusalem which now is" is astounding for its claim that Hagar is the mother of the Jews of the first century. This would be considered a huge insult by the vast majority of the Jews. However, the ministers of the Word of God had a long history in the first century of saying things about the Jews that they took as insults (John the Baptizer began with "you brood of vipers..."; Jesus picked up with "...you are of your father the devil..."; etc.).
- 1. At this point it is beyond clear that Paul has moved from "physical progeny" to "final reality" by putting "the Jerusalem that now is" in Hagar's "allegorical" camp. The "physical" lineage issue, held as sacred by the Jews, has no helpful place in the relationship of a man to God. Even Isaac as the physical son of Abraham was no different from Ishmael in this regard. Isaac takes his place in the relational universe of the "Faithful Creator" as "the son of promise", a title that gets its meaning and significance from the fact that Yahweh produced him, not Abraham and Sarah.
- 2. Hagar, as the Jerusalem that now is, is a theological construct with this bottom line: men determine their identity and function within the creation of Yahweh by their determination and faithfulness. Men are the "masters of their own fate" according to the Law. Obey and live; rebel and die. Heaven or hell; its up to you.
- C. The major description of the state of affairs for the first century Jews is that they "are in bondage".
- 1. Bondage is the issue, but it is only that kind of "bondage" that Paul would consider critically negative. There are many claims in the Bible to a "glad bondage" and many call themselves "servants of God". This, clearly, cannot be Paul's concept in our text.
- 2. The specific identity of "bondage" is "alienation from the life of God" (Ephesians 4:18) which has been caused by the relational disaster of a "sin barrier" between a man and God (Colossians 1:21). Bondage has only a little to do with what a person "does" or whether a person has any control over what he/she is constrained to do. Bondage is all about whether the end of that "doing" is joy in the soul of the person involved in the "doing". This cannot be determined only in terms of immediate, or present, results; it must be determined by the ultimate result.