Day 41: A Living Allegory

Galatians 4:21-25 :

Tell me, you that desire to be under the law, don’t you listen to the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the handmaid, and one by the free woman. However, the son by the handmaid was born according to the flesh, but the son by the free woman was born through promise. These things contain an allegory, for these are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children to bondage, which is Hagar. For this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and answers to the Jerusalem that exists now, for she is in bondage with her children.

Allegories are powerful when they are understood. They can, however, be difficult to interpret. It is very important that we concentrate on this allegory so that it speaks the truth to us.

To understand this section it is important that you remember the story of Abraham and Sarah and the fact that they had no children for a long time and what happened between them and God (see: Genesis 15 – 21). It was a pretty big ordeal. First, Abraham thought that he would turn his estate over to a relative, and God said, “No, I will give you a child.” That was the promise. Well, God didn’t let that promise be answered in a natural way. He allowed Abraham and Sarah to reach about 100 years old without children. This challenged their belief in God’s promise and Sarah came up with this idea that since she couldn’t have children, that her servant girl should do the job. Well, that worked, but it was natural not miraculous and it wasn’t based on faith in God’s promise. The servant girl was Hagar and Ishmael was the first son of Abraham.

Well, God kept his promise and gave Sarah a child in her very old age anyway. It was a miracle and that really confused Abraham’s household. The natural son fought with the son of promise… does the allegory sound familiar yet? Eventually, Sarah fought with Hagar as well and things were in chaos. Then God said something that might seem strange if you don’t realize that these events were intended to be a living allegory. God told Abraham to send both Hagar and Ishmael away. God promised to take care of Ishmael and gave him a promise as well. God loves people but the truth of God’s word cannot be perverted. We find out right here in Galatians why they had to be sent away.

Now it is important to understand this. Paul tells us that Hagar is equal to Mount Sinai in Arabia and stands for Jerusalem. Now that is difficult because the physical children of Abraham’s promise were those physically in Jerusalem. Paul was saying that the covenant that that started at Mount Sinai is represented by Hagar in history. Do you remember what happened on Mount Sinai? That was where Moses received the 10 Commandments! Mount Sinai, represents the law!

The following of the law is a bondage, just like Hagar was a servant. It wasn’t the promise that God intended. It was a temporary thing to hold sinners in jail until they could be properly freed by their Savior. Notice that both the Jews and the Ishmaelites are shown to be in bondage here? The non-children of Abraham, were already in bondage to sin so that isn’t even mentioned because they were the outsiders already. No one was winning here. We all needed salvation; Jew, Ishmael, and outsider. All of us! Like my brother says, sin was an “equal opportunity destroyer!”

God’s righteous requirements were physical, not of promise and not miraculous to us. They were right, but they could not save us.