Allegory: a metaphor in which a character, place or event is used to deliver a broader message about real-world issues and occurrences. Allegory (in the sense of the practice and use) can readily illustrate or convey complex ideas and concepts in ways that are comprehensible or striking to its viewers, readers, or listeners.
21Tell me, you who want to be under law, do you not listen to the law? 22For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the bondwoman and one by the free woman. 23But the son by the bondwoman was born according to the flesh and the son by the free woman through the promise. 24This is allegorically speaking, for these women are two covenants: one proceeding from Mount Sinai bearing children who are to be slaves; she is Hagar. 25Now this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. 26But the Jerusalem above is free; she is our mother. 27For it is written, "REJOICE, BARREN WOMAN WHO DOES NOT BEAR; BREAK FORTH AND SHOUT, YOU WHO ARE NOT IN LABOR; FOR MORE NUMEROUS ARE THE CHILDREN OF THE DESOLATE THAN OF THE ONE WHO HAS A HUSBAND." 28And you brethren, like Isaac, are children of promise. 29But as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so it is now also. 30But what does the Scripture say? "CAST OUT THE BONDWOMAN AND HER SON, FOR THE SON OF THE BONDWOMAN SHALL NOT BE AN HEIR WITH THE SON OF THE FREE WOMAN." 31So then, brethren, we are not children of a bondwoman, but of the free woman. Galatians 4:21-31
Now, going back to Gen 16, we read once Hagar gets pregnant, she despises Sarah. Sarah becomes belligerent towards her and Hagar flees from Sarah’s presence. Persecution must have been difficult. God meets her in the desert and tells her to go back and submit to Sarah. Not good for Hagar…But Okay?????
Now I turn to Genesis 21 and read about the birth of Isaac and Ishmael. As the story goes, Isaac grew, and on the day he was weaned, a great feast was held…but Ishmael tormented/ “mocked” Isaac. Sarah says, "Get rid of the 'slave woman' and her son for that 'slave woman’s son' will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac!" And we point our finger at Sarah for her demeanor and attitude. But wait! Hang on to that!...
Of course, the name Isaac means laughter…which means more today as I’m reading this…I’ll come back to that in a minute.
So, we have Hagar returning to submit…until Sarah gets tired of her presence and throws her out. The matter distresses Abraham greatly…understandably so…Ishmael was his son. At least that’s what I’ve always been told…and I’m sure that’s true. But is there a deeper meaning here? I’ve always thought Abraham’s passiveness in both of these instances is glaring. Is he walking in a strong-hold from his family of origin. Sounds like he doesn't like conflict, but when we pan out can we see how God uses that for his good purposes? As he always does. Our inability to function in spiritual emotional maturity does not thwart God's plans. I’ll come back to that too.
God tells Abraham Gen 21:12, “whatever Sarah tells you, listen to her,” for your offspring will come through Isaac. I will make the son of the maidservant into a nation also because he is your offspring.
So, on one hand God says to Hagar…go back and submit…only to be thrown out by Sarah later, with Abraham, if not in full agreement at least acquiescing.
After reading Galatians today: here are my thoughts.
Hagar and Ishmael represent the war between the flesh and the spirit, the old and the new covenant…old man vs new man…duh! Not new information. God had Hagar go back and submit. Spiritual meaning? Flesh has to submit to the Lordship of Jesus. So, she goes back and submits…then she is cast out! What? I can hear her saying, This is ridiculous…I came back to submit only to get thrown out? I knew I should have stayed out there. This submitting thing isn’t working out for me! Hagar’s returning to Sarah and submitting is representative of our taking authority over our flesh...the old man…and submitting to the “spirit,” of God which dwells in us, which is never an easy task.
Now, Gen 21:11 tells us how distressed Abraham was to have to send Ishmael away. In my thoughts today, as I’ve always heard it explained; Ishmael is his son. Abraham would certainly be sad having to send his son away. But the spiritual message…? I think, may be that we grieve and groan and struggle because the flesh and our old habits do not die easy. The flesh dies hard. Then God continues and says…“I will make the son of the maidservant into a nation also because he is your offspring.”
Well, certainly it is no secret that the descendants of Ishmael have wreaked havoc on the Jewish people for centuries claiming they are the rightful heirs to the land of Canaan/Israel. And recently they expanded their persecution of the children of the “free woman” to include all children of God…all Christians, and to this infidel America that in their mind represents the free. Thus, the war/battle we experience today is still going on between the descendants of Ishmael and the descendants of Isaac played out on real soil as a reflection of the continued spiritual war we experience between our flesh and our spirit.
Returning to point #1…the two items mentioned earlier. Isaac’s name means laughter…of course if we look at that directly, we think, “well duh!” I’d be laughing too if I’d been barren for what 60 years, (whatever age this normally would have happened) got pregnant at 90 and had a son. But the spiritual lesson? Don’t we all laugh, rejoice with exuberance when, salvation comes, we invite the Spirit in; He takes up residence in our hearts, the old man is defeated, and we gradually begin throwing him out as we take possession of our “land.” A happy state indeed. "Blessed are the poor in Spirit." Matt 5:1. Salvation is acknowledging our degenerate and wounded heart. The angels rejoice when this happens. Luke 15:10
Point # 2: Abraham submitting to Sarah. Maybe not so passive as it appears. A view from a loftier position might reveal something else, perhaps? After all, God did tell him to “listen to her.” That one always baffled me. But in our view from above Sarah represents the Spirit. It is by the power of the Spirit that the old man, old nature, in this instance “slave woman,” is thrown out. Had to be Sarah to accomplish this, Abraham could not… maybe…(I know I may be stretching this a bit). But for all of the questions I’ve ask about this over the years, this all makes it fit together like a puzzle. The beauty of an allegory. Perhaps Abraham wasn’t so passive after all. He couldn’t throw out the old man…as Sarah represents the spirit taking authority over the flesh. She had to be the one to do it.
Then, one more thing, not only do we have our flesh to contend with, but the persecution of the “old slave woman’s” offspring will continue to persecute the “offspring of the Spirit woman,” until we get sick and tired of being sick and tired and throw out the old man!” Just as the battle between the flesh and the spirit will rage until Jesus comes, the battle between the old covenant represented through Ishmael’s descendants will continue to rage against the new covenant, Isaac’s descendants…Jews…Christians…etc. Ishmael’s hatred of Isaac and the conflict between Hagar and Sarah represent the conflict between our spirit and our flesh. She represents the spirit woman of promise. Sarah represents us as we attempt to “throw out" the old man, represented by the son born of the flesh. Since our spiritual battle will rage until Jesus comes, this battle between the descendants of Ishmael and Isaac will continue to wage war against Israel…Flesh vs Spirit until Jesus says enough?
And Sarah’s demeanor, hatefulness, harshness to Hagar? Sad, and perhaps looking at it directly we see Sarah’s negative flesh attitude playing out toward Hagar, and we could question all sorts of things including the fact that she was the one who started this whole thing. But step back…view this from a spiritual context…and from what God wants to teach us in this allegory…Don’t we have to get angry and frustrated enough with our own flesh that we finally take a stand and DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT…SICK AND TIRED OF BEING SICK AND TIRED! Change our thinking and we change our life. Throw out the old man. Put to death the deeds of the flesh. Tear down the strongholds, 2 Cor 10:4. Paul tells us…“Walk in the Spirit and you will not fulfill the desires of the flesh.” Gal. 5:16.
Then the other question…Yes…Sarah took matters into her own hands…manipulated the circumstances to get what she wanted, Abraham submitted to her…wimped out…or maybe not…and Ishmael is conceived. Obviously, God knew this ahead of time. But… since he is sovereign, and he knew all of this, I could look at this two ways: 1) God took Sarah’s bad choices and turned them into what he intended anyway…as he always does and this story represents old covenant, old man vs new covenant, new man. Or/and God always has a plan and an underlying goal or point to make. If we can look under the obvious…pan out and view it from a loftier position, we get to see God’s handiwork as life unfolds before us to see something far greater than looking at it directly. When we tie it all together we see God weaving all of their choices, to create a great tapestry that he will use as an allegory to teach us a deeper truth about us as we get sick and tired of being sick and tired, throw out the old man and walk in the spirit, which is only available to us through grace and the Holy Spirit. The old man will never share in the inheritance that Jesus’ sacrifice provides for us.
When I read Galatians, it all fits…the events, and the truth that God wanted to convey to us about our own journey from slavery to free through Paul’s allegory and Abraham and Sarah’s journey. And God’s orchestration as we look into this deeper than what first meets the eye when we read it horizontally. And we, like them walk out our daily lives in the programming from our family of origin, we are sleep walking if you will, in the patterns we created to protect us...get us what we want...our own selfish way. It isn't until we become aware, and awake to the spirit of God, really awake...do we begin to see things differently.
It isn’t knowing facts about who Jesus is…knowing facts about Abraham, Sarah, Hagar, Ishmael, and Isaac, it is about having a relationship with the God of the universe, through the sacrifice Jesus paid on the cross. We invite him in, yield, submit, the old man to the new man; the Spirit rises up and throws out our old sin nature and we walk differently, because we think differently and we become intentional about tearing down the strongholds and being the person God created us to be.
Whew! Did I overload your brain yet?
September 30, 2018