September 26 I Wednesday

Isaiah 1-2

Galatians 5


“His son by the slave woman was born according to the flesh, but his son by the free woman was born as the result of a divine promise.”  —Galatians 4:23


When God told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac in Genesis 22, He said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah” (Genesis 22:2). Abraham obviously had two sons, so why did God so emphatically say that Isaac was Abraham’s only son?

The best commentary on the Bible is the Bible itself, and Paul helps clarify this odd emphasis in Galatians. He explains that Ishmael, the first of Abraham’s sons, was born of the flesh, which means there was nothing biologically unusual about his birth. Abraham, an older man, lay with Hagar, a younger woman, and they produced a child. But where Ishmael could be explained in terms of what Abraham did for God, Isaac could only be explained in terms of what God did for Abraham. There was nothing natural about Isaac’s birth. He was the result of a promise, miraculously born to Sarah when she was well beyond childbearing years.

Paul then says that the two mothers represent the two covenants. “One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves: this is Hagar” (Galatians 4:24). Just like Ishmael was the result of human effort, the Old Covenant centres on the Law, which is about doing what we are supposed to do for God. The New Covenant, represented by Sarah and Isaac, can only be explained in terms of what God did for us. He sent His Son to do what we could not: fulfill the Law and restore our relationship with Him so that all who trust in Christ may receive the Holy Spirit to live as we never could on our own strength.

The Christian life is not about living for the Lord but letting the Lord live in and through us. Paul states, “At that time the son born according to the flesh persecuted the son born by the power of the Spirit” (Galatians 4:29). Like the historical conflict between Ishmael and Isaac, a battle rages in the heart of every believer between the flesh and the Spirit, between our agenda and God’s agenda, between acting by our own abilities and letting God be in control. Believers fight this battle every day of their lives, choosing daily to die to ourselves and rest in His sufficiency.

Of course God knew about Ishmael, but God’s agenda was not to bless Abraham through Ishmael. Isaac was the son of promise, Isaac was where God’s purposes lay, and when we surrender our lives to Christ, we are also “children of promise” (Galatians 4:28) where He is the only explanation for our lives.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I do not want to live for You but by Your power and enabling. When people see me, may they recognize that You are the only explanation for the life I live. Thank You, Lord.

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