Tell me, you who want to be under the law, are you not aware of what the law says? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the free woman. His son by the slave woman was born in the ordinary way; but his son by the free woman was born as the result of a promise.
These things may be taken figuratively, for the women represent two covenants. One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves: This is Hagar. Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother. For it is written:
"Be glad, O barren woman,who bears no children; break forth and cry aloud, you who have no labor pains; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband."
Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. At that time the son born in the ordinary way persecuted the son born by the power of the Spirit. It is the same now. But what does the Scripture say? "Get rid of the slave woman and her son, for the slave woman's son will never share in the inheritance with the free woman's son." Therefore, brothers, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman. (NIV)
1. Paul says the slave woman's son was born "in the ordinary way;" but the free woman's son was born "as the result of a promise." If Isaac's birth "as the result of a promise" foreshadows Jesus coming as the fulfillment of a promise and then including us as inheritors of the promise, to what spiritual reality does Ishmael's "ordinary" birth correspond? "Ordinary" suggests something common and expected. Why is legalism equated with "ordinary?"
2. If Hagar represents Mt. Sinai and the law and had natural children, who is the father of her children? If Sarah represents the heavenly Jerusalem and had children of a miracle, who is the father of her children? In Jewish culture the Jewish inheritance came through the mother. What inheritance did Hagar's children receive? Sarah's? Who are Hagar's children? Who are Sarah's?
3. Verse 27 is a quote from Isaiah 54:1. Isaiah was prophecying to Israel when the nation was in exile, and God had withdrawn his blessing from Israel. Here Isaiah is actually comparing abandoned Israel to a wife separated from her husband, and he's saying she will be blessed more than the intact nations which overpowered Israel. What is the significance of the promise of blessing being for the desolate rather than for the ones who have everything they need?
4. At the celebration marking Isaac's weaning, Ishmael taunted and picked on Isaac, and Sarah demanded that Abraham send Hagar and Ishmael away. Paul says the "natural children" do the same thing now. In what ways are your misunderstood or persecuted by "the slave woman and her son"?
5. What does Paul mean when he says, "Get rid of the slave woman and her son"? Does he mean to get away from people who keep the law and put pressure on you? Does he mean to get rid of the hold of the law on your mind and heart? What do you have to do in your own life to "get rid of the slave woman and her son?"
6. Sending Hagar and Ishmael away must have been deeply painful for Abraham. How has "putting away the slave woman and her son" been painful for you? In what areas of your life are you still struggling with deep attachments to Hagar and Ishmael? Who or what do you have to entrust to Jesus' care in order for you to walk forward in freedom?
7. "Therefore, brothers, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman." From what specifically do you praise God for delivering you?
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