Sunday, 8 May 2016
For it is written:
“Rejoice, O barren,
You who do not bear!
Break forth and shout,
You who are not in labor!
For the desolate has many more children
Than she who has a husband.”
Paul, showing the superlative nature of the New Covenant over the Old, uses the words of the Greek translation of Isaiah 54:1 to continue his analogy between Hagar, the slave of Abraham, and Sarah, his wife. In doing so, he says, “For it is written…” He is claiming that the verse has a fulfillment in the subject he is writing about.
At the time, Isaiah was writing about the restoration of Jerusalem. He prophesied that she would go from desolation to abundance and from a state of barrenness to a state of health and the bearing of children. Her borders would expand, and the city would increase. Paul shows that this was only a picture of the true Jerusalem. The words of Isaiah are more perfectly fulfilled in the coming of Christ.
The world at large was barren. There were no spiritual descendants of Abraham outside of those who came into the covenant line of Israel, such as Rahab and Ruth. Only those who were under the law, and who were also circumcised in the heart, were counted as true descendants of Abraham.
However, in the coming of Christ, the gates were opened for any and all who would call out to God through Him to become children of God by faith. And so Paul says, “Rejoice O barren.” It is the barren Gentile world, without a husband, to whom he is addressing his words. He tells them to rejoice.
He then further explains exactly who he is talking to, “You who do not bear!” There were no children of God in the Gentile world. None were born, because none had been redeemed. But the time was coming when they would be. Isaiah’s words point us forward to a time when the barren world would “Break forth and shout.” There was to be rejoicing in the once barren land, and it would come from those “who are not in labor.”
The Jews went through the labor of bondage to the law. Those of Israel who realized the law couldn’t save them came to God through faith each year on the Day of Atonement, seeking His mercy. However, the Gentiles never had such labor. Instead, they would go from a state of barrenness to an immediate state of adoption; all because of the work of Christ. This is because the true atonement, which the Day of Atonement only pictured, is found in Him.
From the barren state of the Gentiles, here called “the desolate,” will come an enormous amount of offspring. The comparison is made in the final words –
“For the desolate has many more children
Than she who has a husband.”
There is an article in front of “husband” in the Greek. It says “THE husband.” This is speaking of those under the law who had been married to God at Sinai. Children of God were born through this arrangement, but the Gentiles would have many more through faith in Christ. The emphasis from the article would make it read, “She who has THE husband of which the other is destitute.”
The comparison is made in a way as to show the superlative nature of what would occur through the work of Christ. It should be noted that although it is Sarah who actually had a husband, it is not speaking of her in this citation as “she who has a husband.” The picture is that of Sarah being long barren, but now restored to the favor of Abraham by the bearing of Isaac, the son of promise.
The normal course of a woman with a husband was to have children. This did not occur in Sarah’s case. Instead, Hagar is the one who had a child. It is she who is equated with the Old Covenant. Through God’s marriage to Israel, children were born. But through the marriage of the church to Christ, many more were born. This is the sense of what Paul is relaying to the Galatians. As this is so, he is demonstrating the superabundant nature of the work of Christ in comparison to the law.
Life application: Why would anyone devolve from receiving the grace of Christ to adhering to works of the law? It is a step (a giant one) in the wrong direction. Let us never be so perverse as to think that we can do more to merit God’s favor than Christ did!
Lord God, it is a perfect day today. Why? Because You have ordained it for us. Whatever happens was known to You in advance. And so it must be a part of Your perfect plan. Help us to keep this perspective as we run into snags, trials, and difficulties. Each thing that happens will be a part of what You intended for us. Help us to look beyond the moment to the fact that You have an eternal plan of which we are a part. And surely that plan is perfect. Hallelujah for such knowledge! Amen.