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Genesis 16:15-16

Grace and the Law

15 And Hagar bare Abram a son: and Abram called his son's name, which Hagar bare, Ishmael. 16 And Abram was fourscore and six years old, when Hagar bare Ishmael to Abram."


Hagar obeyed God. She humbled herself and returned to the house of Abram, confident that God would keep His promise to make her seed too numerous to be counted. Her faithfulness was rewarded when God gave her a child.

Hagar must have told Abram about the angel's visit, for he too obeyed God by naming the child Ishmael. Abram had his first child at the age of eighty-six, fourteen years before God's promise would be fulfilled through Sarai. The promised son was by God's grace, but Ishmael was born through the works of the flesh.

"Tell me, you that desire to be under the law, do you not hear the law? For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a female slave, the other by a free woman. But he who was of the female slave was born after the flesh; but he of the free woman was by promise. Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which engenders to bondage, which is Agar. For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answers to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children." (Galatians 4:21-25)

Paul used Agar as an allegory of the Mosaic covenant and Ishmael as representative of those who are the children of the covenant. Hagar was a slave, and all of her children would be born into the same bondage. Likewise, those who attempt to obtain their righteousness through the works of the Mosaic covenant are in bondage to the law. They must live in constant fear of failure and condemnation, for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.

Hagar was the product of Sarai's human effort to accomplish what God had already promised to do. She represented the works of the law. God's grace, on the other hand, sets us free from such feeble efforts. Sarai could have avoided many problems, if she had trusted in grace instead of works. Her well intentioned works resulted in sin… adultery, jealousy, anger, cruelty, etc.

Paul pointed out that Agar was the covenant of mount Sinai and Ishmael was the people of "Jerusalem which now is." In other words, Jerusalem, God's church of the Jewish congregation, was living in bondage to the condemnation of the law, having rejected God's grace in Jesus Christ. They were trying to obtain righteousness through works, after God had promised it by His grace.

The modern church frequently teeters on the fence of law and grace, unable to find the right balance between the two. It is easy for us to begin to feel self-righteous simply because we are God's children. We can feel holier than anyone else, because we are in the choir loft every Sunday morning and we "sacrifice" our time on Wednesday evening to practice glorifying Him in worship. The problem is that we do not even know how to worship God. Our worship must be presented to God through our mediator, Jesus Christ. It must be a product of grace, not of works.

God has promised that we can do all things through Christ Jesus who will give us strength. That is the promise of grace. The minute that we think we can accomplish anything by our own talents, our own creativity, our own hard work, or our own righteousness we are placing ourselves back under the bondage from which we were set free. Talent is of the flesh. Prayer and faith are the works of grace.

Before The Throne:

Take an important step to improving your ministry. Spend more time in prayer, seeking God's grace and less time planning how you are going to accomplish His work. Pray that God would begin to work through you, as you make yourself available to Him. Pray for the faith to simply trust in His grace.

For Further Study:

(v.15)
** Hagar. Gen 25:12; 1Ch 1:28; Ga 4:22; ** Ishmael. Gen 17:18,20,25,26; 21:9-21; 25:9,12; 28:9; 37:27;

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