“Don’t You Hear the Law?” ( Galatians 4: 15-21, HCSB ) by Carley Evans


Exasperated, Paul wonders at the Galatians’ desire to place themselves back under the yoke of the Law. He worries over them as they fall victim to Judaizers who wish them circumcised, observant of certain days and specific customs. Paul says “it is always good to be enthusiastic about good;” but he also says he is “suffering labor pains for you until Christ is formed in you.” Paul strongly suggests to the church at Galatia that observing the Law does not and can not make them any more Christ-like!

15 What happened to this sense of being blessed you had? For I testify to you that, if possible, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me. 16 Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth? 17 They are enthusiastic about you, but not for any good. Instead, they want to isolate you so you will be enthusiastic about them. 18 Now it is always good to be enthusiastic about good—and not just when I am with you. 19 My children, I am again suffering labor pains for you until Christ is formed in you. 20 I would like to be with you right now and change my tone of voice, because I don’t know what to do about you. 21 Tell me, those of you who want to be under the law, don’t you hear the law?

Paul then tells them a story. He reminds the Galatians of the children of the free woman, Sarah and the slave woman, Hagar. Both children come from Abraham, but only one is the true heir.

Rid yourself of the yoke of slavery and take up the cloak of freedom in Christ.

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“His Own Choice” ( Romans 9: 8 – 23, Knox Bible ) by Carley Evans


Isaac Blessing Jacob, painting by Govert Flinc...
Isaac Blessing Jacob, painting by Govert Flinck (Rijksmuseum Amsterdam).

Does Paul mean to say that God chooses whom He blesses? Paul may as well say, “Of course I do!” Paul pulls out some ammunition from the old covenant scriptures. He mentions the clear division between Pharoa and Moses – one an object of God’s wrath, the other an object of His mercy. Paul briefly tells of Abraham’s two sons; he says, “You know them; you know how that all came down.” Then he fleshes out the story of Rebecca’s two sons: Jacob and Esau. He writes:

“God’s sonship is not for all those who are Abraham’s children by natural descent; it is only the children given to him as the result of God’s promise that are to be counted as his posterity. It was a promise God made, when he said, When this season comes round again, I will visit thee, and Sara shall have a son. 10 And not only she, but Rebecca too received a promise, when she bore two sons to the same husband, our father Isaac. 11 They had not yet been born; they had done nothing, good or evil; and already, so that God’s purpose might stand out clearly as his own choice, 12 with no action of theirs to account for it, nothing but his will, from whom the call came, she was told, The elder is to be the servant of the younger13 So it is that we read, I have been a friend to Jacob, and an enemy to Esau.”

Paul hears the protests. He realizes how this sounds to the human ear. God is unfair. How dare He pick and choose us like that. How dare He send some of us to eternal hell while rescuing only a few of us! Paul counters:

14 What does this mean? That God acts unjustly? That is not to be thought of. 15 I will shew pity, he tells Moses, on those whom I pity; I will shew mercy where I am merciful;16 the effect comes, then, from God’s mercy, not from man’s will, or man’s alacrity. 17 Pharao, too, is told in scripture, This is the very reason why I have made thee what thou art, so as to give proof, in thee, of my power, and to let my name be known all over the earth.18 Thus he shews mercy where it is his will, and where it is his will he hardens men’s hearts.19 Hereupon thou wilt ask, If that is so, how can he find fault with us, since there is no resisting his will? 20 Nay, but who art thou, friend, to bandy words with God? Is the pot to ask the potter, Why hast thou fashioned me thus?21 Is not the potter free to do what he will with the clay, using the same lump to make two objects, one for noble and one for ignoble use? 22 It may be that God has borne, long and patiently, with those who are the objects of his vengeance, fit only for destruction, meaning to give proof of that vengeance, and display his power at last;23 meaning also to display, in those who are the objects of his mercy, how rich is the glory he bestows, that glory for which he has destined them.

Do you believe in destiny? Do you know God’s sovereign power? Do you protest against His own choices? When you recognize and accept God’s mercy in the light of Romans 9 and John 1 and Ephesians 1, to name a few, then you may find yourself melting away, or as Job puts it so well, “repenting in dust and ashes.”

“In Everlasting Worlds” ( Isaiah 26:4, WYC ) by Carley Evans


The Rich Man and Lazarus
The Rich Man and Lazarus (Photo credit: Lawrence OP)

How many everlasting worlds are there? I think the Biblical answer is 2. One is heaven; the other is hell. All other worlds are temporary and fading. Isaiah writes:

“Ye have hoped in the Lord, in everlasting worlds, in the Lord God, strong without end. (Yea, hope ye in the Lord, forever, in the Lord God, who shall be strong forever.)”

Do those in hell – in that everlasting world – “hope in the Lord God, strong without end?”

Remember the story of the rich man who, while on the earth in the temporary and fading world, ignores the needs of Lazarus, the beggar? Remember when the rich man – who has lived in comfort – dies, he sees Lazarus and Abraham in heaven while he languishes, buried in hell? He begs that Abraham send Lazarus to dip a finger in cool water to reduce the hot dryness of his tongue. But Abraham tells the rich man the truth. There is a large gulf of darkness between heaven and hell, and no one can reach across it. The rich man finally thinks of others. He begs Abraham to send Lazarus to his living relatives to warn them. But Abraham says that even if a man rises from the dead, his brothers will not listen to Him since they obviously ignore the prophets.

All people hope in the Lord even if they don’t realize it while they are alive.

“Chosen Into Heritage” ( Psalm 33: 12, WYC ) by Carley Evans


What is the problem with acknowledging that God chooses – that God has the final say, so to speak? Why does this truth bring us up short, if it does? We know from scripture that God chooses Abram from whom He creates an entire people – people He identifies as His own and who are identified by Paul as the original olive tree while the remainder of God’s people are grafted into this original vine.  We know God chooses Moses over Pharaoh, Joseph over his brothers, Jacob over Esau. He chooses Mary over all other women to be the mother of His Son, Jesus. We acknowledge these choices of people, and do not balk.

“Blessed is the folk, whose Lord is his God; the people which he chose into heritage to himself.”

We recognize that ultimately God’s blessing is what sets these people and us apart from others. To think it is anything else – especially to think it is anything we do or say that is somehow better than what others say and do – is an erroneous belief. God chooses us “into heritage to Himself.”

And all the people say, “Amen.”

 

“Live In God’s Word” ( John 8: 31-32, Wycliffe ) by Carley Evans


Jesus teaches in the temple. While He is sitting on the ground, presumably in one of the many open areas, a group of Pharisees bring a young woman caught in adultery and challenge Jesus with the Law of Moses. The Law calls for her death by stoning, they remind. Jesus writes in the dirt with His finger, “as though He heard them not.” (John 8:6, KJV) The Pharisees ask Jesus again. Jesus stands up, and famously states that anyone of them who feels he is without sin may go ahead with the stoning. Then Jesus sits back down and continues to write in the dirt. One by one, the Pharisees “being convicted by their own conscience” leave. Who leaves first? The eldest, of course. The longer we live, the more sin convicts us. Jesus stands again, sees that none of the Pharisees remain to stone the woman as the Law of Moses requires. He asks the young woman where are her accusers. “Hath no man condemned thee?” (John 8:10) She says, “No man, Lord.” Jesus says if no man is left to condemn her, then neither is He to condemn her.  “Go,” He tells her, “and sin no more.” (John 8:11)

Jesus then turns back to the Pharisees and tells them who He is: that He is the Light of the world and the Son of God. Many believe Him. To those, Jesus says:

“31 If ye dwell in my word, verily ye shall be my disciples;

32 and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

To those who continue to protest that they are slaves to no man, Jesus says they are slaves to sin. These men have learned nothing from the earlier event, when Jesus does not condemn the young woman caught in adultery. Jesus tells them,

“37 I know that ye be Abraham’s sons, but ye seek to slay me, for my word taketh not in you.”

The Pharisees continue to strongly protest, saying:

“Abraham is our father.” Jesus says to them, “If ye be the sons of Abraham, do ye the works of Abraham.

40 But now ye seek to slay me, a man that have spoken to you [the] truth, that I heard of God.”

Jesus says to live in His Word. His Word sets you free, free from the Law of sin and death. No need for stones to cast at others, or at ourselves. Jesus says, “Has no one condemned you? Neither do I. Go, and sin no more.”

 

“We Were Children” ( Galatians 4: 1, ESV ) by Carley Evans


“In Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith,” writes Paul to the church at Galatia. When you are baptized into Christ, you “put on Christ.” (Galatians 3:26, 27) And in belonging to Christ, “you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.” (Galatians 3:29)

Now Paul is telling the Galatians that as long as the heir is still a child, he “is no different from a slave.” (Galatians 4:1) This heir, as a child, remains under the guardianship of the “elementary principles of the world” and under the management of the law. (Galatians 4:3,4) But God, at the “fullness of time,” sends His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ into the world “born of woman, born under the law, to redeem” you who are still children. At this point in time, you become heirs, “the owner[s] of everything” God has prepared for you. (Galatians 4:4,5,2)

You become sons of God by adoption. And with this adoption, you become brothers of Jesus Christ and also receive the promised Holy Spirit, who cries in your heart, ‘Abba! Father!’ (Galatians 4:6) “You are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.” (Galatians 4:7)

An heir has rights to everything the Father owns. Paul exhorts that there is no reason “to be under the law” for Abraham has “two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman.” (Galatians 4:21,22) You are born of the free woman, so why would you desire to be in the company of the slave woman? What have you in common with the slaves — with those who remain under the management of the law and enslaved to the elementary principles of the world? You, rather, “are children of promise.” (Galatians 4:28)

“Cast out the slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman shall not inherit with the son of the free woman.” (Galatians 4:30)

“As You Swore In Days Gone By” ( Micah 7: 18 – 20, NEB ) by Carley Evans


“Who is a god like You? You take away guilt, You pass over the sin of the remnant of Your own people, You do not let Your anger rage for ever but delight in love that will not change. Once more You will show us tender affection and wash out our guilt, casting all our sins into the depths of the sea. You will show good faith to Jacob, unchanging love to Abraham, as You did swear to our fathers in days gone by.”

“And Mary says: ‘Tell out, my soul, the greatness of the Lord, rejoice, rejoice, my spirit, in God my saviour… His Name is Holy; His mercy sure from generation to generation toward those who fear Him; the deeds His own right arm has done disclose His might: the arrogant of heart and mind He has put to rout, He has brought down monarchs from their thrones, but the humble have been lifted high. The hungry He has satisfied with good things, but the rich sent empty away. He has ranged Himself at the side of Israel His servant; firm in His promise to our forefathers, He has not forgotten to show mercy to Abraham and his children’s children, for ever.’ ” (Luke 1:46-47,49-55)

God does not forget. He remembers His promises. He takes away guilt; He casts all our sins into the sea. His love is unchanging; His mercy sure. He satisfies the hungry; and sends away the rich. He heals the sick; and questions the healthy, saying: “I guess you have no need of Me?” He routs the arrogant; and lifts the humble. He does not forget His promises to the remnant of His people — those He loves and calls according to His purpose.