"What Has Become of the Satisfaction You Felt?"
Everyone who has ever had any acquaintance with the Lord knows that in accepting Him there is joy. It is always expected that a new convert will have a beaming countenance and a joyful testimony. So it had been with the Galatians. But now their expressions of thanksgiving had given way to bickering and strife. The first joy and the warmth of the first love was gradually dying away. This was not as it should have been. "The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day." Proverbs 4:18, KJV. The just live by faith. When men turn from the faith or attempt to substitute works for it, the light goes out. Jesus said, "These things have I spoken unto you, that My joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full." John 15:11, KJV. The fountain of life is never exhausted. The supply is never diminished. If therefore our light grows dim and our joy gives place to a dull, monotonous grind, we may know that we have turned aside out of the way of life.
Tell me, you who desire to be under law, do you not hear the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave and one by a free woman. But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, the son f the free woman through promise. Now this is an allegory: these two women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she was Hagar. Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. For it is written,
"Rejoice, O barren one that dost not bear;
break forth and shout, thou who art not in travail;
for the desolate hath more children
than she who hath a husband."
How many there are who love ways that everybody but themselves can see are leading them directly to death. With their eyes wide open to the consequences of their course, they persist, deliberately choosing "the pleasures of sin for a season," rather than righteousness and length of days. To be "under the law" of God is to be condemned by it as a sinner, chained and doomed to death. Yet many millions besides the Galatians have loved the condition and still love it. If they would only hear what the law says! There is no reason why they should not, for it speaks in thunder tones. "He who has ears to hear, let him hear." Matthew 11:15.
It says, "Cast out the slave and her son; for the son of the slave shall not inherit with the son of the free woman," Verse 30. It speaks death to all who take pleasure in the "beggarly elemental spirits" of the world. "Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, and do them." Galatians 3:10. The poor slave is to be cast out "into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth." Matthew 25:30, KJV.
"For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble; and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch." Therefore, "Remember ye the law of Moses My servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments." Malachi 4:1, 4, KJV. All who are "under the law," whether they be called Jews or Gentiles, Christians or heathen, are in bondage to Satan--in the bondage of transgression and sin--and are to be "cast out." "Everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not continue in the house forever; the son continues forever." John 8:34, 35. Thank God, then, for "adoption as sons."
False teachers would persuade the brethren that in turning from wholehearted faith in Christ and trusting to works which they themselves could do, they would become children of Abraham and so heirs of the promises. "They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted for the seed." Romans 9:8, KJV. Now, of the two sons of Abraham, one was born after the flesh, and the other was by "promise," born of the Spirit. "By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered Him faithful who had promised." Hebrews 11:11.
Hagar was an Egyptian slave. The children of a slave woman are slaves, even though their father is free. So Hagar could bring forth children only to bondage.
But long before the servant-child Ishmael was born, the Lord had plainly signified to Abraham that his own free son, born of his free wife Sarah, would inherit the promise. Such are the workings of the Almighty.
"These Women Are Two Covenants"
The two women, Hagar and Sarah, represent the two covenants. We read that Hagar is Mount Sinai, "bearing children for slavery." Just as Hagar could bring forth only slave children, so the law, even the law that God spoke from Sinai, cannot beget free men. It can do nothing but hold them in bondage. "The law brings wrath," "since through the law comes knowledge of sin. Romans 4:15; 3:20. At Sinai the people promised to kept the given law. But in their own strength they had no power to keep the law.
Mount Sinai "bore children for slavery," since their promise to make themselves righteous by their own works was not successful and can never be.
Consider the situation: The people were in the bondage of sin. They had no power to break their chains. And the speaking of the law made no change in that condition. If a man is in prison for crime, he does not gain release by hearing the statutes read to him. Reading to him the law that put him there only makes his captivity more painful.
Then did not God Himself lead them into bondage? Not by any means, since He did not induce them to make that covenant at Sinai. Four hundred and thirty years before that time He had made a covenant with Abraham which was sufficient for all purposes. That covenant was confirmed in Christ, and therefore was a covenant from above. See John 8:23. It promised righteousness as a free gift of God through faith, and it included all nations. All the miracles that God had wrought in delivering the children of Israel from Egyptian bondage were but demonstrations of His power to deliver them (and us) from the bondage of sin. Yes, the deliverance from Egypt was itself a demonstration not only of God's power but also of His desire to lead them from the bondage of sin.
So, when the people came to Sinai, God simply referred them to what He had already done and then said, "Now therefore, if ye will obey My voice indeed, and keep My covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto Me above all people: for all the earth is Mine." Exodus 19:5, KJV. To what covenant did He refer? Evidently to the one already in existence, His covenant with Abraham. If they would simply keep God's covenant, keep the faith, and believe God's promise, they would be a "peculiar treasure" unto God. As the possessor of all the earth, He was able to do for them all that He had promised.
The fact that they in their self-sufficiency rashly took the whole responsibility upon themselves does not prove that God had led them into making that covenant.
If the children of Israel who came out of Egypt had but walked "in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham" (Romans 4:12, KJV), they would never have boasted that they could keep the law spoken from Sinai, "for the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith." (Romans 4:13, KJV). Faith justifies. Faith makes righteous. If the people had had Abraham's faith, they would have had the righteousness that he had. At Sinai the law, which was "spoken because of transgression," would have been in their hearts. They would not have needed to be awaked by its thunders to a sense of their condition. God never expected, and does not now expect, that any person can get righteousness by the law proclaimed from Sinai, and everything connected with Sinai shows it. Yet the law is truth and must be kept. God delivered the people from Egypt "that they might observe His statutes, and keep His laws." Psalm 105:45, KJV. We do not get life by keeping the commandments, but God gives us life in order that we may keep them through faith in Him.The Two Covenants Parallel
The apostle when speaking of Hagar and Sarah says: "These women are two covenants." These two covenants exist today. The two covenants are not matters of time, but of condition. Let no one flatter himself that he cannot be bound under the old covenant, thinking that its time has passed. The time for that is passed only in the sense that "the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lust, excess of wine, revelings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries." 1 Peter 4:3, KJV.
The difference is just the difference between a free woman and a slave. Hagar's children, no matter how many she might have had, would have been slaves while those of Sarah would necessarily be free. So the covenant from Sinai holds all who adhere to it in bondage "under the law," while the covenant from above gives freedom, not freedom from obedience to the law, but freedom from disobedience to it. The freedom is not found away from the law but in the law. Christ redeems from the curse, which is the transgression of the law, so that the blessing may come on us. And the blessing is obedience to the law. "Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord." Psalm 119:1. This blessedness is freedom. "I shall walk at liberty; for I have sought Thy precepts." Psalm 119:45.
The difference between the two covenants may be put briefly thus: In the covenant from Sinai we ourselves have to do with the law alone, while in the covenant from above we have the law in Christ. In the first instance it is death to us, since the law is sharper than any two-edged sword, and we are not able to handle it without fatal results. But in the second instance we have the law "in the hand of a Mediator." In the one case it is what we can do. In the other case it is what the Spirit of God can do.
Bear in mind that there is not the slightest question in the whole letter to the Galatians as to whether or not the law should be kept. The only question is: How shall it be kept? Is it to be our own doing, so that the reward shall not be of grace but of debt? Or is it to be God working in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure?
Mount Sinai vs. Mount Zion
As there are the two covenants, so there are two cities to which they pertain. Jerusalem which now is pertains to the old covenant—to Mount Sinai. It will never be free but will be replaced by the City of God, the heavenly Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven. Revelation 3:12; 21:1-5. It is the city for which Abraham looked, the "city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God." Hebrews 11:10. Compare Revelation 21:14, 19, 20.
There are many who build great hopes—all their hopes—on the present Jerusalem. For such "to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted." 2 Corinthians 3:14. They are in reality looking to Mount Sinai and the old covenant for salvation. But it is not to be found there. "For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest, and the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words; . . . but ye are come unto Mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, . . . and to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel." Hebrews 12:18-24, KJV. Whoever looks to the present Jerusalem for blessings is looking to the old covenant to Mount Sinai, to slavery. But whoever worships with his face toward the New Jerusalem, he who expects blessings only from it, is looking to the new covenant, to Mount Zion, and to freedom; for "Jerusalem above is free." From what is it free? Free from sin; and since it is our "mother," it begets us anew so that we also become free from sin. Free from the law? Yes, certainly, for the law has no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
But do not let anyone deceive you with vain words, telling you that you may now trample underfoot that law which God Himself proclaimed in such awful majesty from Sinai. Coming to Mount Zion, to Jesus, the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, we become free from sin, from transgression of the law. The basis of God's throne in "Zion" is His law. From the throne proceed the same lightnings and thunderings and voices (Revelation 4:5; 11:19) as from Sinai, because the selfsame law is there. But it is "the throne of grace" (Hebrews 4:16), and therefore in spite of the thunders we come to it boldly, assured that from God we shall obtain mercy. We shall also find grace to help in time of need, grace to help us in he hour of temptation to sin, for out of the midst of the throne, from the slain Lamb (Revelation 5:6), flows the river of water of life bringing to us from the heart of Christ "the law of the Spirit of life." Romans 8:2. We drink of it, we bathe in it, and we find cleansing from all sin.
Why didn't the Lord bring the people directly to Mount Zion, then, where they could find the law as life, and not to Mount Sinai where it was only death?
That is a very natural question, and one that is easily answered. It was because of their unbelief. When God brought Israel out of Egypt, it was His purpose to bring them to Mount Zion as directly as they could go. When they had crossed the Red Sea, they sang an inspired song, of which this was a part:
"Thou in Thy mercy hast led forth the people which Thou hast redeemed: Thou hast guided them in Thy strength unto Thy holy habitation." "Thou shalt bring them in, and plant them in the mountain of Thine inheritance, in the place, O Lord, which Thou hast made for Thee to dwell in, in the sanctuary, O Lord, which Thy hands have established." Exodus 15:13, 17, KJV.
If they had continued singing, they would very soon have come to Zion. For the redeemed of the Lord "come to Zion with singing, with everlasting joy upon their heads." Isaiah 35:10. The dividing of the Red Sea was the proof of this. See Isaiah 51:10, 11. But they soon forgot the Lord and murmured in unbelief. Therefore the law "was added because of transgressions." Galatians 3:19. It was their own fault—the result of their sinful unbelief—that they came to Mount Sinai instead of to Mount Zion.
Nevertheless, God did not leave Himself without witness of His faithfulness. At Mount Sinai the law was in the hand of the same Mediator, Jesus, to whom we come when we come to Zion. From the rock in Horeb (which is Sinai) flowed the living stream, the water of life from the heart of Christ. See Exodus 17:6; 1 Corinthians 10:4. There they had the reality of Mount Zion. Every soul whose heart there turned to the Lord would have beheld His unveiled glory, even as Moses did, and being transformed by it would have found the ministration of righteousness, instead of the ministration of condemnation. "His mercy endureth forever," and even upon the clouds of wrath from which proceed the thunders and lightnings of the law shines the glorious face of the Sun of Righteousness and forms the bow of promise.
Now we, brethren, like Isaac, are children of promise. But as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so it is now. But what does the scripture say? "Cast out the salve and her son; for the son of the slave shall not inherit with the son of the free woman." So, brethren, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman.Verses 28-31.
Here is comfort for every soul! You are a sinner, or at best trying to be a Christian, and you tremble in terror at these words, "Cast out the slave." You realize that you are a slave, that sin has a hold upon you and you are bound by the cords of evil habits. You must learn not to be afraid when the Lord speaks, for He speaks peace even though it be with a voice of thunder! The more majestic the voice, the greater the peace that He gives. Take courage!
The son of the bondwoman is the flesh and its works. "Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable." 1 Corinthians 15:50. But God says, "Cast out the slave and her son." If you are willing that His will shall be done in you "as it is in heaven," He will see that the flesh and its works are cast out from you and you will be "delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God." Romans 8:21, KJV. That command which so frightened you is simply the voice commanding the evil spirit to depart and to come no more into you. It speaks to you victory over every sin. Receive Christ by faith, and you have the power to become the son of God, heir of a kingdom which cannot be moved, but which with all its people abides forever.