An Allegory about Covenants

An Allegory about Covenants

“For it is written that Abraham had two sons:
the one by a bondwoman, the other by a freewoman.
But he who was of the bondwoman was born according to the flesh,
and he of the freewoman through promise, which things are symbolic.
– Galatians 4:22-24 –

Through an allegory, Paul wanted to explain or illustrate the condition of the spiritual slavery of the Galatians. An allegory is a narrative in which people, things, and facts have a metaphorical or symbolic meaning. The historical facts were real, but the application was allegorical.

Let us look briefly at the historical facts reported in Genesis 12 to 21 by using tha age of Abraham as a reference.

When Abraham was seventy-five, he was called by God to go to Canaan, and God promised him many descendants. Abraham and Sarah wanted children, but Sarah was barren.

At eighty-five years of age, it felt like the promise was delayed, and Sarah became impatient and suggested to Abraham that he have a child through Hagar, their slave. This was legal in that society, but it was not God’s will; however, Abraham accepted and took Hagar as his wife.

When Abraham was eighty-six, Hagar became pregnant, and Sarah became enraged. Result: the latter made life so difficult for the first one that she was forced to flee. However, the Lord intervened by having Hagar return. Thus, the child was born; he was called Ishmael.

When Abraham was ninety-nine, God reiterated His promise to Abraham and Sarah and told them to call their son Isaac.

The son of the promise was born when Abraham was one hundred years old, and they called him Isaac (“laughter”). This was going to create a problem of rivalry with the other son, Ishmael (who was already fourteen years old); this problem continues even to this day through descendants.

When Abraham was 103, Isaac (three years old) was weaned and they had a party to celebrate. Since Ishmael mocked his half-brother, both he and Hagar left the house.

Paul drew spiritual lessons of faith and freedom from historical facts that were in opposition to works and to slavery. Sarah represents a covenant of faith from a promise; Hagar represents the covenant of works. Abraham and Sarah wanted to “help” God; the root of the delay lay in the fulfillment of the promise and their own impossibility, her age and infertility.

Abraham tried to carry out God’s plan through Hagar and her son Ishmael. That was his way of doing it, but not God’s. It is not God’s plan that man’s salvation be attained through the works of the law for the simple reason that it is impossible to do so. Paul showed that as long as man relies on the works of the law to save himself, he cannot escape slavery.

The great lesson we learn is that things
always have to be done in God’s way, not ours.

Be patient, He keeps all His promises. Have faith in Him…