TWO DIFFERENT WOMEN—TWO DIFFERENT COVENANTS (Galatians 4:24-26) Continued
Yes, Sinai was a Covenant. It was the Covenant which gendered unto bondage. Thus was Hagar and her son(s). All are born according to the flesh; natural children they are, and nothing more. Children of wrath.
However, there is another covenant of God. It isthe covenant of grace and peace in Jesus Christ. This covenant is portrayed in Sarah and her freeborn son, Isaac. This covenant is not one which answers to the earthly Jerusalem with its shadowy temple ritual and service’s, but it is really the heavenly Jerusalem, which is above in the glories of mount Zion, the city of the living God. (Hebrews 12:22-24) The writer to the Hebrews tells us that we have not come legally and spiritually to that earthly mount in Arabia, but that we have now come, arrived at mount Zion, the city of the living God, and to the blood of the mediator, Jesus, which speaks better things than Abel. The blood of the latter calls for vengeance; however, the blood of Christ, the blood of sprinkling, calls for peace and pardon, and is the guarantee of being sons and heirs of God. O, glorious city of God!
What the apostle Paul here emphatically states concerning this heavenly city is that here we have a covenant of God with man where we are “free.” Freedom from the curse of the law is the great theme here in Paul’s masterful and pointed apology. It is the freedom of the man who, by law, has died unto law. Paul was hemmed in by the law and its awful condemnation and curse. He could not thus find peace and liberty. Now he died unto law. Christ has fulfilled the law for him on the accursed tree; Christ removed the curse forever by His one sacrifice on the tree. It is finished forever now in the end of the ages. (Heb. 9:26b) He was delivered for our transgressions and was raised for our justification. we were crucified with Christ, so that sin’s mighty grip has been broken forever! We are freeborn sons in Christ, born from above by water and by Spirit. (John 3:3-8) Paul will have more to say about this. He brings in a mighty proof from Scripture to sustain this allegorical implication of the birth of Isaac from Sarah by promise.
Jerusalem above is free!
Jerusalem above is the mother of us, the church, all the freeborn children of Sarah’s promise children. Had not Paul written in, chapter 3:29: “Now if we are of Christ (and we are!) then are we the seed of Abraham, and heirs according to the promise”? To be sure, the sons of Abraham and those of Sarah are the same numberless throng. (Hebrews 11:11, 12) And of these Paul writes in our text: who is the mother of us all!
And this point Paul will prove from the prophetic word which is very sure, and shines more and more unto the perfect day; when Jerusalem shall descend from heaven as a bride adorned to meet her husband. (Rev. 21:2) Then shall the church behold the glory of the glorified Son of God, and then shall the high priestly prayer of the Savior be answered completely. (John 17:24) The text, which Paul quotes, is taken from Isaiah 54:1, where we read, “Sing, O barren, thou that didst not bear; break forth into singing, and cry aloud, thou that didst not travail with child: for more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married wife, saith the LORD.”
It ought to be evident that Paul will prove from this text from Isaiah that the children born by the power of the promise are freeborn, and that they are born from above, from the heavenly Jerusalem, which is free and which is the mother of us the church. Fact is that Paul applies this passage directly to the Galatian saints, saying, “Now we, brethren, even as Isaac was, are born according to promise. (Gal. 4:28)
When we survey rather carefully the content of the chapters 52-54 of the prophecy of Isaiah, we notice that this entire section deals with the high and glorious exaltation of Zion, Jerusalem, the captive daughter of Zion, my people. These chapters contain the divine announcement that the people of God, the sons of Abraham, shall no more be in bondage of sin and guilt. Twice this has happened to “my people”; twice they were in bondage of sin. God led them into Egypt in the days of Jacob, and later they were led into the cruel captivity of Babylon. (Isaiah 52:4) However, that shall never again happen. No more shall the enemy assault the city, break down the walls, and pollute the altar, and carry God’s sons and daughters away from the city of God. God will build a better city, the heavenly city. He will build the city which Abraham sought when a pilgrim and stranger in the land, together with Isaac and Jacob. And He will no more dwell in the earthly city; He will leave this city destitute forever. Such is the trumpet-sound of the gospel here in Isaiah 52-54. It is the gospel which will be preached by those who are sent to preach. (Isaiah 52:7; Rom. 10:15) The message is so wonderfully exalted that even the footsteps of its messengers shall be beautiful upon the mountains of Zion!
THE BARREN WOMAN MUST SING ALOUD (Galatians 4:27)
The passage from Isaiah 54:1 speaks a Word from Jehovah, our covenant God, Whose promise stands and Whose word never fails. In Isaiah 54:1 we read, “saith the LORD.” It is God’s word concerning the great and high exaltation of the church in the New Testament Dispensation! This exaltation of the church is the exceedingly great and glorious coming of the heavenly kingdom of God, which no one can see except he be born from above. This is a pivotal and basic truth of all the prophecies, which premillennialism fails to grasp. Basically such is the case with all Jewish, nationalistic conceptions of the Kingdom of God in Christ Jesus. The time when the barren woman sings is not the greatest moment in prophecy; it is really a mere intermezzo, which does not belong to major sections of the symphony of God’s masterplan to Abraham’s seed; the gathering of the church is really not such that Japheth will dwell in the tents of Shem at Pentecost. (Gen. 9:27a;Isaiah 54:2) However, at Pentecost the wonderful works of God are proclaimed in every man’s language. The confusion of tongues of Babel is superseded and now all can hear, and whosoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. This is the acceptable year of the Lord. The Scriptures are replete with this glad news concerning the promise of God and the new birth of all the elect children of God, whether Jew or Greek. (Luke 4:10, II Cor. 6:2) Paul had touched upon this great truth of the Scriptures already in Gal. 3:26. We have explained that passage in one of our earlier essays in Galatians. No, no! The time when the barren woman must break forth into singing and shouting for sheer, rapturous joy is the very end, the great purpose of God’s promise to Abraham and to His Seed. (Gal. 3:14, 22; Gal. 4:6, 7)
What accounts for this rather sudden command of the LORD to the church in the Old Testament already as she is in the days of Isaiah? We must briefly call attention to the following great truths which we find here set forth in Isaiah 52:13-53:1-12.
1. The great event in history in the realization of God’s promise is that which is spoken of in Is. 52:13. “Behold, my servant shall deal prudently, he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high.” This “servant” is none other than God’s Son sent in the fulness of time, made from a woman.” He came in the form of a servant and was found in fashion as a man. (Gal. 4:4; Phil 2:6-8) He is the very Christ of God!
2. This “servant” shall deal prudently; he shall be humbled unto death, even the death of the Cross. He shall come and be “under law” in our stead. He shall redeem us. His face shall be more marred than any man. He will be worm and not a man in all his inexpressible anguish and sorrow under the burden of God’s wrath against our sins. This theme is worked out by the prophecy in Is. 53in such a way that we see three things concerning the Messiah’s work, His suffering all these things to enter into His glory. And here we have the epitome of all the prophecies beginning at Moses (Genesis to Deuteronomy) passing through the Psalms and all the prophetic poetry of the inspired Scriptures, as this is set forth more and more in all the prophets till John, the forerunner of the Lord. Isaiah 53 tells us of the suffering, resurrection, and the glorious exaltation of the Christ.
3. And the great theme here reaches its conclusion in Isaiah 54:1-10. Yes, Zion must put on her beautiful garments, she must put on her strength, and must be decked in the gorgeous array of the saving grace and salvation of her God and Christ. The good pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in the hand of Christ. Christ is exalted at the right hand of God, far above all the angels.
And now the barren woman can sing!
Sarah was such a barren woman once. She could not sing but was like a woman forsaken, although she is the free-woman, the legal wife of the father of all believers. But this was changed in the birth of Isaac, who was born by promise, so that it might be forever evident that the pattern of God’s dealing with his church is: with God almighty nothing is impossible. But, O, how she sang at the birth of Isaac. All peoples sing with her. They sing with her in the son of laughter, Isaac, that miracle of God! And, again, the church seemed to be “barren” in the time of the captivity. All the types and shadows had availed nothing, and the church was as the nonage child under tutors and governors till the time appointed of the Father. There was no hope, and there was the great cry of the church in hope against hope: How long, O Lord? Watchman, what of the night? Prophets tell us, tell us . . . lest we die! Harps upon the willows of the streams of Babylon! The church is a barren woman. But there is more hope for Israel in Babylon, than what there was for her in the glorious days of Solomon’s reign and temple building.
For salvation is of the LORD!
For the promise shall be fulfilled when “my servant” shall deal very prudently. He shall suffer, die, arise the third day and be exalted in the highest heavens, at God’s right hand. He shall gather the church by His Word and Spirit. And then the church shall be brought in from the east and from the west; all nations shall be saved in Christ, justified by faith, and free from sin’s dominion!
Yes, we as Isaac are born from the free-women, Sarah, Jerusalem above. Let not this glory be dimmed by any Jewish “Jerusalem which is now.” Let no one deceive us into believing that this is a mere “intermezzo” in God’s work. It is the great theme of the symphony of all the works of God, the harmony of the Cross’s reconciliation in the blood of the Lamb!