In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells us why He teaches in parables. “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand” (Matthew 13:13 NIV). The Apostle Paul didn’t use parables very often but he did use a lot of metaphors. The metaphor, like a parable, can sometimes be difficult to understand. Even the Apostle Peter thought Paul’s letters were difficult to understand.

He [Paul] writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.

2 Peter 3:16 (NIV)

When I was reading Paul’s letter to the Galatians today, I thought I’d take a moment and decipher one of Paul’s metaphors found in the fourth chapter.

For it is written: “Be glad, barren woman, you who never bore a child; shout for joy and cry aloud, you who were never in labor; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband.”

Galatians 4:27 (NIV)

Paul is quoting the prophet Isaiah here in this letter. However, the original context of what Isaiah said had to do with the restoration of the exiled Jews to Jerusalem as well as the rebuilding of it (Isaiah 54:1). Paul is using the same verse but in a different context with different “characters.” Let’s take a look at those characters and identify who they represent.

Barren woman – The early Christian church and Sarah (Galatians 4:26).
Children of the barren woman – Gentile believers and those Jews who are justified by faith in Jesus Christ.
Woman with a husband – The Jewish Nation. Hagar.
Husband – God.
Children of the woman with a husband – The Jews under the law.

Here in the fourth chapter of Galatians, Paul is trying to convince the Christian believers in Galatia that they were saved by faith and not by the law. The church there was receiving teaching contrary to the Gospel of Christ, telling them things like they had to be circumcised to be saved. Paul reminds them of Abraham, who was saved by faith and justified by faith, being considered righteous by God because he believed in God’s promise that he would have many children. Paul juxtaposes Sarah and Hagar along with the promise of faith versus the law.

Paul sees faith and the law as two separate covenants. Furthermore, he states that Hagar and Sarah represent these two covenants.

One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves: This is Hagar. Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem because she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother.

Galatians 4:24-26 (NIV)

When Paul quotes Isaiah, he’s prophetically speaking over the Christian church. When he wrote this letter to the Galatians, the church was still quite small, having only 120 Believers at the beginning (Acts 1:15). However, the number of Christians in the world has now grown to over 2 billion! Paul uses the example of Hagar and Sarah to point out the faithfulness of God.

Now you, brothers and sisters, like Isaac, are children of promise.

Galatians 4:28 (NIV)

When Hagar first conceived, she treated Sarah poorly.

He slept with Hagar, and she conceived. When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress.

Genesis 16:4 (NIV)

Hence Paul’s comparison to the current situation with the Jews treating the Christians poorly.

At that time the son born according to the flesh persecuted the son born by the power of the Spirit. It is the same now.

Galatians 4:29 (NIV)

Paul reminds the Galatians that Hagar was turned out and her son didn’t inherit anything from Abraham (Galatians 4:30).

This is something we need to remember. We are children of promise. When I was saved, I didn’t know anything about what it was like to be a Christian. I knew God loved me, Jesus died for me, and my sins were wiped out by His death on the cross. Over the years, I have been learning what it means to live a holy life. Often, I hear from the pulpit, and other Christians, things that could be taken for the law. The way we ought to live as Believers. While there are ways we ought to behave as new creatures in Christ, it’s not our behavior that makes us saved. Our behavior is a reflection of God’s love working in and through us. We are saved by grace.

We are working out our salvation by actively pursuing obedience in the process of sanctification. It is faith in Jesus that redeems us and gives us the ability to sanctify ourselves. It’s not by our own works that we achieve salvation. We are, after all, children of the promise.

Do you know God? God knows you and He loves you. He sees you as significant because you are. No one is insignificant to Him. He’s with you today, right now, and He wants you to know Him. Jesus died for your sins and mine so we could be free of guilt, be freed from death, and live eternally with Him. Eternal salvation is just a prayer away.

Pray this prayer with me to accept the gift of salvation today:

Dear Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner, and I ask for Your forgiveness. I believe You died for my sins and rose from the dead. I turn from my sins and invite You to come into my heart and life. I want to trust and follow You as my Lord and Savior. Amen.

If you prayed that prayer then congratulations! You are on the first step of a brand new life. Allow me to be the first to welcome you to my family, the family of God. There are abundant resources available online for new Christians. You can visit here for more information on what to do next. You can also leave me a comment, and I’ll do my best to help you on the next step of this incredible journey.