Dear brothers and sisters, here’s an example from everyday life. Just as no one can set aside or amend an irrevocable agreement, so it is in this case. God gave the promise to Abraham and his child. And notice that it doesn’t say the promise was to his children, as if it meant many descendants. But the promise was to his child–and that, of course, means Christ.
I love the first line Paul uses. It is how I try to live my life everyday; understanding God and living “everyday life” with him. Not doing spiritual things at spiritual times and then considering the remaining time and activities as somehow my “real” or “everyday” life. But seeing God in the mundane, in the ordinary. I believe he is there, perhaps even more than in what we consider sacred?
Paul’s “everyday” example was that of an irrevocable agreement. Irrevocable is a strong word. It seems to me that today we are far less inclined to see an agreement as irrevocable. I do not know the statistics for sure, but the numbers I have heard regarding divorce rates lately are staggering. It’s almost more certain now that you will get a divorce than the possibility that you will remain married. But the Jewish culture, an irrevocable agreement was exactly that: Irrevocable.
This section of Galatians is fine-tuning Paul’s argument that life in God can not be earned. He mentioned a bit earlier in this chapter that God had promised to bless all nations through Abraham. Specifically through his child. There was a whole story of the struggle to take God at his word there, with Abraham and Sarah being without child and about 9000 years old. They even came up with a clever scheme to “make” a baby on their own, so God could keep his promise. But in his timing, God provided a child for Abraham. When he did, they could not take any credit for it. It was impossible for them to have a child, but with God, Jesus said, “Nothing is impossible.”
It was true in their case for a literal child from God, and it is true in our case as Abraham’s descendant, his “child”, has made it possible for us to break free from sin, death and even the law and be restored to complete friendship and intimacy with God. That is what Jesus was referring to when he said those words above. He was asked how can anyone “enter the Kingdom of heaven?” His reply focused as Paul does on God’s work and not ours. We get so good at pretending to be righteous that we even begin to believe it ourselves. We think maybe we can succeed at keeping the law. Maybe we can actually be righteous on our own. Maybe we can have a child, thought Sarah & Abraham. But it was never possible to be righteous by keeping the law. The child, and His righteousness come straight from, and only from, God.
“For no one can ever be made right in God’s sight by doing what his law commands. For the more we know God’s law, the clearer it becomes that we aren’t obeying it.” – Rom 3:20
This is what I am trying to say: The agreement God made with Abraham could not be canceled 430 years later when God gave the law to Moses.
Notice the historical footnote? I thought that was cool to remind us that all of these events are historical and even marked off by years. Paul mentions that Moses received the law 430 years after Abraham received the promise. Thought that was a neat side bar. 🙂
God would be breaking his promise. For if the inheritance could be received only by keeping the law, then it would not be the result of accepting God’s promise. But God gave it to Abraham as a promise.
The Jews loved Abraham. He was the “Father” of their nation. He was greatly revered. But perhaps even greater was their adoration for Moses. He had spoken face to face with God, he was a great leader, and he was the one who received and passed on the Law to them. (You wouldn’t think that would be a good thing at first glance, would you?) And that might be what was so well received. Abraham received a promise from God. It was nebulous, undefined and with no specific time of implementation. Moses was told “Do this,” and “Don’t do that.” Now that’s what we like to hear! Something clear and defined and doable! Give me some laws! I can keep ’em!
But that was never the intent of the law. Consider what Paul said in his letter to the Romans quoted above. “The more we know God’s law, the clearer it becomes that we aren’t obeying it.” Ha! Exactly! In Hebrews it mentions that sacrifices could never save us and Paul mentions elsewhere that the law was never intended to save us, only to point out that we can’t do it on our own.
If there is one common theme throughout history it’s this. God wants us to know that we need him. And he does not leave it there, like some oppressive captor who holds your very life in his hands. No, he is not waiting for us to come to our senses and come groveling to him on hands and knees begging for a crumb or a drop of water. He loves us… completely. As ugly as we can get, he still loves us. Gave up his own life to prove it. He knows that we can not survive on our own. We will never repair our relationship with him on our own. We can not. It is impossible. But just like with Abraham & Sarah, and just like countless other stories in scripture, God has shown that with him, nothing is impossible. Nothing.
God promised the bless all nations through Abraham’s child. You have access today to that promise. A full, uninhibited, completely restored relationship with the Maker of the Universe. He is King of kings, and he laid down his kingship to get dirty and experience life as a commoner, and ultimately even die as a criminal for you. And me.
We can’t do it on our own. We can’t be good enough, or smart enough, or clever enough. But he has offered us wholeness, completeness, life as it was meant to be for us. If we just accept his offer, and trust his work in us, we can experience freedom and joy and life to its fullest potential.
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