CALLED TO LIVE IN FREEDOM

9526a07d9f8686ec5667a96cad064ff6

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

PAUL’S LETTER TO THE GALATIAN CHURCHES

CHAPTER FOUR (Lesson XLI)

As Paul says here, this true story of Hagar and Sarah paints a picture for us. The two women are like the two agreements between God and His people.  Those who continue living in sin while trying to become children of God through good works and moral codes, as represented by Mount Sinai, are like the son of Hagar. But those who accept God’s grace and offer of salvation through Jesus the Anointed One as represented by Mount Calvary are like the son of Sarah, who by that new birth becomes heirs and joint-heirs with the Anointed One.  Therefore, we should not wait for Good Friday each year to thank God and His Son for Calvary’s blessings, but we should do so every day that we live as a child of the Living God.

Paul now picks up the narrative by expounding on what happened to Moses at the end of his life. He gives a stirring account of what it was like to be up on the mountain there in the wilderness and how it touched him deeply. He told those listening, “The Lord came from Sinai, like a light shining at dawn over Seir, like a light shining from Mount Paran. He came with 10,000 holy ones. God’s mighty soldiers were by his side.[1] And in Deborah’s Song, she too shares what was told to all those who were not there, “The mountains shook before the Lord. Mount Sinai shook before the Lord, the God of Israel.”[2]

Even King David expressed his admiration of what happened there at Mount Sinai, “The ground shook, and rain poured from the sky when God, the God of Israel, came to Sinai… With His millions of chariots, the LORD came from Sinai into the holy of holies in the Tabernacle.[3] So it is evident that in the minds of the Israelites that the event in the Sinai wilderness around Mount Horeb was etched deeply in the minds of God’s people. If it could only be true that what occurred on Mount Calvary is etched just as deeply in the mind and conscious of every Christian that it would cause them to tell others of what happened there with the same burning fire of the Holy Spirit.

Then Paul’s attention turns to Jerusalem and Sarah. I’m not sure if everyone understands the real meaning of the name “Jerusalem” and what it holds for Jews around the world. Not only is it the Capital of Israel, but it is a Holy City. In one of his Psalms, Korah said this: Wonderful things are said about you, O City of God. God says, “Some of my people are living in Egypt and Babylon. Some of them were born in Philistia, Tyre, and even Ethiopia.” But about Zion, He says, “I know the names of each and every person born there.” It is the city built by the Most-High God. The Lord keeps a list of all His people, and He knows where each of them was born.[4] Nothing like this is said about any other city in the world.

And the prophet Isaiah saw a vision of Jerusalem: In the last days, the mountain of the Lord’s Temple will be the highest of all mountains. It will be raised higher than the hills. There will be a steady stream of people from all nations going there. People from many places will go there and say, “Come, let’s go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the Temple of the God of Jacob. Then God will teach us His way of living, and we will follow Him.” His teaching, the Lord’s message, will begin in Jerusalem on Mount Zion and will go out to all the world.[5]

This sounds very much like the same Jerusalem the Apostle John saw in his vision when he wrote why Jesus revealed to him: “Those who win the victory will be pillars in the Temple of my God. I will make that happen for them. They will never again have to leave God’s Temple. I will write on them the name of my God and the name of the city of my God. That city is the new Jerusalem.[6] John then tells what he saw when this prophecy came true in his vision: Then I saw a re-formed heaven and a re-formed earth. The first heaven and the first earth disappeared from sight. There no longer existed any oceans or seas. Then I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. It was prepared like a bride dressed for her groom.[7]

John then goes on to describe this New Jerusalem, whose height certainly fits Isaiah’s description because it was built on twelve foundations, each one named after one of the original Apostles, with high walls, but John said the walls were as clear as crystal.  It looked something like a jewel set on a very, very expensive ring. With twelve gates, and as John describes them as three on the east, three on the north, three on the south, and three on the west, and each one is given the name of one of the tribes of Israel, and twelve angels at each gate. The whole square complex measured 1,400 miles long and 1,400 miles wide. Each wall was constructed using precious jewels – Jasper, Sapphire, Chalcedony (a colored marble), emerald, onyx, carnelian (an orange marble), quartz, beryl (a pale green, blue, or yellow crystal), opaz (topaz), chrysoprase (an apple-green marble), jacinth (a reddish-orange crystal) and amethyst (a purple crystal). And each of the twelve gates was covered with mother-of-pearl, and the streets were paved with pure gold.[8] Who wouldn’t be impressed with such a city?

But Isaiah is not finished with what he said earlier, he goes on to exclaim, “I love Zion, so I will continue to speak of her. I love Jerusalem, so I will not stop talking about her. I will talk until goodness shines in her like a bright light until salvation burns bright like a flame inside her walls. Then all nations will see your goodness, oh Jerusalem. All kings will see your honor. Then you will receive a new name that the Lord Himself will give you. You will be like a beautiful crown that the Lord holds up, like a king’s crown in the hand of your God.”[9] So the Lord tells them to rejoice and be glad over what He will end up making. It will be a city full of joy with only happy people inside.[10]

The Prophet Joel then tells us that the Lord announced that He would be their God and live in the holy city of Jerusalem on Mt. Zion, His holy mountain. And from that day forward, it will be a gated enclave where only bonafide residents may enter.[11] And the Prophet Micah was getting the same message because he prophesied that in the last days that Mount Zion would be the tallest of all mountains, it will be elevated higher than any other peaks, People from all over the world will be streaming in through its gates because they want to learn more about the God of Israel. Micah then says this will happen when there is world-wide peace. People will be turning their weapons of war into farming machinery because there’ll be no more wars.[12]

In a Jewish Targum (interpretive paraphrase) we read this prophecy: Solomon the prophet said, “When the dead come to life, the Mount of Olives will be split, and all the dead of Israel will come forth from beneath it; and even the righteous who died in exile will come from under the earth by way of tombs and will come out from under the Mount of Olives. And the wicked who died and are buried in the land of Israel will shoot up like a stone propelled from a slingshot. Then all the inhabitants of the earth will say, “What merit do these people deserve who came up from the earth, myriads upon myriads, as on the day when they appeared beneath Mount Sinai to receive the Law?” At that hour, Zion, mother of Israel, will give birth to her children, and Jerusalem will welcome her exiled children.[13]

The Apostle Paul also catches a glimpse of this coming event when he told the Philippians that God’s government rules us from heaven, and we are waiting for our Savior, the Lord Jesus the Anointed One, to come from there.[14] And the writer of Hebrews notes that all those who maintain their faith in God through the Anointed One will be rewarded for their steadfastness. When they arrive, it won’t be like the children of Israel’s experience when they reached Mt. Horeb in Sinai. They considered it so holy that animals were not allowed to graze on its slopes for fear they’d die instantly. No, they will be told, but you are on Mount Zion, the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You are in a place where thousands of angels gathered to celebrate.[15] That sounds very much like the New Jerusalem that John saw in his revelation.[16]

Paul tells the Galatians that they are headed for the lifeless mountain of Horeb in the burning desert of Sinai, representing Hagar, who was turned out into the wilderness of Paran because they turned away from this beautiful New Jerusalem. This city is home to the children of the freewoman, Sarah, through Isaac and Jacob. So, since Abraham is their father, then Sarah, not Hagar, will be their mother. In other words, it was their choice. It was their decision to remain as part of the spiritual family of Abraham as brothers and sisters in the Anointed One. Or, they could keep going the way they were and become part of the physical family of Abraham as brothers and sisters with Ishmael and Esau. One would make their pilgrimage to the New Jerusalem, and the other a pilgrimage to Mecca.

This idea of a New Jerusalem was not started by Paul; it was already a part of Jewish teachings. One day Rabbi Nahman was talking to Rabbi Isaac and asked, what is the meaning of the scriptural verse, “The Holy One is in your midst, and I will not come into the city?”[17] It certainly cannot mean that because He is God, not a human being, the Holy One among us, that He will not come into the city. Then Rabbi Johanan spoke up and said, the Holy One, (blessed be He), was saying that He refused to enter the heavenly Jerusalem until He entered the earthly Jerusalem. So, is there then a heavenly Jerusalem? Yes, of course, for it is written, Jerusalem, you are built as a city that is compact together.[18] [19]

Roman monk and theologian John Cassian (360-432 AD), author of the twelve Books on the Institutes of the Cœnobia meant to train monks in monasteries, and the Conferences Works, which are purporting to relay the teachings of the Egyptian monastic fathers on the nature of the spiritual life which were highly influential in the development of Western monasticism.[20] On the subject of the New Jerusalem, he states that this can be understood in a fourfold way: historically as the city of the Jews, allegorically as the church of the Anointed One, analogically as the heavenly city of God, which is the mother of all, and a figure of speech as the human soul, which is often put down or praised in the name of the Lord[21]

[1] Deuteronomy 33:2

[2] Judges 5:5 – New Life Version

[3] Psalm 68:8, 17

[4] Ibid. 87:3-6

[5] Isaiah 2:2-3; See Ezekiel chapters 40-42

[6] Revelation 3:12-13

[7] Ibid. 21:1-2

[8] Ibid. 21:11-21

[9] Isaiah 62:1-3

[10] Ibid. 65:18; See 66:10

[11] Joel 3:17

[12] Micah 4:1-4

[13] Aramaic Targum to Song of Songs, Translation by Jay C. Treat, Ch. 8:5

[14] Philippians 3:20

[15] Hebrews 12:22

[16] Revelation 3:12; 21:2, 10-27

[17] Hosea 11:9

[18] Psalm 122:3

[19] Babylonian Talmud, Seder Mo’ed, Masekhet Ta’anith, folio 5a

[20] Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 489

[21] Edwards, M. J. (Ed.). On Galatians, pp. 69–70

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s