21 Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not hear the law? 22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons: the one by a bondwoman, the other by a freewoman. 23 But he who was of the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and he of the freewoman through promise, 24 which things are symbolic. For these are the two covenants: the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar— 25 for this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children— 26 but the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all. 27 For it is written:
“Rejoice, O barren,
You who do not bear!
Break forth and shout,
You who are not in labor!
For the desolate has many more children
Than she who has a husband.”
I love the beauty of God’s Word. We can read something in the Old Testament, then turn to the New Testament and have the Holy Spirit explain it in a way that we would never understand on our own. God is a God of imagery, a truth we can see so clearly with this explanation connecting key Old Testament locations and people with the message of the Gospel.
You might recall that Mt. Sinai was the place where the law was given to Moses and he brought it down to the people. Please find the time to read Exodus 19 and Hebrews 12 for a full explanation of how horrifying this event was. God descended on Mt. Sinai and it was a terrifying thing. Paul says that Mt. Sinai, representing the law (which is the Old Covenant), was also represented in the story of Abraham, who lived 430 years prior to the events that occurred there.
Back in Genesis, God promised Abraham a son through Sarah, his wife. When that didn’t happen right away, Abraham got Sarah’s maid, Hagar, pregnant. Then later, Sarah got pregnant, as God had promised. This situation led to a big mess, with Hagar getting snooty toward Sarah because of her son, and then Hagar’s son, Ishmael, giving Sarah’s son, Isaac, a hard time. Eventually, Abraham had to make Hagar and Ishmael leave. All of this is recorded in Genesis chapters 16 and 21.
Paul says that this is a picture of the Old and New Covenants. The Old Covenant was all about the works of the flesh (the efforts man makes to be right with God). Abraham having a baby with Hagar was a fleshly effort to accomplish what God promised that He would do. This is what religion does. It causes us to try to bring about a relationship with God through our works. Problem is, that never “works.” Mt. Sinai represents the law, and it is not a place we want to be.
If you read Hebrews 12, you saw that Mt. Sinai is contrasted to Mt. Zion, which is also called the heavenly Jerusalem. Paul refers to “the Jerusalem above” in our passage today. This is a place of relationship with God and freedom from bondage. It is a place of promise. And the picture is of Sarah and Isaac, the mother and child of promise. Paul says that the heavenly Jerusalem is the “mother of us all.”
Which mountain is your momma? Mt. Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem and place of promise, where God is a loving Father and grace is received by faith, or Mt. Sinai, where God is terrifying and where you have to strive in endless failure to try to attain? The choice is ours. Brave grace, and let Sarah be your momma. Rejoice, break forth and shout with joy in the freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, the true Seed and Child of Promise, whose family we are!