Monday, January 31, 2011
Laying Down the Law - Hagar
In the preceding chapters I have set forth a panoramic view of Yahweh’s plan to bring forth mature spiritual sons and daughters. I have labored to show the place of the Law in God’s plan of the ages. Man was not created sinful, nor did Yahweh intend for man to remain perpetually enslaved to sin. The Law would not always be needed to serve as a restraint upon carnal people. Yahweh has determined to have sons and daughters who share His divine nature.
A great leap forward in the divine plan occurred when Christ sent forth His Spirit to indwell man. Yahshua declared to His disciples:
“It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.”
One cannot put too much emphasis on the words, “It is to your advantage...” The Greek word translated into English as “advantage” is “sumphero.” It is derived from two root words that mean “to gather together, as if to collect.” What Christ was expressing to His disciples is that they would reap an increase; they would be abundantly supplied; they would be greatly enlarged and improved in every way, when Christ sent forth the Holy Spirit unto them.
What man has gained through receiving the Holy Spirit is beyond measure. Those who were dead in their trespasses and sins, were made alive. Those who were formless (lacking the image of God) and void (lacking the indwelling Spirit of God) were fashioned into a new creation.
II Corinthians 5:17
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.
It was truly a vain work for any man to attempt to arrive at Yahweh’s desire to have offspring in His image through works of the flesh. The flesh profits nothing. The best we can do in our own strength is unacceptable in the eyes of the Father. Our attempts to arrive at the promises of God are mirrored in the life of Abraham.
Abraham earnestly desired a son in his image, one who sprang from his own loins. When Abraham was unable to acquire such a son through his wife Sarah, he went into his wife’s handmaid Hagar in an attempt to produce that which his soul greatly desired. Ishmael was the fruit of this fleshly work, and Yahweh had no regard for him. God has given us this testimony from Abraham’s life to reveal important matters pertaining to the Law.
For these are the two covenants: the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar - for this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children - but the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all... What does the Scripture say? "Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman."
Consider this parable found in the life of Abraham. Abraham wanted a godly heir that came from his own loins. His wife Sarah, though exceedingly beautiful, was barren. Sarah is a symbol of the heavenly Jerusalem.
But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Yahshua the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel.
Abraham and his descendants were covenanted to the heavenly Jerusalem PRIOR to being joined to the Jerusalem below. God gave Abraham the covenant of promise 430 years before his descendants received the covenant of Law.
Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, "And to seeds," as of many, but as of one, "And to your Seed," who is Christ. And this I say, that the law, which was four hundred and thirty years later, cannot annul the covenant that was confirmed before by God in Christ, that it should make the promise of no effect. For if the inheritance is of the law, it is no longer of promise; but God gave it to Abraham by promise.
Note that Paul says that this earlier covenant was “confirmed before by God IN CHRIST.” When was this done? The sacrifice of Christ was foreshadowed when Yahweh cut a covenant of blood with Abraham. Abraham was instructed to divide various animals in half, and a deep dread fell upon him. A smoking pot and a lantern were seen to pass between the pieces. These things pointed to the work to be accomplished by Christ.
A brother wrote to me some days back objecting to my current teaching on the Law. He defended the continuance of the Mosaic covenant by saying that Christ did not bring in a new covenant, but merely RENEWED the covenant. There is truth in that the new covenant in Christ’s blood is a RENEWED covenant. One must understand, however, that it is not the covenant instituted by Moses that was renewed. It was the earlier covenant of promise.
When Yahweh cut covenant with Abraham, His plan was for the promise to tarry for many more centuries. Even as the promise of God tarried for Abraham in a natural sense, so too did it tarry in a spiritual sense. Isaac is a type and shadow of Yahshua. Isaac was named “laughter” for his appearing brought gladness and joy to the hearts of Sarah and Abraham in the same way that the appearance of Christ would bring gladness and joy to the world.
Yahweh had far greater things in mind than were to be realized in Isaac when He promised Abraham a seed. Isaac was not the true seed. Yahshua was that seed. God had committed Himself to undertake for Abraham to bring forth a righteous heir. Isaac was in bondage to sin, as was his father, but the long awaited Seed was not. Yahshua was tempted in all ways as we, yet without sin.
We find another spiritual parable in the life of Abraham. When the natural seed that was to be realized in Isaac tarried, Abraham took to himself another wife. Abraham was already married to Sarah, and he took to himself Hagar, Sarah’s handmaid, as wife. Marriage represents a covenant between two parties. This covenant is sealed when a man is intimate with a woman. Hagar would have been a virgin when she was given to Abraham, therefore a blood covenant was cut when Abraham had relations with her. (For further reading on this subject, see the book “The Marriage Covenant.”)
It is necessary to understand that Hagar was Abraham’s wife by covenant in order to perceive those things which follow.
Then Sarai, Abram's wife, took Hagar her maid, the Egyptian, and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan. So he went in to Hagar, and she conceived.
Thus we see that Abraham has now entered into two covenants. The first was with Sarah. The second with Hagar. When the fruit of the first covenant tarried to appear, a second covenant was entered into. In the same way, Abraham’s descendants entered into two covenants. The second covenant the descendants of Abraham could not keep. They violated it repeatedly.
They did not continue in My covenant...
Even so, Abraham did not keep his covenant with Hagar. Though she was his wife and had bore him a son, Abraham sent her away without inheritance or provision. This was to fulfill the types and shadows of the Law. When the promised Seed came according to the more ancient covenant, the covenant of the Law was put away. The Law was never intended to remain forever. It was given only until the promised Seed should come.
What purpose then does the law serve? It was added because of transgressions, until the Seed should come to whom the promise was made.
Truly, the covenant with Hagar was “added because of transgressions,” for it was the unbelief of Abraham and Sarah that led to this work of the flesh.
Consider carefully that Yahweh permitted Abraham to follow this course in taking Hagar as his wife. Yet the fruit of her flesh was not acceptable in God’s eyes. Ishmael was not a product of faith and obedience. He arose from unbelief and striving. Even so, Yahweh permitted His people to experience striving for 1,500 years until the promised Seed should appear. This striving would reveal the vanity of all fleshly effort to attain to the righteousness of God.
The Law could never satisfy the heart of Yahweh. He permitted it for a season until the Seed should come who would fulfill Yahweh’s desire, which is “OBEDIENT SONS.” The law could only offer sacrifice to temporarily atone for sins which were continually committed. Yahweh wanted obedience, not sacrifice.
I Samuel 15:22
"Has Yahweh as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of Yahweh? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams.”
Yahweh desired sons in His image in the same way that Abraham longed for a son of his loins. We see Yahweh’s dissatisfaction with the Law in the following passage.
To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices to me? saith Yahweh: I am full of the burnt-offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he-goats. When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts? Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination to me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot endure; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble to me; I am weary to bear them.
[Noah Webster’s Bible 1833]
Because the Law could not produce righteousness in the heart of man it was never a pleasing wife for Abraham’s descendants in the eyes of God. The offspring it produced were rebellious. Their hearts were always going astray. Like Ishmael, they could not tame the unruliness of their own souls. All those born of Adam are like “a wild jackass of a man.”
And the Angel of Yahweh said to [Hagar]: "Behold, you are with child, and you shall bear a son. You shall call his name Ishmael, because Yahweh has heard your affliction. He shall be a wild man; His hand shall be against every man, and every man's hand against him. And he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren."
In the Hebrew, the words rendered into English as “wild man” are “adam pere.” Adam means “man.” Pere is a Hebrew word describing the onager, which was a wild donkey of the desert. God was testifying that Ishmael, the son of Hagar, would be a man with the nature of a wild ass. Stubbornness and rebellion would be his nature. Ishmael is a type and shadow of every man born of the first Adam. As the son of Hagar, He is a symbol of all those who enter into the covenant of the Law seeking to please God through works of the flesh.
The Law cannot restrain sinful men. As Paul testified, it merely stirred up a desire to violate its commands.
For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the Law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death.
Apart from receiving the new birth in Christ, we are all wild asses. It is with difficulty that we can be restrained. We will always find some way to break free of that which holds us.
Yahweh has no regard for the fruit of man’s flesh. The best that fallen man can produce falls short of the desire of God. That which He esteems must be brought forth by His Spirit.
And Abraham said to God, "Oh, that Ishmael might live before You!" Then God said: "No, Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his descendants after him.”
God’s lack of regard for Ishmael finds a parallel in His testimony of that generation of Israel who were given the Law.
For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second. Because finding fault with them, He says: "Behold, the days are coming, says Yahweh, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah - not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in My covenant, and I did not regard them, says Yahweh.”
The Law is mankind’s Hagar. It holds forth the allure of producing man’s desire. The Law looks fertile. Man believes if he can only come into union with the Law that good fruit will be the result. Union with the Law, however, produces only rebellion and sin.
But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind; for apart from the Law sin is dead. I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive and I died; and this commandment, which was to result in life, proved to result in death for me; for sin, taking an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me.
The natural man embraces the Law with the hope of producing life. Indeed, outwardly it may appear that man has accomplished his goal. There is an appearance of life being brought forth, but in God’s eyes He sees only death.
"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”
People of God, this judgment spoken by Christ applies to all men who believe that their works will find them approval before Yahweh. After the Spirit had been given to the body of Christ, the apostle Paul said that there were yet men who wanted to bring partakers of the new covenant back under the Law that they might make a good showing in the flesh.
Although God was bringing forth something far better for Abraham than what he had accomplished on his own, observe how difficult it was for this man to let go of that which he had produced. Abraham petitioned Yahweh, “May Ishmael LIVE before You.” Life was not to be obtained through the Law. Therefore, when LIFE (Yahshua) did appear the son of the bondwoman had to be cast out.
Consider this carefully. Paul tells us that these two women are two covenants. Abraham truly had two wives. He was covenanted to both of them. Yet, when Sarah (the Jerusalem above) brought forth the promised seed, Hagar (the Jerusalem below) was cast out with her son.
"Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman."
Lest we think this was an unrighteous act precipitated by Sarah, consider that Yahweh told Abraham that what Sarah spoke was His will.
And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, scoffing. Therefore she said to Abraham, "Cast out this bondwoman and her son; for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, namely with Isaac." And the matter was very displeasing in Abraham's sight because of his son. But God said to Abraham, "Do not let it be displeasing in your sight because of the lad or because of your bondwoman. Whatever Sarah has said to you, listen to her voice; for in Isaac your seed shall be called.”
Not only did Ishmael mock Isaac, but we read that Hagar, after she had given birth to Ishmael, acted arrogantly toward her mistress Sarah. An important truth is revealed here. These two covenants are in antipathy toward one another. They cannot abide together harmoniously.
Hagar’s time in the tent of Abraham was only until the promised seed should come. Then she was sent away, with her son. So too do we find that the Law remained only until the promised Seed appeared. The covenant of promise was renewed. Christ has become its Mediator. The bondwoman and her offspring have been sent away.
Before passing onto other types and shadows, let us consider a further contrast between Ishmael, the son of the bondwoman (Law), and Christ. We have seen it described that Ishmael was a wild ass of a man. He was incapable of ruling over the stubbornness and rebellion of his soul. In contrast, let us look to the magnificent parable found in one of the last demonstrations of Yahshua.
Now when they drew near Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, He sent two of His disciples; and He said to them, "Go into the village opposite you; and as soon as you have entered it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has sat. Loose it and bring it.
All this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, “Tell ye the daughter of Zion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass. And the disciples went, and did as Yahshua commanded them, and brought the ass, and the colt, and put on them their clothes, and they set him thereon.
The disciples brought to Christ a colt on which no one had ever ridden. This is a parable. No man had ever been able to tame the beast nature. No man had ever conquered the rebellion and stubborn sinfulness of the natural man. Christ was the first to do so. He sat on the colt, and it submitted to bear Him where He must go. So too, did He ever rule over His soul. He never did anything of His own initiative. He lived to do the will of the Father. In Christ, the Father’s desire was realized for an obedient Son. All those who by faith are joined to Christ are also transformed into obedient sons.
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