Day 15

Sarah and Hagar: Two Covenants

from the Galatians reading plan


Galatians 4:21-31, Genesis 16:1-16, Romans 9:6-8, Hebrews 12:18-24

BY Rebecca Faires

I think a lot about how the circumstances of our birth affect our futures. I bet Isaac and Ishmael did too. Their mothers, Sarah and Hagar, represent the old and new covenants. Sarah was Abraham’s wife, and when she didn’t conceive, she impatiently sent her servant to conceive in her place. Her servant Hagar bore Ishmael. Sarah later bore Isaac. God established the old covenant to teach us our need for a Savior. When Christ came, He fulfilled the law and the covenant. And he ushered in the new covenant of grace.

This was an abstract and new concept for the Galatians, and the Judaizers were all over them—trying to draw them back into confusion and slavery to the law. Paul is trying to help us understand by putting it in terms we are familiar with: human efforts to solve divine problems. It’s in our nature to try to settle things on our own terms. And the ancient Mediterraneans of Galatia couldn’t fulfill the law any more than we can. Paul demonstrated that the Judaizers, in deceptively drawing the Galatians to rely upon the law of Moses for their justification, are not acting in accord with the promise given to Abraham, but are turning from that promise.

Salvation does not come to us by the works of the law, even the law of Moses, which was literally given by God at Sinai. The pursuit of salvation by works of the law is not sufficient. The end result, as it was for Ishmael and Hagar, is to be driven out. Why? Because the only means of attaining the inheritance promised to Abraham, of true fellowship with God, is by faith. To rely on deceit, or only on the law, is to reject true salvation and freedom, which comes only by faith in Christ.

Neither Isaac nor Ishmael could control the circumstances of their birth. Paul is reminding us that our identity is not established by what we have done or will do. It is not something we can earn. Rather, our identity is fixed with Christ. This should have a radical impact on how we live and think. We are simultaneously set free from the exhaustion and impossibility of earning God’s favor, and filled with gratitude for the inheritance we have so freely received. This gratitude, not the threat of the law, is the motive for Christian living.

Sarah represents the covenant of faith and grace, but Hagar represents the covenant of failed human effort. Ishmael was Abrahams and Sarah’s plan, but Isaac was God’s plan. The law is not a means to leverage salvation. Isaac received the inheritance of the promise. “Now you too, brothers and sisters, like Isaac, are children of promise.” (Galatians 4:28)

Post Comments (27)

27 thoughts on "Sarah and Hagar: Two Covenants"

  1. Audrey Flores says:

    Ah it’s so hard to let go to what I heard when I was growing up. I constantly feel I’m not enough and I can’t be “perfect” enough to be saved. And I love that He’s really working on that in my life. He is constantly showing me the why and how I got to this point. But the growth is difficult. The growing pains feel overwhelming but I know once I pray or bring it to Him it’s so much clearer and easier.

  2. Ashley Thomas says:

    I was raised Catholic, and I grew up thinking I had to be good or else. It wasn’t until I was in college (and out of the Catholic Church) that I began to truly understand what Jesus did for me. No matter what I’ve done or what I will do, my faith will remain in God who calls me his own.

    1. Allison Carr says:

      I can relate to this! I grew up Catholic and around college too I met Jesus and have been in awe ever since.

    2. Allison Carr says:

      I can relate to this! I grew up Catholic and met Jesus in college, and I’ve been in awe ever since. Thank you for sharing!

  3. K says:

    Lord let us not settle for something less, something subpar like living in deceit or only by the law but instead reach for something greater – living in true salvation and freedom

  4. LaVonne says:

    Amen! God meets us where we are and brings beautiful redemption. Trusting Him with our messes is very liberating, especially when you have a strong desire to see your children embrace Him.

  5. Jennifer Anapol says:

    I’m glad that I don’t have to earn my way to the father. I pray I would live like that. That I wouldn’t feel like I need to be a perfect Christian, for that is impossible.

  6. Ashley White says:

    This is a wonderful reminder of God’s faithfulness.

  7. Jill k says:

    When I was 48 my world was coming apart. My husband was living a dangerous life style, my daughter’s marriages were falling apart as a result of their husbands addictions leaving 6 grandchildren in broken homes, my son’s failed engagement had ended with premie twin boys, and I who always felt I was my job to fix and rescue everyone felt as if so many marbles had been spilled on an incline and I was helpless to gather them. But God met me there. He carried me through the mess and restored me to a new level of faith and trust in Him. He is still redeeming us all from the residuals of sin and brokenness one day at a time. My job is to trust and pray. Praise God! He meets us where we are. His plan is much better than mine! Faith in Him is the only answer!

    1. Linnea Constant says:

      Thanks for sharing this Jill. Such a good reminder that God can handle and even make beautiful all the sin and brokenness in our families. Praying you will continue to trust Him as the anchor of your soul and the savior of your family. Your words really encouraged me today.

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