Spoiler Alert | Galatians 4:28-31
Do you see yourself in this picture? You’re Isaac, laughing yourself all the way home with the Promise. And history repeats itself: Ishmael, the servant boy born just like everyone else, couldn’t wait to spoil Isaac’s party, making sport of him. And looking at those spoiling your party now, we can see that some things never change. But what’s the caption beneath this scene? “They’re out of here, the both of them: servant girl and her son; the servant girl’s son will never share the goods with free-born Isaac.” Get the picture? Brothers, we’re not standing at sulking Ishmael’s side sharing slavery’s chains with him; we’re standing tall and proud right there alongside gloriously free and laughing Isaac. Galatians 4:28-31 | MAV
A child of trusting faith and promise. A child of calculating flesh and improvisation. Rivalry and one-upmanship will naturally sprout among siblings – but such sproutings can be in toxic abundance in a home with rival mothers. The name “Isaac” is a play on the Hebrew word for “laughter.” Abraham and Sarah both laughed when foretold of his birth – a laughter of incredulity and joy. Ishmael laughed in scorn and derision at the party when Isaac was weaned. God’s scandalous reversal of grace doesn’t leave everyone happy (scandalous because it offends our religious sensibilities). The elder brother sulks at the edges of the celebration, resenting every cheer, every joy. He’s a spoiler. “I was here first, I have worked hard, and you never rolled out the red carpet for me like this!” It’s a scene replayed again and again, wherever God’s grace is manifested. That’s who these false teachers really are, Paul is telling the Galatians. They are Ishmael resenting the celebration of God’s grace as you have been weaned from the milk of pagan religion and have started feasting on the Bread of Life, the true spiritual food. They just had to spoil the party. They are envious and jealous, interrupting the party, derisively overturning the table of grace, and offering the soured milk of their own religion. The verdict over the first Ishmael and his mocking mother now hangs over these later Ishmaels spoiling the celebration of grace. Only the broken can enjoy this feast of Bread. The verdict can seem harsh, but it merely echoes once more the pronouncement of Jesus: “Many from the east and west will sit down at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of God, but the sons of the kingdom will be cast out.” May we keep the feast. No spoilers.
Looking back over Abraham’s family portrait this week, where do you see yourself in it now? Do you see yourself at God’s table of grace, chowing down on the Bread of Life? Why or why not?
Jesus, thank you for setting before me this table of grace “in the presence of my enemies.” Thank you for the overflowing cup of grace. Thank you for pursuing me in your goodness and mercy. No matter where I am or where I go today, let me drink deeply at this table – and pass it around.
The whole text this week is Galatians 4:21-31. Read it daily in it’s entirety from a few different translations if possible. You can get the full background of Abraham’s story in Genesis chapters 16-21.
For all of this week’s resources on Galatians including this week’s DG video on Galatians, check out the Vineyard website.