When Jesus and the Apostles refer to the “law” they are often referring specifically to the first five books of the Old Testament. There is normally a threefold division of the Old Testament in Jewish thinking; the Law, the Writings, and the Prophets. The Law is the Pentateuch consisting of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. The Writings refer to Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Song of Solomon and Ecclesiastes. The Prophets 28 osamarefer to everything else. Paul asks the Galatians in Chapter 4:21, “Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law?” The Law consists of more than the issues handed down to Moses on Sinai. It also encompasses the historical information as well. So Paul goes back to early passages in Genesis and connects his argument with the story of Abraham and Sarah. He writes in Galatians 4:22-24, “For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman. But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, while the son of the free woman was born through promise. Now this may be interpreted allegorically: these women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar.”

We have already talked about Abraham as the Father of the faithful, now Paul addresses another aspect of Abraham’s life. He not only had Isaac, but he had another son named Ishmael. Ishmael was born because Sarah and Abraham took matters into their own hands. It could have been as many as 18 years since God had originally given Abraham the promise of a son that he and Sarah decided to help God out. Our self-effort associated with the “flesh” in our passage results in children of Hagar or children of the flesh. I think I’ve given birth to several Ishmael’s in my life.

Jon Courson in his commentary on Galatians observed, “You see, to this day, blood is shed daily in the ongoing struggle between the children of Ishmael and the children of Israel. So, too, in my own life, whenever Ishmael is born as a result of my own fleshly efforts, strife, anxiety, and tension are also birthed in my life.” Although considered the father of the “faith” filled, Abraham had a problem with impatience and God recorded that for our instruction. When I got impatient waiting for God’s promises to come true, I tend to want to take matters into my own hands and help God out. It always results in an “Ishmael.” It always results in trouble! God always fulfills His promises, in His time because He’s always faithful. Yet, I have a lot of Ishmael’s clinging to my legs and have to deal with them. Like with Abraham, Ishmael became a problem for the child of promise.