Summary: Our burdens often give birth to our blessings.
THE BURDEN OF THE BONDWOMAN
By Cleavon Matthews
January 25, 2007
It was a celebratory occasion. It was a time of laughter, delight, and merriment. Abraham made a great feast. Isaac was weaned. He escaped the danger of infantile fatality. There was undoubtedly fabulous food and delicious drink spread on tremendous tables.
But in the midst of this gala there was a grudge. There was a problem at this party. There was a conflict at this carnival. Sarah made a staid and keen observation. She noticed Ishmael now in his late teens ‘scoffing’ at Isaac. Ishmael was the son of Hagar the Egyptian.
Sarah without indecision insists to Abraham that Hagar her Egyptian rival along with her son be cast out. Sarah will not have Ishmael share in or threaten her son’s inheritance. Although heartbroken Abraham must hearken to Sarah’s voice because it is the will of God.
This narrative contains vivid theological analogies and Biblical relevance. This narrative is contained in the Pentateuch which was written to Israel just as they were to enter the land of promise. It has similarities to the struggles and situations of the nation itself. The themes of significance include: promise, faith, seed, heir, Egypt, bondage, sons, and scoffing.
At center stage of this drama stands the bondwoman. Hagar was a maidservant to Sarah. She was under their command. She is playing a part written by another. Hagar was written into this story because Sarah was barren but now she is being written out because Sarah gave birth! In a previous scene she was told to go back but now she is told to get out and stay out!
Centuries later the Apostle Paul uses the story of the bondwoman to preach and defend the Gospel. Jesus Christ is the promised Seed (Gal 3:16; Gen 12:7; 13:15; 24:7). Those who are of faith are sons of Abraham (Gal 3:7). All nations are blessed in Abraham (Gal 3:8; Gen 12:3; 18:18; 22:18; 26:4; 28:14). We are sons and heirs of God through Christ (Gal 4:7). Finally Paul contrasts law and the Gospel of grace! Gal 4:21-5:1
“Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not hear the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons: the one by a bondwoman, the other by a freewoman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and he of the free woman through promise, which things are symbolic. 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 which is above is free, which is the mother of us all. 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. Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise. But, as he who was born according to the flesh then persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, even so it is now. Nevertheless 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. So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman but of the free. Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with the yoke of bondage!
Let’s consider the Burden of the Bondwoman! Paul used this passage to defend the faith against those who wanted to demand that Gentiles be circumcised and keep the law of Moses. It was not Paul’s purpose to vivify Hagar. The hurts and hard times of Hagar also correspond with a large and growing population of people in our society. The Burden of the Bondwoman is being a single mother! Let’s consider her separation, her struggle, and her solution!
Genesis 21:14-15 “So Abraham rose early in the morning, and took bread and a skin of water; and putting it on her shoulder, he gave it and the boy to Hagar, and sent her away. Then she departed and wandered in the Wilderness of Beersheba. And the water in the skin was used up, and she placed the boy under one of the shrubs.”
She was sent away. She was kicked to the curve. She was told to vacate the premises. She could no longer occupy the home with all of its surrounding comforts, securities, and blessings. Like the scapegoat she was sent away from the presence of the people. She was to be forgotten and dismissed. Her services were no longer needed. Her presence was no longer tolerable.