Summary: The critical question is not: Is your spiritual father Abraham? Rather the critical question is: Is your spiritual mother Sarah or Hagar?


A. How many of you are familiar with the children’s book “Are You My Mother?” by P.D. Eastman?

1. It has been one of my favorite books since I was a child.

B. “Are You My Mother?” is the story about a hatchling bird.

1. His mother, thinking her egg will be fine in her nest where she left it, leaves her egg alone and flies off to find food.

2. The baby chick hatches while she is gone.

3. He does not understand where his mother is so he goes to look for her.

4. In his search, he asks a kitten, a hen, a dog, and a cow if they are his mother. They each say, “No.”

5. Then he sees an old car, which cannot be his mother for sure.

6. In desperation, the baby chick calls out to a boat and a plane, and at last, convinced he has found his mother, he climbs onto the teeth of an enormous power shovel.

7. A loud “SNORT” belches from its exhaust stack, prompting the bird to utter the immortal line, “You are not my mother! You are a SNORT!”

8. But as the power shovel shudders and grinds into motion the baby chick cannot escape. “I want my mother!” he shouts.

9. But at this climactic moment, his fate is suddenly reversed.

10. The shovel drops him back in his nest just as his mother is returning home.

11. The two are united, much to their delight, and the baby bird tells his mother all about the adventure he had looking for her.

C. You might be wondering “why in the world would David start this sermon with a children’s story of a bird wondering who is his mother?”

1. The reason is because in today’s Scripture section from Galatians 4:21-31, Paul tells the tale of two mothers to illustrate two different paths that people take in trying to find salvation.

2. Paul took the familiar story of Hagar and Sarah, whose sons are Ishmael and Isaac respectively, and drew from it basic truths about the Christian’s relationship to the Law of Moses.

3. The events described actually happened, but Paul uses them as an allegory, which is a narrative that has a deeper meaning behind it.

4. Perhaps the most famous allegory in the English language is John Bunyan’s A Pilgrim’s Progress, in which Bunyan traces a character named Christian’s experiences from the City of Destruction to heaven.

5. In an allegory, persons and actions represent hidden meanings, so that the narrative can be read on two levels: the literal and the symbolic.

D. Paul’s use of this story from Genesis as an allegory does not give us license to find “hidden meanings” in all the events of the Old Testament.

1. If we take that approach to the Bible, we can make it mean almost anything we want.

2. This is the way that many false teachings arise.

3. The Holy Spirit inspired Paul to employ this Old Testament story to teach a New Testament truth through this allegory, but we must not take such liberties on our own.

4. We must always interpret the Old Testament in light of the New Testament, and where the New Testament gives us permission, we may search for hidden meanings.

5. Otherwise, we must accept the plain statements of Scripture and resist the temptation to try to “spiritualize” everything.

E. Today, let’s approach this text and our discussion by doing three things: (1) by explaining the Old Testament Story; (2) by explaining the New Testament Allegory; and (3) by making Contemporary Application.

I. The Old Testament Story (4:21-23)

A. Let’s turn our attention to the text: 21 Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law? 22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman. 23 But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, while the son of the free woman was born through promise.

B. This story is found in the book of Genesis, chapters 12-21.

1. It basically goes like this: Abraham was a prosperous businessman in Ur of Chaldees when God appeared to him and told him to take his wife Sarah, leave that land, and go to a land that God would later show him.

2. God also promised to give him descendants who would become a great nation.

3. That was all well and good except that Abraham was 75, Sarah was 65, and they had no children.

4. In the course of time they arrived in Canaan, the land God promised them.

5. Ten years passed and still no son had been born.

6. Since the biological clock was ticking away, Sarah suggested that Abraham marry Hagar, Sarah’s Egyptian maidservant.

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