18 Apr 2021
"Geh Kiang" is Singlish (local Singapore colloquial language) for smarty-pants or smart aleck. We pretend we can do something well when we do not actually know how to, and we mess up. Spiritually, we can be "geh kiang" before God too. Instead of trusting, waiting on, and obeying Him, we take things into our own hands. Oftentimes, though there may be some apparent success initially, it ends up with nothing but pain and misery. The Bible says we will reap what we sow. The Bible says that there is a way that seems right unto man, but the end of it are the ways of death. The story of Sarah and Hagar also reminds us of the futility of legalism or self-righteousness. It is better to trust God for His promise in the gospel and be saved.
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As a church, we take our people through the Bible and today we come to Genesis, chapter 16. We live in a very interesting country, beautiful land - Singapore. And we have many languages here and one of the unique languages in the world must be our Singlish. In Singlish we have words like - kiasi, kiasu and so on, but I like to introduce a phrase to you called, 'Geh Kiang'.
You must have heard about 'Geh Kiang'. 'Geh Kiang' is actually Hokkien. And it's literally taken from two words, 'Geh' means fake, 'Kiang' means smart. So literally, 'Geh Kiang' is fake smart. It describes someone who makes rash decisions without thinking, or it describes someone who pretends to know what they are doing. So we say in Singapore, "'Kiang Zhu Hoh, Mai Geh Kiang.'" Good if you're really smart, but don't pretend to know what you're doing when you don't actually know what you're doing.
I remember a couple of years ago, I was having my place being renovated, my sister too, and so in order to save cost, we decided to buy some of the electronics; lighting stuff across the causeway at JB. It's way cheaper! Currency exchange is way more favorable, of course! And so we decided to head there together.
Now, because it's just the three of us - my wife, my sis, myself, we decided to carpool. We don't stay together of course, so we wanted to find a place where I could park my car, and then we could carpool across. Now, this place got to be somewhat in between where I stay and JB and where she stays and JB. And so I said to my sis, "I know of a perfect place. It's between where we stay and JB, and you know what, it is absolutely empty, no one goes there, parking is also free." So I said to her, "Let's meet at ..."
You will never think of this place. You'll never think of this place but I thought of it. I said, "Let's meet at Mandai Crematorium." Unbelievable! But that was the location I thought of, near the causeway, is Yishun, right? Near Woodlands, it's between where we both stay. "And so alright that's our plan, we met at Mandai Crematorium. No one goes there, parking is abundant and so on ..."
We parked there, I got into her car, we drove over to JB. We went to a few shops, ate good food, did some shopping. But by the time we came back, it's already very late. There's a jam at the causeway, and so we arrived back in Singapore at about 8, 9pm, way longer than we thought. Now, it's not a nice thing to go to Mandi Crematorium at 8, 9pm. But that's where we went and guess what we saw? Nope, we didn't see any ghosts or spirits! Don't worry, I'm a Christian.
But when we got there, I saw that the gates were closed. My car is inside the Mandai Crematorium, but the gates were closed. My wife, my sis, looked at me, they didn't say anything, but when I looked at them I know what they're thinking, "You see lah, Geh Kiang!"
Well, I think in your life, you must have several instances like this too! Maybe it's the way you drive, GPS or navigational system says, "Go this way," but you 'Geh Kiang', don't listen, go somewhere else then you go, holland, you got lost. Maybe you have been 'Geh Kiang' in your school, with your projects or 'Geh Kiang' in your workplace, whatever, we all understand what this means.
So this morning, I'm preaching something simple, very familiar to you - 'Geh Kiang'. But we're going to look at this in a spiritual sense, alright. Can Christians be 'Geh Kiang'? Can God's people 'Geh Kiang' about spiritual things? You better believe it! So let's look at the story before us.
Sarai, her name was Sarai before she had a change to Sarah. She was Abraham's wife, "Abram's wife, and she has been barren, she had borne him no children." [Gen 16:1] Now, this is the problem that Abraham and Sarah had to face for a long while. God had promised them that they would have a child, a special child, a special son, and all nations will be blessed through Him.
But it's been about 10 years, and she has not been pregnant. In fact, later on we are told that she is menopausal. She's beyond the age for childbearing. At this time she's near there, or already there and so she must be desperate. She must be thinking, "When will this promise ever come true? I've been waiting for month after month, year after year but no sign of any pregnancy. Maybe God needs some help. Maybe we need to do something. Maybe we need to have a new plan."
And so, she began to look around. "She saw a female, her female Egyptian servant whose name was Hagar." [Gen 16:1] And it seems to be a eureka moment for her. Lights came on and she said, "Hah, I know! This is what we can do to help God. It's too late, He must be unable to give me a child now that I'm beyond that childbearing age!" "So let's do this, Abraham, God wouldn't want us to have a descendant or an heir, via Eliezer, our servant. We can't do that it must be a child of your own, Abraham, but we can make one, even if I can't."
She said to Abraham, "Behold now, the Lord has prevented me from bearing children, so go in to my servant Hagar, it may be that I shall obtain children by her." [Gen 16:2] What a suggestion! What a plan! Bewildering that she would come up with something like this! "But Abraham listened to the voice of Sarai." [Gen 16:2] Now, this phrase, listen to the voice of Sarai, is a very unique Hebrew phrase, I'm told it occurs only here and in Genesis, chapter 3, when Abraham, uh not Abraham, Adam listened to Eve.
Now, I suppose you could say both instances were negative instances. I don't think we should walk away saying to ourselves, "We should never listen to our wives." I don't think that's the point here, alright. I have in my life, listened to my wife many times. And she has made, often times many good decisions, I'm glad I could listen to her for advice as well. But the point here is, do not listen to your wives and not listen to your God.
In this case, clearly Abraham was also distrusting, he did not trust God and chose to listen to this terrible plan. And so, "Abraham, after he had lived 10 years in the land of Canaan, [he's now, about 85 years old, he left Ur of the Chaldees to the promised land at 75.] Sarai, Abram's wife took Hagar the Egyptian, her servant and gave her to Abram, her husband as a wife. And he went into Hagar." [Gen 16:3-4] This is in my opinion, flat out adultery.
He's with someone who is not his wife in this relationship. And the even though Abram did it, even though many men in the Bible, many Christian men in the Bible did it, I still don't think we could justify it, and say that, "It's legitimate." It's clear sin, but "Abraham, went into Hagar and she conceived." [Gen 16:4]
Now on the surface, it looks like a great plan! "Hey, finally Abraham would have a son! Finally, Abraham would have a child! And maybe this is the one God would use to bless the nations!" But ah no, God will later reveal, this is not going to be the case at all! All that for nothing, but what's worse is that this whole episode brought about great pain and mess and suffering in the family.
We see that when she saw, that is, "When Hagar saw that, when she saw that she had conceived, Hagar saw that she herself had conceived, she now looked with contempt on Sarah." [Gen 16:4] She now despises Sarah, 'Huh, I could have a son, you couldn't! I'm a servant but I could have Abraham's child, you are nobody!" That's probably what's going on. "And so Sarai said to Abraham, "May the wrong be done, may the wrong done to me be on you." [Gen 16:5]
This one, I really scratched my head. Who is the one who came up with this brilliant plan? It's not Abraham, it's Sarah. But, Sarah 'bei song' [unhappy in Hokkien dialect] not very happy, very unhappy. She's frustrated, she's angry, she hits out at everyone, especially her husband. "都是你的错" [dōu shì nǐ de cuò , It's all your fault in Mandarin] "My fault?" Well anyway, "I gave my servant to your embrace, and when she saw that she had conceived, she looked on me with contempt. May the Lord judge between you me." [Gen 16:5]
I don't understand her! But Abraham said, he's quite calm ah, he said, "Behold, your servant is in your power, do to her as you please you." [Gen 16:6] "You go settle your problem, I, I don't want to deal with this, between the two of you two women. Not my problem! I, I have washed my hands of this. Resolve it yourself."
"Then Sarai dealt harshly with her, and she fled from her." [Gen 16:6] So Sarah, she must be so vindictive, so jealous, so envious, so angry that she abused Hagar. And Hagar had no choice but to run away from home. So this is the sequence of events thus far:
1. Sarah had a bad idea. Not a good one, asking her husband to commit adultery with her servant.
2. But Abraham was just soft in this, he went along with this bad decision.
3. And both of them were guilty, I believe, of not trusting in God, and coming up with this 'Geh Kiang' plan.
4. Hagar, ended up despising her mistress.
5. Sarah mistreated Hagar in vengeance.
6. Abraham abdicated responsibility.
7. And Hagar ended up running away.
Not a pretty picture to say the least, isn't it? But then, the story goes on, not the end of it. The Bible tells us, "The angel of the LORD found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, the spring on the way to Shur." [Gen 16:7] So this is where I take a little bit of diversion if you allow me, because it's important phrase, important title, important person we are reading about - the angel of the LORD.
When I was a younger Christian, I always wondered what is the angel of the LORD? We understand what are angels, the Bible talks about angels - Gabriel, Michael and a whole host of angels. But there's this unique phrase, 'the angel of the Lord'. Who is He? Now, I want to let you know that the angel of the LORD here is no ordinary angel, that's one thing. And I also want you to know that it will re ... it will repeat, or He will occur several times in the Old Testament.
Now, the angel of the LORD happens for the first time in the Bible, right here. Later on, you'll see Him appear to Abraham in Genesis 22, to Moses in Genesis, chapter 3, - the burning bush encounter. You'll see, the angel of the LORD occur to Balaam [Numbers 22], to Israel [Judges 2], to Gideon [Judges 6], remember Gideon would offer up sacrifices to this angel of the LORD, to Samson's parents [Judges 13], to David [2 Samuel 24], Elijah [1 Kings 19] and so on and so forth.
I said that, "The angel of the LORD is no ordinary angel because, for example in Genesis 16 the first occurrence here, to Hagar ... Hagar immediately somehow recognized this is no ordinary angel. Now, we are not told how she knows, but she knows, this is no ordinary angel because, "She called the name of the LORD who spoke to her," [Gen 16:13] the LORD, L O R D. Remember, in the English is really the tetragrammaton, YHWH, which is an unpronounceable word. Which we added, which we, men added the vowels of A and E, that we call Yahweh, really is the name of God.
So she called the name of Yahweh, the tetragrammaton, God Himself who spoke to her, "You are a God of seeing," for she said, "Truly here I've seen Him who looks after me." [Gen 16:3] So she recognized that the angel of the Lord is not a created angel but God Himself. And then, in verse 14, "Therefore the well was called Beer-lahai-roi, it lies between Kadesh and Bered." [Gen 16:14] And the name means - well of the Living One seen me.
So she knows she has had an encounter with God Himself. Now the question is, in Christian faith we believe in a Triune God - Trinity. So, who of the Trinity is Hagar meeting? Is it God the Father? Is it God the Son? Who? Now, I want to suggest to you that it will not be meeting, or she will not be meeting God, the Father. The reason I will say that is because of John 1:18 says, "No one has ever seen God, the only God who is at the Father's side, He has made Him known."
Now, I know this is confusing, but bear with me. John 1, very important passage speaks about God, the Father and God, the Son, alright. "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God." [John 1:1] So in the very first verse, we are told that Jesus is called The Word, He is God and He's with God the Father. So if you understand that, coming here, we see, "No one has ever seen God, [insert, the Father,] the only God, [insert, Jesus Christ,] who is at the Father's side he, [that is Jesus,] has made the Father known." [Gen 1:18] Alright?
So let me say that again, "No one has ever seen God, the Father, the only God, Jesus Christ, who is at the Father site, Jesus has made the Father known." The point is this - no one has ever seen God, the Father.
And again in 1st Timothy, chapter 6, we read in verse 16, which is a verse that describes God, "God who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen, or can see." So from this passage, which again refers to God, the Father. We are aware that, nope, the person that Hagar met was not the Father, but probably the Son!
So theologians, understand that the angel of the LORD is really the appearance of the second person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ, before He was born into this world. That's why we call Him the pre-incarnate Jesus Christ. Alright, so that's the little detour we take about the angel of the LORD. It's important because you're going to read it many times in the Bible. And you will may, you may be wondering, "How in the world do theologians conclude that He is God, and the second person of God, to be specific?"
But let's see what He said. "He said to Hagar, "Return to your mistress and submit to her." [Gen 16:9] Go back home! And He also gave her a promise, "I will surely ..." [Gen 16:10] Now, this is not the language of angels, right? Which angel dare to says, say, "I will surely multiply your offspring." [Gen 16:10] Which angel has that power?
So God Himself, Jesus, if I may add, said, "I will surely multiply your offspring, so that they cannot be numbered for multitude." [Gen 16:10] "You have many, many descendants." Behold, you're pregnant and shall bear a son." [Gen 16:11] "You don't need to go to the gynae to do ultrasound, I, I tell you for sure, you have a son, alright." "And you shall call his name Ishmael, [which means God hears], because the LORD has listened to your affliction." [Gen 16:11]
"Let me tell you more about your son, Hagar." "Your son shall be a wild donkey of a man ..." [Gen 16:12] Okay, that's ... that's not something I would really want but okay, his son, er her son will be a wild donkey of a man. Now that doesn't mean he's stupid, he's foolish. Nope! Wild donkey here means someone who is wild, or active or even very violent in behavior, just knocks into everything, charges at everything, "... his hand against everyone and everyone's hand against him, and he shall dwell over against all his kinsmen." [Gen 16:12]
Now, Moses is the author of Genesis. And I can imagine when Moses had finished writing, Genesis, and makes this available for the Israelites to read it, during the time when the Israelites will read Moses' writing, I think they will be struck with this thinking, "Aiyoh, Why did Sarai come up with this plan, because now you see lah, the descendants of Hagar, the Ishmaelites have become our enemies?"
The Bible tells us that, "The thorn in the flesh of Israel, is really the Ishmaelites. The Amalekites, the Midianites associated with them. And they are the perennial enemies of Israel, right up till today." You asked about the Arab-Israeli conflict in the Middle East, "Will it ever be solved?" No, I don't think so, until Jesus comes! And you say, "What are the roots of the Arab-Israeli conflict?" Right here in Genesis 16! The Arabs came from Ishmael, and Ishmael is the plan, the brilliant plan of Sarah.
So the Bible goes on to say, "Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abraham called the name of his son whom Hagar bored Ishmael. And Abraham was 86 years old when Hagar bore Ishmael, to Abraham." [Gen 16:15-16]
So this is the 'Geh Kiang' sermon. 'Geh Kiang' lah! You see lah! You see lah! You see lah! You think you can solve this problem, but God is very clear, whatever your 'Geh Kiang' plan comes up to, it is not going to end well. It's not what God wants. That's not God's idea! And it is an exercise in futility. What's worse is that it ends up with greater mess and greater pain! I think that's the lesson we can clearly see in Genesis 16.
Maybe some of us today and the application part is here, maybe some of us today feel like being a Sarah, because you've been waiting for something for a long time. You've been waiting for some breakthrough, some answers but God has not come through for you. And so it is very tempting for you to take things into your own hands. It's not easy to wait, isn't it? It's not easy to wait for some answers that you want some breakthroughs that you want.
Maybe some of you are longing to be married. You know you're not gifted with celibacy. You have been looking for a boyfriend, a girlfriend for a long time but now even worse, COVID cannot meet boyfriend, girlfriend in church. Because even if we gather, we can't talk with one another freely like we used to. So you're thinking that, "Aah, we ... I should be married with a Christian man or a Christian woman, it seems to be dashed."
You say, "Lord, I'm not gifted with celibacy, I need to be hitched, I, I need to get married. And it seems like there's no way, I can find a Christian man and a Christian woman now, so let me be 'Geh Kiang'. Let me take things into my own hands. Let me look for someone who may not be a Christian, but when I marry that person, I'll make him Christian. I'll convert him. I'll change him." Well, that's often not going to end up well!
Maybe this cannot just be applied to individuals, it can be applied even to our church, or to churches. You know how it is, when you talk to people, they always ask you, "What your church? Where's your church? And how big is your church!" And there's always this temptation, even as church leaders to try to have as many people as possible. Now, I don't think it's wrong to want more people to follow Jesus, but when you are only chasing numbers, and you start to manipulate, and you come up with your own schemes and ideas and strategies and humanistic methods to simply draw in a crowd, that's when we fall into a dangerous territory of behaving like Sarah to take in Hagar into church.
And you've seen that in many churches. Maybe they try to tone down the message of the gospel, they try to preach more self-help more, if I may say, "Relevant messages which really in my mind are not really relevant." The gospel is most relevant, but they say, "Don't ... don't give those spiritual stuff, give self -help stuff. Maybe turn down the lights a little, get more entertainment on stage, get better singers." And they are all like Hagars - man's attempt to do more, so that we can take over God and do things faster ourselves.
I'm going to apply this also to a very sensitive area, which I hope you will give me a listening ear too, don't judge too quickly, but a sensitive area that needs to be addressed and it's in the area of altar call. You say, "What's an altar call?" Well, an altar call is simply, I think, a preacher, after having preached a sermon, giving people an opportunity, a time, a way to respond to the message that he has just preached.
So for example, a preacher can preach about the gospel, about Jesus, and then he gives the people time and space to consider the message and to respond, whether they would repent and believe in Jesus or not. And they can indicate that response, that they have made in their heart, with either raising of the hands, with standing up right where they are, or by even walking down the aisle, and allowing people to pray for them. That's in essence what an altar call is for many people.
Now, I want to qualify, I am not necessarily saying, "Altar calls are bad or evil or so on." Like I said, "There is a legitimate space to allow people to make spiritual decisions, right where they are, after they hear the message of God. I'm not running it down entirely, alright. But there can be a very dishonest way of doing altar calls, and we must be careful of that. We must be careful of dishonest ways of doing altar call that is just geared towards having more people raise hands, having more people come up the stage, so that we look good or feel good."
You see, there are people today who dishonestly do this, in my opinion or inadequately do this. They don't give a good, clear gospel. Just any watered-down message, feel good message, and without giving a clear gospel the ... they invite people then to believe Jesus. They ... they play nice music, turn down the lights. I've even read of church leaders, planting their own people in the seats, so that when a pastor asks for a response, these people who are pre-planted by him, would walk the aisle first to prime the condition for others to walk along.
Now, that to me is entirely dishonest and manipulative. But you see, they say, "Oh, it is all done with a singular goal of helping people respond to the gospel!" Really! If that is what altar call is, I think it should be dismissed. Why?
Because when people do not get a clear gospel, they do not hear it, and they respond to it out of emotionalism alone, out of superficial understanding, and when they come here and you say to them, "Because you walk the aisle, because you raise the hand, you are now a Christian." You may be guilty of damning this person to hell forever. Because this person may assume just because he walked the aisle, just because pastor prayed over them, they are now born again, they are Christians, they are saved, when they really are not! So you thought you could get more people but actually you've done way more harm than good.
So allow me to say this again, "I'm not saying all altar calls are bad, but it's got to be done judiciously, wisely, carefully." There must be a way that people could sit down one on one with someone, even if you allow the person to make that decision and we must be not too quick to pronounce, "Oh, you are Christian now, that you raised your hand!"
Can I apply this as well to the area of giving. Sensitive topic in churches - money, giving. And you know, churches, church leaders, we can be anxious about church funds situations. And you can actually be tempted to do some questionable things, so that you can get people to give more. I've ... I'm sure you've heard enough stories of how there are churches who actually require the members to submit their income tax. Not to government, but to you. Because they need to check your income statement, and be sure that you're giving your 10%.
"Must give 10% aah! You don't give aah, not good Christian! We're gonna pressure you aah, tekan you aah!" I'm not talking hypothetically, it's real! There are preachers, who in order to squeeze more money, despite their conscience, they preach ... Well, I want to be careful here, if your conscience, if your theological persuasion is that giving should be out of a cheerful willing heart, then don't preach tithing, for the sole purpose of squeezing more money out of people. Now, I'm a believer of the Bible teaching, that giving is not mandatory, coerced at all.
In other words, in all these years, as far as I know in Gospel Light, we don't say to you, "You must give 10% to God. We don't say that!" In fact, every week, if you watch the offering announcement, it's the same thing. Giving is willing, cheerful and so on and so forth. I think it is very difficult to see tithing, as a must for the New Testament church.
Some people say, "Oh, but the Jews gave 10%!" You're right, the Jews gave 10% for a specific purpose, but if you add up all the Jews were commanded to give, they gave more than 20 ... 20 over percent. Because it's ... you must understand in those days, they were a theocracy. They were a nation that was ruled by God. So in a sense, that was their taxation system, added to that as well.
So, in our day and age, we do give taxes to our nation, "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's," that is the right thing to do. But nowhere in the Bible, do we see that God commands or forces you to give 10%. Because I actually say, "You don't give God 10%, you give God 100%. Everything you have should be stewarded for the glory of God." Right?
But it's very tempting, when funds are low to either force people to do this, or to preach a message that says, "Give God so that he can give you back more." Or in other words, "Give to God, so that you may get rich." It's an investment program. Now, they don't say it in those words but in essence that's what it is.
The Bible does say, by the way, you see all these are subtle twists. Now, the Bible does say, "That when you give to God, He will give back to you." I think it is clear in the Bible, "You will reap what you sow." "And God will supply all your needs in this regard." 2nd Corinthians 9 is very clear. But this is what you need to be clear about, when you give to God and God gives you back, He is not giving you back so that you can be rich, but it is so that you are continually and able to continue to give. That is what biblical teaching is about!
But churches somehow slip a little bit of a slip that important part away and say, "You give to God, and God will give back to you. You will be enriched! You have all things!" And I think you need to be very careful about these subtle lies.
Now, maybe some of you would say, "No, all these things I'm not struggling with! I'm not tempted to be 'Geh Kiang' spiritually." I can understand that, but if you're caught in a situation where you have no time, when you're caught in a situation where you have a sense of urgency, the pressure; the heat can be on. And it's very easy to be like Sarah, who sees that she's barren and she's running out of time to come up with these kinds of compromises and Hagar-like solutions.
I recall when we were having our building project here for this building, we had to pay HDB $13 million. I think, we were given like 2, 3 months, if my memory serves me well. And we don't have that kind of money! We ... we never saved up, or accumulated a church building fund. We don't! So, we almost have to start from scratch. I mean it's a massive effort - $13 million! Even now, I'm like crazy amount of money. So we were down to the wire, by the way. We had a few weeks to raise the funds and we were running down, and we were still far off the target. And you know that was when the heat is on.
So I recall, they were brethren in our church, I think, well meaning, no question. Brethren in our church who came to me and said, "You know, we're not going to make it if you don't preach about tithing." Now, it's specific, it's not about giving. Preaching about giving is fine, I have no problems talking about it at a suitable juncture there. But it's specific, it's giving, it's preaching about tithing. Because they figured that "If everybody is to give 10% , we would be able to make it."
The heat was on, very tempting to do that. But I realize, or we as a leadership, subsequently also realized that if we were to do that, I think our whole approach to the Bible is gone. There's no integrity, with which we treat the Bible, read the Bible, teach the Bible. And the mess we end up with, will be way more than the lack of funds situation. "We can trust God," we said. And well, I think we can look back and be thankful that we didn't bring a Hagar in that day.
Often times, bringing in a Hagar seems to work. "Oh, Hagar got pregnant! Yay, it works!" "Oh, I'm with this guy now. I'm very happy with him! Oh yay, it seems to work!" "Wow, we have more people in church, it seems to work!" "Wow, we have more hands raised, more conversions, it seems to work!" "And we have more money, seems to work!"
But let me tell you, it always seems to work in the beginning but you will end up like a family mess and tragedy, when you give it enough time. Because the Bible tells us, "You reap what you sow." The Bible tells us, "Your sin will find you out." The Bible tells us, "There is a way that seems right to a man but its end is the way to death." [Prov 14:12] Don't 'Geh Kiang' basically, we just have to trust God.
You know the Lord Jesus Christ, He was tempted to take short cuts, remember? "Ah, you're hungry, You've fasted for 40 days, 40 nights, easy, you have the power to do it, turn these stones into bread." But Jesus was never 'Geh Kiang', He was fully surrendered to the Father's will. Thank God, He did. Isn't it?
So today, 'Mai Geh Kiang', don't be 'Geh Kiang', don't compromise. We can trust in the ever-reliable God.
Now, I could have ended the sermon here but I would have missed the main point of actually God's will for Genesis 16. So with the remaining time, let me tell you the main application for Genesis 16, it is not about finding a spouse, it is not about church growth, it is not about money. The main application that we need to grasp from this 'Mai Geh Kiang' sermon is found in Galatians, chapter 4.
It says here, "For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman ..." [Gal 4:22] So, you already know the story, Abraham had two sons with two women. First is with Hagar, the Egyptian slave woman, he had Ishmael. Second is with Sarai, who is not a slave woman, she's a free woman, Isaac.
Ishmael is a product of man's own idea. Isaac is a product of God's clear promise. "So the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, [Ishmael was a fleshly product], and the son of the free woman was born through promise." [Gal 4:23] Isaac was a result of God's promise. So far so good? If you cannot follow here, the next one you die already. Alright? So far so good? Okay.
The next one is rather complicated but just hang in there just one verse or two verses that are difficult. "Now, this may be interpreted allegorically: ..." [Gal 4:24] Allegorically means as a picture, as a representative. Hagar and Sarah, they can be seen to represent something bigger than themselves. That's what it means allegorically.
"These women are two covenants ..." [Gal 4:24] They represent two agreements. They represent two ways to God, or two ways God deals with men. Alright? "One is from Mount Sinai, [now I ...] bearing children for slavery; she's Hagar. So Hagar, represents Mount Sinai." [Gal 4:24] You say, "What Mount Sinai? What is Mount Sinai?" Mount Sinai is near Ghim Moh and Ghim Moh, there's nice hor fun. Okay, that's not ... that's not the Mount Sinai, we're talking about, alright.
Mount Sinai here refers to where God gave the 10 commandments. Alright? So Hagar represents the way to God via the 10 commandments. Okay? And at the same time, "She is a slave." [Gal 4:24] So, you get the hint there, Paul is saying, "Hagar represents someone who is enslaved to the 10 commandments as a way to approaching God." Boleh? [can in Malay] Can? Hagar represents people who are enslaved to the 10 commandments as a way of approaching God.
Do you know there are many people like that? In fact, vast majority of people who want to have a relationship with God believes that the way to God is by being good, doing good, doing less bad. Actually, they are all enslaved, they are all under this bondage. This bondage that they can never shake off because there is no one who can ever obey the 10 commandments, no one who can ever remain sin-free, good enough for God. Forever slaves! Hagar represents that. And you know what, it's man's idea. It's born of the flesh, alright?
"Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children." [Gal 4:25] So Paul is saying, "Right now during the time of Paul's writing, right now the people of Israel, the people in Jerusalem, you know what? They are all slaves to the 10 commandments as a way to approaching God, that's why they don't get saved! That's why they are not saved! Because they are enslaved under the bondage of the law."
But Sarah, represents a totally different approach, "The Jerusalem above is free, ..." [Gal 4:26] Not under the bondage of the law, but by promise, "... and she's our mother." What do you mean by that? You, we all, brothers, like Isaac, we are the children of promise. So, Hagar represents people enslaved by the law as a means to approaching God. Sarah represents those who believe the promise of the Messiah, and who are truly God's.
So in summary, Ishmael represents those who are born of the flesh - man's idea. Isaac represents those who are born of promise, those who believe in the promise of the Messiah. Ishmael is a picture of man's works, trying to reach God. Isaac represents God's work in saving man, out of His own sovereign good grace. Ishmael, are people who are slaves of the law. Isaac, are people who are free from the law in order to earn acceptance before God.
[Ishmael - Born of the flesh/Man's works/Slave of the Law
Isaac - Born of promise/God's work/Free from the Law]
That's not all, the parallelism goes on. Because he says in verse 29, "But just as that time, he who was born according to the flesh, persecuted him who was born to the Spirit, so also it is now." Now, this refers to Genesis 21:18, a little bit before or later on. After Isaac was born and weaned, Ishmael, who is now a teenager mocks Isaac, he mocks Isaac. So Paul says, "That is a picture of how people who are in bondage, under the law would persecute Christians who believe the promise of the Messiah." That's what he says.
And then in verse 30, "But what does the Scripture say? [What does the Bible teach?] "Cast out the slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman shall not inherit with the son of the free woman." Wow, so born of the flesh/born of promise, man's work/God's work, slave/free! And Ishmael will persecute Isaac/Isaac will be persecuted by Ishmael. But most importantly, Ishmael will be rejected for salvation [If you try to earn salvation by your own work, you will be rejected.]/But if you believe in the promise of the Messiah, you will be accepted.
[Ishmael - Born of the flesh/Man's works/Slave of the Law/Persecutes Isaac/Rejected]
Isaac - Born of promise/God's work/Free from the Law/Persecuted by Ishmael/Accepted]
The point that Paul is making, therefore is that, "If you 'Geh Kiang' in self-righteousness, you will not be saved. But if you believe in the grace of God in Jesus Christ, you can be saved."
That is the most important application of Genesis 16. It is saying that, "If you think that the way to God is via your own ingenuity, your own works, your own religiosity, your own moralism, you will fail. Because you can never pay for your sins. But those who believe God's promise that He has sent His Son to die, and pay for all your sins, he will be accepted, he will become the child of promise."
So this is the last slide I share with you - Jesus paid it all. You don't pay, don't 'Geh Kiang' and pay. You can't pay, so don't 'Geh Kiang' and pay, because Jesus paid it all. "The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." [Rom 6:23]
Let's come to God in a word of prayer together.
Father, we want to thank You this morning that we can hear Your Word. Forgive us for our impatience, for our pride, for self-righteousness. So often, we hatch diabolical plans, terrible sinful plans, because we just won't trust You enough. I pray today that Your people will be wise, that we would not lean on our own understanding, but in all our ways acknowledge You, that You may direct our paths.
I pray for this church that we will never compromise, but we will stay on the straight and narrow. We pray also for those today who need to be saved. Help them to see, salvation is found in Jesus Christ alone, who paid it all on the cross. So bless each one, we thank You in Jesus' Name. Amen.
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