The Dismissal of Hagar

 •  4 min. read  •  grade level: 8
When Hagar was driven from the house of Abram by Sarah, the angel of the Lord met her, and told her to return and submit herself under the hand of her mistress. For it was very wrong in her to have acted in her mistress's house as if she had been the principal person there. She was a mother, it is true, and Sarah was still without a child. Nevertheless, she was but a servant; and acting in any other character, she entirely forgot her place. The angel, therefore, reproved her, ordered her to go back, and charged her, while she remained in Abram's house, to be in subjection to Sarah (Gen. 16).
This is a mystery. During the age of the Law, two elements were found together—that of law, and that of grace. There were the demands of righteousness, addressing themselves to man, and there were " the shadows of good things to come," the witnesses of grace, revealing God in Christ. The Jew who made the law the principal of the two, mistook God's mind; the Jew who used it subordinately, having his soul nourished by the tokens and witnesses of grace, was, so far, a Jew after God's own heart.
This right-minded Jew is seen, for instance, in Nehemiah (see Neh. 8). The Law was read on the first day of the seventh month; that day (as Lev. 23:2424Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, in the first day of the month, shall ye have a sabbath, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, an holy convocation. (Leviticus 23:24) teaches us) in the Jewish year which witnessed grace or revival. The two elements were, therefore; on that occasion, brought into collision. At the hearing of the law the congregation weep. But Nehemiah tells them not to weep, but to rejoice; and he tells them to do this on the authority of that day, the first day of the seventh month. And they do so, making the witness of grace principal, and using the Law subordinately.
This was according to God.
In due time the Lord comes; and, in the course of His ministry, He settles the question, or rather verifies the decision already made, between these two contending elements (see Matt. 12:5,65Or have ye not read in the law, how that on the sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the sabbath, and are blameless? 6But I say unto you, That in this place is one greater than the temple. (Matthew 12:5‑6)). The Sabbath represents the rights and demands of the Law, the priests in the temple witness the ways and provisions of grace. The Lord declares how the Sabbath had to yield to the Temple, whenever their rights interfered with each other. And this was as though He were the angel of Gen. 16, telling Hagar to be under the hand of Sarah while she remained in the house of Abram.
The apostle in Rom. 2, I judge, teaches the same; for he rebukes the Jew for making his boast of the law, not knowing the "goodness," i.e., the grace of God, in leading him to repentance. In the apostle's thought (of the Spirit surely), the Jew who was then refusing Christ and the Gospel, was making the Law principal, instead of using it as the servant of grace. He was resting in the Law, ignorant of the riches of divine "goodness, and forbearance, and long-suffering."
But we are to go further with the history and with the mystery of Hagar. In process of time, one of the conflicting parties in the house of Abraham has to leave it, as we say, for good. Hagar is dismissed a second time, and there is then no angel or angel's voice bidding her to go back. Sarah had now become a mother; and her son, the son of a freewoman, must occupy and fill the house all alone (chap. 21).
And this is a mystery also.
In this present age—in these days of the risen, glorified Jesus, when the Spirit has been given to the elect on the title of all their sins being forgiven and Jesus ascended-the Law is not to appear. It has been nailed to the cross. We are dead to that wherein we were held. The handwriting of ordinances has been blotted out. The light and glory of the work of Christ must fill the house of God with one simple, bright, and gladdening element. Hagar has left Abraham's house, and left it forever.
And as the Lord, in Matt. 12, was like the angel telling Hagar, that while she remained in the house she was to be subject to her mistress, so the apostle, in the epistle to the Galatians, is like Sarah insisting on Hagar quitting the house forever. For it is now, in this age of a glorified Christ and of a given Spirit, no longer a mistress and a servant dwelling together under one roof, but a mother and her child, the freewoman and the heir. Scripture spoke in Sarah, as Gal. 4 tells us. It was the Holy Ghost who gave the word. And whether we look at the zeal of Sarah in Gen. 21, or the earnestness of Paul in Galatians, we learn the precious secret of the bosom of God, that He will have His elect in the adoption and liberty of children. Relationship, as well as redemption, is of the grace in which we stand.