Based on Galatians 4:21-31
At the beginning of Lent, it is good to hear these words of Paul. The apostle is reminding the Christians in Galatia, and us, that we are not children of the law, but children of promise, sons and daughters of the Gospel freedom that has been won for us by the death and resurrection of Jesus. Paul indicates that he is speaking “allegorically,” but he uses Hagar and Sarah and their sons, Ishmael and Isaac to speak of the difference between living under the law and living under Gospel/promise. (see Genesis 16-21)
It is our human nature to want to return to life under the law, as our lives in the world are all about rewards and punishments. If you do good, you are rewarded — if you do evil, you are punished. This is the way of the world, and it must be so. The first use of the law is the so-called “civil use,” that God’s law serves as the foundation of ordered, lawful society. The problem is that we often carry that with us as Christians, living not in our Gospel freedom, but continuing to live as if God rewards and punishes us as under the old covenant, as if Christ has not died for the forgiveness of our sins. Under the law, we act not because Christ loves us and died for us, but because we are afraid of God’s wrath, burdened by our guilt and shame. Because Jesus took our sins upon Himself, having them nailed to the cross and buried with Him in the tomb, His resurrection signals our forgiveness and new life. We now live in freedom from guilt, fear and shame because we have been set free from the law, to live as children of hope and promise.
And why is this helpful for us at the beginning of Lent? Because we often approach our Lenten discipline legalistically. Whether we are giving up something or taking on an additional devotional practice, even the most faithful follower of Jesus can sometimes carry an extra burden of guilt when we fail in our Lenten discipline, whatever it may be. So, sisters and brothers, remember during this season of Lent — we are not children of slavery, but of freedom. Journey through Lent with joy and hope, not guilt and shame. When you “miss the mark” you have set for yourself, begin again and anew with each new day.
Prayer: Lord God, help me to live as a child of freedom, as Christ has set me free! Amen.
Lenten response: Make yourself a note to remind you, “Live as a child of Gospel freedom!”
This year’s devotional was prepared by the Rev. Dr. David Wendel, NALC assistant to the bishop for ministry and ecumenism. To learn more about A Lenten Walk Through the Word, visit thenalc.org/lent.
Scripture quotations are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
65:1 “I made myself available to those who did not ask for me;
I appeared to those who did not look for me.
I said, ‘Here I am! Here I am!’
to a nation that did not invoke my name.
2I spread out my hands all day long
to my rebellious people,
who lived in a way that is morally unacceptable
and who did what they desired.
3These people continually and blatantly offend me
as they sacrifice in their sacred orchards
and burn incense on brick altars.
4They sit among the tombs
and keep watch all night long.
They eat pork
and broth from unclean sacrificial meat is in their pans.
5They say, ‘Keep to yourself!
Don’t get near me, for I am holier than you!’
These people are like smoke in my nostrils,
like a fire that keeps burning all day long.
6Look, I have decreed:
I will not keep silent, but will pay them back;
I will pay them back exactly what they deserve,
7for your sins and your ancestors’ sins,” says the Lord.
“Because they burned incense on the mountains
and offended me on the hills,
I will punish them in full measure.”
8This is what the Lord says:
“When juice is discovered in a cluster of grapes,
someone says, ‘Don’t destroy it, for it contains juice.’
So I will do for the sake of my servants—
I will not destroy everyone.
9I will bring forth descendants from Jacob
and from Judah people to take possession of my mountains.
My chosen ones will take possession of the land;
my servants will live there.
10Sharon will become a pasture for sheep,
and the Valley of Achor a place where cattle graze;
they will belong to my people, who seek me.
11But as for you who abandon the Lord
and forget about worshiping at my holy mountain,
who prepare a feast for the god called ‘Fortune,’
and fill up wine jugs for the god called ‘Destiny’—
12I predestine you to die by the sword,
all of you will kneel down at the slaughtering block,
because I called to you, and you did not respond;
I spoke and you did not listen.
You did evil before me;
you chose to do what displeases me.”
13So this is what the Sovereign Lord says:
“Look, my servants will eat, but you will be hungry.
Look, my servants will drink, but you will be thirsty.
Look, my servants will rejoice, but you will be humiliated.
14Look, my servants will shout for joy as happiness fills their hearts.
But you will cry out as sorrow fills your hearts;
you will wail because your spirits will be crushed.
15Your names will live on in the curse formulas of my chosen ones.
The Sovereign Lord will kill you,
but he will give his servants another name.
16Whoever pronounces a blessing in the earth
will do so in the name of the faithful God;
whoever makes an oath in the earth
will do so in the name of the faithful God.
For past problems will be forgotten;
I will no longer think about them.(NET Bible)
53:1 For the music director, according to the machalath style; a well-written song by David.
Fools say to themselves, “There is no God.”
They sin and commit evil deeds;
none of them does what is right.
2God looks down from heaven at the human race,
to see if there is anyone who is wise and seeks God.
3Everyone rejects God;
they are all morally corrupt.
None of them does what is right,
not even one!
4All those who behave wickedly do not understand—
those who devour my people as if they were eating bread
and do not call out to God.
5They are absolutely terrified,
even by things that do not normally cause fear.
For God annihilates those who attack you.
You are able to humiliate them because God has rejected them.
6I wish the deliverance of Israel would come from Zion!
When God restores the well-being of his people,
may Jacob rejoice,
may Israel be happy!(NET Bible)
4:21 Tell me, you who want to be under the law, do you not understand the law? 22For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the free woman. 23But one, the son by the slave woman, was born by natural descent, while the other, the son by the free woman, was born through the promise. 24These things may be treated as an allegory, for these women represent two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai bearing children for slavery; this is Hagar. 25Now Hagar represents Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. 26But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. 27For it is written:
“Rejoice, O barren woman who does not bear children;
break forth and shout, you who have no birth pains,
because the children of the desolate woman are more numerous
than those of the woman who has a husband.”
28But you, brothers and sisters, are children of the promise like Isaac. 29But just as at that time the one born by natural descent persecuted the one born according to the Spirit, so it is now. 30But what does the scripture say? “Throw out the slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman will not share the inheritance with the son” of the free woman. 31Therefore, brothers and sisters, we are not children of the slave woman but of the free woman.(NET Bible)
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016.
The disputation with Eck, 1519, especially led Luther even farther on this course. Now he also divorced himself from the authority of the Councils. When he denied their infallibility he advanced from their fallibility to the infallible Scripture as the sole decisive norm for everything that wanted to be accepted as divine truth, and thereby without more ado he identified Scripture and the Word of God. Thus in his Disputatio J. Eckii et Mart. Lutheri he applied the admonition of Paul, “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good,” to the decrees of Popes and Councils and expressly said of them that they have erred, but that Holy Scripture is the inerrant Word of God (verbum Dei infallibile). (16)
–Johann Michael Reu, Luther on the Scriptures
This daily Bible reading guide, Reading the Word of God, was conceived and prepared as a result of the ongoing discussions between representatives of three church bodies: Lutheran Church—Canada (LCC), The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) and the North American Lutheran Church (NALC). The following individuals have represented their church bodies and approved this introduction and the reading guide: LCC: President Robert Bugbee; NALC: Bishop John Bradosky, Revs. Mark Chavez, James Nestingen, and David Wendel; LCMS: Revs. Albert Collver, Joel Lehenbauer, John Pless, and Larry Vogel.