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  • Writer's pictureDeborah

Galatians 3:19 and the Character of God

Galatians Chapter 3 and the Character of God

The Beginning, Part 2

Galatians 3:19 (NKJV)

I don’t know about you, but sometimes the writings of the Apostle Paul are so compact and filled with details that I find myself ‘glossing over the details’. Sometimes I simply don’t fully comprehend them, and that’s after studying them in Seminary! The truth of the matter is that what I remember about Paul’s writings from Seminary was how to identify everything I don’t understand. In other words, sometimes every single verse causes a bell to ring loudly in my head. This part of Galatians 3 (especially verse 19) rings like a four alarm fire bell.

If my New Testament courses taught me anything, it was that I need to pay attention to the bells ringing in my head.

Last night I read Galatians 3:19-29 so I could write about that section today. Upon the first reading my brain glossed over the details and one bell rang.

Okay, so I realized I need to read them again slowing it down. In my head, I marked everything I didn’t fully understand. There was a list...a pretty long list.

So, I decided to read one verse and stop. I’d thought after that I’d read another verse and stop, and so on.

Galatians 3:19 says, “What purpose then does the law serve? It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was appointed through angels by the hand of a mediator.”

Okay, I get why God gave Moses the law (Ten Commandments). The children of Israel had been living under Egyptian rule for over 400 years. They had been submerged in Egyptian laws, faith, and practice during that time. They hadn’t completely forgotten Yahweh, but ever so slowly thoughts and ideas from the Egyptian culture had seeped into their brains. Those thoughts became a habit. Plus, during the exile they were eventually enslaved by the Egyptians. They had issues. Big time issues. They needed help learning how to live on their own again.

Next, I had questions about the children of Israel before the exodus from Egypt. I had to wonder how being a slave would have changed their culture? What did worship look like when they lived in Egypt? Were they allowed to take off work in order to practice their faith? Did they celebrate their faith?

The Prophet Ezekiel gives clues and answers to that question.

In Ezekiel 20:8, he wrote about the Jews while they were in Egypt. “But they rebelled against Me and would not obey Me. They did not all cast away the abominations which were before their eyes, nor did they forsake the idols of Egypt. Then I said, ‘I will pour out My fury on them and fulfill My anger against them in the midst of the land of Egypt.’”

So, they did rebel. They did not obey God. They did not ignore the Egyptian gods and idols and as a result, God did try to get their attention. They had strayed from the promises and words of Abraham.

Because of that, instantly removing them from enslavement would have been problematic. Even though they still believed and worshipped Yahweh they were also worshipping the Egyptian gods. I need to go back further. God SENT his children to Egypt during the time of Joseph so they could survive. Remember, there was a great famine in the land at the time of Jacob. Several of his twelve sons had committed a great sin against their brother Joseph (because his father favored him and gave him a beautiful coat of many colors). Eventually, Joseph was sold into slavery and taken to Egypt. Then when a famine wiped out the food supply in Canaan, Jacob sent a few of his sons to Egypt because he heard they had food and water. On the surface at least, that’s why they initially went to live in Egypt.

I also tend to think there were underlying causes so I need to go back further. Certainly, there had been issues with Jacob and his brother Esau. Esau was the oldest twin, so he stood to inherit everything. Then, one day he was hungry so he sold his birthright to his brother Jacob for a meal. Wow, for one meal..really?

Then, when their father Isaac was dying Jacob tricked his father into giving him the blessing, AND that plot was engineered by his mother Rebekah (Genesis 27).

More trickery.

Fast forward to Jacob’s life. Jacob’s sons got jealous of their brother Joseph and sold him into slavery in Egypt. A famine came and those same brothers were sent to Egypt to obtain food. Because their brother Joseph had been blessed and put into power by God in Egypt, when his brothers came and he recognized them. They all ended up moving to Egypt so they could survive the famine.

We see the descendants of Abraham (Isaac, Jacob, and many of Jacob’s sons) weren’t making great choices. (But, as we’ll see later, God still eventually blessed them.) Going back to Abram (Abraham) we learn he was warned about what was to come for his descendants. We read in Genesis 15:12-16, “Now when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and behold, horror and great darkness fell upon him. Then He said to Abram: “Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years. And also the nation whom they serve I will judge; afterward they shall come out with great possessions. Now as for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried at a good old age. But in the fourth generation they shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”

God promised Abraham in verse 15 that he would die and be buried in peace before his descendants were taken captive, but God made it clear they would live in a foreign land and be taken captive for 400 years.

Just as God promised Abraham, his descendants were living in a foreign land (Egypt) and a baby boy was born. His name was Moses and He was raised in Pharaoh’s house where he learned everything about the Egyptian culture.

Moses was chosen to set the captives free. He led Israel out of Egypt into the wilderness where God gave him the Ten Commandments. According to Paul in Galatians 3:19, angels delivered the commandments to Moses. The Commandments were given to them because of their transgressions. They had strayed away from God. Not only had they strayed away when they lived in Egypt, Jacob had strayed away by stealing his birthright and his sons strayed away by planning evil for their brother Joseph. The son who remained faithful (Joseph) was taken captive to Egypt so that he could save Israel later.

I think one reason God gave them the commandments was so they would have rules and a ‘guide to live by’ because according to their history God knew they needed it. According to Galatians 3:19, God knew they would need those commandments until the SEED came to save them.

My last question (for today)...what was the seed Paul wrote about? It was Jesus. Jesus fulfilled the promise given to Abraham. All the while when the sons of Abraham were jealous, conniving, and combative, God stuck with them. He had a plan. Then, He had a plan. Then He had an ultimate plan (which was Jesus).

THAT’S what the Apostle Paul was talking about in Galatians 3:19. So, now I know why four alarm fire bells were ringing in my head when I read that verse.

Our take-away about the character of God is that God is faithful even when we are not faithful. God was faithful to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, his sons, and to us.

I planned to write about ten verses. I got as far as ONE, but I finally got the message that God gave to the Apostle Paul. Well, at least I got one part of the message Paul wrote about. When I prayed about Galatians 3:19, God’s gift to me was putting the pieces together. God’s gift blessed me.

Today’s Spiritual Practice is: What’s your gift today?

Whenever I read scripture or get a WORD from God, I end up asking God to show me what He HAS for me today from that. Sit quietly and think of a scripture you don’t understand, or ask God to give you a WORD. Ask God what He has for you today from that. You may need to sit in silence for a bit, but I know God will bless you with an answer.

In God, Deborah


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