Evening Devotion for November 23, 2020
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever.
Pam Thum sings a comforting song, picturing God as a Father waiting for His children to come home.
Prayer of St. Richard of Chichester (1230 A.D.)
Thanks be to thee, my Lord Jesus Christ,
For all the benefits thou hast won for me,
For all the pains and insults thou hast borne for me.
O most merciful Redeemer, Friend, and Brother,
May I know thee more clearly,
Love thee more dearly,
And follow thee more nearly
For ever and ever.
Save us, O Lord, while waking, and guard us while sleeping: that awake we may watch with Christ, and asleep we may rest in peace.
Think of the day ahead in terms of God with you, and visualize health, strength, guidance, purity, calm confidence, and victory as the gifts of His presence.
Genesis 46:1-4 (ESV)
So Israel took his journey with all that he had and came to Beersheba, and offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac. And God spoke to Israel in visions of the night and said, “Jacob, Jacob.” And he said, “Here I am.”
Then he said, “I am God, the God of your father. Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make you into a great nation. I myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you up again, and Joseph’s hand shall close your eyes.”
Galatians 4:1-3 (DP Bible)
Christians as Heirs (Galatians #40)
ou should not be surprised that, although heirs, you were subject to a guardian in your childhood, for this happens to all heirs. No matter how mighty the title or how great the fortune a child might be destined to inherit, he is disciplined by adults who might be far below his eventual station in life: teachers, tutors, coaches, and such.
So no matter how much money or power he will inherit, in some sense he is no better than a servant during his childhood. He is bossed about, coerced to do what others want, and sometimes punished for disobedience.
And so it was with us. While we were “children” we were subordinate to the Law. It taught us and chastised us, but it did not bring us into our inheritance.
1 And I say, for so much time the heir child is, not-at-all he differs of slave a Translators imply the word despite here, so that the sentence makes sense; there is no grammatical clue. Perhaps a word was lost over the years. lord of all being,
2 but under guardians is and stewards until the appointed-time of the father.
3 And just so we, when we were children, under bUnder can mean physically under, or subordinate to, just as in English. the elements of the universe cThe meaning of this expression is heavily disputed. It has a range of meaning similar to English “elements”, but has also been taken by scholars to mean a) elemental religions (i.e. more primitive pre-Christian religions, including Judaism and pointedly the Mosaic law); b) elemental spirits, the gods of ancient religions corresponding to earth, air, fire and water; c) stars in the sky and/or the zodiac. All of these are reasonably well attested and should be taken seriously. I take the simplest choice, a person responding to the “elements of nature” before knowing God, a person who reacts only to the visible world, as this is the plain lexical meaning, and the reader may supply the interpretation. we were enslaved
Notes on the Scripture
The chapter breaks in the Bible were created by a man named Stephen Langton, who was the Archbishop of Canterbury from 1207-1228. The Bible he used was, of course, the Latin Vulgate, but English can claim half the credit: The Wycliffe English Bible of 1382 was the first Bible to fully incorporate this system of Langton’s .
Unfortunately, if seems that his primary concern was that the chapters be roughly uniform in length, rather than be divided logically. It would surely be changed today, except that nobody wants to lose contact with the vast body of literature from the past centuries; imagine trying to read C. S. Lewis and, every time he cites the Bible, having to look in a concordance to find the new chapter and verse.
Anyway, coming to the point of all this, Langton made a particular mess of dividing Galatians 3 and 4. The paragraph beginning Chapter 4 is so closely tied to the last paragraphs of Galatians 3 that they need to be read together, as part of the same topic.
Today’s verses flesh out the argument about the Law acting as a guardian and/or mentor for humanity; the Law is no more an end in itself than high school. It is very similar to a school or academy from which God always intended us to graduate, although the emphasis is on moral and behavioral training rather than academic training. Paul does approximately what we did in the last part of Ch. 3, comparing the guardianship of a minor, and thus the Jews under the Law of Moses, to a modern-day school.
But there is an odd twist to his argument: it really reflects neither Judaism nor Greek culture, but Roman law. In Rome, a male child was assigned to a tutor until the age of fourteen and then a “curator” until he reached 25. And while none of these cultures would fully vest an inheritance until the father died and the will was read, Romans would often enjoy an increasing degree of inherited power and wealth as they became more mature.
But even Roman law is a bad fit for the example, leading us to the events Paul really brings to mind when he speaks of slavery, inheritance and redemption: The sending of Jacob (Israel) into Egypt and then, centuries later, the greater second exodus of the Hebrews from Egypt. In both cases this involved a release from slavery (much more so in Moses’ case than Jacob’s and Joseph’s) and God’s powerful affirmation of their status as His children. The Hebrews’ “childhood” was a matter of incremental steps over centuries and millennia, culminating in “adulthood” on the first Pentecost. And as adults, they were (and we are) no longer subject to the disciplinary authority of their tutor, the Law.