September 21 -- Galatians 3:10-14
This is our fifth week together, and we are really getting into the meat of this letter! Sometimes I feel a little sorry for the Christians in Galatia so long ago. Paul's letter would have come to town with a friend or messenger. Everyone would have gathered together to hear it read aloud, and then it would be sent on to the next church in the next town down the road. There is so much in here to absorb, and wonder about, and try to understand. How could they possibly take it all in? Maybe someone made a copy for them to keep? In any case, we're lucky to have these words printed for us in our Bibles today: we can sit down with them, read them slowly, and then read them again and again until they make a home in our hearts and minds.
Do you remember our last episode, when we talked about Abraham? Do you remember what Paul said? Abraham believed God's words. He trusted that God would keep his promises. Everyone who shares that faith is a part of Abraham's family, and belongs to God. A person who believes belongs to God, and is set right.
Still, what about Moses's laws? Aren't they important? Today, Paul is going to start to help us understand why we don't have to keep Moses's laws anymore to belong in God's family. He packs a lot of ideas into a few words, so we'll have to listen carefully, think hard, and stay curious. Are you ready?
Today's reading is Galatians chapter 3 verses 10 through 14.
10 All who depend on obeying the law are under a curse. It is written, "May everyone who doesn't continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law be under God's curse." 11 We know that no one who depends on the law is made right with God. This is because "the one who is right with God will live by faith." 12 The law is not based on faith. In fact, it is just the opposite. It teaches that "the person who does these things will live by them." 13 Christ, God's Messiah, set us free from the curse of the law. He did it by becoming a curse for us. It is written, "Everyone who is hung on a pole is under God's curse." 14 Christ Jesus set us free so that the blessing given to Abraham would come to the Gentiles through Christ. He did it so that we might receive the promise of the Holy Spirit. The promised Spirit comes by believing in Christ.
Whew. Those are only 5 verses, but there is a lot in here to try and hear. I wonder if we can understand what Paul is trying to tell us by remembering together the story of God's people in the time before Jesus came?
God called Abraham, and promised him a family. Sure enough, Abraham had Isaac; Isaac had Jacob; and then Jacob had twelve sons. Those 12 sons had families that grew and grew into the twelve tribes of Israel. Many years later, after the family had grown to become a whole nation, they were held in slavery by the Pharaoh of Egypt. But then God rescued his people: he led them out of slavery and into freedom and a new land.
As they stood outside the beautiful land God had promised them, Moses gave them special laws to follow. They were the ways God was showing them to live in their new land. And these laws came with a promise, and a curse.
Here is what Moses said:
"Make sure you obey the LORD your God completely. Be careful to obey all his commands. If you do these things, the LORD will honor you more than all the other nations on earth...the LORD your God will make you his holy people. He will set you apart for himself." (Deut 28:1, 9).
That is the promise.
But this is also what Moses said:
"But suppose you don't obey the LORD your God. And you aren't careful to obey all his commands and rules I'm giving you today. Then he will send curses on you. They'll catch up with you...the LORD will scatter you among all the nations. He'll spread you around from one end of the earth to the other...Among those nations, you won't find any peace. (Deut 28:15, 64-65).
That is the curse.
I think that is the curse that Paul is talking about in our reading today. In his time, the Jewish people were still scattered all over the world. They were not in charge of the land that God had promised them. Other people ruled over them. They did not have a home, and they did not have peace. They looked around and saw that they were still living under Moses's curse: they were exiled, or cast out, away from the place where God was supposed to dwell in them.
But here is the good news Paul wants his friends in Galatia, and us, to hear. Jesus is the Messiah, the deliverer, who has come to save his people from that curse. And how did he do it? He went into the farthest exile you can. He was sent away into death, that far country, out of the presence of people and out of the presence of God. His body and his spirit were scattered and broken, just like Israel was scattered and broken all over the world. And then God brought him back, made him alive, and brought him home.
Now the curse is gone. Now God's people can be gathered up and receive his promises! Because of Jesus's loving death and his faithful resurrection, we can all share in God's good promises of life and being made new. We will never be scattered or lost again.
Let's get ready to wonder about God's good words together.
Loving God: make our minds curious, our hearts open, and our bodies at peace. Thank you for inviting us to wonder about your words. Amen.
God gave his people — Abraham's family — special laws to follow. But over time, they broke his ways. I wonder if Jesus came to be perfectly faithful because people could not? I wonder if he does the job that God's people failed to do?
When Paul came to tell his friends in Galatia about Jesus, they saw that his death on the cross was for them, too. They felt God's Spirit alive and at work in them, and they believed that God was for them, even though they were born outside of Abraham's family. Can I believe, right now, that no matter who I am, what I look like, how I feel, or what I've done: Jesus's death on the cross was for me? Can I trust God when he says that he is for me, and he loves me?
In the Bible, being under a curse almost always means being sent away, or separated from a good place. Adam and Eve were sent away from God's presence in the garden. God's people were sent away from their land. Do I know that feeling: have I ever done something wrong, and been sent away or shut out?
Here is Paul's good news for us today: when Jesus died, he was sent away for us, and he came back. Now we have been brought home again to God, and will never be sent away again. What do I want to say to Jesus about that?
Loving God, thank you for Paul's words to the Galatians, and thank you that somehow by your Spirit, they are also your words to us. Give us the wisdom and understanding that come from your Holy Spirit so that we can know you better. Show us the faithfulness of Jesus, and help us to put our trust and hope in him alone. In his beautiful name, Amen.