September 28 -- Galatians 3:19-22
If you've been listening along all season, I hope you remember why Paul wrote this letter. We're taking it in little bits, and it can be easy sometimes to forget how it all fits together.
There was a fight happening in the church in Galatia. Some people were telling the Christians in Galatia that to truly come inside God's family — to really belong to Jesus — they also had to follow Moses's laws. After all, those were the laws that separated God's people out from the rest of the world! You can't just throw them away!
Paul is fighting back. He says that when Jesus died and rose again, he made a new way for all people to come into God's family.
But what about Moses's laws? They did come from God. They're written down for all of us in Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy. Paul is going to try to explain why they are important — and also why their time is over now.
Today's reading is Galatians chapter 3 verses 19 through 22.
19 Then why was the law given at all? It was added because of human sin. And it was supposed to control us until the promised Seed had come. The law was given through angels, and go-between was put in charge of it. 20 A go-between means that there is more than one side to an agreement. But God didn't use a go-between when he made his promise to Abraham.
21 So is the law opposed to God's promises? Certainly not! What if a law had been given that could give life? Then people could become right with God by obeying the law. 22 But Scripture has locked everything up under the control of sin. It does so in order that what was promised might be given to those who believe. The promise comes through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ.
I'm pretty sure I've said this before, but if we want to be able to hear what Paul is telling us here, we have to keep the whole story of the Old Testament in our minds. We have to remember that God promised a family to Abraham; that family grew; and after God rescued that family from slavery in Egypt, he gave laws to Moses that would help the people live in the Promised Land.
Here is what Paul is wondering about today: why did God give Moses those laws? Were they supposed to be a new way to come into Abraham's family? Does that mean we still have to follow them — all of the laws written down in Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy — today?
No. Following Moses's laws will not make us right with God, or bring us into God's living family. Only God can do that, and he does it by coming to us in Jesus. Ever since the very beginning, God has wanted every human being from every nation, tribe, and tongue to know that we all belong to God: to love God with our whole hearts, and to love one another — everyone! — as we love ourselves. That is the true life that God wants for all people; it is the life that Jesus brings us; and it is the life he will raise us into forever!
But we can't do that by ourselves. We don't love God with our whole hearts. We don't love our neighbors. And Moses' laws helped with that, a little. They pointed God's people in the right direction. But they can never bring us into the full, renewed life that God has promised. That promise comes to us by the faithfulness of Jesus, who loved us all the way to the cross. It comes to us when we rest in that faithfulness, and believe.
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.
Paul says that God gave his people laws because of human sin. We can't love God on our own, and we can't love other people as we love ourselves. Does this feel true about me? What do I want to say to God about that?
I wonder how Moses's laws helped God's people love God and care for one another?
I wonder why Moses's laws couldn't make people love God all the way, or love one another fully?
There are no laws or rules that can truly make us alive, the way God meant us to be. Behaving nicely or following the rules isn't the same as loving God with our whole hearts, or loving other people perfectly. But Jesus loved God perfectly, and loved us fully. His love and faithfulness will rescue us and make us alive. Can I rest in that good promise? Can I tell God thank you for that good, good news?
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 name, Amen.