“’Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!’ declares the …Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’” Jeremiah 23:1, 5-6
Here the Lord is speaking hundreds of years before Paul writes to the Galatians. Yet, they are dealing with the same issue – the scattering of the flock. Now what is it that characterizes those who scatter? It’s their message of self-reliance and self-righteousness, rather than total dependence on a righteousness that comes to us in Christ.
Listen to what Charles Spurgeon says about Jeremiah 23:6:
It will always give a Christian the greatest calm, quiet, ease, and peace to think of the perfect righteousness of Christ. How often are the saints of God downcast and sad! I do not think they ought to be. I do not think they would be if they could always see their perfection in Christ. There are some who are always talking about corruption and the depravity of the heart and the innate evil of the soul. This is quite true, but why not go a little further and remember that we are “perfect in Christ Jesus”.
It is no wonder that those who are dwelling upon their own corruption should wear such downcast looks; but surely if we call to mind “Christ Jesus, whom God made . . . our righteousness,” we shall be of good cheer…On the cross he said, ‘It is finished!’ and if it is finished then I am complete in Him, and can rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory, ‘Not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ – a righteousness that comes from Gad and is by faith.’ You will not find a holier people this side of heaven than those who receive into their hearts the doctrine of Christ’s righteousness. When the believer says, ‘I live in Christ alone; I rest on Him solely for salvation; and I believe that, however unworthy, I am still saved in Jesus,’ then, motivated by gratitude, these thoughts occur – ‘Why shouldn’t I live to Christ? Why shouldn’t I love Him and serve Him, seeing that I am saved by His merits?’”
Sheep scatters know nothing of this! They are too possessed of themselves and their self-importance (masking rampant insecurities) to dare to surrender themselves to the righteousness of Christ. For them the work is not finished until they breathe their last breath. And it’s in response to their scattering efforts that Paul comes to the climax of his argument – Galatians 4:19-31.
If you were at Hebron last Sunday, or listened to the podcast, you know that Scott expertly led us into this text in his message, “Grace to the Barren”, Part 1. This week we’re back in this same text to mine some additional gems. We will start in verse 19 and work our way through verse 31 and observe the Relationship, the Responsibility, and the Reality of our position in Christ.
In preparation for Sunday’s message entitled, “Grace to the Barren”, Part 2, you may wish to consider the following:
- What is the meaning of Paul’s address in verse 19 – “my little children”?
- How often does Paul address others like that?
- What would prompt him to use that address?
- What does it mean to say that you are letting God love you?
- What is the nature of Paul’s anguish? (verse 19)
- How does the metaphor of childbirth bring you peace and joy?
- How is the story of Hagar and Sarah a perfect picture of spiritual slavery and spiritual freedom?
- What is it that makes us revert to depending on our own acts of righteousness?
- What does Paul mean when he says that the Jerusalem above is our mother? (verse 26)
- How does his use of Isaiah 54:1 relate to his address of them in verse 19?