Paul continues to draw a distinct line between those who would seek God through the law and those who approach Him through the promise. The law leads to slavery not salvation. The promise leads to freedom through salvation.
Just as Ishmael was jealous of Isaac, the false teachers were jealous of those living in the freedom Jesus provided. The one saw that they couldn’t have what the other was given freely. And this created conflict.
Ishmael knew he was the son of a servant woman. Sarah made sure of that. God also made sure that Abraham recognized that too. Ishmael was NOT the son of God’s promise to Abraham. He was Abraham and Sarah’s attempt to “help” God out.
I find it interesting how quickly Sarah’s own plan sours in her heart once it bears fruit. Did God plant that seed of discontent? We talk about God opening doors for us but God Himself said that He hardened Pharaoh’s heart. Did He do something similar to Sarah’s? Neither Hagar’s nor Sarah’s attitudes worked well together in this situation.
Ishmael saw the discord, maybe even hatred, between the two mothers. He followed his mother’s example of enmity and was cruel to Isaac. Isaac had done nothing to earn Ishmael’s mistreatment and Ishmael’s treatment of Isaac didn’t change either ones position. Instead it necessitated a permanent separation between the two.
Those who saw the Gentiles receiving acceptance from God without having to work for it became jealous. “How dare they take what we have been working all our lives for! If anyone deserves it we do.” But God had already laid down the path for salvation. It came through Jesus. And since those under the law rejected the Promised one, there was no coexisting between the two. The “Ishmael’s” of the law tormented the “Isaac’s” of the promise for the same reason; jealousy.
Their jealousy didn’t change their standing or inheritance. The only thing they could do was to convince those with the freedom to surrender it and join them in their slavery. Unlike Ishmael, they actually had the opportunity to exchange their slavery for freedom. All they had to do was accept the work that Jesus had done for them and stop trying to attain righteousness through their own works.
God put a separation between the two. He even allowed the temple to be removed to prevent those of the promise from trying to maintain the rituals of the law. He closed that door firmly. Even those desiring to live under the law could fulfill less of the requirements than ever before. And we know that if you are lacking/guilty of one portion you are guilty of it all. You might expect such an event to make those trying to adhere to the law to loose dome of that drive. Instead it seems to have driven a bigger wedge between the two. But maybe that is also part of God’s plan. I don’t know, only He does.
Thank You Father that jealousy doesn’t negate Your promise. I pray for those who are still clinging to the law in hopes of finding what You have so generously given to those who will only believe. Thank You that I don’t have to surrender my freedom to please someone else. Show me how to be a light to someone still in darkness. Help me also remove jealousy from my own life. Whenever I am tempted to be jealous of what someone else has, remind me that I already have the greatest gift possible; Your love and salvation.