Do you remember waiting for a major event in your life to take place? When I was young, a birthday, Christmas, or family vacation was something that I looked forward to. As a college graduate, my wedding was a significant date that I anticipated with much excitement, and these days, major events with my family can be exciting to anticipate. (Having said that, it seems like I have a lot more things to get ready for events these days, so there’s less waiting and more work to be done as the big day approaches.) In the future, retirement is looking pretty attractive, even if it’s still a ways off.
Consider a child who is set to inherit an estate (or maybe a trust, in today’s world), but is still too young to do so when his parents pass away. Now, I realize that Josiah became king at the age of 8 (2 Kings 22:1), but in most cases, someone a little older and more responsible takes care of the child and oversees the estate until the heir is old enough to do so. The child can’t go and spend all of the money or just run the estate in the ground, so the heir – despite being poised to inherit something pretty lucrative – doesn’t actually have a lot of rights until he or she gets old enough.
For instance, if you know the fictional story of Batman from the comics (and the movies), you know that his parents were well off, but they were killed when Bruce Wayne was young. So, he has Alfred to take care of him – managing the Wayne estate and training young Bruce – until the boy was old enough to take over (and become the famed caped crusader).
In ancient times (like when the Israelites were freed from Egypt), we would probably be talking about the oldest son being the heir, and the estate belonging to the father, but if you’re neither of those, don’t worry: today’s topic of inheriting something amazing also applies to women and those who aren’t the firstborn of their parents, as Galatians 3:26-29 affirms.
Let’s take a look at the first three verses of Galatians 4:
What I am saying is that as long as an heir is underage, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate. The heir is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. So also, when we were underage, we were in slavery under the elemental spiritual forces of the world.
Galatians 4:1-3 NIV
This was a metaphor that the first-century hearers of this would have understood. There was both a time when the law (such as the Law of Moses, for the Jewish people of the first century) was in force, and then (now!) a time when faith superseded that arrangement.
Just like a child would take over an estate at a given time, God had pre-determined a timeline as well. I don’t claim to have God’s omniscience or anything close to His level of wisdom, but I wonder if, before Jesus came, God knew – in His perfect timing – that the Jewish people weren’t yet ready to accept salvation through faith? Regardless, there would have been many who had faith before then (including Abraham), but for whatever reason, God knew that it wasn’t yet “the set time” (see also Romans 5:6).
As described in verses 4-7, though, God did send His Son (Jesus) at the proper time. Can you imagine how exciting it would be for a child (one who has waited a long time to inherit something pretty valuable), when the anticipated day finally comes?
Hopefully, by the time this happens, the child’s guardian(s) have taught him or her to be responsible, and this won’t be some sort of spending spree (like the prodigal son), but there’s a point where a child has grown up and matured, and is ready to take on responsibility.
Like being handed the keys to the good car (or to a house), or being told that it’s time for a son or daughter to take over the family business, this is a day to remember and celebrate.
So, if you have become a part of God’s family, I hope that you will choose to celebrate life as a child of God, and avoid going back to the ways of trying to follow a bunch of rules in order to “earn” your salvation. Remember your adoption into God’s family, and celebrate it!
On the other hand, if you haven’t experienced the joy of becoming part of the family of God, the offer is open to you to accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior, turn your life over to Him, and enjoy the privileges and benefits of being an heir.
When our life is committed to our sinful choices, or even trying to get back into God’s grace through good works, we are binding ourselves to a system that makes decisions for us, and keeps us from enjoying all of the freedom of being heirs as children of God. It’s a lot better to just be a part of God’s family, rather than being under the slavery that either sin, or a fruitless law-based attempt at salvation, will lock us up under.
From Sunday School lesson prepared for August 15, 2021
- The Lookout, August 15, 2021 © 2021 Christian Standard Media.
- Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.