What the Bible says about
(From Forerunner Commentary)
The vineyard is Israel, and "its hedge" is whatever protects it, anything from material resources to God's Word. What happens to a nation when it loses its defenses? It becomes subject to invasion, since the wall that protected it from marauders, wild beasts, and evil influences is now gone. The Bible depicts the Gentile nations as beasts that rush in when God's people look weak (Isaiah 30:6-7; Jeremiah 50:17).
Amos paints a stark and terrifying picture of life during the time of Jacob's trouble. On one side, natural disasters play havoc with the land and society becomes unstable. On the other side, foreign armies invade, destroying cities, killing indiscriminately and taking the survivors into captivity. Though the physical necessities of life are scarce, the real famine is of the Word of God—truth cannot be found and repentance is all but impossible.
It appears to be an utterly hopeless situation. God is passing through and His anger is just and terrible. But He promises an end—His anger will be spent, and He will spare a remnant. He "will show mercy on whom [He] will show mercy" (Exodus 33:19, KJV).
John W. Ritenbaugh
Prepare to Meet Your God! (The Book of Amos) (Part Two)
Applying this to the church, we have all witnessed the hedge being taken away, and the protection that God had placed around it is not what it once was. In addition, God withholds rain from it, and growth slows or stops altogether.
Many may not have had the opportunity to live on or near a farm, but a hedge, fence, or wall is very important in the protection of the crop. Once when I was out hunting near a cornfield, I noticed that the surrounding forest was covered with corn shucks. Now the field had a fence around it, but it was full of holes and broken down in some places. Varmints could come and go, freely taking the corn off into the cover of the forest to devour it. Since the hedge was broken, the field had no protection from the dangers that were lurking all around!
Ronny H. Graham
The Dew of Heaven
Do we have a wall to keep the enemies of God's way out of our lives and homes? Have we set boundaries against the world, or have we torn down the wall? If we have a wall, are we leaving the gates open and unguarded? Are we willing to fight to defend our families and our church? Or do we just let the enemy stream in unchallenged? Are we willing to stand up to the world?
This particular wall is not one of brick and stone, but a spiritual wall anchored by God, designed to keep spiritual problems out. I Timothy 5:8 says that if we fail to provide for the needs of our loved ones—both physically and spiritually—we are worse than an unbeliever! Have we done anything to protect our families—or has worldliness hurdled our puny walls, totally pervading every aspect of our lives?
Satan hates walls. "Let's all be one happy family," he whispers in our ears. "Walls are for the immature. You're spiritually mature now, so you can handle immorality without a problem." Do not fall for this line.
God Himself teaches us through His example to erect impregnable bulwarks against Satan. He placed cherubim with flaming swords at the entrance to the Garden of Eden to guard the way to the tree of life (Genesis 3:24), and even New Jerusalem will have towering walls and gates (Revelation 21:12, 14). In type, the church is to be a wall (Song of Songs 8:10), within which peace dwells and righteousness flourishes.
God supplies this spiritual wall to those who seek His Way, His providence, and His will. The work of rebuilding our personal wall is the effort we put into seeking a strong relationship with Him, and He then provides the defenses for us. God becomes our wall.
God puts a wall around His people to keep Satan at bay, as in the example of Job. Satan complains, "Have You not made a hedge [wall] around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side?" (Job 1:10). Only after God removed the wall could Satan attack Job—and he wasted no time doing so! Surely, we see the lesson in this.
If we reject God, break down the wall or neglect our relationship with Him, what happens? "[W]hoever breaks through a wall will be bitten by a serpent" (Ecclesiastes 10:8). The Bible depicts Satan as a serpent. Many of our brethren have allowed their walls to crumble, and Satan has struck.
Sometimes God Himself tears down our walls because of our sins (Isaiah 5:4-5). As Paul puts it, He delivers us to Satan for the destruction of our flesh in the hope we will repent (I Corinthians 5:5). The surest way to restore the wall is through sincere and complete repentance. Playing at the repair job, daubing bits of untempered mortar here and there, will only increase God's wrath (Ezekiel 13:8-16). Such a wall, lacking God, gives the impression of security but crumbles at the smallest enemy strike. We must be totally committed to restoring our neglected relationship with God, thus restoring God's presence as the wall.
Rebuilding the Wall
At this point in his epistle, it occurs to Paul that it would only be normal for someone to ask the question, "What, then, was the purpose of the Old Covenant?" Thus, verse 19 begins with, "What purpose then does the law serve?" This broad question covers many more specific ones: Why was it needed? Why did God call Israel out of Egypt? Why did God write His Ten Commandments on tables of stone with His own finger? Why did God have Moses write the statutes and judgments in a book? Why did God establish the Levitical priesthood, the Tabernacle/Temple worship, the washings, oblations, and the sacrifices? What was the purpose of all the rules and regulations of the Old Covenant? Such questions would naturally come to the mind of anyone reading Paul's letter since he emphasizes that our salvation through Christ fulfills the promise made to Abraham. What need is there for another covenant?
The answer he gives is a key to understanding much of everything else he says in Galatians: "It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made." "It was added" means that the Mosaic covenant was in addition to the one God had made with Abraham. But what "transgressions"? Abraham obeyed all of God's laws, commandments, statutes, and ordinances (Genesis 26:5). He taught God's laws to Isaac, who taught them to Jacob. However, after Israel was in Egypt for many years, they forgot them and lived in ignorant transgression of them. Having absorbed so much Egyptian culture in their sojourn, they were even ignorant of the Sabbath day. Paul explains that God "added" the Old Covenant because Israel had gone so far into sin when they lived in Egypt.
Therefore, God had to call Israel out of Egypt and teach them His laws all over again to prepare them for the coming of Christ. He wrote the Ten Commandments on tablets of stone, and Moses wrote the statutes and judgments in a book so that Israel would have a permanent record of His laws and statutes throughout the centuries. God gave them rituals of worship that made them different from other nations, and He forbade them to have anything to do with foreign, pagan customs. Circumcision identified them as a separate and distinct people. These rules and regulations put a hedge around Israel (Isaiah 5:5; Matthew 21:33) to preserve them pure for the coming of Christ.
Just prior to the scripture Paul quotes in Galatians 3:12, God says in Leviticus 18:3,
According to the doings of the land of Egypt, where you dwelt, you shall not do; and according to the doings of the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you, you shall not do; nor shall you walk in their ordinances.
For years, people have wondered how anyone could have transgressed the laws before they were given. Simply put, Paul is talking about the laws of God which have been in full force since creation! When he writes that the Old Covenant was added "till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made," he means that the Old Covenant was temporary; Christ would replace it with the New Covenant. Rather than saying that any of God's laws had become obsolete, he is explaining how important it was to preserve the knowledge of God's laws in Israel to prepare them for the coming of Christ!
Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
What Was the Law 'Added Because of Transgressions'?
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