I pray your faith has been strengthened as we have discovered God’s faithfulness to Israel! Yet, in this final week of preparation before our tour, it is time to go a step further. Scripture has assured us of God’s unwavering faithfulness to the land and descendants He promised to Abraham. Furthermore, Israel is our insurance policy, guaranteeing His faithfulness to us. If that were not so, we would have no hope!
So, what do we do with the hope we have, particularly as we visit the land of Israel? That is the question we will answer in this conclusion, only days before stepping foot in the land of Israel.
We begin with an important reminder of God’s unique calling upon Abraham and his descendants, found in the last phrase of Genesis 12: 3: …and in you [Abraham] all the families of the earth shall be blessed. God’s intent is for the Jewish people to be purveyors of God’s blessings. The apostle Paul clearly articulated what God’s spiritual blessing is to us all:
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him. (Ephesians 1: 3-4)
Paul went on to state in Ephesians 2:1 that all of us were dead in trespasses and sin. We were in desperate need, but God had a solution from before creation. He gave that solution…salvation… first to the Jews (John 4:22), then extended it to us. But how remiss we are if we do not consider the profound blessings gained through Abraham and his descendants.
We owe a debt that cannot be tangibly paid, but God graciously gave us a Biblical blueprint for Jewish-Christian relations. That blueprint is found in Romans 9-11 and my prayer is that we will consider these principles, and apply them when appropriate, as we engage the people of Israel.
Conclusion, Lesson 1: Israel’s Rejection of Christ and the Gospel
We must build on the foundation we have laid. That is, that God intends all the families of the earth (Jew and Gentile) to be blessed through Abraham and his descendants. Yet, in large part, the Jews have rejected Jesus and the saving Gospel He came to give. Throughout history, many have gotten hung up on laws and rituals. Others turned to idol worship and paganism. Today, over 70% of Jews are secular, and Tel Aviv is one of the most liberal and idolatrous cities on earth.
Let’s learn a lesson from Paul, who was also known as Saul. Saul was an enemy of Jesus and early Christians. Before his encounter on the Damascus Road how does Acts 9:1-2 describe him? Acts 9 goes on to describe Saul’s dramatic “come to Jesus” moment, after which he began preaching the Gospel.
“Saul” was actually his Hebrew name, but once God sent him out as “the apostle to the Gentiles (Romans 11:13), he used his Roman name, “Paul.” It is he who wrote the book of Romans (and much more of the New Testament). Here is his pedigree: … circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. (Philippians 3:5-6)
Paul was Jewish through and through. So, though he was sent as an apostle to the Gentiles, he had a fierce love of his people that is very apparent in the first few verses of Romans 9. According to verses 1-3, how deeply committed was Paul to his Jewish countrymen?
It is with that passion Paul writes Romans 9-11. He yearns for their souls and longs for his kinsmen to know the grace and salvation of Christ, which he found in that encounter with God on his way to Damascus. Paul’s passion never wanes in these chapters.
In Romans 9:4-5, Paul reminds us of all God entrusted to the Jewish people. Amazingly, as “grafted in” believers, we reap the benefits of all of those! But now, pay close attention to verses 6-8. In essence, Paul is repeating what we learned in Galatians 3, that Abraham’s descendants are not necessarily those born of Abraham. Salvation is not about RACE, but about GRACE, and it must be by faith. We all come to salvation the same way.
That lack of faith, and therefore rejection of God, by his fellow Jews is what caused Paul such grief. It is important to know that Paul was also born in Tarsus, a Roman city, so he had dual citizenship. Now, here he was, making his case to the Romans regarding the Jews! He continues his reasoning throughout verses 14-21, then makes a powerful proclamation in verses 22-24. What is his last statement, and what point is Paul making?
Yes, the riches of God’s glory were available to all…Jews and Gentiles! In verses 25-26, Paul uses Old Testament Scripture (Hosea 1:10, 2:23) written for Jews, to speak to both Jews and Gentiles! He follows it up with Jewish messages from Isaiah to encourage his countrymen. If it seems scattered, perhaps it is because Paul is making a point that, in Christ, there is no distinction between Jew and Gentile! After all, he states that clearly in Romans 10:12!
Paul adds an exclamation point in the final 4 verses of Romans 9. There, he draws a contrast between Gentiles who do not pursue righteousness but obtain it by faith, and Israel who pursues the law of righteousness but attains it not. Grace is the message here, and it is through the lens of God’s grace in which we must view and understand our Jewish friends!
Whereas Romans 9 is a treatise on Israel’s rejection of Jesus Christ and His righteousness, Romans 10 describes Israel’s rejection of the Gospel itself. Jesus is a stumbling stone and an offense to the Jewish people. But Paul pleads for them to be saved! In the early verses of Romans 10, Paul warned against seeking one’s own righteousness, as the Jews do through the law of Moses, and he gets to the point of salvation in verses 8-13.
- How “near” is salvation to the Jews? (verse 8) Do you think that stirred Paul’s yearning?
- What is the Gospel message Paul wanted the Jewish people to know? (verses 9-11)
- Based on verses 12-13, do you think Paul yearned only for Jews?
Pause here to make some application. Knowing that salvation was “to the Jew first” (Romans 1:16), and that God’s plan of redemption was made possible through the Jewish people, what should be our response?
As the Lord brought blindness to Saul, blindness has come upon the Jewish people. In an amazing act of grace, God shone light from heaven around Saul, his eyes were opened to see the Lord, and Paul went on to become an evangelist to the Gentiles and the New Testament’s primary author. Consider these words penned by Paul:
14 But their minds were blinded. For until this day the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament, because the veil is taken away in Christ. 15 But even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart. 16 Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. 18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. (2 Corinthians 3:14-18)
3 But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, 4 whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them. 5 For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 4: 3-6)
In Paul’s yearning for the Light to shine upon His Jewish brothers and sisters, he exhorted the entire world (Jew and Gentile) to behold the glory of the Lord and be transformed into His image.
Tomorrow we will highlight some Biblical application. But today, please take some time to pray for our Jewish friends whose eyes are blinded by the veil. May they see the light of heaven, as Saul did, and recognize Jesus the Messiah.