Paul’s Heart for His People

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Welcome back, study partners!  This week’s study focuses on the Jewish roots of our Christian faith, and we established a foundation out of Ephesians 1-3 yesterday, indicating that we had a need, God had a plan and the Jewish people were given a solution that they shared with us Gentiles!  Praise God for that!

But is God done with the Jewish people?  Absolutely not!  In fact, as we pick up our study today in Romans 9, we find the Jewish apostle to the Gentiles (Paul) lamenting over his people.  In “great sorrow and unceasing grief,” he longs for the salvation of the Jewish people, stating even that he could wish himself accursed for their sake.  (Keep in mind that he just finished chapter 8, where he declared that NOTHING could separate us from the love of Christ.  So he knows he can’t lose his salvation.  He uses that as an expression of the depth of his yearning for his countrymen.)

In verses 4-5, Paul reminds us of those things which belong to the Jews.  (We studied that last week.)  Then, he makes a very important declaration. Don’t speed through these verses, but slowly and intently read verses 6-8:

But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel;  nor are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants, but: “through Isaac your descendants will be named.”  That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants.

What is Paul saying?  It is not those BORN of Abraham who are Abraham’s descendants (children of God), but those of the promise.  Let’s simplify that with cross references to Galatians 3:6-9, 29:

Even so Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness. Thereforebe sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham.  The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “All the nations will be blessed in you.  So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer. …And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.  [Emphasis mine]

My friends, three times in that great passage we are told it is GRACE, not RACE, that saves!  In fact, Paul goes on to say in Romans 9:25-26:

“I will call those who were not My people, ‘My people,’
And her who was not beloved, ‘beloved.’”
And it shall be that in the place where it was said to them, ‘you are not My people,’
There they shall be called sons of the living God.”

God calls whomever He wants into His Kingdom, and He uses whomever He wants to accomplish His purposes!  He has a plan for both Jews and Gentiles.  Neither is left out!  But, regardless of ethnicity, righteousness comes through faith alone.  (Verses 30-33).  While the Jewish people stumbled over the stumbling stone (Christ) by trying to do the works of the law, Gentiles attained righteousness through faith.

But rest assured…God is not yet done with the Jewish people, and we Gentiles dare not become arrogant!  We’ll find out why over the next few days.

Israel matters because God’s plan for the Jews benefits Gentiles, and God’s plan for the Gentiles benefits Jews.  Paul yearns for his people, while instructing us Gentiles.  We must not stray from God’s plans for one another!

Stay tuned…it gets better and better!  See you tomorrow!

The Priestly Call

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Ok, let’s wrap it up today!  This week we have studied God’s love story.  We know God called Abraham, a pagan Gentile, to become the father of the Jews…and the Gentiles!  (See previous posts if that is confusing to you!)  God’s call upon Abraham was a 3-fold call:

  • Birthing call
  • Suffering call
  • Priestly call

Today, we examine the priestly call.

Turn to Genesis 22:1-13.  You will recognize the passage as that of Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice Isaac.  God asked Abraham to take his son, Isaac, to Mt Moriah for the sacrifice.

As a side note, Solomon built the Temple on Mt Moriah, and it is located beneath today’s Temple Mount!  The sacrifice would be made where animal sacrifices would be made in later years!

As Abraham took Isaac up the mountain, he told his servants to remain down below, as he and Isaac were going up to worship and would return!  Abraham knew, even if God required the sacrifice of Isaac, that He would bring him back to life!  (Hebrews 11:19)

So, Abraham was obedient to God by building the altar, putting wood on it, laying Isaac upon it and raising his knife to slay him.  At that point, God stopped him, provided a lamb for the sacrifice and spared Isaac’s life.

But here again, I wonder what Abraham saw that day.   Did God pull back the curtain one more time and show Abraham the future?  Could it be that, though Abraham saw Isaac physically, he saw Jesus the Messiah spiritually?  Did he get a glimpse of Calvary’s hill, only a short distance away?  Was the wood of the sacrifice on Isaac’s back reflective of the wooden cross upon Jesus’ back?  When he saw the ram’s horns caught in a thorny thicket, did he see the crown of thorns upon the Sacrificial Lamb (Jesus)?

Again, I’m not sure what Abraham saw.  But Jesus Himself made a curious statement in John 8:56, indicating that Abraham saw something!

Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.

Abraham saw a day which made him glad.  Did he see the day in which God provided the “once and for all” sacrifice?  Or perhaps he saw the resurrected Jesus.  Scripture doesn’t tell us for certain what “My day” is, though Jesus said it, so it had to have been a key day of Messianic significance.

Abraham answered a priestly call by obediently offering up Isaac.  In each call, a portion of God’s plan was revealed.  Ultimately, the Sacrifice, our Lord Jesus Christ, was made.  Thus, flinging wide open the door to salvation.  Israel is the vehicle of world redemption, though they failed to recognize the Messiah.

But God is not done with them yet!

More on that later.  But next week we’re diving into the Jewish roots of Christianity.  Now that the door has flung open, what foundation was laid, and how does that impact us as believers in Jesus the Messiah?  We’ll pick that up next week, so stick with us!

 

The Suffering Call

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Pull up a chair, open your Bible to Genesis 15 and settle in!  Today, we’re looking at the second of the 3-fold call of God upon Abraham.  Yesterday, God’s birthing call was revealed, and today we’ll find “golden nuggets” as we study God’s Word!

In Genesis 15:7-12, we find the account of Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son, Isaac, in obedience to God.  Take a moment to read the passage.

God made an odd request of Abraham to bring specific animals, cut them in half and lay them out a certain way.  But focus on verses 11-12:

The birds of prey came down upon the carcasses, and Abram drove them away.  Now when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and behold, terror and great darkness fell upon him.

Those birds of prey were likely gigantic vultures (common to the area in that day), capable of attacking bears and lions.  They were vicious!  Abraham didn’t just shoo them away…he likely fought for his life.

But what followed was even more dramatic.  Terror and great darkness fell upon him.  It was a great horror!  What in the world happened?

We don’t know for sure, but let’s use a bit of sanctified imagination!  Could it be that God pulled back the curtain and gave Abraham a glimpse of what was in store for his people?  Is it possible Abraham saw the suffering the Jewish people would face?  Did he see:

  • The Babylonian exile?
  • The Roman destruction of Jerusalem?
  • The crusades?
  • The Spanish Inquisition?
  • The Holocaust?
  • The terrorist attacks?

Those birds of prey seem to be representative of demonic forces.  The fallen world hates God and everything He represents, and they know they are ultimately shackled by God and cannot win.  The powers of darkness, such as the constant rocket attackes and fire kites from the Gaza Strip, are attempts to thwart God’s plan.

God’s call was a birthing call and also a suffering call. We continue to see evil perpetrated against Israel.  I just wonder…did Abraham see the darkness that Israel would endure?

Tomorrow we close out the week’s study by looking at the third of the 3-fold call upon Abraham.  It is a priestly call…and we’ll find more “golden nuggets.”  Join us again at the virtual study table tomorrow.  We’ll keep your seat warm!

Muslim Woman Comes to Faith in the Jewish Messiah

The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob loves the descendants of Ishmael and draws them to Himself.  Furthermore, those descendants of Ishmael were created with the same internal yearning to know God that we all have…it’s just that they think His name is Allah!  (See In Search of the One True God)

For some, their yearning leads them to the Jewish Messiah!  Here is one such testimony:

 

Dear Christian friends, as you celebrate your own salvation today, why not pray for Muslims to find what they are yearning for: the One True God!