Gentiles and Jews to become God's Holy People
You are reading my open letter to Rome, part: [[]
Most Jews have missed Messiah, sadly. Does that mean God is done with Israel and the Jews? Of course not. Don't forget that I, Paul, am a Jew myself! I'm a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. It's nothing I'm ashamed of. All those promises to Israel, all the prophecies by the prophets in the Tenakh (Old Testament), even the Torah (Law)--none of that is thrown away! God is by no means done with Israel. So if you think Jesus came to throw away these things, you're badly mistaken!
Remember the old story about how Elijah was crying out to God, praying to God about this same Israel:
God, they murdered your prophets,
They trashed your altars;
Now they're after me, the only one left!
God replied to Elijah,
I still have 7000 who haven't quit,
7000 who are loyal to the finish.
That's how it is today, my friends. There's still a zealous few, a group of unbudging hold-outs for God. They're holding out not because of some doom held over their heads, but because of this unique gift of forgiveness even when you don't deserve it--sheer grace.
It's the same today. There's a fiercely loyal minority still--not many, perhaps, but probably more than you think. They're holding on, not because of what they think they're going to get out of it, but because they're convinced of God's grace and purpose in choosing them. If they were only thinking of their own immediate self-interest, they would have left long ago.
And then what happened? Well, when Israel tried its own ways and went into rebellion. Only the elect remained! Only the remnant kept God close. The rest hardened their hearts, as it's written in Isaiah,
Fed up with their quarrelsome, self-centered ways,
God blinded their eyes and dulled their ears,
Shut them in on themselves, confusing them,
and they're there to this day.
And David was saying the same thing, even back then:
Let the table they eat on trap them,
a retribution the makes them trip up and fall.
Let their eyes be darkened so they can't see,
let their backs be eternally bent.
Gentile believers are not the root
The next question is, "Are Israel and the Jews out of God's plans for good?" And the answer is a clear-cut no. Ironically when they walked out, they left the door open and you outsider gentiles walked in. But the next thing you know, Jews were starting to wonder if perhaps they had walked out on a good thing, this Messiah. Now, if Israel rejecting Messiah triggered this worldwide coming of gentile outsiders to God's kingdom, making non-Israelites serve the God of Israel, just imagine the effect of their coming back! What a homecoming that will be!
But I don't want to go on about Jews, after all, I'm writing this letter to you gentiles in Rome. It's you, the gentiles, that I'm concerned with right now. Because my personal assignment is focused on non-Jews, I make as much of this as I can when I'm among my Jewish kin, hoping they'll realize what they're missing and want to get in on what God is doing. If their falling out initiated this worldwide coming together, their recovery is going to set off something even better: mass homecoming! If this thing Jews did by rejecting Messiah, even though it was wrong for them, turned out for your good, just think what's going to happen when they get it right and see Messiah!
In essence, what happened was that many Jews, being the natural branches as descendants of Jacob, were broken off the tree so that you gentiles could be grafted-in as a wild olive shoot to this Israel-Promises Tree, a sheer gift of God to you. Now that you've seen it in this context, be sure you don't boast over Jews because you have Messiah and they don't. Don't think you're special just because God grafted you in: remember, this grace given by grafting you into the Israel Tree was not done by human hands -- not by your own doing! -- but was and is God-enacted.
Read this carefully and understand: it is not you gentile believers in Messiah who are the root of the tree, after all, you're in-grafted olive shoots; branches do not support a tree. It is the root -- which is God, and the promises given to Abraham and passed down to Israel -- which supports the branches, Jew and gentile alike.
So don't be arrogant and self-righteous! Some natural branches fell for that, and look what happened: they were so focused on their own interests, they lost faith and missed Messiah right in front of them! If God didn't hesitate to prune those faithless natural branches, he certainly wouldn't hesitate to do the same to you grafted-in branches. If there's only one thing in this letter you understand, make sure it is this: that you remain humble with your grafted-in status, mindful of the root, which is God and the promises to Abraham, passed down to Israel.
A Complete Israel
I want to lay all this out on the table as clearly as I can, friends. This is complicated. It would be easy to misinterpret what's going on and arrogantly assume that you gentile believers in Messiah are royalty and the Jews are just rabble, out of God's plans for good. But that's not it at all. This hardness on the part of insider Israel toward God is only temporary. Its effect is to open things up to all the gentiles so that we end up with a full house. Before it's all over, there will be a complete Israel, Jews and gentiles together making up a holy people for God. As it is written,
A champion will stride down from Mt. Zion;
he'll clean up the unrighteousness in Israel.
Here's my commitment to my people Israel:
removal of their sins.
From your point of view as you hear and embrace the good news of the Messiah and suffer through persecution, it almost looks like Jews are God's enemies. But looked at from the long-range perspective of God's overall purpose, they remain God's oldest friends. God's gifts and God's call are under full warranty--never canceled, never rescinded.
There was a time not so long ago when you were on the outs with God: living rebelliously, doing whatever felt good, living for yourself. But then Jews slammed the door on Messiah and things opened up for you. Now Jews are on the outs. But with the door held wide open for you, they have a way back in. In one way or another, God makes sure that we all experience what it means to be outside so that he can personally open the door and welcome us back in. That's what's going to happen with Israel -- they are temporarily in rebellion to God by rejection of the Messiah, but God will use this as an opportunity to show kindness and welcome them back in.
What amazing wisdom! Giving discipline to those who rebel and generous grace to those who are lost, making us all come back to Him, one way or another.
Is there anyone around who can explain God?
Anyone smart enough to tell him what to do?
Anyone who has done him such a huge favor
that God has to ask his advice?
Everything comes from him;
Everything happens through him;
Everything ends up in him.
Always glory! Always praise!