Romans 9:1-5 I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit— 2 that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh. 4 They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. 5 To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.
In the very beginning of this letter to the Romans Paul spoke about the advantages enjoyed by the Jewish nation. Romans 3:1-2 Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision? 2 Much in every way. To begin with, the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God.
What belongs to Israel? This is the question that we come back to today. A question that can only be answered by looking at the advantages granted to the Jews. I include Paul’s statement in Romans 3:9. Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin”.
Before we go forward we need to include the first three advantages attributed to the Jewish nation. Throughout history, God has had people who worship him. During the second generation of mankind, before there was a Bible or any organized religion, men and women called on God (Genesis 4:25-26).
The very first thing that Noah did, as his family left the ark following the flood, was to build an altar and worship God (Genesis 8:20). All of these are examples of individuals who worshiped God.
With Abram God chose to establish a people who would follow him. He adopted them and describes the process in an allegory found in Ezekiel 16:2-5. “Son of man, make known to Jerusalem her abominations, 3 and say, Thus says the Lord God to Jerusalem: Your origin and your birth are of the land of the Canaanites; your father was an Amorite and your mother a Hittite. 4 And as for your birth, on the day you were born your cord was not cut, nor were you washed with water to cleanse you, nor rubbed with salt, nor wrapped in swaddling cloths. 5 No eye pitied you, to do any of these things to you out of compassion for you, but you were cast out on the open field, for you were abhorred, on the day that you were born.” A part of that adoption process was bringing the descendants of Abraham into Egypt for a 400-year education. In the process of leading them out of Egypt, he introduced them to his Glory. First, there was the cloud by day that became a pillar of fire at night. Second, the mountain where the law was given was covered by thick cloud with thunder and lightning. Then there was the dedication of the tabernacle. Exodus 40:34-35 tells us the story of the glory of God filling the tent – tabernacle in the wilderness. Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. 35 And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.
No nation had ever had that kind of manifestation of God. Moses described it this way: For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the Lord our God is to us, whenever we call upon him? 8 And what great nation is there, that has statutes and rules so righteous as all this law that I set before you today? Deuteronomy 4:7-8. To the Jews belonged the adoption and the glory. Consequently, beginning with Abraham God established a covenant relationship with Israel. That relationship was first described in Genesis 12:1-3 Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” This covenant relationship was repeated to Abram three times — found in Genesis 12; Genesis 15 and Genesis 17. God reaffirmed the covenant with each generation following Abraham. When God called Moses to leave Mount Sinai and take the nation of Israel towards the land of promise God told him that it was the land he had promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. A part of the process of establishing the covenant included the giving of the Law. God gave a spoken law even before the Ten Commandments were given to Moses on Mount Sinai.
A part of God’s promise to Isaac, Abraham’s son, included these words, “And in your offspring all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, 5 because Abraham obeyed my voice and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.” Genesis 26:4b-5. Abraham did not have, so far as we know, a written law. So we are told that he obeyed God’s voice. In the process, he followed the law that would later be given to Moses in written form. The stone tablets that contained the Ten Commandments were written by the hand of God himself. So that, with Moses, the adoption, the glory, and the covenants were strengthened by the written law. These advantages over other nations made them able to worship God.
Jesus, in his conversation with the woman at the well, spoke of the worship of Israel. That conversation can be found in John 4 let’s look at verses 19-24. The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
We do not know her name, John simply refers to her as “a woman from Samaria” she came in the middle of the day to draw water. We believe that the normal pattern would have been women gathering at the well at the beginning of the day. That was a custom that was continued right down to modern times.
When the Israeli army solidified its control on the area around Nazareth they began the process of modernizing. Part of that included piping water to each of the houses so that the women no longer had to go to a central location for their daily supply of water. Rather than being a blessing, the women of the district considered it to be very disturbing. Their gossip chain was broken! They no longer gathered at the well!
The woman who met Jesus that day probably did not expect anyone to be there. We believe that she was an outcast. Jesus had opened his conversation with her by asking for a drink of water. She was amazed that he spoke to her much less asked her to give him a drink from her water pot. Jesus turned the conversation into an opportunity to witness to her. He told her that if she really knew who he was she would have asked him for living water. Immediately, she saw it as an opportunity to not have to come to the well anymore. Jesus then asked her to go call her husband. She confessed that she did not have a husband. Jesus then told her that he knew she had had five husbands and the man she was living with was not her husband.
She immediately tried to change the subject by discussing the right place to worship. In the same manner someone today, when confronted by spiritual truth, might say, “I am a Catholic” or, “I am a fill-in-the-blank” in order to turn the conversation away from a spiritual witness.
In Romans 9 Paul spoke of Israel as having an advantage in “the worship”. The Samaritan woman understood that was a problem. The Samaritans worshiped at a temple on the mountaintop near the well. That temple is still there! There are a few hundred Samaritans today in Israel. The Jews, of course, worshiped in Jerusalem.
Jesus pronounced both to be in need of change. He said that the hour had now come for worship to be directed at the Father in spirit and truth. He added the Father is seeking such people to worship him.
The Jews not only had the advantages of the adoption, the glory, the covenants and the law of God but they also have…
The Promises. Deuteronomy 26:18-19 And the Lord has declared today that you are a people for his treasured possession, as he has promised you, and that you are to keep all his commandments, 19 and that he will set you in praise and in fame and in honor high above all nations that he has made, and that you shall be a people holy to the Lord your God, as he promised.”
What promises can we expect to find? Too many to include all of them here. I quote:
“Speaking of Old Testament believers such as Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and Sarah, the author of Hebrews says, “These all died in faith not having received what was promised, but having seen it and greeted it from afar …” (Heb. 11:13). The same chapter goes on to say that Moses “considered abuse suffered for the Christ (or the Messiah) greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he looked to the reward” (Heb. 11:26). And Jesus can say of Abraham, “Your father Abraham rejoiced that he was to see my day; he saw it and was glad” (John 8:56). This again apparently refers to Abraham’s joy in looking forward to the day of the promised Messiah. Thus, even Old Testament believers had saving faith in Christ, to whom they looked forward, not with exact knowledge of the historical details of Christ’s life, but with great faith in the absolute reliability of God’s word of promise.” Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, P 117.
Paul wrote to the Galatians about the promises. We can benefit greatly from what he had to say. In Galatians 3:13-14, Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith. And also in Galatians 3:16-18 Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ. 17 This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void. 18 For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise.
The promises given to Abraham are passed on to every believer in Christ Jesus. Not by keeping the law but by faith in God’s word. Praise God, everyone is saved by the same process: by grace through faith and that not of ourselves it is God’s gift!
Moving back to where we started, we are reminded of Paul’s great love for his people. many of us know the same kind of painful love. We pray for them and, when given the opportunity, share the gospel. The least they need is a consistent witness growing out of our lifestyle. They need to be reminded that all have sinned and the wages of sin is death but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Our lost loved ones need to be encouraged towards faith. They need to know that God showed his love for us in Christ on the cross. They need to know that if they will confess with their mouth that Jesus is Lord believing in the heart that God raised him from the dead they will be saved! But it is essential that we bathe them in prayer! Do you know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior? If you sense God pulling you don’t resist it! Today could be your day of salvation.
All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton, Ill, Standard Bible Society.