Saturday, September 28, 2019

190915 Has God Rejected Israel?

Romans 11:1 I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! For I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin.
In this chapter Paul deals with the question, “Has God given up on Israel?” For Paul, this is a very special concern. Remember that he began chapter 9 with a statement of faith. That statement was that he would be willing to die and go to hell if it would somehow result in the salvation of the nation of Israel. Then in chapter 10, we find him expressing again his desire that Israel is saved. Now, he proclaims, as fact, God has not rejected his people. After all, Paul himself was an Israelite a descendant of Abraham.
When we study the Old Testament we see many of God’s people who are discouraged.…
Elijah, for example. Let’s read on Romans 11:2-4. God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he appeals to God against Israel? “Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life.” But what is God’s reply to him? “I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.”
God has not rejected his people. Let’s unpack the story of Elijah and see how discouragement can cause us to forget our mighty God.
When Ahab became king of Israel he married Jezebel the daughter of the King of Sidon. Of course, she was an idol worshiper. Ahab turned away from the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God sent Elijah to tell Ahab that it would not rain until he, Elijah, said so! Then Elijah went into hiding three and half years. At the end of that time Elijah called for a contest. Ahab gathered together 850 prophets of the pagan gods. They were instructed to set up an altar and place of sacrifice on it but put no fire on it. Elijah’s challenge was, “The God who answers by fire, he is God.”
The pagan prophets danced around their altar all day. They cut themselves with knives and cried out to their god. But there was no fire!
At the time there would normally be an evening sacrifice to the God of heaven Elijah erected an altar, had a trench dug around it, placed wood on top of it and a bull for sacrifice. Elijah had the people soak the altar and its sacrifice with water and filled the trench around it with water. Then he prayed, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word. 37 Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that these people may know that you, O Lord, are God and that you have turned their hearts back.” (1 Kings 18:36-37). God answered with fire that consumed the offering and the wood and the stones and the dust and the water. Immediately the people fell on their faces and proclaimed Yahweh is God!
Then in response to Elijah’s prayers, God sent rain and ended the drought. It would seem that God through Elijah had worked a great victory. Elijah should have been at the top of his game instead the Queen promised to have him killed. And Elijah ran! He had stood against 850 pagan priests but he ran at the threat of one woman! Elijah believed he was all alone so he went into the wilderness and asked God to kill him! No need to go anywhere Jezebel would’ve taken care of that task. When the angel of the Lord asking why he was running he replied that he was the only person left who followed Yahweh, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God’s reply was, “I have kept for myself 7000 men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” Elijah could not see them but they were there nonetheless. This is just one example, there are many more. In fact, we often feel rejected and all alone. There is always a remnant, chosen by grace through faith. Israel pursued the law and did not succeed in reaching that law. The reason they failed was they did not pursue by faith instead law became — not a rock to stand on — a stumbling stone that they tripped on. So only a remnant continues even to this day.
We must remember…
God did not fail! Israel failed. Let’s go back to Romans 11:5-7. So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace. What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened.
Paul could see that just as God had a remnant in Elijah’s day he also had a remnant in Paul’s day. This selection of a remnant was based on God’s grace. Since it is by grace and had nothing to do with works. If one can earn salvation by some kind of good works God’s grace would have no value. Remember the rich young man who came to Jesus? (Matthew 19:21-22) He asked what he must do to be saved. Jesus pointed him to the law and he said that he had kept the law says he was a child. At the same time, he did not believe he was all right with God. Jesus told him to sell everything and give it to the poor and follow him! He went away from Jesus that day because he had great possessions. Or his great possessions had him! Salvation cannot be earned it is the gift of God who Jesus Christ our Lord. Throughout the centuries…
Israel were repeat offenders. Let’s turn to Deuteronomy 29:4. But to this day the Lord has not given you a heart to understand or eyes to see or ears to hear.
These words are taken from Moses’ renewing the covenant with Israel before he died. They had seen the miracles of God in Egypt and they had been provided for in the wilderness for 40 years. Yet they didn’t get it. It would seem they should have known that God can take care of them because he had been doing so for their entire lifetime. Three or four hundred years later God spoke through Isaiah…
Isaiah 29:10 For the Lord has poured out upon you a spirit of deep sleep, and has closed your eyes (the prophets), and covered your heads (the seers).
His people had repeatedly heard, and seen, the power of God on their behalf. But, they refused to listen. God did not blind their eyes to his love and grace. They hardened their own hearts, like Pharaoh of old, and so God turned off their understanding. This should be a severe caution to anyone today who have heard the gospel and have refused to listen to it. If anyone hears the truth and does not respond to it the time will come when he or she will be incapable of responding. It is a terrifying thing to reject the living God. Refusing to hear God, Israel was self-condemned…
As a result, they stumbled. Again we look to Isaiah Isaiah 8:13-15. But the Lord of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. 14 And he will become a sanctuary and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling to both houses of Israel, a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 15 And many shall stumble on it. They shall fall and be broken; they shall be snared and taken.”
Here Isaiah is warned away from the people. God placed his hand — his strong hand — on Isaiah and warned him not to walk in the way of the people. Isaiah was instructed to honor God and let him be his fear. The people failed the test again and again! If we are not cautious we will also fail to meet the test. God became, not a rock to stand on but a stone to stumble over. In every generation, most of the people failed to follow God in faith. We must remember the God always has a faithful remnant who will follow him to the death. We recognize what Israel did not and that is…
God had a purpose they did not understand. Let’s go back to Romans 11:11-12. So I ask, did they stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather, through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. 12 Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean!
The people stumbled but not without God’s purpose. Please remember, nothing can come into our lives except God guide it. He had a purpose in the failure of Israel. Israel was not past the point of redemption. Their “trespass” refers to Israel’s rejection of Jesus as the Messiah.
Their trespass led to the salvation of the Gentiles. God’s purpose was to cause the Jews to be jealous and to seek God’s face. Their trespass meant spiritual riches to the world. There had always been a remnant of those who followed Abraham by faith. Even in the Old Testament, we find many examples of non-Jewish people who followed God. Melchizedek blessed Abraham because he was a priest of “God most high” (Genesis 14:18) who I take to be Yahweh. Moses was taken in by “the priest of Midian” (Exodus 2:16, 3:1). From these two examples I assume that there were many more. Today, I believe there are more believers in Christ Jesus than there appears to be on the surface.
Since the exclusion of the unbelieving Jews opened the door to Gentile inclusion in the kingdom of God it is possible we will fall into the trap of anti-Semitism. We are not included because we are worthy or have some kind of special ability. In fact, God intended that the gospel be proclaimed throughout the whole world so that everyone who believes can be saved. The failure of the Jews to believe in the Messiah is riches on the Gentiles. But the inclusion of the Jews will be rejoicing for us all. Those words in the ESV “full inclusion” or in the KJV “their fullness” does not mean they will all, historically, be saved. It seems to me there is a time in the future when all the Jews — or at least the vast majority — will be saved! I confess to you that I do not know everything I want to know about the end times.
I do know…
We Gentiles should not be proud. Let’s read on Romans 11:13-16. Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry 14 in order somehow to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them. 15 For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead? 16 If the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, so is the whole lump, and if the root is holy, so are the branches.
Israel’s rejection of Jesus ultimately leads to reconciliation between God the entire world. If the Jews rejection produces such a redemptive effect, their acceptance of Jesus to bring even greater blessings. The next time we are in Romans chapter 11 we will look more seriously at the inclusion of the Gentiles in the restoration of the Jews. In the meantime…
There are repeated promises, throughout the Old Testament, that Israel will come back to God. The descendants of Abraham through the lineage of Isaac and Jacob will come to faith in Christ. There has never been a time when there were not Jewish believers. But that does not account for the promises of a restored nation of believing Israel. One of the satanic attacks is anti-Semitism! Satan is never stopped trying to destroy the Jews. By all human reasoning it would seem that these dispersed and despised people should have been destroyed! They have been held together by God until the fullness of the Gentiles occurs. The great multitude mentioned in Revelation will contain millions of Jews. I want to be there and I want a lot of my friends and family to be with me. Are you ready? Have you placed your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ? Remember, everyone who in faith calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton, Ill, Standard Bible Society.

190908 Standing on the Rock

 Romans 9:30-33 What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; 31 but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. 32 Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, 33 as it is written, “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

God has not failed — he has fulfilled his purpose. It is all by faith. Romans chapter 9 concludes with an illustration of man’s responsibility. We are unable to work our way to salvation. Neither can we hold back letting God do all the work. Instead, we are to stand on the rock and not stumble over it. We must believe in the Lord Jesus in order to be saved (Acts 16:31) because, “to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12). Now let’s move on into Romans 10.
One of the concerns that people have when they think about Election, or predestination, is this. If God knows already what is going to happen, and in fact his predetermined all things, then we have no need to witness to our unsaved family members. In fact, it is a waste of time to pray for them! Nothing could be further from the truth. Paul directly challenges those false ideas by…
Praying for lost family. Let’s read on Romans 10:1-4. Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
The Apostle makes a very strong case in favor of praying for our lost family members. He has a deep-seated concern for his family and he prayed that they might be saved. When we move into chapter 10 we are shown the other side of the coin, so to speak. Chapter 9 begins with Paul affirming that the lost condition of Israel gives him great sorrow and even mental and spiritual anguish. His pain was so deep that he would be willing to give up his own place in heaven if it could result in their salvation. On the surface it would seem that God had failed with regard to his people. Nothing could be farther from the truth. God has not failed! Israel has failed! They pursued salvation by trying to earn it. God rejected Israel because Israel rejects the gospel. If a person is without Christ it is not because they are not elected but because they are rejecting Christ. At least five times in this chapter the responsibility of Israel is emphasized. Salvation is not based on works…
Salvation is based on faith. Romans 10:5-10 For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them. But the righteousness based on faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ ” (that is, to bring Christ down) “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’ ” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.
Moses writes about righteousness based on good works. An effort that brings Christ down from heaven or up from the abyss. Instead, Paul tells us, all of their efforts failed because it was not established by faith. People fail to find Christ because their efforts do not fit into their religious self-righteousness. The truth is just too simple! The gospel is filled with mystery and simplicity. First, it calls on us to believe that Jesus is Lord. Second, we are called on to have a heart belief that God raised Jesus from the dead!
The only righteousness that can change our relationship to God from lost to saved is by the gift of grace through faith. We must recognize that…
The Law serves a purpose. Romans 10:11-13 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Paul has already shown that there is no difference between Jews and Greeks. There is one Lord and one Lord alone. The writer of Hebrews takes the same approach. Let’s turn to Hebrews 4:1-2. Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it. For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened.
Israel, as a people, had everything they needed to obtain salvation. The problem is all that they had in the law was not connected by faith. They heard the good word but it failed to connect because of a lack of faith on their part. The law served the purpose of bringing people to Christ for salvation. Instead, it became a burden that they could not bear. The law was instituted to point out the failure of mankind. It was designed by God to prepare for the Messiah. Or, it was a schoolmaster pointing to faith.
If we believe that salvation is by grace through faith we need to be sure that our friends and family members have enough biblical information to make a decision. Instead, most Christians are guilty of…
The sin of silence. Let’s read on Romans 10:14-15 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”
We say that everyone must openly confess Jesus as Lord and sincerely believe that God raised him from the dead. We have already read that “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How will the unsaved know that they must do this? How are they going to hear? Our silence is a sin! We should often pray for direction in how to present the truth to our unsaved family and friends.
Paul’s heartfelt concern for his people has been shown at the very beginning of the letter to the Romans.
Have they heard the gospel? Let’s go back to Romans 1:18-20. For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.
What can be known about God is known. It’s important that they hear the gospel. At the same time, the creation around them calls them toward belief. The wrath of God is revealed against mankind because we have all turned aside from what is very obvious. God’s power revealed in the creation calls us to him. But the idea of God’s wrath is offensive to self-righteous religionists. God’s wrath is directed against ungodliness. God’s wrath is directed against human unrighteousness. God’s wrath is especially directed against the suppression of the truth! God has revealed himself in the creation surrounding us. God has revealed himself in Jesus Christ who John described as the Word as well as in his written word — the Bible
Romans 10:16-18 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. 18 But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have, for “Their voice has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world.”
Not everyone who hears the gospel will choose to respond in obedience. Isaiah saw this in his time causing him to ask the question “who has believed? ” Responding in faith requires hearing and hearing requires a messenger. Though mankind may deny they have heard the gospel the truth is it has gone out over the whole earth.
Paul quotes Psalm 19 which tells us that the heavens declare the glory of God! And that declaration goes out over the whole earth. The evidence in favor of God’s existence is not held back from anyone who will respond. Throughout the Bible God’s existence is rightly assumed.
We have already seen that those who preach the good news have beautiful feet! Indeed the very act of…
Carrying the gospel is beautiful. Let’s read on Romans 10:19-21. But I ask, did Israel not understand? First Moses says, “I will make you jealous of those who are not a nation; with a foolish nation I will make you angry.” 20 Then Isaiah is so bold as to say, “I have been found by those who did not seek me; I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me.” 21 But of Israel he says, “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people.”
Now Paul points us to the words of Moses. Even though Israel rejected the gospel message God turns their disobedience into a blessing for the Gentiles. God uses that rejection as a stimulus to Israel. There is a paradox in Christianity. Gentiles did not seek God but yet they found him. The Jews — God’s chosen people — rejected him. Israel’s repeated resistance to God’s will raises the question of their future. We will approach that subject next week.
It is important to see that Israel has had adequate opportunity to respond to the gospel. There is no lack of Old Testament support to the message of salvation. Israel has simply failed to stand on the Rock instead they stumble over it. Everything necessary to hearing the gospel has been put in place by God. Israel did not correctly understand the purpose of the Messiah coming. They still looked for a conqueror leading an army to destroy the Romans. They just did not grasp the idea of a Suffering Servant who would die for their sins — and ours. What have you done about it? Have you really trusted Jesus? Have you believed him? Are you resting in him?

All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton, Ill, Standard Bible Society.