Sunday, April 19, 2015

How Israel is relevant to the Christian

Romans 11:25 For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery—so that you will not be wise in your own estimation—that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.

Why should Christians be concerned about Israel? The Apostle Paul uses his burden for his fellow Jews and the Jewish nation as a springboard for consideration of God's plans for Israel and their salvation. Such plans are interlaced with the project God has at this current moment of calling forth specific people from every nation on earth to respond to the Gospel. Unless we understand the destiny of Israel as being interconnected to one of the main reasons why people are hearing the Gospel today, we will miss out on how Great God is in saving both Jews and Gentiles. How is Israel relevant to the Christian? Consider the following thoughts from Romans 11:25-36...

1. God's Greatness is shown because of Israel. Romans 11:25-27
Israel's persistent refusal as a people group to bow the knee to Jesus Christ is being used by God in His Sovereign plan to give space for Gentiles to hear the Gospel, respond to the Spirit's calling and to result in the salvation of large numbers of people from every people group. The proportion of Jewish people believing on Jesus as their Messiah will be relatively few, and that is in ways we cannot comprehend, part of God's design. The fault of any person, Jew or Gentile, for not believing, lies of course with that person. With that said, God's main focus in this current age is the salvation of many people from all nations. As only God can do, the temporary setting aside of Israel in this current age of grace, and the salvation of many Gentiles, will be used by God to make Israel jealous and prepared to look to Jesus as Savior and Lord at His second coming. Consider Romans 11:26-27 "and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written,
“The Deliverer will come from Zion,
He will remove ungodliness from Jacob.” 27 “This is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins.” It is no mystery that in showing the great of God, the greatness of God in the Person of the Son would be close by in this passage. Jesus Christ is the full revelation of God, being "The Word made flesh" (John 1:14); God manifested in the flesh (1 Timothy 3:16) and the soon coming Great God and Savior, Jesus Christ (Titus 2:13). Israel's destiny in ultimately being saved is relevant because it points us to the Greatness of God. But now notice a second reason how Israel is relevant to the Christian...

2. The Gospel's Greatness is shown because of Israel. Romans 11:28-32
In Romans 11:28-32 we are given a set of binoculors through which we can gaze at the wonder of God's redemptive work. The amazing thing about binoculors is that through two eye pieces the viewer can get a closer perspective on otherwise far away objects. Each lens is designed for each eye. The way our eyes work are that each sees a portion of whatever is in front of our eyes for the sake of generating a three-dimensional view in our brains. If you take your finger and stretch out your arm and then close one eye, then another, you will witness your finger shift left, then right. Without this feature, we would lack the ability to have depth perception and things would look quite flat. Binoculors take advantage of this team work between our eyes and help magnify far-away objects so that we can see them as they really are. 

Paul is viewing Israel through two eyes pieces: the lens of the Gospel and the lens of Sovereign election. It appears through the lens of the Gospel that Israel is a total lost cause. She persists in her refusal of Jesus and her spiritual blindness and deafness to the Gospel is very evident. However, whenever we look through the second eye-piece, Sovereign election, the view is quite different. Israel is still God's chosen and elect people. Romans 11:29 states - "for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable." 

What Paul then does is view God's plan for Gentiles in this current age through both lenses to reveal a fully-three dimensional picture. Sovereign election and human responsibility in believing or refusing the Gospel are part of God's plan in saving both Jews and Gentiles. The greatness of the Gospel is that those who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ can only give credit to One - God. Sadly, those who persist in unbelief can only blame one person - themselves. Romans 11:32 states - "For God has shut up all in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all." All humanity is born into this world in unbelief - whether Jew or Gentile. God's judgment rightly falls on all men and quite frankly, He is under no obligation to save anyone. Israel is used to illustrate a small slice of the fact that despite having done nothing to commend God to her, God has so chosen to set a time and place whereby He will suddenly call individuals within the nation of Israel to respond, freely believe on Jesus and be saved at His appearing. Galatians 3:22 sheds further light by using similar wording to what we see in Romans 11:32, notice - "But the Scripture has shut up everyone under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe."

The binoculors of Romans 11:28-32 shows how God is using Israel in the accomplishment of the greatness of the Gospel. If we as Christians can grasp the relevance of Israel, we will better appreciate the greatness of God and the Gospel. But now notice one final reason how Israel is relevant to the Christian...

3. Greater worship occurs when we consider God's plan for Israel. Romans 11:33-36
In writing out this post today, this writer admits that at best, only the faint outline of the tremendous richness of Romans 11:25-32 can be grasped. How God uses Israel to make room for Gentiles to respond to the Gospel, and how He in turn uses Gentile response to set the stage for what will be Israel's future salvation is amazing and mind-blowing. I suspect this is why Paul wrote his sudden explosion of worship (a doxology) in Romans 11:33-36. God's greatness is not full appreciated until it results in worship. God's purposes in the Gospel are not fully treasured until worship of God has taken place. Worship is astonishing in that on the one hand, we know full-well the God whom we praise and yet on the otherhand, barely comprehend the God Whom we are exalting. 

To illustrate the point just made, what response do you find when witnessing a beautiful sunrise or sunset? or standing in front of the ocean for the first time? how about seeing a bride come down the isle or beholding the face of your newborn child or grandchild? a person understands what they are seeing and yet cannot claim they comprehend it all in its fulness. The mystery of a new life and beholding a person never before seen in this world is all at once a reality that occurs daily and yet has the sense of being made possible by Someone whose thoughts are higher than our own. Scientists can explain the sun's refracting light through the layers of Nitrogen and Oxygen in our atmosphere to produce the sunset, and yet they cannot capture the feeling of awe and transcendance that often accommpanies such phenomena. Beholding the ocean for the first time is far different than seeing a glass of water. The ocean's immensity swallows up the viewer and elicits forth words such as "awesome" and "amazing". 

What is the point? The point is this: worship of God can only come about when we have a true vision of God's greatness and His greatness in the greatness of the Gospel. Romans 11:36 stands as one of the greatest verses in the Bible: "From Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory for ever and ever, Amen." The destiny of Israel must ever be moreso in the forefront of our minds and hearts, since God uses it to enable us to worship Him all the more. We marvel at how He ever desires to show mercy to Israel, being reminded of the fact we had done nothing at all to solicit His mercy toward us. Psalm 122:6-9 gives us the best practical way to include Israel's destiny in our daily lives - Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:“May they prosper who love you. 7 “May peace be within your walls, And prosperity within your palaces.” 8 For the sake of my brothers and my friends,
I will now say, “May peace be within you.” 9 For the sake of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek your good."

Closing thoughts:
Today we looked at Romans 11:25-36 to discover how and why Israel is relevant to the Christian. In better understanding God's destiny for Israel, we discover the following benefits and thus the relevancy of Israel to our lives:

1. God's Greatness is shown because of Israel. Romans 11:25-27

2. The Gospel's Greatness is shown because of Israel. Romans 11:28-32

3. Greater worship occurs when we consider God's plan for Israel. Romans 11:33-36

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