Vol. 2 - No. 5
Editorial: Jews In The
Economy of God
by Robert L. McDonald
"I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, that I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh: who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the• covenants, and the giving of the LAW, AND THE SERVICE OF GOD, and the promises, whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen. Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel: neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, in Isaac shall thy seed be called" (Romans 9:1-7).
The apostle Paul was in a position to write as he did in this portion of the letter to the Romans because he was a Jew. He was circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee" (Philippians 3:5). Bible students are aware of his devotion in the Jew's religion before he became a Christian. Furthermore, his love for the Jews can be seen in his untiring effort to convert them everywhere he went. We can also, to some degree, understand his concern for the Jews when he said, "I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ" as he tirelessley tried to win the Jews to Christ. As he sought their salvation, he wept because the vast majority of them rejected the truth of our Lord. We weep today because of the same indifference among those we love.
Of all people that we may think of obeying the gospel, it should have been the Jews of the first century. We can imagine one rejecting the truth out of ignorance of the Old Testament prophecies. As it was, in Paul's day, the Gentiles had worshipped pagan gods and embraced the life alien from the righteousness of God. This was not true of the Jews. They knew a particular relationship to God unlike any other race of people to have ever lived on this earth.
The Jews were the children of God.
The Bible student is well aware that Israel sustained a very peculiar
relationship with God. Over and again in the Old Testament we learn of
the fact that Israel was of God. "Ye are the children of the Lord your
God…(Deuteronomy 14:1, cf. Deuteronomy
There is the story of an English gentleman invited as guest in the home of some acquaintance. Upon his arrival, he was greeted in a warm house. Among those present was a young boy, neatly dressed and courteous. After an exchange of pleasantries, the gentleman was shown to his room. As he was escorted down the hall, one room was pointed out as being forbidden to enter. No explanation was given. One or two days later, the gentleman was sitting in his room, reading. The door was ajar. He heard someone talking in muffled tones through sobs of crying. As he looked to see what was happening, he noticed the mother kneeling beside the bed of another son in idiocy. The mother said, "I have fed you, clothed and loved you…and you have never known me!" This is the picture of Israel throughout its history. Israel really never knew God.
Israel had the glory. Never had a nation had God's presence manifested as did Israel. Undoubtedly this is what Paul meant when he spoke of the glory. The word glory means "splender, brightness a bright cloud by which God made manifest to His presence and power on earth" (Thayer). The Hebrew KABOTH conveys this same idea and is used in Exodus 16:10, 24:16-17, 29:43. In each instance there was unmistakable evidence of the presence of God. Israel had seen the miracles throughout its history. They had been given God's oracles. God had sent his inspired prophets and their words confirmed as truth. The Jews saw the Messiah with infallible credentials in his resurrection from the dead. The glory of God was manifest, and Israel ignored it.
Israel had the covenants., As Paul continued to show the very special place of the people of Israel, he mentions the covenants God had made with Israel. These covenants, between two parties, God and Israel, showed a mutual friendship which should have been honored by these people. There was a time when God made a covenant with Noah (Genesis 9:16). This covenant was to have a perpetual sign by the bow in the clouds. Abraham was given a covenant with a sign of circumcision (Genesis 17:1011). With Israel, God had made a covenant through the giving of the Law with such indicated by the ark. Israel had the testimony of covenants continually before them. There was no other people to have such special care.
Israel had the Law. Israel could never plead ignorance of God's will. The giving of the law of Moses was a work of God who, Himself, was the author which distinguished the people of Israel over all other peoples. The law regulated their lives, promoting the highest domestic and national happiness, keeping them separate from the abominations of heathenism and making them a very distinct people of the earth -- a people who belonged to God.
Israel had the worship of the temple. The service of God with its priests, altars, sacrifices, feasts and temple was unlike other religions. Worship is in essence the approach of the soul to God, and God, through the worship in the temple, had given the Jews an approach to Himself. No other nation had been given the special worship to the Almighty as given to Israel.
Israel had the promises. Prophets at certain intervals appeared to the people of Israel telling of their destiny. They told of the times of the captivity. They told of their deliverance. Israel was warned time and again of the consequences of their sins. But Israel would not listen! God's purpose for Israel was called to their attention over and over. Israel understood their destiny of great things in God's schemes. This was the reason they looked for the Messiah.
Israel had the fathers. There had never been a people to have had the history of Israel. Nations have been born, remained for a season and then fell to be forgotten except in the dusty pages of history. But not Israel. Every Jew knew of the heroes of this proud people. Not only the greats such as Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, Solomon, but an almost endless list of worthies, some of whom are mentioned in the Scriptures. Others were known by the Jews through their traditions, handed down from generation to generation, of their piety and virtue. The Bible student is familiar with the eleventh chapter of Hebrews recalling the great cloud of witnesses who lived and died in service to God.
From Israel came the Anointed. All of history was a preparation for this one event. All had been leading up to this point in time. Jesus was an Israelite. He was of the tribe of Judah, his real mother and reputed father both were of the house of David. Not only man, but he was divine, over all and blessed forever. The tragedy was when He came, he was rejected even though he was recognized as the redeemer and saviour. "For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised and we esteemed him not" (Isaiah 53:2-3). In their rejection, the demand was made of Pilate to crucify Jesus. In cowardice, Pilate yielded to their demands and our Lord was killed.
Returning to the text in Romans 9, Paul expresses his grief for Israel. His grief was not that Israel had broken the law of Moses. It was not so much that Israel had, at times, left God for the worship of the pagans. But it was due to the fact that Israel had been fed, clothed and protected by God throughout its history, but Israel never knew God. Israel had spurned the great love that God had for her. When the long awaited Messiah did come, Israel turned its back on Him.
Not only can we be made to weep for those of Israel, but others whom we have known to have been wonderfully blessed by God, to have had the benefits of loving people to try to teach them and lead them to our Lord and then they reject Him for this world and its pleasures. Surely, we have been filled with continual sorrow in our hearts.