“Dear brothers and sisters, the longing of my heart and my prayer to God is for the people of Israel to be saved. I know what enthusiasm they have for God, but it is misdirected zeal. For they don’t understand God’s way of making people right with himself. Refusing to accept God’s way, they cling to their own way of getting right with God by trying to keep the law. For Christ has already accomplished the purpose for which the law was given. As a result, all who believe in him are made right with God.”
Romans 10:1-4 NLT
Anyone reading the Bible will soon appreciate that much of it is all about God’s relationship with His people, the people of Israel, the people we call Jews. We read through the pages, unfurling stories of rebellion and sin. Of idolatry followed by repentance. Of God’s patient efforts to restore His people to the relationship with Him that He so desired. Of prophets sent time and time again to point out sin and sinful ways. Of the time when God used even a foreign power to take away His people into captivity, in the hope that they would turn to Him. But through it all a strand of faith persisted in a people who knew they were God’s chosen ones but found themselves unable to live up to His mark. They found that trying to live by the Law didn’t work. And in Romans 10:1, Paul expressed his heart-felt desire for salvation for his people, the Jews.
God, observing the difficulties of His people, sent Jesus to bring salvation to His people. What a wonderful, patient, loving God He is! He could see that his people were “trying to keep the Law” but they failed to realise that Jesus was the fulfilment of all that the Law tried to accomplish. They knew the Messiah was coming because they had read the prophecy from Isaiah, “All right then, the Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’)” (Isaiah 7:14). Even Moses had a glimpse of what God’s Messianic plan was, as we read in Deuteronomy 18:15, “Moses continued, “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him”. Some scholars have worked out that there are as many as 300 Messianic prophecies in the Old Testament, so the expectation of the coming of God’s Son was embedded within the Jewish people. They just didn’t know how or when.
Paul knew how enthusiastic the Jews could be – he called it “misdirected zeal”. And certainly they tried, surprisingly successfully, to maintain their religion, and keep themselves apart from other peoples. The tragedy was, and still is, that they failed to recognise God’s Son when He finally showed up. In their minds they pictured their Messiah as a conquering hero who would release the people from the tyrannical occupation of the Romans. But when He came, He showed up riding a donkey, a Man of peace. But Jesus spent His ministry time here on earth with His people, and with a message of salvation for the Jews. He brought the message about the Kingdom of God, but most of His countrymen didn’t recognise it. And, tragically, rejected it. And so to this day, the Jewish people “cling to their own way of getting right with God by trying to keep the law”.
But there will be a time when the Jews finally realise what they have missed. Zechariah could “see” it would happen and he recorded his end times vision of what was to come. We read in Zechariah 12:10, “Then I will pour out a spirit of grace and prayer on the family of David and on the people of Jerusalem. They will look on me whom they have pierced and mourn for him as for an only son. They will grieve bitterly for him as for a firstborn son who has died”. So salvation will one day come to the Jewish people. Sadly, they will “grieve bitterly” because they missed the opportunity to welcome their Messiah at His first coming, instead putting Him to death. But such is the grace of God that He will never turn His back on them. We pilgrims, mostly Gentile in origin, also enjoy God’s love and grace. How wonderful He is!
Dear Father. Thank You for Your grace and mercy. When we deserved punishment, Jesus took it on Himself. And now we are righteous in Your sight. How wonderful You are! Amen.