“But I ask, have the people of Israel actually heard the message? Yes, they have: “The message has gone throughout the earth, and the words to all the world.” But I ask, did the people of Israel really understand? Yes, they did, for even in the time of Moses, God said, “I will rouse your jealousy through people who are not even a nation. I will provoke your anger through the foolish Gentiles.””
Romans 10:18-19 NLT
Once again Paul quotes some Old Testament Scriptures to support his argument. In response to his question, “have the people of Israel actually heard the message” he quotes a verse from Psalm 19:4, “Yet their message has gone throughout the earth, and their words to all the world. God has made a home in the heavens for the sun”. In the context of Psalm 19, the Psalmist, David, looks up and sees God’s message of Good News in the skies above. Psalm 19:1 reads, “The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship”. David makes it clear that God’s creation is sufficient for all peoples everywhere, and in particular the “people of Israel”, to see Him and His Good News. So everyone has had an opportunity to hear, even see, the message. Do we pilgrims look up into the sky and associate what we see with our wonderful Heavenly Father’s creative abilities? Such knowledge elevates the mundane “It’s a sunny day today” into a declaration of praise and worship, lifting us into His very presence. I often think that the beauty of the world around me has been blighted by sin – imagine what the new sinless earth (Revelation 21) will be like?
So Paul is effectively saying that the people of Israel have heard the message of Good News, even if no-one has told them. But he goes on to think, “did the people of Israel really understand”? Again, Paul accesses another Old Testament Scripture to answer his question. This time it comes from Deuteronomy 32:21, “They have roused my jealousy by worshiping things that are not God; they have provoked my anger with their useless idols. Now I will rouse their jealousy through people who are not even a people; I will provoke their anger through the foolish Gentiles”. Paul may have been a little out of context here, but the implication is that the “people of Israel” understood the message because even the “foolish Gentiles” did. We of course remember the warning Jesus gave to the Jewish religious leaders of His day. We read in Matthew 21:43, “I tell you, the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation that will produce the proper fruit”.
A question often asked of us is “Did you hear what I said?” Often we “hear” what someone says to us but we fail to process the audio into understanding, particularly if our minds are already occupied in thinking or reading something else. Misunderstandings can be commonplace – “I thought you said …”. Those of us who sit through many a sermon in church – can we summarise what the preacher said last Sunday? Hmmm…
But there is no excuse for the Israelites, if they failed to understand the message God had given them. The Psalmist, David, in Psalm 19 wrote about the “catch all” of seeing God’s message in the skies above and His creation around us. We pilgrims have heard God’s message, and have responded to it in a positive way. When God speaks, we must listen. His messages contain life and hope, love and grace. Do we feel a sense of excitement from hearing His voice? Or are we jaded and dejected? If the latter state is the case, we need to turn the volume up to hear God’s messages. The problem is not the message but our focus being on something else, something that is drowning out what God is saying. Elijah, in the episode recorded in 1 Kings 19, earnestly sought God’s voice following wind, an earthquake, and fire. But the message was in the “still small voice”. Listening to God is an art that we must perfect. It will take a lifetime, but perseverance is required. And hearing God for ourselves, and not through another’s experience, will lead us in the way He wants. Another’s journey may not be the one God wants us to take. Being a God-follower can be a roller-coaster of experiences but through it all we find life God’s way. So listen out – that whisper you thought you heard in your spirit might just have been the Holy Spirit.
Dear God. Thank You that You care so much for us, to the point that You always know what is best for us and try and communicate with us. Please help us to learn to listen out. In Jesus’ name. Amen