The Rescue

“I want you to understand this mystery, dear brothers and sisters, so that you will not feel proud about yourselves. Some of the people of Israel have hard hearts, but this will last only until the full number of Gentiles comes to Christ. And so all Israel will be saved. As the Scriptures say, “The one who rescues will come from Jerusalem, and he will turn Israel away from ungodliness. And this is my covenant with them, that I will take away their sins.””
Romans 11:25-27 NLT

Paul writes that there will be a time of salvation for the Jews. We don’t know when that will be but we do know that one day it will happen. Paul loosely quoted two verses from the Old Testament Scriptures, ““The Redeemer will come to Jerusalem to buy back those in Israel who have turned from their sins,” says the Lord. “And this is my covenant with them,” says the Lord. “My Spirit will not leave them, and neither will these words I have given you. They will be on your lips and on the lips of your children and your children’s children forever. I, the Lord, have spoken!” (Isaiah 59:20-21). We have to visit this section of Scripture to determine the context. These verses in Isaiah are at the end of a chapter where the prophet provides warnings about sin and wickedness. And the Redeemer is none other than Jesus Himself. Of course, we know that He died just outside the city walls at Jerusalem for the redemption of all sins, an act with eternal consequences, and Isaiah continues to reveal that the Lord’s Spirit will remain forever, never leaving His redeemed people. 

But Paul was perhaps also writing about a day when the people of Israel finally turn to their Redeemer. Their hearts will soften from the current hardness, and “all Israel will be saved”. If the Jews rejected their Redeemer when He came to this earth, what would make them change their collective minds? We mustn’t forget that Jesus has an appointment, marked in His Heavenly calendar, to return to earth a second time. We read in Acts 1:9-11, “After saying this, he was taken up into a cloud while they were watching, and they could no longer see him. As they strained to see him rising into heaven, two white-robed men suddenly stood among them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why are you standing here staring into heaven? Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but someday he will return from heaven in the same way you saw him go!”” We don’t know when “someday” will be of course, but we know that it will happen, as the angels foretold. We also know where He will return to, because He ascended from the Mount of Olives, as we read in Acts 1:12, “Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, a distance of half a mile.” We also know what the weather will be like on the day He returns because it will be cloudy. But even though we know something about how Jesus will return, we don’t know when, other than Paul’s assertion that first, the “full number” of Gentiles must convert to believing in Christ. 

We also know from other Scriptures that Jesus will not return as a baby child, but very visibly with great power and glory. “For as the lightning flashes in the east and shines to the west, so it will be when the Son of Man comes. … And then at last, the sign that the Son of Man is coming will appear in the heavens, and there will be deep mourning among all the peoples of the earth. And they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (Matthew 24:27,30). Perhaps this will be the time when the Jews will finally be saved. Matthew 24:31, “And he will send out his angels with the mighty blast of a trumpet, and they will gather his chosen ones from all over the world—from the farthest ends of the earth and heaven.

But whatever we pilgrims believe, God’s plans for His human creation will come together one day. All will make sense then, in case we are puzzled about how it is all going to happen. God has the eternity view. Time is no problem to Him. Unlike us, He is not constrained by calendars and human events. God gave a prophetic message of the salvation of the Jews through Paul’s pen, and one day there will be a huge crowd of Jews and Gentiles in Heaven, united in praise and worship to our wonderful Heavenly Father.

Dear Father. We look forward to that day when You will be worshipped by all Your people. What can we say, other than echo that phrase from the last chapter of Revelation – “Come Lord Jesus”. Amen.

The Full Number

“I want you to understand this mystery, dear brothers and sisters, so that you will not feel proud about yourselves. Some of the people of Israel have hard hearts, but this will last only until the full number of Gentiles comes to Christ.”
Romans 11:25 NLT

Paul unfurls a mystery before his readers. He said that while the people of Israel, the Jews, refuse the Gospel, the gentiles will benefit from God’s grace. But this won’t last forever, because there is a limit on the number of Gentiles who will come to Christ. The obvious question, of course, is – how many is the “full number”? Is God close to achieving that number? We don’t know – only God does. But there is coming a day when God will decree enough! And then we will see the hearts of the Jews responding at last to their Messiah. 

Jesus said, as recorded in Matthew 24:14, “And the Good News about the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, so that all nations will hear it; and then the end will come.” The implication is that the “full number of Gentiles” won’t be achieved until the whole world, including all nations and people groups, have heard the “Good News about the Kingdom”. One statement that people who try to find fault with God suggest is that He isn’t fair, because there is always the possibility that someone, somewhere, will never hear the Gospel, implying that they will be denied the opportunity to respond to God. A good answer is perhaps the suggestion that if this concerns them then they should sign up to be a missionary just in case, and go and search out remote peoples and nations tucked away in some inaccessible corner of the globe. But, almost as a catch all, Paul wrote in Romans 1:20, “For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God”. Jesus said that the Gospel will be preached everywhere, but Paul follows that up by the thought that people don’t really have an excuse if they fail to respond to God. One day, we will all stand before God but secure in the knowledge that He will certainly always be fair. People will only ever be judged on what they know, not what they don’t know. And we can rest assured that everyone will be judged by what they know, not what they don’t know.

We currently live in a season of grace. The full number of Gentiles as not yet been reached – we know that, because we do not yet see the wholesale softening of the hearts of the Jews. But it won’t be long. The number of different translations of the Bible is staggering. The extent and reach of the Gospel is as never before. There is a feeling of urgency in spiritual realms, and we can see the end time story unfolding and aligning itself to world events, just as the old Apostle John wrote in the book of Revelation. So how prepared are we? And how are we communicating that feeling of urgency within our families and communities? Do we pray everyday for God to wake up those around us and soften their hearts so that they will feel the gentle wind of the Spirit flowing around them and through them?

Paul wrote about the mystery of how God made the Gospel available to the Gentiles. Our gratitude can know no limits. God’s love for His family, regardless of their origin, is mixed with His grace to reach everyone who is open to Him. It is a mystery no more. It is reality.

Dear Father God. Once again we thank You for Your grace and love. Please lead us to anyone who has not yet responded positively to Your Good News. Over our lives we have planted many Gospel seeds. Please bring on a time of harvest before the final click of Your salvation clock. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


“And if the people of Israel turn from their unbelief, they will be grafted in again, for God has the power to graft them back into the tree. You, by nature, were a branch cut from a wild olive tree. So if God was willing to do something contrary to nature by grafting you into his cultivated tree, he will be far more eager to graft the original branches back into the tree where they belong.
Romans 11:23-24 NLT

Paul returns to his analogy of Jesus being the olive tree, and branches representing His people, Jew or Gentile. And he makes a comparison between the “wild olive” branches, representing the Gentiles who had accepted Jesus as their Lord and Saviour, and the original branches, representing the Jews, God’s chosen people. Both types of branch, however, drew their sustenance from God’s “cultivated tree”. Paul makes a statement that implies that being grafted into His tree was contrary to nature, but that God was willing to do it. Was God being grudging and reluctant in allowing this to happen, as perhaps we could interpret from Paul’s wording? The use of the phrase “far more eager” implies that God is more inclined to His people, the Jews, than anyone else. But is this the case?

Of course not, we exclaim! God has no favourites we cry! We quote the words of Jesus in John 3:17, “God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him”. The word “world” implies everyone, not just the Jews. And we also read 1 Timothy 2:3-4, “This is good and pleases God our Saviour, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth”. So what was Paul meaning in these verses from Romans 11?

Paul, I believe, was appealing to his Jewish audience. Perhaps those on the periphery of the early church in Rome, or his fellow Jews who happened to read his epistle. He was reminding them of the special place in God’s heart for His people. Back in Deuteronomy we read about God’s instructions , given through Moses, for the Israelites as they were about to enter the Promised Land. We read in Deuteronomy 7:6, “For you are a holy people, who belong to the Lord your God. Of all the people on earth, the Lord your God has chosen you to be his own special treasure”. Although God wanted the other nations around Israel eliminated at that time because of their wickedness and idolatry, He had a plan for the whole world.

But we pilgrims know that, even if we are “wild olive branches” grafted into the Olive Tree who is Christ, we are now adopted into God’s family. In Paul’s day, adoption was a special and honoured status, never second best. And so it is with us. We are also God’s treasure, because we responded to His calling and became part of His family. So there will be a day when the original branches, God’s chosen people, will be grafted back into the Olive Tree, and will join us Wild Olives in a cacophony of praise to our wonderful God. We praise our wonderful Heavenly Father today.

Dear Father God. We thank You for Your wonderful plan, executed when Jesus came to this world, to save the world through Him. Amen.

Kind and Severe

“Notice how God is both kind and severe. He is severe toward those who disobeyed, but kind to you if you continue to trust in his kindness. But if you stop trusting, you also will be cut off.”
Romans 11:22 NLT

Paul wrote that “God is both kind and severe”.  This is not something we hear very often. We talk much about the grace and love of God. About His loving kindness. About His forgiveness for repentant sinners. But severe? A severe God perhaps stirs up feelings within us of a parent, or someone else in authority over us, like a teacher, who was unloving or overly strict. Memories of a detention at school, perhaps unfairly applied, surface again. And those of us old enough to remember the days of corporal punishment in schools experience, once again, the pain and tears. 

But we have to face into the reality that God is a righteous God. And if we reflect on this, we see that He could not be anything else. If He wasn’t fair and righteous in all He does, then the universe would have descended into chaos long ago. However, whether we like it or not, we live in a God-created moral universe. Throughout the creation story in Genesis 1 we read that after each day, God said that it was good. And then we read Genesis 1:31, “Then God looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was very good! And evening passed and morning came, marking the sixth day”. For the Creator of the world, our righteous God, to say that something is good, means that His character is in-built to make it so. We tend to think that the world around us is physical but there is a spiritual creation in it as well. And because of that there has to be a balance to right and wrong, good and bad, moral and immoral. The Psalmist, as recorded in Psalm 73, was faced with a dilemma. He almost lost his trust in God when he looked around and saw how wicked people lived lives of luxury, when he apparently struggled to survive. We read in Psalm 73:1-3, “Truly God is good to Israel, to those whose hearts are pure. But as for me, I almost lost my footing. My feet were slipping, and I was almost gone. For I envied the proud when I saw them prosper despite their wickedness”. He mused about the injustice of the situation, until he finally discovered the truth. Psalm 73:16-17, “So I tried to understand why the wicked prosper. But what a difficult task it is! Then I went into your sanctuary, O God, and I finally understood the destiny of the wicked”. We humans want to see justice dispensed in our lifetimes. We want to see those who commit crimes, and apparently get away with it, come before a judge before the victims pass on. We want to see greedy company owners and corrupt politicians held to account. But we must be assured that one day there will be a day of justice, when God will square the circle and deliver the justice His creation, His universe, His righteousness, demands. We trust our wonderful Heavenly Father, and we don’t have to fret like the Psalmist, thinking that evil people who commit wrongs will get away with it.

Paul said that God is severe and well as kind. We like to think of the kind God, but we must never forget that God is severe with those who disobey Him. Just because He is patient, and apparently overlooks sin, doesn’t mean He has forgotten it. One day there will be a time when God’s severity will be revealed for all to see. The Apostle John had a vision about the final time of reckoning. He wrote, “I saw the dead, both great and small, standing before God’s throne. And the books were opened, including the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to what they had done, as recorded in the books. The sea gave up its dead, and death and the grave gave up their dead. And all were judged according to their deeds” (Revelation 20:12-13). There are people, even Christians, who dispute these events, saying that when we die we will experience nothing, as if we just went to sleep without ever waking up. They are call annihilationists and believe that consciousness as we know it will cease when we die. But that isn’t what the Bible says. And God’s moral universe would have been violated if that was the case. 

We pilgrims know of course that God is a balanced Person. His character has many facets that all blend into a Whole, and severity is in there somewhere, along with love and kindness. But we must never forget what Jesus said to His disciples, as recorded in Matthew 10:28, “Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell“. Now that is something we pilgrims should note!

Father God. We know that You are a God of righteousness and love. We praise and worship You today, with thanks for being a Parent who only wants what is best for us. Please help us not to stray from Your ways. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


“If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, do not consider yourself to be superior to those other branches. If you do, consider this: you do not support the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, ‘Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in.’ Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but tremble. For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either.”
Romans 11:17-21 NIVUK

Gardeners are good at grafting. To someone who knows little about gardening, such a technique is well beyond my experience, but there are many skilled people who are good at it. What is grafting? Here is a quote from the UK’s Royal Horticultural Society, “The purpose of grafting is to combine one plant’s qualities of flowering or fruiting with the roots of another that offers vigour and resilience”. I have a rose bush in my front garden, purchased some years ago, that consists of just such a hybrid combination of good flowers and a wild rose root and stem. Paul informed his readers that they have been grafted into the olive tree, replacing other branches that had been broken off. Of course, as we considered recently, Jesus is the Source of the “nourishing sap” that supports us and sustains us in our Christian lives. And we are “wild olive shoots” that have been grafted in. The implication is that we Christians are not natural parts of the olive tree, but have been given the opportunity to be joined to the tree through our faith in God.

Paul goes on to make a good point. It would perhaps be easy to feel in some way superior to God’s own people, the Jews, because we have found His grace and love and they haven’t. So we observe how their removal from the Source now makes room for a people saved through His grace. And Paul reminds his readers that those removed, the natural branches, “were broken off because of unbelief”. There is, however, a warning coming from Paul’s pen – be soberly aware that we too can be broken off from the vine, the olive tree, if we lapse into apostasy and unbelief. 

Back to John 15. Jesus Himself taught about the importance of remaining connected to the Vine, we read in John 15:5-6 what Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.” Indeed a sober warning for us pilgrims. So how do we remain in the vine? How do we avoid being burned in the fire? It’s all about our relationship with God. As Jesus said to the Jewish expert in the Law, the greatest commandment to be followed is, “ … you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength” (Mark 12:30). Our connection to the Source depends on our choices. If we choose to love God in all we do, aligning our lives and behaving how an olive branch should, then we will enjoy the life-giving and nourishing sap that flows unhindered from the throne of God. But if we choose to behave in a way that connects us to a different root system, then we cut ourselves off from God, and our spirits will wither and die. 

We pilgrims know what we must do. And it is not an impossible request that God makes of us. He is our loving Heavenly Father. He has the words of eternal life. Only He can welcome us into our future home in Heaven. And so we worship and praise Him, secure in the knowledge that He loves us and cares for us. He accepts all repentant sinners who come to Him, and He willingly grafts us into His Tree. Through His grace and mercy, there is unlimited room for new branches, and the grafting process is accompanied by much joy. How grateful we are!

Dear Lord Jesus. You are the Vine and we are the branches. Thank You for the life-giving Spirit that flows so freely towards us. Amen.

Holy Dough

“And since Abraham and the other patriarchs were holy, their descendants will also be holy—just as the entire batch of dough is holy because the portion given as an offering is holy. For if the roots of the tree are holy, the branches will be, too.”
Romans 11:16 NLT

We are having a second look at this verse in Romans 11. Paul reminds his readers that the early Jews were obliged to provide an offering to God made up of dough. This was a type of bread made from finely ground wheat or barley with oil and salt, but without any yeast. It could be cooked or uncooked and it was brought to the priests with some of it offered to God. We read all about the grain offering, which was presented in the form of dough, in Leviticus 2, and we read that it was considered a special offering. Leviticus 2:10, “The rest of the grain offering will then be given to Aaron and his sons as their food. This offering will be considered a most holy part of the special gifts presented to the Lord”. 

But we pilgrims ask if the dough offering has any relevance today. I think it does, as a principle to be followed. As we look at the offerings set out in Leviticus and the other parts of the Torah, they all relate to something significant for the person presenting the offering. A grain offering when the Israelites were wandering for 40 years in the desert would have been difficult to find, so would have been considered something precious. And that is the key – an offering to God of any kind is worthless if it is submitted from a position of plenty. In modern terms, an offering of £10 to God is worth little to someone with £1000, but a lot to someone with £15 in their wallet. Jesus was in the Temple one day with His disciples, and the offering from an old lady caught His attention. We read the story in Mark 12:41-44, “Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few pence. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, ‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything – all she had to live on’”.

Tithes and offerings were a significant part of the Jewish faith, and the same principle applies to Christians today. Of course, our Western societies have a system of taxes to support local and national governmental responsibilities, but our religious leaders, our pastors and teachers, need support through our tithes and offerings. And there seems to be a connection between our generosity and our personal well-being. Proverbs 11:24-25, “One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed”. 

But Paul, in the next chapter in Romans, exhorts us to bring a personal offering to God, in the shape of our bodies. We read in Romans 12:1, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship”. But however we view the “dough” in our lives, and whatever form it takes, there is a principle here of holiness in our attitude towards God. 

In a sense we pilgrims are resident in a society, a “dough”, consisting of many people. but perhaps through our presence within it we are introducing a glimmer of holiness because of our connection to God. A bit like the salt and light in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. We must never underestimate the importance of being God’s ambassadors in our communities. Sodom and Gomorrah might still be with us if righteous people could have been found there. A contentious thought? Perhaps, but God is looking for holiness amongst His people. We read in 1 Peter 1:15-16, “But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy””. Perhaps we feel the bar for achieving holiness is too high, and, of course, it is through our own efforts. Thankfully, through Jesus, we are considered righteous in God’s sight.

Dear Father God. Thank You for Jesus and Your plan for our salvation. Please refresh us today by the power of Your Spirit, so that we can shine brighter and brighter in our families and communities. Amen.

Holy Roots

“And since Abraham and the other patriarchs were holy, their descendants will also be holy—just as the entire batch of dough is holy because the portion given as an offering is holy. For if the roots of the tree are holy, the branches will be, too.”
Romans 11:16 NLT

Paul made a controversial statement in our verse today, which perhaps we could take issue with. Did he mean that the Jews could claim to be holy in God’s sight just because they had Abraham, or one of the other patriarchs, as their ancestor? To bring it up to date, just because I had Christian parents, does that mean my salvation in God is assured? But we can’t take this verse in isolation, because, as we find out later in this chapter in Romans, the link can be broken by personal choice.

Paul uses two analogies – branches and dough. Analogies that Jesus used as well. One of the well known, go-to, Scriptures about branches can be found in John 15. Jesus very clearly sets out a scenario based on a grape vine. Perhaps He was standing next to one as He taught His disciples. But we read in John 15:1-4, “I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me”. Jesus portrayed Himself as the grapevine, a vibrant and vigorous bush that was deeply rooted into the soil and which sprouted many branches, from which the grapes were picked. The grapevine produced all the nourishment needed for the branches to survive and grow the fruit intended. But to the people of His day, they knew it was important that a branch was connected to the vine to maintain its life and health. But Jesus made it clear that if a branch doesn’t produce the fruit, His Father, portrayed as the Gardener, would remove it. It would be cut off and burned. And those branches that do produce fruit would find themselves pruned so that their fruit harvest gets even better. 

Some years ago, as the Charismatic renewal was flowing over the UK, I remember a conference speaker warning the Christians caught up in the excitement of the Holy Spirit visitation. He used the grapevine scenario to provide a picture of the branches producing lots of leaves, green and succulent. But there was no fruit. God, he said, wasn’t looking for leaves. It was fruit He was after. And branches producing no fruit would end up cut off and burnt. A warning, timely and relevant. Perhaps we can ask where so many of those Charismatics are today? Jesus gave another illustration through the parable of the wicked farmers, and He ends it with this verse, “I tell you, the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation that will produce the proper fruit” (Matthew 21:43). 

Well, fellow pilgrims, how fruitful are we? What fruits are we producing? We mustn’t forget that there are good fruits and bad fruits, and, because of sin, the latter is more common. But we can read Galatians 5:22-23, “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things“! This is the fruit that God is looking for, and, for most Christians, fruit takes a long time to grow. But as we allow the Holy Spirit to gently, but persuasively, work in our lives, fruit will grow. Our faithful Father loves us too much to allow otherwise.

Dear Heavenly Gardener. We pray for more of You in our lives, as we walk on in our journey to Glory. We know that we will encounter all sorts of obstacles but through them all, the encounters will help in growing and ripening our fruit. Please help us. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Jealous Jews

“I am saying all this especially for you Gentiles. God has appointed me as the apostle to the Gentiles. I stress this, for I want somehow to make the people of Israel jealous of what you Gentiles have, so I might save some of them. For since their rejection meant that God offered salvation to the rest of the world, their acceptance will be even more wonderful. It will be life for those who were dead!”
Romans 11:13-15 NLT

Paul himself was a Jew. And even though he had been sent as a missionary to the Gentiles, he never passed an opportunity to share God’s message with his fellow Jews so that he “might save some of them“. In that well-documented encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well, Jesus made a profound and eternal statement, “You Samaritans know very little about the one you worship, while we Jews know all about him, for salvation comes through the Jews” (John 4:22). A prophetic word from God’s Son, who knew His mission, that, as a Jew, He would be the Source of salvation for all. And we know what happened at Calvary. A Jew was crucified at the instigation of His fellow Jews. Such a tragedy. 

We read in Acts 10 how Peter shared the Gospel with Cornelius and his household, but when he returned to Jerusalem we read that his fellow Jews were not happy at all. After he had given his report about what had happened, we read, “When the others heard this, they stopped objecting and began praising God. They said, “We can see that God has also given the Gentiles the privilege of repenting of their sins and receiving eternal life“” (Acts 11:18). There was no doubt. God made salvation available to the “rest of the world“, and even appointed Paul as the “Apostle to the Gentiles“. Paul was sure about his mandate. We read in Ephesians 3:6-8, “And this is God’s plan: Both Gentiles and Jews who believe the Good News share equally in the riches inherited by God’s children. Both are part of the same body, and both enjoy the promise of blessings because they belong to Christ Jesus. By God’s grace and mighty power, I have been given the privilege of serving him by spreading this Good News. Though I am the least deserving of all God’s people, he graciously gave me the privilege of telling the Gentiles about the endless treasures available to them in Christ“. But Paul was very much aware of God’s heart, that His grace would extend across national and tribal boundaries.

Christians today are ethnically diverse. We don’t claim a common ancestor other than God Himself and His Son, Jesus. But in that diversity, we celebrate together with the praise and worship of our wonderful Heavenly Father. One day we will be joined by God’s chosen people,. No-one will be left out. We read in Revelation 19:1, “After this, I heard what sounded like a vast crowd in heaven shouting, “Praise the Lord! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God”. It will be an amazing experience being a part of that “vast crowd”.

Would the Jews have been jealous of the Gentile believers, especially when they could see how the Holy Spirit had been poured out on them as well? Possibly, but not those who understood God’s heart and His amazing grace. More of a problem was the people with hard hearts when Jesus was preaching and teaching His fellow Jews, those who failed to recognise their Messiah. The Pharisees were certainly jealous of the miracles, signs and wonders that Jesus performed in their midst. But that’s another story.

We pilgrims all stand alone in God’s presence. We are each unique, with our own spiritual DNA, and our own God-ordained mission. However, it is always a temptation to look jealously at other Christians, perhaps those with gifts that we wish we had. Thoughts like I wish I could preach, or lead worship, or pray or … whatever, like another Christian, can become a hurdle and cause unnecessary resentment. In John 21:21-22, Peter looked at another disciple, John, perhaps to take Jesus’ penetrating gaze off himself. But Jesus was having none of it. We read, “Peter asked Jesus, “What about him, Lord?” Jesus replied, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? As for you, follow me“”. That’s all that matters. We must all focus on following Jesus. We’re not responsible for another’s relationship with God. There is no place for jealousy in God’s Kingdom.

Dear Heavenly Father. We know that the only thing that matters is You. We thank You for the love and grace You have individually for each one of Your children. Thank You. Amen.

Salvation for All

Did God’s people stumble and fall beyond recovery? Of course not! They were disobedient, so God made salvation available to the Gentiles. But he wanted his own people to become jealous and claim it for themselves. Now if the Gentiles were enriched because the people of Israel turned down God’s offer of salvation, think how much greater a blessing the world will share when they finally accept it.”
Romans 11:11-12 NLT

There is always hope. God never stopped loving His people and His offer of salvation was, and is, always available to them. Jesus came to this world, as their Messiah, but the majority of His people rejected Him. They were looking for a “Messiah” made in their image rather than God’s. They expected their Messiah to arrive and throw out the hated Roman occupiers, restoring the land of Israel to them. They rejected Jesus’ invitation to the Kingdom of God (Kingdom of Heaven in Matthew’s Gospel), in spite of all His miracles and teachings. They knew the Scriptures, but they failed to make the connection with prophesies such as we find in Isaiah 53, which includes the promise that Jesus was to become the sacrifice for their sins. “But it was the Lord’s good plan to crush him and cause him grief. Yet when his life is made an offering for sin, he will have many descendants. He will enjoy a long life, and the Lord’s good plan will prosper in his hands. When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish, he will be satisfied. And because of his experience, my righteous servant will make it possible for many to be counted righteous, for he will bear all their sins”. (Isaiah 53:10-11). How did they miss their Messiah? I’m sure their rejection broke God’s heart. But God was planning for eternity. He could see the end from the beginning. 

The prophet Zechariah gave a prophecy about the End Times, and 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.” There will be a day, still to come, when God’s people will realise their awful mistake. But in the meantime, the Jews continue to worship God without their Messiah, still looking for Him. We Gentile pilgrims are the enlightened ones, secure in the knowledge that our sins have been forgiven, by the Jewish Messiah. But we cannot be complacent. 

Are the Jews jealous of God’s grace that he has so lovingly poured out on the gentiles? Probably not because they considered themselves to be strictly monotheistic, and the concept of the Christian view of God the Father, His Son, and the Holy Spirit, the Trinity, was to them verging on pantheism. The Jews continue in their legalism, adhering to the Torah and other Jewish rules and regulations. But Jesus was a Jew. Born of Jewish heritage, to a Jewish family. His ministry was to the Jews. Their rejection of Jesus as their Messiah continues to this day, a rejection amplified by the way Christians have treated the Jews over the centuries that have passed. But as Paul said, “the people of Israel turned down God’s offer of salvation”. However, the people of Israel are not beyond hope. God’s grace is there for all.

Paul wrote in Ephesians 1:9-10, “God has now revealed to us his mysterious will regarding Christ—which is to fulfil his own good plan. And this is the plan: At the right time he will bring everything together under the authority of Christ—everything in heaven and on earth“. We have not yet reached “the right time” but it is coming and it may be nearer than we think. God’s plan includes His people. And you and I. No-one who has accepted Jesus as their Lord and Saviour will be left out, whether Jew or Gentile. Paul finishes our verses for today with the thought, referring to “God’s offer of salvation”, “think how much greater a blessing the world will share when they finally accept it”? To many today, the name “Jew” stirs up feelings of hatred. Hardly a day goes by without another news report of antisemitism. Small wonder that so many Jews have returned to the land of Israel, where they hoped to find a place where they won’t be persecuted. The persecution of God’s chosen people over the centuries has been tragic, and at a level not experienced by any other race. But it’s no surprise that the devil hates them with a passion and will always be looking for ways to annihilate them. However, God has His hand of blessing on His people, and has promised never to leave them or forsake them. 

We pilgrims must pray for our Jewish brothers and sisters, and we must remember that one day we will be serving a Jewish Lord, Jesus Christ Himself.

Dear Lord Jesus. We thank You for coming to this sad world, bringing Your message of redemption, hope for all eternity. Amen.

God’s Enemies

“So this is the situation: Most of the people of Israel have not found the favour of God they are looking for so earnestly. A few have—the ones God has chosen—but the hearts of the rest were hardened. As the Scriptures say, “God has put them into a deep sleep. To this day he has shut their eyes so they do not see, and closed their ears so they do not hear.” Likewise, David said, “Let their bountiful table become a snare, a trap that makes them think all is well. Let their blessings cause them to stumble, and let them get what they deserve. Let their eyes go blind so they cannot see, and let their backs be bent forever.””
Romans 11:7-10 NLT

In Romans 11:9-10, Paul quotes from Psalm 69:22-23. This Psalm, written by David, paints the picture of a man in torment. His enemies, and there are many of them, are harassing him, and his sins are weighing heavily on his mental health. His physical well-being is affected as well, and he is going around dressed in burlap, a heavy sackcloth made from jute or hemp, accompanying his fasting for God’s salvation. The first half of Psalm 69:9 was recorded in John 2:17, as a prophetic reminder when Jesus cleared the temple courtyard of the merchants selling animals for sacrifice, and changing everyday Roman money into the coins required for the offerings. John 2:17, “Then his disciples remembered this prophecy from the Scriptures: “Passion for God’s house will consume me””. 

There is another prophetic message in this Psalm, relating to Jesus on the cross at Calvary, “You know of my shame, scorn, and disgrace. You see all that my enemies are doing. Their insults have broken my heart, and I am in despair. If only one person would show some pity; if only one would turn and comfort me. But instead, they give me poison for food; they offer me sour wine for my thirst” (Psalm 69:19-21). And then in Psalm 69:22-23, we read again the words quoted by Paul in Romans 11, “Let the bountiful table set before them become a snare and their prosperity become a trap. Let their eyes go blind so they cannot see, and make their bodies shake continually”. Perhaps David was letting his musings extend into an area of judgement, as he prayed for God to deal with his enemies.

Jesus taught though, of a different approach to dealing with our enemies. In His day, when everyone present in Palestine was aware of a brutal occupation by a foreign power, the Romans, there would have been much thought, even rebellion, about how to deal with the problem. Perhaps people allowed their imaginations to run away with them, with thoughts and dreams of how they would like to see the Roman occupiers dealt with, and kicked out of their land. David, in his day, felt the same about his enemies. And we should remember that Jesus knew what was coming to Him, when He was finally arrested and killed. He too would have enemies, but here is the difference. Rather than dream up ways in which they could be eliminated, He said that His followers should pray for them. I can imagine how such a message would have cut through the fog of hatred that surrounded every encounter between a Roman occupier and a native of Israel. Perhaps the Jews thought He had lost the plot! We read what Jesus said in Matthew 5:43-44, “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbour’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!”

But back to Paul’s letter and the context of our verses from Romans 11. The real enemies were those of God’s people who rebelled and sinned against Him. They always had the choice of being able to change sides. But instead they preferred to go their own way in life, even if it meant a life of hard work and pointless living. They stumbled, they were blind to the ways of God and, in the end, they suffered. Wrong choices lead to wrong outcomes. It may be that for a while, their lives were full of blessings. But, as David said in his Psalm, they became enslaved and snared in home grown traps. All of this is a familiar scenario for life in the West today. Around us we find so many people who have rejected God and His ways. Jesus and the Cross has no relevance to them. But we pilgrims pray for God’s enemies. We look for opportunities to bless them. And we extend our prayers to include our personal “enemies”. The person who upset us with an unkind word. A social media troll who hides behind internet anonymity to abuse and vilify. The bullies who take advantage of us in the workplace or school. In this life we will always come up against objectionable people. But as we pray for them we will find feel a release in our spirits. By praying we connect with God and He will deal with our prayers. And if we have contributed to the problem He will help us sort it out. Our loving Heavenly Father is on our side, as we are on His. And remember, by leaving any thought of retribution to God, we gain a reward. Proverbs 25:21-22, “If your enemies are hungry, give them food to eat. If they are thirsty, give them water to drink. You will heap burning coals of shame on their heads, and the Lord will reward you“.

Dear Father God. Once again in our prayers we remember all those who are Your enemies. By their actions they persecute Your people and abuse them without mercy. We bring to You these people and we pray, as Jesus did – as they hammered the nails into His hands and feet, He prayed “Father forgive them..”. Such mercy and grace! Amen,