Israel Stumbled - Will You?
Sunday, April 26, 2015
1 I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, 2 that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, 4 who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises, 5 whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.
6 But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; 7 neither are they all children because they are Abraham's descendants, but: "through Isaac your descendants will be named." 8 That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants. 9 For this is a word of promise: "At this time I will come, and Sarah shall have a son." 10 And not only this, but there was Rebekah also, when she had conceived twins by one man, our father Isaac; 11 for though the twins were not yet born, and had not done anything good or bad, in order that God's purpose according to His choice might stand, not because of works, but because of Him who calls, 12 it was said to her, "The older will serve the younger." 13 Just as it is written, "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated."
14 What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! 15 For He says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." 16 So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, "For this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate My power in you, and that My name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth." 18 So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.
19 You will say to me then, "Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?" 20 On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, "Why did you make me like this," will it? 21 Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use, and another for common use? 22 What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? 23 And He did so in order that He might make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, 24 even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles. 25 As He says also in Hosea,
"I will call those who were not My people, 'My people,'
And her who was not beloved, 'beloved.'"
26 "And it shall be that in the place where it was said to them, ' you are not My people,'
There they shall be called sons of the living God."
27 And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel, "Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea, it is the remnant that will be saved; 28 for the Lord will execute His word upon the earth, thoroughly and quickly." 29 And just as Isaiah foretold,
"Except the Lord of Sabaoth had left to us a posterity,
We would have become as Sodom, and would have resembled Gomorrah."
30 What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith; 31 but Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law. 32 Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone, 33 just as it is written,
"Behold, I lay in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense,
And he who believes in Him will not be disappointed."
The Sovereignty of God – He will do what He wants to do. We should not question Him. He decides what is just and what is not. He decides who He will save, and on what basis He will save them. This is not our decision. We, as beings He created, do not have the right to tell Him what to do, to tell Him or any one else how to live.
What Paul says God decided is that He would save those who pursued righteousness by faith instead of by works. Jesus, the Christ, is the stone of stumbling and the rock of offense.
Paul talks here about the right of God to judge as He decides to judge. He is not saying that God does this in some way that is inconsistent or without reason. He is saying that if God were to do so, as God, He has the right to do so. But this is a continuation of His arguments for salvation by faith in God as opposed to salvation by works. He is not saying that God saves people willy-nilly with no sense of reason. He is not saying God is a tyrant who acts on a whim. If He were, we could not trust Him. He has the right to do so, but He does not act that way.
Paul uses the Old Testament stories of Abraham, Isaac, and Isaac's sons, Jacob and Esau, to establish that even from the beginning, it was faith in God that put them in good standing with God, not their good deeds.
The proper relationship with God is restored when we trust God enough to obey Him out of love for Him, not to earn His love for us. The broken relationship came about when people failed to trust Him and turned to their own ideas of what is right and wrong. As Isaiah said, “we, like sheep, have all gone astray”.
The law is good and helps us to know how to love God. But when we use the law as a means to “get in good with God” we miss the point of the law. When we do so, we are living out of love for ourselves, instead of out of love for God and other people. Our relationship with God is a gift. We cannot earn it or deserve it no matter how good we are. Once we come to understand that truth we are ready to accept the gift of a restored relationship... that is, to accept that God loves us... and now we can love Him purely, not with ulterior, selfish motives.
The point of salvation is to restore us to the proper relationship with God. The point of salvation is not to make us good, or even better people. People can, and many do, live good lives without thinking much at all about God. But being good is not what Christianity is about. It is good to be good people who live moral lives and do not hurt others intentionally. It is better to live in relationship with God.
Do you hear the love in Paul's voice as he cries for his people? He wants them to see the truth and be converted. Not from Jew to Gentile, but from those who are seeking to please God by proving themselves worthy, to accepting that God loves them and He offers to live in relationship with them without their having to earn that privilege. He cries, as do we, that our loved ones would come to understand the truth of God's love and grace. He is Lord. He is Sovereign. And He has decided that to have a relationship with Him you must accept it as a free gift. You must simply believe that He exists and that He will reward you if you seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6)
Paul's countrymen stumbled over the stone of stumbling and the rock of offense. He loved them and wanted to help them come to a knowledge of the truth, even up to the point of offering himself and giving up his inheritance in Christ if only that would help.
But God is not looking for us to give up our relationship with Him in order to win others. He may ask us to give up our lives here. Many have been slain for their faith. Martyrs often are the catalyst for change in a society. He will never require us to give up our relationship with Him in order to win others. We must stand firm on our faith in Him.
It is faith in Him and not in ourselves that saves us. God, offering Himself as a sacrifice to atone for the sin of the whole world, is a stumbling stone for many. It is as if the human side of us is indignant with God. We may think something like this, “Well, if my sacrifice and work to please you is not good enough for you, then you can take your gift of salvation and keep it.”
But, even then, we miss the point God is trying to get across to us. He loves us. He desires to have a relationship with us. The problem is we get in the way and insist on doing it ourselves. Self is the problem. The only way God could get self out of the way of our relationship with Him was to crucify the self.
In Jesus Christ's death, we have been crucified. We die to self and begin living to God. We are buried with Him and are reborn as people who are connected to God. We are restored to the only relationship that can make us what we were meant to be.
To someone who is trying to prove himself, or herself, to be good enough to God, the way of Christ is an offense. These are the ones Paul was crying for. These, who would justify themselves by works, were the ones who had misinterpreted the message of the Old Testament.
Paul is telling us that even in the Old Testament, the way to restoration with God was to surrender to His Lordship and accept His love as a gift, not as a prize to be won by our good deeds.
Jesus, the Christ, The Stone of Stumbling and Rock of Offense
Righteousness is attained by faith, not by works.
It is time to quit stumbling around in the dark and to come over to the light. Has the Spirit of God spoken to you and helped you to see the truth about yourself? Do you understand now that you cannot make yourself good enough to earn God's love? We were not intended to live on our own, straining and striving to earn His love. We were intended to come home to the Father and be wrapped in the robes of Christ's righteousness and simply bask in the light of God's love for us.
We were intended to allow Him to pick us up from our precarious position on the cliffs of destruction and allow Him to put us over His shoulders and carry us to safety.
We were intended to walk in the light of His Spirit instead of stumbling around trying to make our own light. When we are trying to prove ourselves to be good enough we are still in the dark. Come over to the light and allow God to save you. He offers Himself as a gift. Accept it. Trust Him. He will save you. You do not need to save yourself.
Many in Israel stumbled over the truth that Jesus brought to them. We do not need to stumble. We can take the hand God offers in love and be led by Him. This relationship is our inheritance in Christ. Come, taste and see that the Lord is good. Trust Him to save you. Trust Him to lead you into all truth.
Israel stumbled. Will you?