Genesis 45:1-15 and Psalm 133
Isaiah 56:1, 6-8 and Psalm 67
Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32
Matthew 15:(10-20), 21-28
Peace be with you!
I love crime mystery television shows, like Castle and Bones, where you follow the detectives through the investigation to catch a murder. The way each team finds the clues and puts them all together to solve the mystery is what Paul is doing. Although Paul is not investigating a murder, these past three weeks he has been trying to solve the Jewish salvation mystery. Now that Jesus has come and has been crucified, died, and resurrected from hell as the Messiah, which gives salvation to all those who believe in him. However, the Jews do not accept Jesus as their Messiah and are still waiting.
As we discussed two weeks ago, the Jewish salvation mystery has a personal effect for Paul, a pre-Jesus Pharisee who still hangs to his Jewish heritage, because his faith structure changed when he became a Christian by accepting Jesus Christ as his Messiah. The Jewish salvation mystery left him worrying about his friends and family members who still have not accepted Jesus as their Messiah. Now you have to understand Paul is at war with himself over the idea of salvation only belong to those individuals who believe in Jesus Christ as their Messiah and died for their sins. For Paul, this fact hunts him since many of his friends and family members are Jews who have not accepted Jesus Christ as their Messiah (Romans 9:1-5).
Paul is wrestling with the question: How do I accept when I go to heaven my friends and my family members may not be there?
The Israelites were use to being God’s chosen people who followed the Ten Commandments and the laws to be in a relationship with their Lord. Descendents of Abraham, the Israelites were chosen by God to be his people and to be ready for the coming Messiah. However, the Jews (the Israelites) rejected the Messiah and his message, because they were expecting him to over power the government to free them from oppression.
Now the Gentiles were being welcomed into God’s family after being disobedient by not following the Ten Commandments or the laws for hundreds of years. Because the Israelites reject Jesus as their Messiah, Jesus goes out to preach to the Gentiles who accept the good news. The Gentiles are grafted into God’s family not according to their obedience but through mercy by believing in Jesus Christ.
For Paul, the Jews and the Gentiles seem to be at odds with each other, because both nations claims God’s salvation. The Israelites (the Jews) have had claims to God’s salvation as God’s chosen people for thousands of years. They followed the Ten Commandments, and they lived by the laws, which dictated what they could eat, what livestock they would sacrifice, and how they lived. God’s salvation belonged to the Israelites.
Now the Gentiles had claims to God’s salvation. They accepted Jesus Christ as their Messiah who was crucified, died, and resurrected for the forgiveness of their sins. Since the Jews disobeyed God by rejecting Jesus as their Messiah, Jesus went out to the Gentiles to preach the good news (Romans 11:30). Through the Jews’ disobedience, the Gentiles receive salvation. The Gentiles have been grafted into God’s family by gaining righteousness through Jesus’ crucifixion, death, and resurrection (2 Corinthians 5:17) (Hultgren 2011). As Gentiles, we are grafted into God’s family when we come into a relationship with Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
So does this mean the Israelites no longer will receive God’s salvation? Paul argues no, because God always delivers on his promises. God will not abandon the Israelites, his chosen people. Matt Skinner writes that Paul leaves it up God as to who receives salvation and is merciful (Skinner 2011).
Paul has not given up hope that God will show mercy to Israelites and will give them salvation in heaven. Paul has hope God will stay true to his promises as he always has in the past and will continue to show the mercy. That is Paul’s last word on the Jewish salvation mystery: mercy. God is merciful to all those who believe. God’s mercy is for everyone, not just one nation.
Thanks to be God!
Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for your mercy. Help us to extend your mercy to everyone we meet. Thank you for the salvation through Jesus Christ, your son. Amen.
Hultgren, Arland J. Paul’s Letter to the Romans: A Commentary. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2011.
Skinner, Matt. Working Preacher. August 7, 2011. http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?tab=3&alt=1 (accessed August 13, 2011).
Please feel free to answer the reflective questions through comments. Please agree to disagree and be respectable to each other. Please take a moment, if you have not already, to sign the covenant. You can answer all or just one of the questions.
1. What does God’s mercy mean to you?
2. What does God’s salvation mean to you?