Big Idea: In the End the God of Israel will be Glorified (by all)
Morning friends and visitors, my name is Matt Johnson and today we are finishing our study of Romans 9-11 – focusing on All Israel being Saved. In the near future we will look at the LAST FOUR CHAPTERS of Romans – which is full of application about how we should live as Jew and Gentile Christians saved by Jesus. So please pray with me…
Well friends, Israel have now been back in and around Jerusalem since 1948. But in some ways, ISRAEL still seems lost and confused about their way forward. (SLIDE 2) In August 2020 – a Jewish lady named TEHILA FRIEDMAN gave her maiden speech in Israel’s Parliament and it may well go down in history alongside other great speeches like – “we’ll fight them on the beaches.”
I want to show you a bit of that speech because I think Israel’s future is going to get a lot more messy – before we see anything like; “All Israel being saved.” Look with me at just a bit of Tehila’s maiden speech…
SHOW: SLIDE 3, 4, 5 & 6
Tehila admits that she does not yet have THE WHOLE TRUTH. She only has a partial truth, a partial beauty. She has not yet seen that JESUS is the way, the truth and the life. The last sentence is also particularly sad. Does Israel’s future really depend on them or on God? The reference to THE THIRD TEMPLE is also politically loaded as the Jews look for something, anything, that can truly unite them in all their differences and bring shalom.
Sadly, hostility in Israel is NOT just with PALESTINE. After years of living abroad in the diaspora the Jews themselves are divided politically, religiously and even culturally. Who or what could possibly bring unity to such a divided people?
Well we sit here this morning – as a multicultural church. We hail not just from different CULTURES, but different SOCIO-ECONOMIC backgrounds. Some of us are wealthy. Some of us poor. Some of us were raised on capitalism, others on communism. We come from Muslim countries and nominally Christian countries, from Buddhist to secular countries. Yet, someone bigger than our DIFFERENCES unites us. His name is Jesus. But this is a truth – that still seems to elude much of Israel. What they need is Jesus Messiah, not another Messiah, nor a third temple.
Point 1: The Jews must embrace the Gospel of Jesus
Show: Rom.11:28-29 (READ)
Well today – Paul begins to EXPLAIN A TENSION that is often hard for us to navigate. Paul explains the Jewish people (en-masse) are loved by God, but generally speaking remain enemies of the gospel.
Now this is complicated because Jews who believe in the God of the Old Testament – still know the true God. Not in a saving sense. But still in a somewhat TRUE SENSE. The God of Judaism and the God of Christianity is still the true Creator God. This is very different to Buddhism, or Hinduism or even Islam. The spiritual powers behind these other religions are not the Creator God. They are lesser gods. The spiritual powers behind these other religions are fallen angels or demons – pedalling half-truths for the sake of deception. But the Jews have a knowledge of the true Creator God – through the Law and through His mercy to them 1) escaping from Egypt, 2) entering the promised land and 3) being delivered from Babylon.
God revealed Himself to Israel because He loved Israel and was using Israel to save the world. But God’s plan to save the world – centred on a Jewish Messiah. God promised ABRAHAM a seed, KING DAVID a Son and the prophet ISAIAH a Suffering Servant. This Messiah would be good news for everyone BECAUSE A) the Messiah would somehow unite sinful people with a holy God and B) somehow unite sinful people with each other – even breaking down the Jew-Gentile divide.
So God promised the Jews He would one day send a Messiah – who like Himself would be full of light and love and goodness. But where on earth could God find such a perfect human Messiah? Fact is – such a perfect leader could not be found in Israel, born of the flesh. The story of 1 & 2 Kings (in the Old Testament) is basically the search for a perfect Messianic King – post King David.
And as each King gets pulled out of the proverbial Matzo’s box and examined the verdict is constantly the same; no this one is another dud. No, this one is another dud; no this one is another dud…
What the world needed was a perfect King. But the problem is all people are sinners, including the Jews. So where could a perfect King be found? What’s more, Israel itself is meant to be a THEOCRACY. God is meant to be King. So if God is truly King, then the Messianic King must truly be aligned with God – otherwise Israel is not a true theocracy. Now in 600BC the prophet Jeremiah came to understand this and revealed not once, but twice, that the Messiah himself would need to be Yahweh. This is what Jeremiah says;
SHOW: Jer.23:5-6 (READ)
APPLY: Now when you see the word LORD in capitals it is actually God’s proper name YAHWEH. And Jeremiah is saying the Messianic King descended from David will actually be known as Yahweh. Within the ordinary ranks of Judaism – no perfect King could be found. So God, or more specifically God’s Son, provided to Israel what they could not provide for themselves – Godbecame the King they needed. This is the good news or gospel of Jesus.
The New Testament begins in Matthew saying; “A RECORD of the genealogy of Jesus Messiah, the Son of David, the son of Abraham.” But by and large most Jews REJECT the idea that Jesus was the Messiah. So when Paul talks about the Jews being ENEMIES of the gospel – he means the Jews are hostile to the idea that Jesus was their Messiah. Many orthodox and reformed Jews (in the west) have to raise their children constantly telling them – that no Jesus is NOT the Messiah, despite what Christians think. No. No. No. We Jews are still waiting for the true Messiah to come.
This means that every 50-60 years (for the last 2500 years) different Jews have claimed to be the Messiah. Let me show you some of the most recent. (Slide 7). Judaism (by and large) has rejected the most famous Messiah of all time – Jesus; but continues to look for other Messiah’s. Now the New Testament has a term to describe alternate Messiahs and it is anti-Christ. Who are the one people group on earth now actively looking and longing for an alternate Christ? (PAUSE) Mmmm. One wonders if one of these anti-Messiahs may actually end up being so impressive that he not only cons Israel, but also some of the world and the church? I mean if someone could suddenly solve the Israel-Palestine problem OR perhaps even the Temple Mount problem that would certainly win a few converts – both among the Jews, the Muslims and the United Nations. It may even be what Paul is talking about in 2 Thessalonians 2. Paul tells us that a false Messiah in a Temple of sorts seems to precede the return of Jesus.
But this is why Paul identifies the mass of Israel as ENEMIES of the gospel. A) The Jews are still LOVED by God on account of the Patriarchs. But they are not yet – saved. They are hostile and remain ENEMIES to the gospel message of Jesus being their Messiah.
Point 2: The Jews must Receive God’s Mercy in Jesus, (like us Gentiles).
Now please notice the key words DISOBEDIENCE and MERCY. The reason we all need mercy is because we have all been disobedient. Some of us have disobeyed God in IGNORANCE – because we didn’t know His commands. But that is no excuse. If you tell the Australian Police – I’m sorry I didn’t know running people over in my car was a crime – it doesn’t matter. You still go to jail. Ignorance is no excuse.
Others of us – have intentionally broken God’s law. We know what is right and wrong because we know the Bible AND we have a conscience. But nonetheless we still do the wrong thing – sometimes with eyes wide-open because we are being wilfully disobedient.
Finally, and perhaps, worst of all – some of us have known the true Creator God because we’ve been raised in Jewish or Christian homes. But many of us reject the God of the Bible altogether and go after other PRETEND GODS – because we get to design our own religion. I mean some religions are little more than – “Do whatever you want because you are god. Self-actualize and become the god you are.” So we join Eve in the first great lie and eat the forbidden fruit. I can be like god. BUT THE FIRST COMMANDMENT SAYS; I am the Lord your God. You shall have no other gods before me. (And that includes yourself).
So we’ve all disobeyed God and this is serious. At the end of the day we don’t answer to 1) the God of our imaginations and 2) we certainly don’t answer to ourself. No! At some point we answer to the God who actually made us and gave us life.
Illustrate: My concern for Tehila Friedman (and other Jews like her) – is that she hasn’t stopped and considered; why the Jews were out of the land in the first place? Why did they need this miracle?
I mean God gave Israel the promised land to Israel in about 1446BC. But since then Israel’s been out of the land, more than they’ve been in it. WHY? Are the Jews just victims of injustice? Of course, we love playing the innocent victim card these days – because it helps us avoid responsibility. But truly – why did Israel lose the land in the first place and the second place and the third place? THE PROBLEM is Jews and Christians do not believe in FORTUNE or CHANCE or a spot OF BAD LUCK. The Old Testament and the New Testament teaches that God is Sovereign in all things. So if God is Sovereign in all things – why did God take the land off Israel? (PAUSE). It seems that despite a very painful past Israel has still not recognized that their problem, is the same problem of ALL mankind. We are all sinners in need of a Savior. THAT’S WHY we can’t hold on to the promises of God – because we keep sinning.
Apply: Tehila finished her speech saying “Israel’s stability is our responsibility. Its existence depends on us.” It’s a rallying cry (yet again) for Israel to pull up their spiritual socks and do better. But that is the very point of a Jewish Messiah. No one can live up to the 10 Commandments, let alone the 613 commandments. What we need is not a LESSON in responsibility, but a lesson in humility.
You cannot save yourself – O Israel. What you need is God to save you and this is what He has done in Jesus. GOD DECIDED that if a perfect King died for the sins of His people – sin would be punished and yet mercy could be extended to sinners. And this was the role of the Messiah. A perfect Messiah named Jesus – who never sinned, but perfectly obeyed all the Jewish commands – had NO DEBT with God. He did not deserve to die. So by dying on the cross – Jesus was able to pay the debt for us. He paid the debt of sin (for us) because He loves us. Now if Jesus has paid your debt for sin (and it’s paid in full) then you get to enjoy the promises of God despite your sin. I mean if the debt is paid – you don’t have to pay the debt over and over again – by forfeiting the promises.
And God in His mercy says; “if you believe in Jesus (and accept him as your Messiah” I will totally forgive you and you will receive all my promises in Jesus forever.” Now that is a good deal. No other religion has this good a deal. This means you will be good enough for A) the Promised Land and B) good enough for heaven – even though you are not really good enough. Now as we truly grasp God’s mercy in Jesus it brings forth great gratitude to God, true love for God and real shalom peace with God. I don’t need to be afraid. God loves me. It also stops us playing one upmanship with each other (I’M BETTER THAN YOU) – because we know we are all equally sinners and yet we are all equally loved by God. And with this comes true unity and true community…
In Zechariah (about 500BC) – Yahweh, the God of Israel says this… (SLIDE 9 – Zech.12:10). I IMAGINE this may be the day when all Israel will be saved. God says he will pour out His grace, and on that day, Israel will look on “ME” the one they have pierced and grieve bitterly. This is God speaking and the word PIERCE – means to penetrate the flesh. It is like what happened to Jesus as they nailed him to the cross and pierced his side with a spear. But God says you look on ME, you will look on ME (and be brought to tears). As God pours out his grace we begin to see the God of Creation loves us enough that He died to save us. A) WE DON’T get to heaven by good works. B) WE GET to heaven by receiving mercy. It was Gods mercy that saved the Jews from Egypt. It was God’s mercy that gave them the Promised Land. And it was God’s mercy that provided a crucified Messiah to achieve for us what we could never do for ourselves.
Just look at verse 31 again (READ) Notice the words that they may receive mercy – as a result of God’s mercy to you. THEY is talking about Jewish people. YOU is talking about Gentile Christians. We (Gentile Christians) who know God’s mercy are meant to play a role in the Jews receiving, understanding and grasping God’s mercy. That they too may receive mercy as a result or because of God’s mercy to you.
Point 3: The Jews may join us in glorifying God, through Jesus
Show: Rom.11:33-36 (READ)
Well as we’ve now seen GOD HAS A PLAN, a mysterious plan to save the world through a Messiah. It began with the Jews. It then turned to the Gentiles. But in the end God will finish what he began with Jews – drawing them to Himself. And so, in the end (last verse) – “all glory will be to God – for from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.” God has come up with a plan that ultimately magnifies God’s mercy. ISRAEL will not be able to claim credit for their salvation. THE CHURCH will not be able to take credit for its salvation. AND NOT ONE OF US – will be able to walk through the pearly gates of heaven saying; “I deserve this.” Rather, we will walk on streets paved with gold – saying “Salvation belongs to God, who sits upon the throne and to the Lamb.” (Rev.7:10). All glory to God.
Friends, as we finish this section of Romans – I have just a few final comments and cautions on what we have studied….
- First, remember the only way for people to be saved is faith in Jesus. There is only ONE TRUE MESSIAH and there is only one true Mediator between God and man – the man Jesus Christ. Jews and Gentiles must believe in him to be saved. There is no other way.
- Second, like the apostle Paul we need to become all things to all people so that we may win some for christ. if the Gentile church has a little more compassion for Israel and their culture and the unique complexity of God hardening them (for a time) it will probably go a long way in how we share Jesus with Israel. We may be a little more patient, more gracious and more accommodating.
- Third, we need to remember that JEWISH Christians do not need to become GENTILES in order to be Christians AND Gentile Christians do not need to become Jews in order to be Christians. Salvation is all of God’s grace and faith in Jesus – not following the Jewish law. Not living as a Gentile. Sadly, in some Messianic circles a legalism slips into the church – where Gentiles are expected to live as Jews – kosher food, Sabbath observance, etc for that extra little bit of holiness. But Gentiles who start observing the Jewish law – usually take their eyes off Jesus. Similarly, many Gentile churches expect Jewish Christians to stop eating kosher, stop observing the Sabbath, stop celebrating certain festivals to be fully Christian. But why? Of course, if people are relying on the Law to get themselves to heaven – there is a problem. But if they are relying on Jesus to get them to heaven and are doing these other things because they are Jews – there should be room for grace.
- Fourth, in many churches that believe in the future salvation of Israel – you often find some weird & wacky theology. Bob Mendehlsohn tells me that in the US – some Christians have theological objections to Jews for Jesus – because it’s not yet their time. Many dispensationalists believe we now live in the age of the Gentiles and so we are wasting our time evangelizing Jews, now. We should just wait for God’s time. But as Paul explained in Romans 9 & 10 – elect Jewish individuals are still being saved right now through the preaching of the gospel. How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news. What’s more, many of these same dispensational Christians also believe the Christian church will be raptured and taken to heaven before all Israel is saved. So there is this weird idea that the church ultimately plays no role in Jews coming to know Jesus, now or in the future. So just be wary of some very weird theology that often surrounds the future of Israel.
- Finally, I believe there are still some very UNCERTAIN TIMES ahead for Israel. I don’t think it will be a straight line between Israel now and Israel coming to faith in Jesus. The sad reality – is that Israel is the one nation on earth who are actively looking for a Jewish Messiah (other than Jesus). And sometimes if you look for something long enough and hard enough – you actually find it.
On a more literal reading of Revelation (and other parts of the Bible) some believe an anti-Messiah (with the support of international leaders) may yet construct a third temple where ALL the Abrahamic religions – of Judaism, Christianity and Islam can join together in worship of God. It sounds amazing and unifying. And yet, such peace and unity will be idolatrous (and temporary) if it is not focussed on the finished work of Christ. Again, I’m not sure about some of these details. But my caution is not to jump on the EVERYTHING ISRAEL, EVERYTHING ZION bandwagon (that possesses some churches). Rather, let us fix our eyes on Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith – who for the joy set before him endured the cross. I think the path forward for Israel is still fraught with danger for both Jews and Christians before that great day when “All Israel will be saved.”