or the Gifts and the Calling of God Which Are Without Repentance
"Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises: whose are the fathers, and of whom, as concerning the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen."Rom 9:4, 5.Pre-eminent among the saints of God, of whom we read in the Holy Scriptures, are Moses, the servant of Jehovah, who was faithful in all God's house, and Paul, the Apostle of the Gentiles, who was able to say, "Be ye followers of me, even as I am of Christ" (1 Cor 11:1). When we think of these two chosen vessels of God, of their wisdom, their meekness, their self-sacrifice, their zeal for God's glory, their unwearied and ardent love, their sufferings, their patience; when we recall their tears, their words, their labours, their prayers, we feel so amazed at the grandeur of their characters and lives that we are lifted above the lower sentiments of admiration, and above the common expressions of eulogy, and we can only glorify God in them. As when we stand before a majestic Alpine mountain height, or gaze on a bright and beautiful star, we say: How great is God's power, how beautiful are His works, how wonderful is His glory!
Moses and Paul show that love to God and love to man are one; that he who stands highest on the mount of God, and sees most of the glory of God, has the deepest compassion, the most burning love, the tenderest sympathy towards his brethren. Moses in his anguish said, "Blot me out of Thy book" (Exo 32:32). He could not bear the thought of Israel's rejection. Paul in the intensity of his affection and sorrow could offer the same petition. We are not able to measure such depth of love man-ward, because we cannot understand the height of their love Godward. We listen in silence.
Love to Israel, such as Moses and Paul felt, is a ray from that ineffable ocean of light which is in God. The Apostle, when he speaks of his great grief on account of Israel's unbelief, is conscious that this feeling is not merely one of natural patriotism and affection, but of the Spirit, by virtue of his union with Christ. "I say the truth in Christ, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost" (Rom 9:1). He who referred all feelings of true and tender love to the indwelling of God's Spirit, who longed after the Philippians in the bowels of Jesus Christ, is clearly conscious that his love to Israel is Christ-sprung, God-given, Spirit-breathed; it is the Saviour's mind and affection living in his heart. Behold, Jesus Christ still weeping over Jerusalem with the eyes of Paul.
Most impressive ought this assurance be to you, dear Gentile Christians, for who ever loved you and lived for you as the Apostle Paul? Who ever devoted his life with such earnestness and zeal to your welfare? Who ever equalled him in the intensity of his love, in the compass as well as the patience and wisdom of his labours? Who ever suffered so much, and accomplished such great results for the Gentiles, as the Apostle Paul? Your salvation, your liberty, your position in the Church of Christ, these were the great objects for which he testified, lived, and died. This was his glory and joy, that among the Gentiles he preached the unsearchable riches of Christ, and that he declared the mystery of the Church which had been hid for ages. He was willing to suffer persecution and reproach, to be suspected and avoided by Jewish Christians, to endure life-long sorrow and hardship, if only he was permitted to carry out the mission which on that memorable day was given to him by the blessed Saviour, to bear His name before the Gentiles and kings and children of Israel. You Gentile Churches were in his heart, and upon the sacrifice and service of your faith he was offered up with joyso great was his love that the pain of sacrifice is forgotten, and he rejoices with you all. Him, therefore, you must loveand loving him, you must love also his intense love to Israel.
For much as he loved you, he never forgot his people; much as he rejoiced over your faith and your liberty in Christ, he continually mourned over the unbelief and bondage of the chosen people of God; and as he abounded with thanksgiving for the ingathering of the Gentiles, so he continued steadfast in the sure hope that all Israel shall be saved, and that the promises given to the fathers would be fulfilled, for the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.
And in this love, in this sorrow, in this hope, he is most anxious that you, Gentile Christians, should be one with him; for it is God, it is Christ, it is the Holy Ghost who have inspired him with this love, filled his heart with this sorrow, and sustained his spirit with this hope.
The Gentile Church, founded through Paul, has not remained Pauline. First, she obscured and for many centuries forsook the grand doctrine of justification by faith, until it pleased God, through the preaching of Martin Luther, John Calvin, and the other reformers, to revive the testimony of this fundamental truth. Slowly is she since then returning to the Pauline doctrine of Israel's unchanging position in the kingdom of God and of Israel's future conversion and restoration. And yet the two doctrines are so closely connected. We are saved by grace; even the chief of sinners, who has transgressed God's law, rejected the prophets, and crucified the loving Saviour, is saved by grace, eternal, abounding, unchangeable, according to the purpose of Him who is God over all. This central, vital, and comforting truth, that the grace of God saves us irrespective of our merits and works, and notwithstanding our great and grievous sins, behold, it is incarnate, it is embodied, it is manifested in concrete paradigm in the Jewish nation, chosen of God; their sins, though red as scarlet, culminating in the crucifixion of the Holy One, shall yet be forgiven, and the love of God shall visit them with everlasting redemption. Think of Israel when you think of Jesus the Saviour of sinners; think of the nation of grace, when you remember your own salvation.
Paul sees their blindness, their unbelief, their death. But he remembers what they are and what God has done for them, and in the position which God of His free grace has assigned them, and in the gifts which He has bestowed upon them, he sees the pledge of their future restoration.
They are Israelites, the children of Jacob, of that man who wrestled with God and prevailed; seed of the prince who, in that solemn night, achieved the greatest victory, when he wrestled with the Angel, in whom was God's countenance, and when in his weakness he was made strong; the patriarch, who, on his death-bed, invoked on his sons the blessing of the Angel who redeemed him from all evil, and wished that his name Israel be named on them, as well as the names of Abraham and Isaac. God called His people Israel, because they were called to fight the good fight of faith, to lay hold on eternal life, and in their weakness to be clothed with the strength and beauty of the everlasting God. He called them Israel, looking forward to the true Israel, who in the garden of Gethsemane offered up, with strong crying and tears, supplications and prayers, and who was heard; in whom they were chosen and called, to be the servants beloved of God. In this name were sealed to them all the promises of blessings given to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob; in this name were concentrated all the high dignities, duties, and privileges of their calling.
To them belongeth the adoption. If men are by nature God's children, why speak of adoption as a privilege conferred, a grace bestowed? All men are God's creatures, and under His paternal benevolence and providing care, but all men are not God's children. Since the fall of Adam we are a seed of evil-doers, in whose heart is no truth, children of wrath and disobedience. But out of the fallen race of Adam He chose Israel to be His son, His firstborn: "Ye are the children of the Lord your God" (Deut 14:1), said Moses to the people; "Out of Egypt have I called My son," said God by the Prophet Hosea (11:1). He adopted them by grace, to be His family, beloved and cared for and watched over by Jehovah as their Father.
Theirs also was the glory. Not in the sense that they had anything wherein to glory. The nations of this world speak much and proudly of their glory: Free England, Beautiful France, the Great Fatherlandall nations have a glory, of which they boast. Not so Israel, for God often reminded them that they were chosen according to grace, not by reason of any excellence and merit they possessed. They were not more numerous than other nations; theirs was no superior virtue or attractiongreat was their ingratitude and their hardness of heart. What was Israel's glory? It was God's glory, which belonged to them. The manifestation of God was given unto them. While the nations were in darkness, the bright light of God's favour visited Israel. While the heathen world was in darkness and dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, while the brightest and highest point man reached was that altar in Athens, with its inscription, "To the Unknown God" (Acts 17:23), Jehovah caused His face to shine on His chosen Israel. When He called Abram and revealed Himself to the Father of the faithful, it was as the God of glory that He appeared unto him.
The glory of the Lord appeared unto Moses. It was the glory of the Lord that Isaiah beheld when he saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and His train filled the temple. Ezekiel saw the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord, even the appearance of a Man above the throne, which was like a sapphire stone.
The glory of the Lord went before the people in a pillar of cloud and of fire in the wilderness; the glory appeared on Mount Sinai, it was seen as a cloud in the tabernacle and temple. Theirs was the glory, and in the fullness of time Jesus appeared, the Word tabernacled among them, and they beheld the glory of the Only Begotten of the Father. He adopted them as children. He revealed among them His glory.
Theirs are the covenants. God of His free mercy appeared unto Abraham and unto Isaac and unto Jacob, and in His sovereign love established an everlasting and immutable covenant, which no disobedience on man's part can annul, which no power on earth or in hell can destroy. In the divine covenants there are no contingencies, no uncertainties, no failures. God secures their conditions and fulfilments. He promises and His counsel stands fast. Men's transgressions and failings cannot change the purposes of His love; sinful and weak as we are, the covenants remain firm and steadfast as the rocks and mountains which He has established. In the covenants which God in His sovereignty made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, He inseparably connected three promises: a numerous nation, Messiah, the seed, in whom all families of the earth would be blessed, and the land of Canaan, which He gave to the Children of Israel for an inheritance. The nation, the Messiah, the landthe threefold promise God gave and confirmed with His oath. He is called the God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, because according to the covenants made with them are all the dealings of His grace and all the purposes of His kingdom.
To them pertaineth the giving of the law. That was a wonderful manifestation of divine power and love. God compares the exodus of Israel to the calling forth of His Son. But He uses another illustration. Israel was His Bride, whom He brought forth out of Egypt, the house of bondage. "I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals, when thou wentest after Me in the wilderness, in a land that was not sown" (Jer 2:2). He brought them out of Egypt and led them forth to Mount Sinai, and there, as at His altar, He betrothed Himself unto them, and avouched them to be His peculiar people. When God came forth from Paran, when His glory covered the heavens, and the earth was full of His praise, when clouds of darkness were round about Him, and amid thunder and lightning there was heard the sound of a trumpet and the voice of words, when God appeared with twenty thousand, even thousands of angels, as His chariotsthen He gave to Israel the law, which is holy and true and good; perfect, beautiful, and pure; the Ten Commandments, which contain the basis, and breathe the spirit, of all godliness and morality, and that perfect legislation, in which alone is the solution of all social and national problems. To Israel pertaineth the giving of the law, of that law which has never yet been fulfilled, but which awaits its true manifestation in the Millennium, when Israel as a nation shall observe the just and loving and health-giving ordinances and statutes of Jehovah, and when Israel's legislation shall become the model of all the kingdoms of the earth. Then shall it be seen that Israel's King, Jesus, is not merely Saviour of sinners, but Judge of judges, King of kings, and Lord of lords.
To them pertaineth the service. Think not of ritual invented by man, imposed by human authority, and arranged according to man's ingenuity and aesthetic feeling. The tabernacle with its laver and altars, its sanctuary and holy of holies, the institution of the priesthood with its vestments, down to the detail of the colours, fringes, and pomegranates; the festivals, fast-days, jubilees; the purifications and divers washings, the whole cultus was God-given; here everything is of divine authority and full of meaning. When Moses was on the mount forty days and forty nights, God showed him these things. Here are shadows and types of glorious and everlasting realities; here the Holy Ghost Himself teaches by signs. Thus we are taught in the Epistle to the Hebrews. It was not man who invented these emblems. The Spirit of God Himself chose to teach by these signs; representations of mysteries, of pardon and renewal, of worship and consecration, hidden wonderful things, which David and all God-fearing Jews besought God to reveal unto them"Open Thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of Thy law" (Psa 119:18). Here is a cultus, not invented by human ingenuity, and consecrated by ancient tradition, but the gift of divine wisdom and loveadumbrations full of light, shadows full of brightnessbut the body is of Christ.
To them pertain the promises; promises which embrace the Gentiles, and which are full of exultation and joy over the prosperity and peace of the world, are given by Israel's prophets; in words, in symbols, in visions, and also in living type, as David and Solomon. Of these promises the whole world is the circumference, but Israel the centre, and of Israel Jesus is the central soul and spirit. The great joy of David and all the prophets was that all ends of the earth shall be blessed and enjoy the knowledge and peace of God. Theirs was a world-wide hope. Never was a nation cosmopolitan, except Israel; no other nation was taught from the very commencement of its existence that its object was to benefit all the world, that its mission was to be a light-bearer to all people that on earth do dwell, to be a blessing to the isles afar off. The promises refer to your blessedness, O Gentile lands, but remember the custodians of your promises are the Israelites; the glad tidings of your future light and glory were entrusted by God through Jewish prophets to the seed of Abraham. The promises are numerous and manifold, and yet are one great promise, illumining the horizon, unto which our twelve tribes instantly serving God day and night hope to come.
Theirs are the fathers. Abraham, called the friend of God; Isaac, the son of promise, and Jacob, whom God loved, and who during his whole life waited for the salvation of God.
But Israel possesses yet a more exalted privilege, a greater and higher blessing. Of them, as concerning the flesh, came Christ the Lord. Born of the Virgin Mary, of the seed of David, of the seed of Abraham, in Bethlehem EphrataJesus is theirs. And this Jesus, who is thus truly and really the son of David, is Lord; He is over all, God blessed for ever. He is not merely offspring, but root of David. David, to whom He was promised as his son and the heir of his throne, calls him by the Spirit Lord. Abraham rejoiced to see Christ's day, and was glad in it, and yet before Abraham was, Jesus is. Bethlehem is His starting-point, yet His goings forth are from of old, even from everlasting. He is Zion's Son and Zion's Lord; He is God Almighty, high above all, the object of Israel's homage and adoption. Oh, what a glory is this, that the Lord Himself was born of the virgin daughter of Zion! Happy art thou, O Israel! Who is like unto thee, O people, saved by the Lord?
How great and how painful is the contrast when we look from the high position and blessings God gave to Israel, to their actual condition of unbelief and darkness! for, as Jesus is the centre of Israel, their life, light, and glory, death has been the consequence of their rejection of Jehovah manifest. Therefore are they compared to dead bones, very many and very dry. They are dead, because Jehovah, God-manifest, is the Life, the Spirit of the nation, and in rejecting Jesus they have forsaken the fountain of their life, the strength and substance of their existence. Behold their house is left unto them desolate. What is their house? Jerusalem and the pleasant land? It is trodden under foot of the Gentiles. What is their house, their dwelling-place? The Scriptures? Behold, they read Moses and the Prophets wearily, blindly they wander to and fro in the sacred record, but the veil is on their hearts, and as they do not discern Messiah, of whom the Scriptures testify, they find no light and peace there. Their house is left unto them desolate. What is their house? Their beautiful Sabbaths and festivals, the lovely Passover, Pentecost, Feast of Tabernacles, their solemn Day of Atonement? Alas, where is the Lamb which God has chosen, the blood of sprinkling for the remission of sins, the high priest to enter into the holy of holies? They dwell in a desolate house, and cannot find rest for their souls, and cannot see the beauty of the Lord. Their house is left desolate, Jerusalem is trodden down of the Gentiles; the Scripture and the services are to them empty and void, without power and without peace. Ichabod, the glory has departed; Israel's glory, the Shechinah; for the glory of God is beheld only in the face of His Son Jesus Christ.
Sorrow must fill our hearts when we think of Israelites without Christ. But this sorrow ought to express itself in the exercise of love, as it ought to seek consolation in the hope of a bright future. Israel, scattered among the nations, is a witness for God. They are the fulfillment of prophecy, the monuments of God's faithfulness and truth. No greater evidence for the truth of Scripture can be given than the existence and history of the Jews. Here is a book of many pages, held up for the reading and instruction of all nations.
Frederick the Great said one day, before a large company of sceptics and unbelievers, to his general, Ziethen, whose courage and loyalty were as well known as his simple faith and piety: "Give us a good argument to prove Christianity, but something short and convincing." "The Jews, your Majesty," replied the veteran; and the company was silent. The existence of the Jewish nation is indeed an unanswerable proof of the truth of the prophetic Word.
But while they confirm the truth, and while they have been the channel of blessing to you, remember that they have been placed within your reach in order that you may bring nigh unto them the gospel of peace. Through your mercy they are to obtain mercy. You owe them a debt of gratitude, you are bound to them by the most tender and sacred ties. The Scriptures, which make you wise unto salvation, the apostles, who have brought the Name of Jesus to the nations, the Lord of glory Himself, have come from Israel. And as it is God's will to gather them under their own King David, and to establish them again in peace and holiness, so is it His will that the Church should not be ignorant of this mystery, should not forget the priority of Israel in the kingdom, and should continually remember the chosen people in love and kindness. And in the exercise of this love there is encouragement, for God hath not cast away His people even in this dispensation; there have always been and always will be a remnant according to the election of grace; there are in our days many Israelites who, through the prayers, the love, and the mission of the Christian Church, have come to faith in the Messiah.
The future of Israel is bright and glorious, and bound up with the manifestation of Christ the Lord. Hence it has a special place in the Christian's heart. We cannot regard the Jewish Mission as one among many missions. The nation has a position, central and unique, according to the divine purpose. We cannot measure the importance of the Jewish Mission by the numerical greatness either of the nation or of converts; we measure it by the value assigned to them in the Scripture, by the decisive love with which God regards them, and by the special influence which they are to exert on the whole world. God divides all nations into Jews and Gentiles; His purpose and wish is that we should commence with Jerusalem, and His promise teaches us that through the restoration of Israel the golden era of the world will be ushered in.
And as the mission to Israel stands out pre-eminent so we have a promise of special blessing for all who bless Abraham. Oh, become partakers of this blessing, and be in this also a follower of your great Apostle Paul. Encouraged by so many tokens of God's presence and grace among the Jews, look, above all, to the word and promise which cannot fail, to the Crucified One, over whose cross was written: "Jesus Christ, King of the Jews"; to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, whose faithfulness is above the heavens. And let all the remembrances by which God brings Israel before you recall to you Israel's claim, and deepen your love to God's people. When you think of the grace that has brought salvation to you, remember Israel, the nation of grace. When you think of the sweet sound of the Name Jesus, remember it is a Hebrew NameJehoshua, Saviour. When you think of departed saints and the heavenly city, remember that it is Jerusalem, in which as an emblem God hath shown you the eternal home. When after your petitions you utter the word so full of consolation and hope, "Amen," remember it is Israel who hath taught you "the God Amen,"* who is Hearer of prayer. And when overwhelmed with joy and praise you abound with thanksgiving to the God who hath done great marvels, and say "Hallelujah," remember that Israel was the first, and shall again be the foremost in the great chorus of nations.* El-Amen (Isa 65:16), translated in the Authorised Version, "God of truth."Creation also reminds you of Israel. As you behold the sun by day, and the moon and stars by night, remember that the Lord who hath given them hath said, "The Lord of Hosts is His name"; "if those ordinances depart from before Me, then the seed of Israel shall cease from being a nation before Me for ever" (Jer 31:35,36). See how easy God makes it for us to remember and to believe that all Israel shall be saved. Lift up then the eyes of your heart, and behold who hath created these things, and hope for the restoration of Israel.
And as creation proclaims God's purpose regarding His people, our faith in the Resurrection points to the same great manifestation of divine power. Israel's conversion will be a marvel of omnipotent love. When Ezekiel beheld the valley of dry bones, and was asked, "Son of man, can these bones live?" he felt that with man it was impossible, and in humility of faith he replied, "Thou, Lord, knowest" (37:3). Yes, in their graves they shall hear the voice of God. He who can raise the dead and call them out of their graves shall send forth His Spirit, and breathe upon the dry bones and they shall live, and stand up an exceeding great army. Let us give then our aid to the Jewish Mission, in faith, in love, in hope, and let us seek to enter into the mind of God, and to look forward to that great promise which all the fathers embraced, and held fast even unto the end. May there be given unto us also, out of that wonderful and infinite ocean of divine love to Israel, a little love to God's ancient people. Amen.