Israel's Inalienable Possesions - The Gifts and the Calling of God Which are Without Repentance/Chapter 02
" I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, that I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh : 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 con- cerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen."
Rom. ix. 1-5.
"As concerning the Gospel, they are enemies for your sakes : but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers' sakes. For the gifts and the calling of God are without repentance."
Rom. xi. 28, 29.
Israel's Inalienable Possessions.
THE APOSTLE'S YEARNING LOVE FOR ISRAEL
"For I could wish that I myself were anathema from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh "
T7ROM the height of blessed- ness to which the Apostle gradually leads us in the first, or doctrinal section of the Epistle, culminating as it does in the triumphant " No condemnation " and " No separation " to " them
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that are in Christ Jesus," we are here at the commencement of the dispensational, or prophetic section of the Epistle, almost abruptly brought down into a vale of sorrow, and we hear the Apostle speak of " great heavi- ness and uninterrupted sorrow in his heart."
And if the question be asked, Why this sudden descent from the mountain-top of blessedness ? could not the Apostle have spared us the knowledge and the sor- row ot this dispensational sec- tion of the Epistle, and have taken up the thread of his argu- ment with the practical section which begins with the 1 2th chap- ter ? the answer is No ! For their own good the Apostle could
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not leave Gentile believers in ignorance of the mystery of God with Israel. God's dealings with Israel, God's purposes in Israel, are subjects with regard to which Christians, for their own good, cannot afford to be ignorant.
The teaching imparted in this section of the Epistle which was written for the express purpose of instructing Gentile believers about Israel is not only salu- tary but absolutely needful, and though in the course of our study of these chapters, if our hearts be filled with the compassion of Christ, we too shall be filled with sorrow in contemplating Israel's present condition, yet we too are sure in the end to emerge with the Apostle with the triumphant,
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adoring exclamation, " Oh, the depth of the riches botH of the wisdom and the knowledge of God ! How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out ! " And our gain in the process will consist of en- larged views of God's character and a better understanding of God's ways and, my dear friends, to the Christian there is no greater gain.
The first five verses of the Qth chapter form the introduction to this section of the Epistle, which consists of Chapters ix., x., and xi., and in these verses the Apostle Paul, before proceeding to vindicate the ways of God in His governmental dealings with Israel and the nations, stops to
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express his own sorrow and deep sympathy for that nation, which, though in the purpose of God exalted so high, is at present, through unbelief, fallen so low.
"I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost." By this solemn asseveration the Apostle wants, not only to im- press us with the sincerity and truthfulness of his sorrow and sympathy for Israel, but to teach us that the feelings to which he gives utterance are no mere natural sentiments, such as a Jew might be supposed to have for his nation. He speaks as a man " in Christ," that is, as a man whose conscience, whose whole being, has been renewed
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and illumined, and who, at the very time of writing, is conscious of being under the direct opera- tion of God's Spirit. It is not as a natural man, but as a spiritual man; it is not as a Jew, but as an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no guile it is as an inspired Apostle that he speaks, and he may therefore well serve as our pattern.
He says, " I have great heavi- ness (or " I have great grief") and uninterrupted pain in my heart." The Apostle, my dear friends, had indeed drunk deeply of the Spirit of his Divine Master, our Lord Jesus, Who for our sakes became a Man of Sorrows and acquainted with grief, Who was ever moved to compassion
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when He beheld the multitude of Israel, and Who wept over Jeru- salem.
We may pause for a moment at this second verse, and ask our- selves, " How did this Divine sympathy, this Spirit- inspired grief, operate in his heart ? What did it impel him to?" It impelled him first of all to earnest prayer and intercession on Israel's behalf.
" Brethren," he exclaims, at the beginning of the loth chapter, " my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved " ; or, more literally, " The good pleasure of my heart and supplication to God on behalf of Israel is for their salvation. " The good pleasure of my heart "
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the Apostle found delight in prayer for Israel. I wonder of how many it is true now that they pray for Israel at all. And among those who are watchmen on the walls of Zion, and who do pray for Israel's salvation, I wonder of how many it can be said that it is done in " the good pleasure of their hearts," and not rather as a duty at the best. The Apostle found delight in his supplication for Israel, because it brought him so near to the heart of God, who has never ceased to yearn for His wandering people, and because his prayers sprang from sympathy with, and a deep understanding of, the purposes of God, not only to bless, but to make Israel yet the centre and
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channel of blessing for the whole earth.
But he not only prayed for them his divinely - given sym- pathy for Israel impelled him also continually to labour for them. Paul was specially commissioned of God to preach the glad tidings of salvation through the crucified, risen Messiah to the Gentiles ; yet, if we follow his missionary career, we find that wherever he went he always sought out the Jews first, and preached to them in their synagogues. " // was necessary that the Word of God should first be spoken to you," he says in one place ; and when the Jews in that city shut their ears and blasphemed, and he had to turn to the Gentiles, we read that
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in the very next place which he visited, Iconium, he and Barnabas went again together into the syna- gogue, " and so spake that a great multitude both of the Jews and also of the Greeks believed." And this we find to be the case to the end of his career. And he not only preached the Gospel to them, but he cared for the temporal necessities of the believing Israelites ; and when a famine broke out in Judea he was the first to raise his voice among the Gentile Churches which he had founded, calling upon them to help these believ- ing Jews, and reminding them that " if the Gentiles had been made partakers in their spiritual things, it was their duty also
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to minister to them in carnal things."
But even all his labours and all his prayers did not fully ex- press his yearning love and desire for Israel. He went much fur- ther. This is brought out in the 3rd verse. What a wonderful verse this is ! " For I could wish that I myself were anathema from Christ for my brethren, my kins- men according to the flesh:' Shrink as we may, my dear friends, from the full meaning of these fervent words of the Apostle, sure it is that no other meaning will sufficiently satisfy the plain sense of the words, than that the Apostle actually went the length of wishing, if it had been possible, and if Christ had permitted it, to
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be himself cut off from Christ in the place of his people.
" The wish," says Dean Alford, " is evidently not to be pressed as entailing on the Apostle the charge of inconsistency in loving his nation more than his Saviour. It is the expression of an affec- tionate and self-denying heart, willing to surrender all things, even, if it might be, eternal life itself, if thereby he could obtain for his beloved people these bless- ings of the Gospel which he now enjoyed, but from which they were excluded. . . . Others express their love by professing them- selves ready to give their life for their friends ; he declares the in- tensity of his affection by reckon- ing even his spiritual life not too
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great a price if it might purchase their salvation."
In this respect there are two men in the history of Israel who stand nearest to Christ for their willingness to sacrifice themselves for their people. One was Moses, who, after the apostasy of Israel in the matter of the golden calf, prayed to God, " Yet now if Thou wilt forgive their sin ; and if not, blot me, I pray Thee, out of the book which Thou hast written." And the other was this Apostle, who said, " I could wish that I myself were anathema from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh."
And remember, my dear friends, that the man who gives us this glimpse into the intensity of his
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heart's love and yearning for Israel is the one who perhaps, next to our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, has suffered most at the hands of his people. Again and again, as he was proclaiming to them the fulfilment of the promises made to the fathers in God's gift of His only begotten Son, they cried : " Away with such a fellow from the earth, for it is not fit that he should live ! " Five dif- ferent times did they lay many stripes upon him in their syna- gogues ; they hunted him from place to place ; wherever they could, they stirred up tumults against him ; they beat him, they stoned him, they heaped all sorts of reproaches and blasphemies upon him ; and what pained him
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perhaps most of all was that they tried by all the means in their power to frustrate his Apostolic commission, "forbidding him to preach the Gospel to the Gen- tiles that they might be saved."
And yet, all through, and to the end, not only had he no incli- nation or desire to " accuse his nation " before the Gentiles (Acts xxviii. 19), but he never ceased to love them and to yearn for them. Truly such k)ve sprang from no mere natural or human source, but was part of that wonderful, everlasting, unchange- able love of Jehovah toward the children of Israel, which even all their many sins and apostasies could never quench, and was drawn by the Apostle from the
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great heart of his Divine Master, who wept over Jerusalem, and who, even on the cross, prayed, " Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."
And it is only in this same spirit of a love which never faileth, and of Christ-like com- passion, that we too shall be able to persevere in our prayers and in our efforts for the salvation of gainsaying, disobedient Israel, else we shall soon turn away from them discouraged if not em- bittered, as has been the case, alas ! with some who began well, but whose knowledge of this peculiar people has been shallow, and whose interest did not rest on the deep-enough basis of an intelligent understanding of God's
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will and purposes, and was not impelled by the all-constraining love of Christ, which alone can prevail.
" A parallel case," as Dr. Adolph Saphir observed in one of his last addresses on this sub- ject, "is this: Jesus asks Peter, ' Lovest thou Me ? ' then He says, ' Feed My sheep.' It is not love to the sheep that will sustain Peter in feeding them. It is the fact that they are Christ's sheep. It is not because the sheep are lovable that his interest in them will continue. It is because Christ is lovable. Likewise, unless you believe that Israel is God's nation, and your interest is based on the Word of God, your efforts to evangelise
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among Israel will soon languish, and your patience will be ex- hausted."
To return to the Apostle's willingness to sacrifice himself for his nation, I would remind you that neither a Paul nor a Moses, nor even an archangel, could suffice for the redemption of the people, or of even one soul in Israel. One there is Whose death alone is a sufficient ransom, and He not only "wished," but was actually made a curse for us, that we might be freed from the curse of sin and the law.
Yes, it was necessary, not on the ground of human " expediency," as Israel's apostate high priest expressed it ; but because of a Divine necessity, springing from
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the eternal principles of God's moral government of the world, that the Christ Himself "should die for the people, that the whole nation perish not" (John xi. 49-
And Jesus did die for that
nation, and in that great and wonderful fact rests the certainty of Israel's future salvation. But blessed be His Name, He died, not for that nation only, but that also He should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad, which en- sures also the eternal salvation of every one of His people indi- vidually, of whatever nation, who have been brought to faith and reliance on Him.