Monday, 10 July 2017
… forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they may be saved, so as always to fill up the measure of their sins; but wrath has come upon them to the uttermost. 1 Thessalonians 2:16
In the previous verse, Paul put a heavy blame on the Jews who “killed both the Lord Jesus and their own prophets.” He then said that they continued on by persecuting His apostles. In their actions, they did “not please God” and they were “contrary to all men.” One can see the bitterness he felt at their attitude towards God’s revelation of Himself throughout their history and even to the present time in which he was living.
He now further explains their conduct towards the apostles, and what that means, by saying that they (meaning the Jews) were “forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles.” As noted in previous verses, this is specifically highlighted, time and time again, in the book of Acts. The Jews doggedly pursued Paul and those with him. They came between them and the Gentiles, stirring up arguments and fomenting every kind of trouble possible for them.
However, the message of the apostles to the Gentiles was so “that they may be saved.” These words are speaking of the inclusion of Gentiles in the plan of salvation. In other words, the Jews not only didn’t want the saving message spoken to the Gentiles, they didn’t even want the Gentiles to know that they could be saved.
This is certainly at the heart of why the Jews riled against the message. They so disdained the thought of the Gentiles being saved by God’s grace, that they were willing to do almost anything in order for the message to be stopped. It meant that there was an ending of their law, and a new dispensation of grace and mercy apart from that law – for any who simply believed by faith; Jew or Gentile. The very notion of it seemed incredible, and thus impossible to tolerate.
But Paul continues by saying that the striving of the Jews only brought trouble upon themselves. The result was “always to fill up the measure of there sins.” The words here need to be understood properly. They literally mean “unto the filling up.” There is a certain amount of sin that the Jews could expect to be dismissed by God through His grace and mercy, but there is a point in which that amount would be filled up, and beyond which only destruction could be the result. This same concept is true with any given nation, church, or person. There is a point where sin finally fills up to its measure, and then only wrath can be the inevitable result. This is what Paul is saying concerning his people of national heritage. They had filled up the measure of their sins, and he knew, as he says, “that wrath has come upon them to the uttermost.”
Paul knew that the time had come, that Israel had rejected Christ, and that there was no remedy left for them as a nation. The cup was full, the wrath had been ordained, and it was only a matter of time before the wine would be poured out. This would be realized at the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, and the dispersion of the nation to the four corners of heaven.
Life application: The Law of Moses told the nation of Israel what they could expect as they heaped up sins against God. Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28 give exacting details of what the Lord would do to them. These things were fulfilled once in the Babylonian exile, and the second time in the Roman dispersion. However, God promised restoration for Israel after their time of punishment. It doesn’t matter if they deserve it or not. What matters is what God has promised. How terrible that Christians ignore the decision of God because of their hatred of the Jews. God has spoken, God has performed, and so we simply need to accept what He has done and watch as history unfolds marvelously before our eyes.
Lord God, Your word told Israel what would happen to them if they rejected what You offered to them; punishment and exile. It happened once in exile to Babylon, and it happened a second time as they were dispersed to the four corners of the earth. But that time of punishment is ending, and You are regathering Israel for the final demonstration of Your merciful hand towards them. Who are we to fight against that? Instead, we can see Your word fulfilled, Your goodness displayed, and the soon to be converted hearts of Your people. Great stuff for us to behold. Thank You for the confidence we have because of the surety of Your word. Amen.