Saturday, 10 August 2013
…who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises;… Romans 9:4
Verses 4 & 5 now describe Paul’s “countrymen according to the flesh” mentioned in verse 3. In these verses nine terms are used to describe them:
Israelites – the direct, blood descendants of Jacob who became Israel. This includes the following sons: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph, and Benjamin. Also included in the list are Joseph’s two sons – Manasseh and Ephraim. These are the people Israel. Israel is not the church, though there are Israelites in the church. And the church is not Israel; it is a separate working of God during a particular dispensation.
To whom pertain the adoption – God adopted this group of people, bringing them into a covenant relationship and calling them His own special people. Among other verses pointing to this is Deuteronomy 7:6 “For you are a holy people to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth.”
The glory – Time and again, the glory of God was manifest to the people of Israel. It occurred in a pillar of cloud and of fire at the Exodus. It happened at the dedication of the tabernacle in the wilderness and again at the dedication of the temple in Jerusalem at Solomon’s time. The glory was manifest in particular appearances to select people as well, such as to the father and mother of Samson at the announcement of his birth. The glory was also manifest to Israel in another way. The radiance and glory of God, was manifest to Israel in the Person of Jesus (e.g., John 1:14).
The covenants – the covenant promises of God have come through this specially chosen line of people – through Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (who is Israel). The covenant at Sinai was directed to them and for them. David was given a covenant promise as well. Later a New Covenant was promised to the people in Jeremiah 31:31 and it was instituted and realized through the shed blood of a Son of Israel – Jesus.
The giving of the law – This was a unique moment in history when God brought a single group of people near to Himself, displayed His glory before them, and gave them a corporate body of laws which the people agreed to uphold. The law, being the fifth dispensation of God’s workings in human history was given to show God’s righteous standards “which if a man does, he shall live by them: I am the Lord.” (Leviticus 18:5).
The service of God – This is speaking of the temple service and functions which were performed by the priests and Levites for the people of Israel. God’s presence dwelt first in the tabernacle and later in the temple. Sacrifices, offerings, and devotions were presented to Him, serving Him during the dispensation of the law.
The promises – Promises of blessing for obedience, of punishment for disobedience, of exile and return, of God’s faithfulness even through Israel’s unfaithfulness – such promises were made to and through this group of people. And the greatest promise was made to them as well. It is the promise of the coming Messiah foretold in Genesis 3:15 and who was anticipated by each faithful generation since Adam. And despite their rejection of Him, this Messiah has promised to return to this wayward and obstinate group of people when they finally call on Him –
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate; for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!'” Matthew 23:37-39.
Life application: Israel is a distinct group of people, descended from the patriarch Jacob. The church is not Israel and yet there are those from Israel in the church. Mixing these categories will lead to faulty theology, so don’t mix these categories.
Heavenly Father, it is the greatest comfort to know that You care for me and have called me to be Yours through the work of Your Son. Though I fail, I know that You will never let me go. I stand on the surety of my salvation, knowing that I was unworthy to receive it and I am unworthy to retain it. I know that it was a gift of Your grace and it continues to be so. Thank You for Your faithfulness to Your unfaithful servant. Amen.