Salvation to the Gentiles

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Sometimes I think that we, as Christians, forget that God’s chosen people were never us Gentiles, but the Jews. In fact, if the Jews did everything right, we may have never been on God’s radar. But the glorious, and somewhat tragic, truth is that the Jews did forsake God to a point where he opened the opportunity for salvation to the world. Paul puts it like this in Romans 11, verses 11 and12, speaking about the Jews:

“Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious. But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will the fullness bring!”

When my wife and I visited Israel, we met several Messianic Jews - which are Jews who believe that Jesus is the Messiah. Many Jews sadly still do not. As I met with these Messianic Jews I began to remember that it is this race of people whom God chose, through the line of Abraham, to be his own. For a time, everyone else was a distant second, left to worship other gods and suffer in their separation from the one true God. I tried to imagine being born a Jew, a descendent of Abraham, one of God’s chosen people. I was awe-struck, looking at these Jews as if they were rock stars. But even though these people were the chosen ones of God, because of their transgression, we have been given the chance for salvation as well. Praise God for his mercy poured out upon the world.

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I encourage you not to minimize the role the Jews (or Israelites) played in God’s grand scheme. They were chosen before we were. God made his covenant with them. He brought them to the promise land after giving them his law. For generations, salvation was carved out only for them. But in God’s great mercy, his plan was to ultimately offer salvation to all men when his chosen people turned their backs on him. This gave us the opportunity to be called “sons of God” as well. Ultimately, when Jesus died, he didn’t die for the Jews only, he died for all of us. So, if you consider the gift of salvation with this in mind, it adds a whole new level to God’s grace, because he didn’t have to pour it out on all mankind. Though out of his great love for the world, he ultimately chose to.

God Carries you

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Remember the story in the Old Testament where God brings the Israelites to the promise land, but when they scout it out in preparation of taking possession of it, they lose heart because of the large people and the fortified cities? Because they lacked faith in believing that God would fight for them, they were sent to wander in the desert until the faithless generation died out. When they finally made it back, Moses recounted what happened the first time around. Deuteronomy 1:28-31 says this:

“Where can we go? Our brothers have made us lose heart. They say, ‘The people are stronger and taller than we are; the cities are large, with walls up to the sky. We even saw the Anakites there.’ Then I said to you, ‘Do not be terrified; do not be afraid of them. The Lord your God, who is going before you, will fight for you, as he did for you in Egypt, before your very eyes, and in the desert. There you saw how the Lord your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place.’”

The Israelites feared the occupants of the promised land because they were behaving as if their own strength would win or lose the fight. But Moses reminded them that God carried them through all of the hard times from Egypt to the promised land. So in reality it had never been about their strength, it was about God’s faithfulness. We have to remember that as well. When we are going through difficult times, it is God who carries us as a father carries his son the Bible says. If we put our faith and trust in him, he will carry us. Like the Israelites, we need to remember how he has carried us in the past and know that he can also carry us through whatever situation we are facing, or will face, in the future.

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God miraculously ordered 10 plagues in Egypt before delivering his chosen people. Then, he split the Red Sea to rescue them from Pharaoh. He appeared as a pillar of fire by night and a cloud by day to lead them. When they were hungry, he made manna appear for them in the morning. When they were thirsty, he made water gush from a rock. Time and time again, God carried the Israelites to the promised land. It was never by their own strength, but by the strength and deliverance of God. We serve the same God who did all of the things we read about in the Bible. And as the Israelites are called his children, if we believe in Jesus, we are called his children as well. If God carried the Israelites, don’t you think he can, and will, carry you as well? He will. And maybe if you consider your life up until now, you’ll realize that he has been carrying you all along.

God's Promises

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You’re probably familiar with the story of Samson and Delilah. Samson was the man God blessed with supernatural strength that could only be taken away if his hair was cut. What strikes me about that story is how Delilah deceived him twice in an effort to find the secret to his strength, and yet the third time, for some reason, Samson thought things would be different. But, true to form, she deceived him yet again. This time, however, he revealed the secret and his hair was cut. As a result, his eyes were put out and he was thrown into prison. Why after two times of Delilah trying to trick him would he think that things would be different the third time is a mystery. A lesser known story brings these same questions to mind. In Numbers, the prophet Balaam was told by Balak to curse the Israelites. Three times Balaam told Balak that he could only do what the Lord tells him, and three times he ended up blessing the Israelites instead of cursing them. Why did it take three times? I don’t know. But if Balak were familiar with Numbers chapter 23 verses 19-20, he should’ve gotten a clue. In it, Balaam says:

“God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill? I have received a command to bless; he has blessed, and I cannot change it.”

I like how he says, “Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?” You see, God will not go back on his promises. Unlike man who may say one thing, even with good intentions, and not do it, God will keep his promises. So, if God promises something in his word to us, or if he has seeded a promise that he has revealed to us in our hearts, we should know that it will happen. We can bank on it. Our faith should not waver because as Balaam says, “Does God promise and not fulfill?” He is not like men, he does not lie. Remember that the next time you’re holding on to a promise that God has given you. It will happen, so take heart.

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“God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?” For some reason, Balak thought the third time would be a charm. Twice he told Balaam to curse the Israelites, and twice Balaam blessed them instead. Knowing that God is not a son of man that he should change his mind, would’ve let Balak know that the third time would turn out just like the first two. God is God, and he keeps his promises.

Our Vows

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I would guess that a lot of Christians aren’t fond of reading the Old Testament; especially chapters like Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. But I think that as you become more comfortable with the Bible, you should really take a look at these books as well. Though things have changed, and many of the practices the Israelites had to perform are obsolete, through these books we’re able to understand more about our God. We learn about his character and how he thinks. One such example is from Numbers chapter 30, verse 2 which says:

“When a man makes a vow to the Lord or takes an oath to obligate himself by a pledge, he must not break his word but must do everything he said.”

In our culture, we are not ones who generally take our vows very seriously. We may promise God that if he gets us out of a jam then we’ll do something for him in return, but don’t follow through. We also flippantly promise things to people as if our words aren’t binding. Some people don’t even take their marriage vows seriously. But here in Numbers we learn that God takes our vows (or promises) very seriously. He says that if we make a vow to him, we must not break it. And if we believe that God is the same yesterday, today and forever, we should also believe that his character doesn’t change. God wants us to honor our words to others, but even more importantly, we are to honor our words to him. James reminds us that it is better if we don’t promise anything; that we should just say “yes” or “no” and let our words be our bond, even though they aren’t sealed with a promise. That is always the safest bet. 

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The Bible teaches us time and time again that what comes out of our mouth shouldn’t be taken lightly. It teaches us that our words can be used to build others up or to tear them down; to heal or to destroy. Numbers reminds us that, likewise, our vows (or promises) are important too. God expects us to honor our promises, especially those we make to him. And James reminds us that it is better if we don’t promise anything at all. Just let your “yes” or “no” stand for itself. Any way you look at it, we really need to consider what we say before we say it, because our words have the potential to get us into a lot of trouble. If we are able to consider what we say before we say it, we have a better chance of vetting what comes out of our mouth, thereby minimizing the chance of regretting what we’ve said, or promised.

Nation Repent

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I’ve been spending a bit of time in the Old Testament lately, and as I read, my heart continues break for our country. God is holy; so holy that even the Israelites had a hard time existing in his presence, and their culture had God at its center. Ours, sadly, does not. Isaiah prayed a prayer that I believe should be extended to our country as well. He prayed on behalf of the chosen people, but now that we have been grafted in, I hope that God will acknowledge this prayer on our behalf as well. Isaiah 64, verses 5 through 9 says:

“You come to the help of those who gladly do right, who remember your ways. But when we continued to sin against them, you were angry. How then can we be saved? All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all of our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. No one calls on your name or strives to lay hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us and made us waste away because of our sins. Yet, O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand. Do not be angry beyond measure, O Lord; do not remember our sins forever. Oh, look upon us, we pray, for we are all your people.”

This is part of the prayer Isaiah prayed on behalf of his people. And this is the prayer I pray on behalf of ours. We need to humble ourselves before our holy God – those of us who call him Lord. I like when Isaiah says, “do not be angry beyond measure, O Lord; do not remember our sins forever”. We do serve a God who is slow to anger and abounding in love, but even his patience has limits. I encourage you to pray for our country; especially for those who call themselves believers in Christ. We are God’s clay, and I believe that he can use people like you and me to spark a change in our nation.

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I believe that we, as believers, have a responsibility to those around us. In the Old Testament, an entire nation could be judged as one group, even if some of the people in that nation were innocent. In America, a lot of godlessness has, and is, taking place. For Christians to be passive bystanders is not what I believe God wants from us. If nothing else, we should be on our knees for our country. Anyone with eyes can see where we’re headed. While it is day, before the night comes, we need to do all we can to shine the light of Christ in dark places. I encourage you to pray for our nation, and to ask God how he can use you in his master plan.