The most heartfelt and gut-wrenching expression of Paul’s love for his own nation, his own people, for Israel is found in Romans 9:1-5. Israel, though gifted by God with wondrous privileges, had rejected God’s Messiah. Paul was heartbroken as he listed the gifts in an overflow of praise for God’s grace toward Israel.
Gift one: adoption. Israel is God’s firstborn son among the nations (Exodus 4:22). God created, or more relationally, fathered Israel. The kings of Israel were the sons of God (Psalm 2:7). God adopted Israel as his people and nation.
Gift two: divine glory. The Shekinah glory settled on the tabernacle (Exodus 40:34) and the temple (2 Chronicles 7:1). God gave his redemptive presence to Israel in a way that he did not give to the other nations. God came to rest within Israel just as God rested within his creation and walk among the people of Israel just as he rested and walked in the Garden at the beginning.
Gift three: the covenants. God entered into a succession of covenants with Israel. Beginning with the Abrahamic covenant, God invited Israel as a nation to become his people through the Mosaic covenant. God mediated his grace and mercy through the Levitical covenant and assured Israel of their status as his people through the Davidic covenant. The covenants meant that God was committed to his people, enjoyed communion with them, and would fulfill his promises.
Gift four: the Torah. God gave the law (Torah) to Israel as a gracious gift. It was not primarily or fundamentally a legal code but instruction about how to fully become the image of God in the world as a nation. The Torah guides Israel as they walk with God in the land of promise.
Gift five: temple worship. The temple (or literally, the latreia or liturgical service), with all the festivals connected to it, was God’s gracious invitation to enjoy communion through liturgy (songs, prayer, atoning sacrifices) and meal (eating sacrificed animals in community). The temple was God’s gracious but holy presence among his people. It was the place where Israel came before the face of God as a community. Temple worship was the assembled praise of God’s people.
Gift six: the promises. God promised Abraham a great nation (as numerous as the sand of the seashore), a great name, and land. God promised David that his descendents would sit on Israel’s throne forever. God promised restoration to an exiled Israel. God promised a new heaven and a new earth. The promises belong to Israel; they were not given to the nations as independent entities.
But the Messiah, who comes from Abrahamic ancestry, is the one through whom the nations also receive these gifts. These gifts now belong to the nations, to everyone who trusts in the Messiah. Through Abraham’s Messianic seed, we all become children of Abraham by faith because of the faithfulness of the Messiah (Galatians 3:7-14).
We, too, are adopted into the family of God and call God “Father.” We, too, experience the divine glory as the Holy Spirit dwells in us and we become the dwelling of God. We, too, participate in the covenants as both Abraham’s children and subjects of David’s reign. We, too, receive the Torah as Scripture that guides us. We, too, assemble in the presence of God to praise and serve him as a gathered people, that is, the church is the temple of God. We, too, are heirs of the promises of God to Israel.
We are heirs, co-heirs with the Messiah. What God promised to Abraham belongs to us.
And that includes the land……which brings me to the subject of my next post.