God’s Gifts to Israel

The most gut-wrenching expression of Paul’s love for his own nation 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. He names six gifts.

The first is adoption. God adopted Israel and gave them an inheritance, a double inheritance because Israel is God’s firstborn among the nations.

The second gift is the divine glory. The Shekinah glory settled on the tabernacle and the temple. God gave that redemptive presence to Israel in a unique way unlike how God related to other nations. God came to rest within Israel and walk among them.

The third gift are the covenants. God entered into a succession of covenants with Israel. Beginning with the Abrahamic promise, God then initiated a covenantal relationship with Israel through the Mosaic covenant. God mediated his grace and mercy through the priestly Levitical covenant and assured Israel of their perpetuity through the Davidic covenant. The covenants meant that God was committed to Israel and enjoyed communion with them.

The fourth gift is the Torah. God gave the Torah to Israel as a gracious gift. It was not primarily a legal code but guidance for how to 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.

The fifth gift is temple worship. The temple (or literally, the liturgical service), with all the festivals and rituals connected to it, was God’s gracious invitation to enjoy communion through songs, prayer, atoning sacrifices, and eating the sacrifices in communal meals. The temple was God’s gracious but holy presence among the people. It was the place where Israel came before the face of God as an assembly of praise.

The sixth gift are the promises. God promised Abraham a great nation, a land, and that he would bless the nations. God promised David that his descendants would sit on Israel’s throne forever. God promised restoration to an exiled Israel. God promised a new heaven and a new earth, which is yet to come.

The Messiah, who comes from Abrahamic ancestry, is the one through whom the nations will also receive these gifts. These gifts now belong to the nations, to everyone who trusts in the Messiah. Through Abraham’s Messianic seed, we may all become children of Abraham by faith in Jesus because of the Messiah’s faithfulness.

We, too, are adopted into the family of God. We, too, experience the divine glory as the Holy Spirit dwells in us. We, too, participate in the covenants as both Abraham’s children and subjects of the son of David. We, too, receive the Torah as Scripture that guides us. We, too, assemble before God to praise and serve the God of Israel as a gathered people. We, too, are heirs of the promises of God to Israel. We, through the faithfulness of the Messiah, have been grafted into the Israel’s tree, and these gifts, praise God, now belong also to all who confess Jesus is Lord.

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