But what ancestors are we talking about? How far back are we thinking? Those who came across the ocean to create a new life? How far back was that? Was it our generation? Our parents? Our grandparents? Further back? Do we think of our ancestors on other continents, 100, 200 years ago? All of them deserve our gratitude. If not for them, we wouldnít be there. And if not for them, we would know very little about our Lord and Savior, Jesus.
But go further back. Not just to the Netherlands or England or Norway or wherever. Go way, way back. Look at our ancestors. See them dating back 2000 years ago. And now, Iím not just talking about biological ancestors, weíre seeing our spiritual ancestors, those who have held the faith and passed it on so that it could come down through the years to us here and now.
Paul would like us to remember our ancestors, here in Romans 11, and his reminder comes at a good time. We have lots of different opinions about the nation of Israel, and those opinions affect politics. They affect budgets. They affect our sons and daughters who serve in our forces. Some see Israel as Godís people, a nation to be defended at all costs because to defend them is to honor God. Others arenít so sure. To them, Israel doesnít always act like Godís people, so why should we defend them. Itís a little confusing, how we see these spiritual ancestors.
But letís face it. If it wasnít for them, we wouldnít know about the Lord. God chose to reveal Himself to the people of Israel. Not the people of Egypt, not the people of Babylon, not the people of China. The people of Israel. It was Abraham that received the first promise of God, to be his God and for his descendents to be Godís people. It was Isaac who continued in that promise. It was Jacob and all of Jacobís descendents who lived all of these stories, like David and Goliath, Daniel and the lionís den, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.
It was Jesus Himself who was a Jew. He wasnít European, even though most of our pictures show Him that way. He was an Israelite. He was a Jew. Paul remembers us of this, in verse 25:
And Paul tells us, "Donít forget where this all came from. Donít forget that out of all the nations in the world, God chose a little speck of a nation, a group of people that didnít even have a plot of land they could call their ownÖ God chose a nation that could only survive by grace, a nation that would be humble before God, knowing they didnít deserve it.
So Paul doesnít want us getting full of ourselves and losing that humility. He brings us back to the beginning, that Godís plan of redemption starts with grace and ends with grace, and donít try anything other than Godís grace.
In fact, itís only by Godís grace that anyone not a Jew has come to Jesus. In fact, itís because Israel had rejected Jesus that Italians and English and Dutch and Norwegian even hear about Jesus. Verse 25:
And so, verse 26:
Well, it does if weíre understanding "all Israel" right. If we understand that all Israel is every single Israelite, every single Jew that God has chosen to be His. All of they elect. Verse 28:
We know this about ourselves. We know this doctrine of irresistible grace, that when God has His eyes set on us, He will save us. Nothing is going to stop Him. We find comfort in this, comfort for ourselves, comfort for our sons, our daughters, our loved ones who have walked away from the church for a while.
But Paul wants us to know this about the people of Israel, too. After all, it was the people of Israel who introduced us to our Lord and Savior, Jesus. Each of the disciples who went out into all the world, making disciples, who made disciples, who made disciples, who taught usÖ each of those first disciples were Jews, Israelites.
The first ones to hear that someone would come to crush the head of the serpent, were Jews. The first ones to hear those words in Isaiah 7:14:
It was an Israelite, probably David, who first wrote those words, in Psalm 22:1
for Godís gifts and his call are irrevocable.
This is Paulís reminder for us, to remember our Israelite, our Jewish roots, and to see the Israelites, the Jews of today in this way. We want them to be saved. We want them to know Jesus. We want Prime Minister Olmert, of Israel, to give his life to Jesus, to lead his country to bow their knee to the King of kings and to recognize that Jesus died to save them. We better want this, because the grace that God shows to the people of Israel is the same grace God shows to us. Verse 31:
All this then teaches us that the nation of Israel is no more special to God than any other nation. Treating the nation of Israel likeís Godís nation is not based on fact. In fact, when the nation of Israel went looking for protection from another nation, they ended up in big trouble. Back around 500 B.C., the nation of Babylon was breathing down the neck of the Israelites, and they were scared. Now, God told them, "Trust Me. I will take care of you." But instead of trusting in God, they turned to Egypt, making a treaty with them for Egypt to save them. Because of that, the Israelites were exiled for 70 years. Now, Israel looks to the United States for protection, instead of the one true God, who appeared to us in Jesus Christ. We need to be careful we donít mix bad theology with politics and defy the will of God in the process.
And yet, though the nation of Israel does not have a special standing with God, apart from Jesus, we still have a sense of gratitude. These are our ancestors. This is the nation that gave us the Messiah. And, because of Jesus, we are now the people of Israel, spiritual Israelites. We are family. We are Godís chosen people, those of us who know Jesus and belong to Him. Galatians 3:29 says:
And being part of this family sends us back to the whole story. The story of redemption doesnít begin with Jesus. It begins in the Hebrew Bible, the history of the Israelites. Weíre not just New Testament Christians. Our heritage, our family goes all the way back. The rules of Leviticus are in our family tree. The poetry of the Psalms, thatís part of our tradition. The Hebrew culture is woven into our culture. It helps define us as Christians.
So when we think about our Israelite brothers, we need to see them clearly. We are related. We are family. But only through Jesus. We donít think more of them than we should, but we donít think less of them than we should, either.
We pray for them. Weíre grateful to them. We hope that, more and more, we can be connected to them, through Jesus. The nation of Israel with the spiritual Israel.