We pick up our study this week in the last 3 verses Romans 9 where Paul, with a broken heart of love for his people, laments where they went wrong in the past. That the Gentiles, who sat on the sidelines and did not make any attempt to keep the law, to offer sacrifices, to participate in purification, to devote themselves to God, that they have now obtained God’s righteousness by faith while the Jews have not obtained their goal, is part of Paul’s heartbreak. Not against the gentiles, but because the Israelites got lost along the way.
But he doesn’t approach this in a “that is unfair or unjust” manner, instead, he is simply pointing out where things went wrong so that it can be fixed. Not to lay blame or pass judgment but to point the direction to change so that his kinsmen can be saved.
The Jews had mistaken the device for the destination. Said another way, they cared more about the car where the car could take them. They polished the car. They washed it. They kept it enshrined and protected. They were meticulous in every detail, ensuring they were perfectly clean each time they approached it. They kept it in the synagogue and didn’t let outsides come near, like a private museum. It was their law and it was priceless, on loan to them by Moses by God.
But the law was not meant to be an idol or an exhibit in the museum. It wasn’t something that was to be made into images and replicas to be worn around as a badge or souvenir. It wasn’t something to be visited periodically on required days.
Jesus, on the other hand, born a Jew, the Son of God, took a different approach. He paid the price to buy the car off the museum showroom and drive it. His death, as a man, paid the price for mankind to own something that before they could only look at and admire, Righteousness.
But Christ did not buy it to have it sit in a museum. When he paid the price, the curtain to the museum was torn. He bought righteousness for mankind so that we could go. It is the one and only vehicle out of this life and into an eternal life with God and Jesus invites all of God’s elect to climb aboard.
But, as Paul points out, this really messed up some of the Jews. Who is He to get in the driver’s seat? What is this idea of driving the car? He thinks I’m just going along for a ride, doesn’t He know how much I have worked?
The Jews never understood the meaning of God with us. They looked for a conquering God to come with them to defeat and rule with them, all on the same team. They didn’t not expect a God who would conquer form them and then invite them to join in the victory lap. God needed their help. They had done all of this for God and it is only just and fair that they be recognized and rewarded. They did not want to be with God, they wanted God to be with them.
And many of us, Jews and Gentiles have been there, too. We want God to have our back. We want God to bless and recognize our efforts and give us due recognition. We want to go search out and find God, because, obviously, He is missing from this world, just look around.
But faith in Jesus is the stumbling block we fall over time and again as we head down that path. We can’t find God, He was never lost, we were. And as we traipse off searching for God, we trip over Jesus because He is already right where we are. The nice thing about stumbling, though, is that it takes you to your knees. That may be the funny part in God’s plan, because that is the right position for our journey to begin.
The Israelites chased after it through works. The Gentiles received it through faith.
Pursuing righteous behavior is an act to honor God and to shine His light into the world. If we live like everyone else, what message do we send? But trying to “earn” salvation through works is to indicate that Christ’s work was insufficient and needs to be added to. The first is a response to faith, the second is an indication of the lack of faith in Christ
Jesus. That He is sufficient.