Topical Scripture: Romans 11.25-32 / Galatians 3.26-29
A small boy was visiting his grandparents on their farm. He was given a slingshot to play with in the woods. Heading back to dinner, he saw Grandma’s pet duck.
Out of impulse, he shot a rock at it, hit the duck in the head, and killed it. He was shocked and grieved. In panic, he hid the dead duck in the woodpile, only to see his sister watching.
Sally had seen it all, but she said nothing.
After lunch that day, Grandma said, “Sally, let’s wash the dishes.”
But Sally said, “Grandma, Johnny told me he wanted to help in the kitchen today, didn’t you Johnny?” Then she whispered to him, “Remember the duck?”
So Johnny did the dishes.
Later, Grandpa asked if the children wanted to go fishing, and Grandma said, “I’m sorry, but I need Sally to help make supper.”
But Sally smiled and said, “But Johnny told me he wanted to help you.” And she whispered again, “Remember the duck?”
So Sally went fishing and Johnny stayed.
After days of doing his and Sally’s chores, Johnny couldn’t stand it any longer. He came to Grandma and confessed that he had killed her duck.
She knelt down, gave him a hug, and said, “I know. You see, I was standing at the window and I saw the whole thing. Because I love you, I forgave you. But I was just wondering how long you would let Sally make a slave of you.”
Where does guilt live in your mind or heart? What past failures sting you? What secrets from your past still shame you? Where does your past enslave you?
Are you living with failure and wondering if you’re forgiven? Are you facing tough times and wondering if you’re being punished? Does your past poison your present?
It’s been said that to live with guilt is like being stung to death by a single bee. How do we remove that stinger today?
Did God still love them?
This is precisely the question Paul answers in the Scriptures which are before us. No one ever had better reason to wonder if God loved them than the Jews.
Through Abraham, God chose the Jewish nation as his instrument for bringing the good news of his love to all of mankind (see Genesis 12:3).
But along the way, the Jewish nation had every reason to wonder if they were really his chosen people, if God truly loved them. Four hundred and thirty years in Egyptian slavery, forty years of wilderness wandering, and seven years of bloodshed and suffering as they conquered their Holy Land. Then civil war which divided the nation permanently. Then Assyrian conquest which destroyed their ten northern tribes. Then Babylonian conquest which enslaved their two southern tribes. Then oppression by the Greeks and finally enslavement by the Romans.
Worst of all, God is now receiving the hated Gentiles as his people. The Christians are preaching the story of their Messiah to the Gentile world, and these cursed pagans are coming to faith in Israel’s God.
It seems that God has abandoned the Jewish people, turned from them, rejected them. The Jews have every reason to wonder if God still loves them. Maybe you feel the same way today. Hear then, this word from your Father in heaven.
Does God still love us?
Here is the central fact from our text: though the Jews have rejected the Messiah, he has not rejected them.
Paul says, “Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles come in” (v. 25b). The “hardening” here is spiritual, that hardening of the arteries of the soul which comes from refusing the gospel.
Because the Jews rejected Christ, his followers turned to the Gentiles. His church took the gospel to the Gentile world. With this result: the “full number of the Gentiles,” meaning the entire Gentile world, could “come in” to God’s kingdom.
So God used the Jewish refusal of Christ, but Christ has not refused them.
“And so all Israel will be saved,” Paul continues (v. 26a). “All Israel” here does not mean that every Jew would be saved apart from Christ. Paul spoke in Romans 9:2 of his “great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart” over the lostness of his Jewish nation.
The apostle means that the entire race of the Jews would have opportunity to come to salvation, just as the Gentiles now have that privilege.
How? Through the Gentiles, God is now offering salvation to the Jews.
Paul says it this way: “I make much of my ministry in the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people to envy and save some of them” (11:13-14).
The apostle hoped that the Jews would see the Gentiles coming to salvation, become jealous, and come to Christ as a result. Then God could fulfill his covenant to “take away their sins” (v. 27).
Here’s the point: despite all they have endured, all the failures and slaveries and pain they have faced, “they are loved” (v. 28). Verse 29 promises that God’s “gifts” (the word means his “grace”) and call are “irrevocable”—he will never take them back or regret them. One day he hopes to “have mercy on them all” (v. 32).
And what God promised to the Jews, he promised to the Gentiles as well. Galatians 3 announces this incredible fact: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (vs. 28-29).
The Jewish people rejected the Messiah, but he did not reject them. Now you have failed the Father; you have sometimes refused his truth; we have all sinned and fallen short of his glory. We have rejected God’s word and will, but he has not rejected us. No matter what you’ve done or where you’ve done it, he loves you still. This is exactly what his word promises every one of us, with no exceptions, today.
And now God wants us to accept this unconditional grace and love. Let me ask you: are you trying to earn God’s mercy? Punishing yourself for your failures? Confessing the same sins to God which he has already forgiven and forgotten? Laboring in guilt you won’t release? Allowing the past to poison the present?
There are many Old Testament Christians today—people who are saved by grace but live by works, keeping the Law, making sacrifices, living in religious duty and obligation and ritual, hoping to earn what Jesus died to give. Are you among them?
In the depths of the Great Depression, an impoverished elderly woman approached the front desk of an insurance office in Minneapolis. She wanted to know if she could stop making payments on the yellowed policy clutched in her work-weathered fingers.
The clerk glanced at the document, then studied it in amazement. “This is quite valuable,” he said. “I would not advise you to stop paying the premiums now, after all these years. Have you spoken with your husband about this?” “No,” she said, “he’s been dead for three years.”
She held in her hands an insurance policy on her husband’s life worth $300,000. The company immediately paid the benefits of that policy and refunded the years of overpaid premiums. And she finally began to experience the financial security which had been hers all along.
Jesus has already died—the policy is now paid in full. He loves you completely and perfectly. He has forgiven every sin you have confessed to him in genuine repentance. To punish yourself for sins God has forgiven is to pay premiums on benefits which are already yours. He loves all the Jews, and all the Gentiles. And all of us. And each of us.
This Lord’s Supper proves that it is so. Here is tangible evidence of his suffering for our salvation, his death for our life. In a moment you will take this bread and cup from the hands of your sister or brother. Don’t see their hands. See instead nail-scarred hands. Believe in nail-scarred grace. Accept nail-scarred mercy. Welcome nail-scarred love.
As we prepare to share these elements, prepare your heart to receive them. Think of that guilt you haven’t released, that shame which still hurts, that failure whose sting still poisons. If you have not already, confess it to God. Put it in his hands. Believe that he has taken it, forgiven it, forgotten it. Leave it there. And take the bread and cup in its place, from his nail-scarred hands for your grace-healed heart.
The grace of this table is the gift of God to us. Will you open yours?