Saint Paul speaks to us tonight about His own people, the children of Israel. He first of all goes into detail about how God has not completely rejected them. Although many of them refused to believe in the promised Messiah when He came, nevertheless God has not determined that no Jews at all will be saved.
He gives the example of Elijah from the Old Testament. Even in the horrible time of King Ahab and Jezebel, God still reserved for Himself 7000 men who had not bowed the knee to Baal. This is an example of how God's Word will have effect, even when it appears that no one believes or listens to it.
So we can say about the Jews that even if it appears that none of them are being saved, that does not mean that God has completely closed the doors of heaven to them. He still reserves a few, here and there, who listen to Him.
Still we can say with Paul that many of his people have hardened themselves against the true faith. They have shut their eyes and their ears. So they have stumbled upon the Rock which is Christ and have rejected the birthright which should have been theirs. As the blood relatives of Christ our Lord, they should have enjoyed the riches of the treasure of God's inheritance, which is salvation and life everlasting. So many of them have taken pride in their own identity, rather than trusting in Christ with humility and repentance. They believed that the gift of God to be His chosen people meant that they were by nature children of Abraham, while they meanwhile set aside the faith of Abraham. They turned the gift of God into self pride and arrogance. Thus many wandered away. Even as they gazed upon scripture to see the true God, the dullness of their eyes hid the truth from them so that they deceived themselves. This is a sad situation and not to be celebrated.
Also it is a situation at which to take warning. If they who had the holy scriptures as a unique treasure bequeathed to them as His people, could deceive themselves and harden their hearts, how much more can we? We have the scriptures and think that in them we find eternal life. But we should watch out, so that we do not fool ourselves. We can think that we are righteous in ourselves just as much as anyone else. Our sinful flesh can blind our own eyes and stop up our ears. So take care that you listen diligently and with reverence. Always in humility make sure that you remain in the true faith.
Paul also says about the Jews that God did not cruelly make them fall just because He wanted them to be lost. On the contrary, even when they stumbled He desired them to turn back again. Of course He wanted His own people to repent. He even gave them the example of the gentiles so as to make them jealous. The Jews should have seen the gentiles entering the Kingdom, and this should have made their hearts burn with yearning to also be part of the Kingdom. If those gentiles who are not Godís people by birth should enter, how much more should Godís own people Israel enter? And some Jews did listen and believe, stimulated by the example of the gentiles, and so were saved. Yet many did not.
We also should be stimulated to cast aside pride and self righteousness. Do not be high minded, but fear the Lord with awe and trembling. Always remember how unworthy you are. In so doing, you magnify the gracious election of God. In Christ Jesus He chose even you, someone not of His seed or heritage. You are in no way deserving of His mercy. Yet even you He looked upon with steadfast love in order to save you in His Son.
As we look upon the tragedy of those who are lost, we also gaze upon the glory of the olive tree which is His Church. It was planted and nurtured as the people chosen by God, yet not all were faithful. Many branches of the tree wanted to stand proudly on their own apart from the Trunk which is the Shoot of Jesse. Those branches had to be removed.
How could they reject their status as holy branches connected to the Holy Shoot of Jesse? It makes no sense, yet the sinful human mind finds many foolish paths to destruction. How much therefore should we not be proud of ourselves or our status? We are newcomers to this holy tree of the Church. We receive grace to be grafted onto the one true Trunk. How humble should we be who do not really belong! We are not natural branches. Consider your unworthiness and pray for the grace to continue and not be broken off.
Only by the choice of God were we unnatural branches made part of the Shoot of Jesse. How wonderful this is! Christ Jesus is the true God in Jewish flesh. He was sent to the lost sheep of the tribe of Israel. He came to His own, and died outside their city, His city. He rose and appeared to the Twelve, all Jews. Yet in the fullness of time He has also called us, aliens and strangers to Him. He has invited us who were not chosen. Why should He? We were not spectacular or glorious or holy or honorable. We were all alike lost children of Adam. Yet He saw us and said, ďIt is not enough that I should be sent for My people only. I will also shed My Blood for all nations. I will most certainly save all those whom I select for repentance and faith.Ē
So pray, you who are unnatural grafts into Christ. Pray for the salvation of both Jews and gentiles. Pray that we in the faith may be preserved. Pray that even those of our Lordís people who have rejected and been cut off may be restored, for God so desires to regraft them into His own Son.
In His Name. Amen.
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