读经：诗89:14-18 罗9:22-10:4 代上1:1-2:17
Your Family Tree
My father never spoke to me about his life before he had come to England and married my mother. I knew virtually nothing about his background. Three years ago I was contacted by The Judaica Museum in Berlin. They were doing some research into the Gumbel family. They sent me a copy of my family tree. I discovered that my great-great-grandfather was called Abraham Gumbel. My great-grandfather was called Isaac and his brother, Moses!
My father was Jewish. He qualified as a barrister and became a Doctor of Law at the University of Tübingen in 1927. Later he read Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf and knew what was likely to happen to someone like him who was known as ‘Israelitisch’. He came to England and qualified as an English barrister as well. His sister and parents eventually came too. Many of the rest of his family perished in Dachau, Riga and other Nazi concentration camps.
The treatment of the Jewish people through the centuries has been complex, and at times tragic. Sometimes even passages in the Bible have been misinterpreted and misapplied as a weapon of abuse against the Jewish people.
The people of God in the Old Testament were the nation of Israel. The people of God in the New Testament are all those who put their faith in Jesus Christ. We share a common history and family tree. We worship the same God and, the apostle Paul tells us, the way of salvation is the same for us all.
1. Your God is the God of Israel
Psalm 89:14-18The Lord, whom we worship, is the Holy One of Israel. ‘All we are and have we owe to God, Holy God of Israel, our King!’ (v.18, MSG).
The psalmist says of the Lord, ‘The Right and Justice are the roots of your rule; Love and Truth are its fruits’ (v.14, MSG). God’s choice of the people of Israel does not make him unrighteous and unjust. He is a God of love and faithfulness. He loves all people. The foundation of his throne is righteousness and justice. He will act in a way that is right and his treatment of other nations will never be unjust.
God intended that all nations would be blessed through his choice of Israel (see Genesis 12:3). This has now been made possible through Jesus. You too can walk in a right relationship with God and experience the blessing that this psalm talks about: ‘Blessed are those who… walk in the light of your presence, O Lord. They rejoice in your name all day long; they exult in your righteousness. For you are their glory and strength’ (Psalm 89:15–17). As a result, ‘We’re walking on air!’ (v.17, MSG).
Lord, help me today to walk in the light of your presence and to rejoice in your name all day long.
2. Your salvation began with Israel
Romans 9:22-10:4God’s plan of salvation began with Israel. His plan for Israel (the Jews) and the rest (the Gentiles) is inextricably linked. What does this mean for you now?
God had a plan ‘to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory – even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles’ (9:23–24). His plan of salvation is wider than just the nation of Israel.
Salvation is based on:
- Faith – not our good works
- Mercy – not what we deserve
- Belief – not where we were born.
Paul goes on to demonstrate this by drawing on the words of Hosea. God had said that he would call people who were ‘not my people’ – that is, the Gentiles – ‘my people’, ‘my loved one’ and ‘children of the living God’ (vv.25–26).
It is an amazing privilege to be part of God’s people, loved by God, called to be his children, the object of his mercy, prepared in advance for glory in order that he might make the riches of his glory known (vv. 23–24).
Under the new covenant, no one is excluded. Everyone can be saved. God has made possible, through Jesus, a righteousness by faith (v.30).
Jesus is the way of salvation. Some will stumble over him, but ‘the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame’ (v.33). Paul is following the teaching of Jesus when he told Nicodemus that ‘no one can see the kingdom of God without being born again’ (John 3:3).
Paul loves the people of Israel. They are his people. He longs for them to be saved. He intercedes fervently for their salvation. ‘Believe me, friends, all I want for Israel is what’s best for Israel: salvation, nothing less. I want it with all my heart and pray to God for it all the time’ (Romans 10:1, MSG).
There is only one way that they will be saved, and that is by faith, through ‘the righteousness that comes from God’ (v.3). This righteousness comes through Christ. ‘Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes’ (v.4).
‘Christ is the end of the law’ is a huge, groundbreaking, life-changing, history-making statement. There has been a great deal of debate about exactly what Paul meant. However, some things are clear.
- First, Jesus has set you free from seeking salvation through the law. No one can be saved by the law. Paul has demonstrated that no one, apart from Jesus, has ever managed to keep the entire law. You cannot establish your own righteousness. ‘Christ is the end of the law’ in that he has set you free from trying to establish your own righteousness. Instead, you are now given ‘the righteousness that comes from God’ (v.3).
- Second, ‘Christ is the end of the law’ in that he has fulfilled the law. Jesus once described himself as having come to ‘fulfil the law and the prophets’ (Matthew 5:17). The purpose of the law was to point us to Jesus (Galatians 3:24). Now Jesus has come, its role has been completed.
- Third, ‘Christ is the end of the law’ in that he has satisfied the law. Jesus was the only person who has ever fully kept the law, yet through the cross you receive the benefit of his obedience. As Paul explains elsewhere, ‘God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God’ (2 Corinthians 5:21).
- Fourth, ‘Christ is the end of the law’ in that he has set you free from the burden and condemnation of the law. Trying to establish our own righteousness is a great burden. As we are constantly failing, we live life under a black cloud of condemnation. Because Jesus has set you free, ‘there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus’ (Romans 8:1).
Lord, thank you that salvation is open to all – both Jews and Gentiles – through faith in Jesus. I pray today for the people of Israel: ’My heart’s desire and prayer to God… is that they may be saved’ (10:1).
3. Your history is bound up with Israel
1 Chronicles 1:1-2:17In today’s passage we see another family tree. This is my family tree. It is also yours.
‘Names launch this story,’ writes Eugene Peterson, ‘hundreds and hundreds of names, lists of names, page after page of names, personal names… Holy history is not constructed from impersonal forces or abstract ideas; it is woven from names – persons, each one unique. Chronicles erects a solid defence against depersonalised religion.’
There is more than one way to tell a story. The two books of Chronicles cover the same period as the books of Samuel and Kings. The new writer (possibly Ezra), writing a hundred years or so later, traces the history of Israel from Adam to the return from exile.
We see in these chapters that Israel’s history is our history. Our history goes back to Adam (1:1) and the beginning of the human race. It goes back to Abraham. The church began with God’s call to Abraham.
‘Abraham was the father of Isaac. The sons of Isaac: Esau and Israel’ (v.34). Both Israel and the church of Jesus Christ both look to Abraham as their father.
In chapter 2, the chronicler traces the history of Israel through the sons of Israel right down to David (2:15). Again, Israel’s history is your history. The church began with God’s call to Abraham and continues right down the ages until now.
Whether the church is popular or unpopular, big or small is relatively unimportant. People talk about the church as if it is a fairly marginal phenomenon only interested in gaining popularity. The only question the media ask is whether it is popular or not.
But as Bishop Lesslie Newbigin pointed out, this is absurd. The church has outlived great empires, philosophical systems, totalitarian systems. The things that seem to occupy the whole horizon of public thinking now will be simply phantoms, half remembered from the past, twenty years from now. But the church will still be there. This given reality needs to be at the centre of our thinking as Christians.
Thank you, Lord, for our common family tree with the people of Israel. Thank you for the extraordinary privilege of being part of the people of God, who trace our history back to the beginning of the human race, through Adam, Abraham and Israel, and right down to the present day.
‘Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; love and faithfulness go before you.’
I hadn’t quite seen how important the justice issue is until Gary Haugen from International Justice Mission came and spoke at HTB. IJM, Justice and Care, A21, and other organisations like them, need our prayers and support. These organisations work to free those suffering terrible injustice. They try to prosecute and imprison the perpetrators, thereby stopping their evil practices.