Sibling Rivalry - Week of July 19th

By Judy Nichols

July 19, 2015

Sibling rivalry is a fact of life. Who hasn’t heard – or said – "He got a bigger piece than I did!" Or, "She’s not doing her share of the work." Or from the back seat of the car, "He’s on my side!" My older sister and I shared a bed when we were little. She would roll up in the covers when she turned over and I would snuggle up close to her to keep warm. She complained I hogged the bed and I said she hogged the covers.

I was fascinated, as I studied Romans 9, to realize that all God has given to His chosen people the Jews, he has also give to us Christians. Verses four and five say, "They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed for ever. Amen."

God adopted the children of Israel as His own when He delivered them out of their slavery in Egypt. He instructed Moses to say to Pharaoh, "Thus says the Lord, ‘Israel is My son, My firstborn. . . Let my son go that he may serve Me’" (Ex. 4:22-23). He adopted those who trust in Christ by giving them the Holy Spirit. As Paul says in Romans 8:15, "You have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons, by which we cry out, ‘Abba, Father.’"

God demonstrated His presence with Israel when the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle after Moses constructed it in the wilderness. In all their journeys, the cloud by day and the fire by night led them. (See Exodus 40-34-38.) In His words to His disciples on the night of His betrayal Jesus said, "I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever" (John 14:16). And at His ascension He promised them, "I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:20).

God established His covenant with Abraham when He said, "I am God Almighty; walk before Me and be blameless. I will establish My covenant between Me and you, and I will multiply you exceedingly" (Gen. 17:2). He promised to give his descendants the land of Canaan (Ex. 6:4) and renewed the covenant prior to their entering it (Deut. 5:3). When Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper, he proclaimed His death as the initiation of a New Covenant (Luke 22:20). And the author of Hebrews wrote, "He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that . . . those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance" (9:15).

God gave the children of Israel His law, the Ten Commandments (Exod. 20:1-17, Deut. 4:13-14). Jesus gave His followers a new commandment, "that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another" (John 13:34). And Paul wrote in Romans 13:10, "Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law."

The entire book of Leviticus details the procedures by which the Israelites were to worship God acceptably. Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well (and us, as well), "God is spirit and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth" (John 4:24). And Paul urged his readers to "present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship" (Rom. 12:1).

God’s promises to Israel were manifold but His primary promises were for blessing and salvation. In the Garden of Eden God told the serpent, "He shall bruise your head" (Gen. 3:15). He promised Abraham, "in you all the families of the earth will be blessed" (Gen. 12:3). Moses prophesied that God would "raise up a prophet like me from among you . . . you shall listen to him" (Deut. 18:15). And Nathan the prophet spoke God’s words of promise to David that He would raise up his offspring and "establish His throne forever. I will be to him a father and shall be to Me a son" (1 Chron. 17:11-13). We know that Jesus Christ fulfills these promises of God and Paul asserts in 2 Cor. 1:20 that "no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ." And Peter chimes in with "He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises" (2 Pet. 1:4).

The patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were the primary recipients of God’s covenants and promises. Many times throughout their history, the Israelites were reminded that God was being merciful to them because of His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It was also a reminder that God’s chose Isaac over Ishmael and Jacob over Esau, so that only the descendants of promise were counted among Abraham’s offspring. In the same way, Paul reminds us that we were "grafted in and share in the nourishing root of the olive tree" (Rom. 11:17). And he told the Galatians, "Be sure that it is those who are of faith who are the sons of Abraham" (Gal. 3:7).

Jesus, by His own testimony, came to minister to the lost sheep of Israel (Matt. 15:24), but He did not deny foreigners (Matt. 15:21-28). In Paul’s defense before King Agrippa, he declared that Jesus, "by virtue of His resurrection from the dead, would be the first to proclaim light both to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles" (Acts 26:23). This is no surprise considering that "God so loved the world" [that means everybody, Jew and Gentile alike] "that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16).

Some theologians say that the church has now replaced the Jewish nation as God’s chosen people. I do not subscribe to this idea for two reasons. First, the Scripture says the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable (Romans 11:29). God never un-calls those whom He has called. He called the Jews to be His people and He called us believing Gentiles to be His people (1 Peter 2:9). And secondly, God surely has enough love, grace, and mercy to go around. My childhood bed was large enough for both of us, even if we did quibble over it.

© Judy Nichols 2015

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