If you’ve read my blog for a while, you know that I’m a talk-show junkie. My two favorites--actually the only ones I listen to on a regular basis--are Dennis Prager and Michael Medved. Both of them are practicing Jews, and they both integrate their faith with current events and their political views on their show. Medved has said something repeatedly about the nature of being part of the “Chosen People” which struck me as being very poignant. People hear the term “Chosen People,” and they think it’s a term that’s boastful or arrogant. Nothing could be further from the truth. Traditionally the term among Jews means that they are chosen not so much for a special privilege but for a special responsibility. You can find this at the very beginning of the covenant God initiated with Abraham: “All people on earth will be blessed through you.”
Let’s leave aside for a moment the blessings Paul lists in today’s passage. Let’s focus for a minute on just the physical blessings which the Jewish people have been to the entire world. Here are some facts:
• The Jews make up about 1/4 of 1% of the world population.
• Of 660 Nobel prizes from 1901-1990, 160 have been won by Jews.
• In the first half of the 20th century, despite severe legal and social discrimination (of course culminating in the Holocaust), Jews received 14% of the Nobel prizes in literature, chemistry, physics, and medicine/physiology. In the second half of the 20th century, when such discrimination began to wane, that figure rose to 29 percent.
Blown away yet? I’m not done. Let’s just pick some names from the field of medicine, shall we?
• Dr. Jonas Salk, creator of the Polio vaccine
• Casmir Funk, who pioneered a new field of medical research and coined the term "vitamins"
• Dr. Paul Ehrlich, who won the Nobel Prize in 1908 for curing syphilis
• Dr. Simon Baruch, who performed the first successful operation for appendicitis
• Dr. Albert Sabin, developer of the first oral polio vaccine
• Carl Koller, the inventor of local anesthesia
• Alfred Einhorn, the discoverer of Novocain
• Charles Gerhardt, the inventor of aspirin
• Oskar Minkowski and Joseph von Mering, whose research in diabetes led directly to the Canadian team's work that gave us insulin therapy for the disease.
I could go on, but you get the idea. In case you didn’t know, I’m diabetic. I have an insulin pump as I write this. I’m alive today because of some Jewish men.
Then we get to the incredible spiritual blessings. In today's passage, Paul lists some of the ways which the Lord blessed Israel, but keep in mind that God never blesses anyone just for their own sake. He blesses individuals and nations so that they can bless others. Look at the list of blessings which the Lord has showered upon them:
· the adoption to sonship
· theirs the divine glory
· the covenants
· the receiving of the law
· the temple worship and the promises
· the patriarchs
· from them is traced the human ancestry of the Messiah, who is God over all
These are not just blessings to Israel. They're blessings to all of us. Think about it. You pay tribute to their language every time you pray: “Amen.” When you say “Hallelujah,” you’re speaking Hebrew. A verse from Leviticus is on our Liberty Bell and a representation of Moses with the Ten Commandments is above our Supreme Court.
Here's what John Adams had to say about the Jewish people:
The Hebrews have done more to civilize men than any other nation. If I were an atheist, and believed blind eternal fate, I should still believe that fate had ordained the Jews to be the most essential instrument for civilizing the nations.
Yes, I know that it was the Lord who gave us all that. He gave us the Ten Commandments. He revealed all we know about where we came from and what went wrong in the book of Genesis. He gave us the thrilling stories of Joshua and the lessons from the life of David. But he gave us all these things through the Jews.
But most important, above everything else, God gave us our Savior through them. When he came to earth, he entered the womb of a Jewish teenager. He grew up in a faithful Jewish home, and all his first followers were Jewish.
So when I say that the debt we owe to these people is incalculable, I mean it.
Father, you’ve been so good to us, and especially through the people you chose to use to bless the world. There’s no room in the heart of a redeemed child of God for ingratitude. If you find any there, please let’s get rid of it.