Yes, I admit it. Not only am I a comics geek—ur, collector—but I’m also a big Simpsons fan. One of my favorite lines comes from an episode in which a character asks advice on how to break off a relationship with someone easy without hurting their feelings. Homer, ever the picture of sensitivity, proposes his method of cutting off a romantic relationship: “Five words--Welcome. To. Dumpsville. Population: You!”
Having read the Gospels and Acts, you might get the impression that this is God’s response to the Jewish people. He'd sent the Messiah, his one and only Son, and they had not only rejected him but had nailed him up on a tree. The crowd, spurred on by the religious leaders, asked that a murderer be released instead of Jesus. After his ascension, the majority of the Church stayed for quite a while in Jerusalem (actually longer than they should have, if you ask me), and only left when the Sanhedrin launched a wave of persecution against them.
So that raises the obvious question: Has God abandoned Israel? Has he given up on them?
Paul has a simple and resounding answer to this: “Absolutely not!” I’m sorry if you’ve read this before, but in case you haven’t, let me give you a short lesson on Greek. The term Paul uses here is Me Genoito. This is the strongest possible negative in the Greek. The KJV translated it “God forbid.” That’s not bad. The NIV actually softens it way too much in my opinion by rendering it as “By no means.” My Greek teacher, as I’ve mentioned before, translated it as (let me give you the edited version) “Not no but heck no!”
What’s Paul’s reasoning here? He presents two counterpoints. We’ll look at one today, and the second one in a couple of days. For the time being, God has shifted focus from Israel to the Church as far as his tool for reaching humanity. But this shifting is not total. You’ve always had within national Israel the true followers of the Lord who try to be faithful to him.
Paul points to the time of Elijah. After the great encounter/confrontation between him and the followers of Baal on Mount Carmel, the queen issued a threat against him. It looks like he was hoping for a nationwide revival and repentance away from Baal and towards the Lord. But that didn’t happen, and the dispirited prophet fled into the wilderness. He finally came face to face with the Almighty and complained that he was all alone. He alone was faithful to God, and everyone else was just going along with the prevailing idolatry.
But God’s gentle rebuke is a great inspiration to all of us who are trying to be faithful while living in an unfaithful culture: “I have reserved for myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” You don’t have the big picture, Elijah. I do. You don’t know how many people are on the respective sides in this conflict. I do. And there are more people who are mine than you think.
So how does this apply to the Jewish people? Even today, while there’s a “hardening” of most of Israel and most aren’t responding to the Good News, there are some. We went over the statistics of Messianic Jews the other day. There are Jewish people who are believers in Yeshua. And each one of these is evidence that God has not abandoned the physical descendants of Abraham. He’s reserved for himself, even in this time of spiritual darkness, a “remnant chosen by grace.”
And once again, I see a big application for all of us, even if we've never met a Jew personally. It’s easy for God’s faithful people to feel like they’re on the losing side in the war. Especially in this godless culture, it’s very easy to think that you’re all alone and the only friend you have is God. Now, if that were true, it would still be enough to keep fighting. You might’ve heard that “One man and God makes a majority.” That’s not true. It would be better to say “God plus no one makes a majority. God is the majority.” But it’s also true that we have more friends than we think we do. We don’t have the full layout of the battlefield, nor do we know the true numbers of those on our side.
Please, if you’re tempted to give in to despair, don’t. Our Father really does know what he’s doing. Trust him.
Father, it’s really easy to feel like Elijah at times. I want to trust you, I really do. Please help increase my faith.