Do we have a BURDEN for our PEOPLE who are PERISHING?
November 18 Bible Reading: Romans Chapters 10-12
"Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes." (Romans 10:1-4)
In the above verses, Apostle Paul reiterates his heart’s desire, prayer and his own assessment regarding his own kinsmen, the Jewish people of Israel. His overwhelming desire was that his people would embrace the Messiah he had encountered (Romans 9:2-3; Acts 9:1-6; John 4:26) even though in every city his fellow Jews had rejected Him and the Christ he preached.
We are aware that through Abraham Israel became God’s “chosen people.” This covenant relationship was confirmed at Mount Sinai when the nation of Israel promised to perform “all the words which the Lord has said” (Ex. 24:3). When the people of Israel later broke their side of the agreement, they were called by their leaders to renew the covenant (2 Kings 23:3). However, God never breaks His promises, and throughout Israel’s history He has always lived up to His side of the covenant. God’s oath to raise up believing children to Abraham (Gen. 22:16–17) remains an “everlasting” covenant (17:7). That’s why Paul can affirm that God has not “cast away” His people (Rom. 11:1), and his heart was still longing for their salvation (10:1).
In the book of Romans, salvation refers to the work of God in the believer that continues after justification. It is deliverance from God’s wrath (see 1:18: 5:9, 10) that Israel was still under (see 9:22). Paul’s deep desire and prayer is that Israel may be justified and saved from this wrath. Even though he was the apostle to the Gentiles, Paul took no satisfaction in Israel’s rejection of God, and he toiled hard that "by any means (he) may provoke to jealousy those who are (his) flesh and save some of them" (Rom. 11:14).
Israel had a zeal for God; outwardly, they were very religious. But they lacked a correct understanding of the kind of worship God wanted from them. They were ignorant of God’s righteousness, ignorant of the fact that God imputes righteousness on the principle of faith and not of works. They went about trying to produce a righteousness of their own by law-keeping. They tried to win God’s favor by their own efforts, their own character, and their own good works. They steadfastly refused to submit to God’s plan for reckoning righteous those ungodly sinners who believe on His Son Jesus Christ. However, God’s righteousness (right standing with Him) comes through faith in Jesus Christ alone!
Thus, Paul’s teachings were distasteful to the unconverted Jews, and they considered him a traitor and an enemy of Israel. But here he assures his Christian brethren to whom he was writing that the thing that would bring the greatest delight to his heart and the thing for which he prays to God most earnestly for Israel was that they may be saved. Despite Paul’s broken heart (v. 1) and God’s outstretched hands (v. 21; Isa. 65:2), many in Israel did not believe; but many Gentiles did believe through Paul’s ministry and God saved them!
Let us honestly ask ourselves this question: do we have a real burden for our people who are perishing daily as they have no saving knowledge of Jesus Christ? We know that Esther and Mordecai had a real burden for their Jewish brethren who would be annihilated by the decree of the King, and they fasted completely for three days and nights (Esther 4:15-17). Due to their untiring efforts, the Jewish people were spared from sure death (Esther 8:9-12). Let us pray today that God will give us also a burden for our own kith and kin that they may be spared from eternal death, and witness to them about God’s desire for them to be saved!