By Ernest O'Neill

Has God's Word Failed For You?

By Rev. Ernest O'Neill

You may remember about a month ago we studied the verses where Paul points out that the first communication from outer space to our earth came to a people called the Israelites. They're the people that we call the Jewish people today. These Israelites were the first people that God chose to reveal Himself to after God had created humanity and had seen it rebel against Him. Paul said He revealed Himself to these people as a dear Father who loved them and who had chosen them especially to receive His revelation of Himself. He revealed Himself as one who would be faithful in the agreements He made with them, as one who would tell them how to live here on earth successfully. He revealed Himself as one who would tell them how to establish a personal, direct relationship with Himself. Then He revealed Himself to them as one who would give them a homeland, who would protect their children, and as someone who would eventually send His Son to lead them. That is what Paul said in Romans 9:4, "They are Israelites, and to them belong the sonship, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and of their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ. God who is over all be blessed forever. Amen."

So, Paul tells us, they are the people who will be given a homeland by their God, they are the people to whom God will reveal how to relate personally to Him. They are the people whose children will be protected by their God, they are the people to whom God will give His own Son to lead them. Paul then probably looked up and out of his window, and saw the Jewish people under the heel of the Roman Empire, their homeland occupied by a foreign military, their money all going in taxes to their lords and masters. He saw the religion cut apart and sliced open by disagreements and arguments over ceremonies. Instead of the Son of God coming to lead them, he saw that they crucified this Son when He came. That was the contradiction or paradox that Paul faced. This was the people who would be especially blessed by the Creator, and here they are sliced apart. In fact, we could carry it on even today. We see them in some sense with something of a homeland, but still in many ways a people that are scattered throughout the earth. That is why God led Paul to make the next comment, in verse 6; "But it is not as though the word of God has failed." But we tend to say, "Why? It looks as if the word of God has failed. These people were to receive the sonship and the promises and the covenants and the patriarchs and Jesus Himself, yet here they are scattered, downtrodden, and under the heel of the Roman Empire. It looks as if the word of God has failed." But he says, "No, it's not the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel." Paul says, No, no, you think that everybody who is called by the name of Israel is Israel in their own hearts. But that is not so. There are lots of people who live in Israel or who are regarded as Israelites but are not Israelites in their hearts. In their attitude to God, they don't have the attitude of loving children who trust their Father, which Israel had, or Jacob had (his original name). That is why the promises of God cannot be made real to them because the promises of God are not made to people who are outwardly Israelites. The promises of God are made to people who are Israelites deep down in their own hearts and lives. It is those who trust God inside to whom God can make His promises real. God does not make His promises real to people who do not have towards Him an attitude of trust and faith. Paul said that once before in Romans 2, and he puts it very clearly in verse 28: "For he is not a real Jew who is one outwardly, nor is true circumcision something external and physical. He is a Jew who is one inwardly, and real circumcision is a matter of the heart, spiritual and not literal. His praise is not from men but from God." So similarity in flesh and blood does not ensure that one is an Israelite.

Brothers and sisters, would you come with me to the next step? This is really what I believe God wants to say to us at this moment. Turn to Romans 9:6, "But it is not as though the word of God had failed." Have you ever thought, "Well, that's not true in my life. I would dare to say that I believe the word of God has failed in my life at times; that is if you mean God's promises. I would say God's promises have failed in my life." Now, have you any sympathy with that statement at all? Do you have the feeling that "I know I'm not supposed to say it, I know in order to be a good witness and all the rest I'm supposed to say God's promises have always been made real to me; but yes, I would say that I've often rationalized away the failures so that I wouldn't be found opposing God's word, so I could cling on to the little bit of faith that I had. Yes, I have found quite often that God's promises have not been made real to me. I keep trying to pretend that they have, but I have to admit that if I were honest, they haven't." Could it be that though you descend from Israel, you don't belong to Israel? Could it be?