Light for our path
Were the Jews to spread the message about the promised Savior even to Gentiles, as we do mission work today?
James F. Pope
What will become clear in answering your question is that God showed love to the entire world as he showed love to a specially chosen people.
Love to Israel
There is no question that the people of Israel were the recipients of unparalleled love from the Lord. King Solomon demonstrated he understood that when he prayed to the Lord on the occasion of the dedication of the temple. He recognized that the Lord had “singled [Israel] out from all the nations of the world to be your own inheritance, just as you declared through your servant Moses when you, Sovereign LORD, brought our fathers out of Egypt” (1 Kings 8:53). The apostle Paul identified some of Israel’s special blessings when he wrote: “Theirs is the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen” (Romans 9:4,5).
That last sentence explains the greatest blessing the people of Israel received from the Lord: the promise that the Messiah would enter this world as a human being through their lineage. The “family trees” of Jesus (Matthew 1 and Luke 3) illustrate how God fulfilled that promise.
But if you look carefully at those family trees, you will notice non-Jews, or Gentiles, in the list—people like Rahab and Ruth. The inclusion of those Gentile women in the human ancestry of Jesus tells us something about the love of God.
Love through Israel
God’s love is universal. God so loved the entire world of sinners that he sent his Son into the world as a human being descended from a long line of—mostly—Jews. So while God showed special love to the people of Israel, he never restricted his love to them. Yes, God wanted Israel to let others know about his love for them. Let me point out just a few examples.
God commissioned Jonah to go to the Assyrian capital of Nineveh and preach a message of repentance. When the citizenry as a whole took Jonah’s message to heart and the prophet subsequently became despondent that Israel’s enemies would share in their blessings of salvation, the Lord asked him: “Should I not be concerned about that great city?” (Jonah 4:11). That great city of Gentiles?
The psalms contain directives for the people of Israel to share their faith. “Sing to the LORD, praise his name; proclaim his salvation day after day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples” (Psalm 96:2,3). Through the prophet Isaiah, God repeatedly instructed his chosen people to let their light shine. “ ‘You are my witnesses,’ declares the LORD, ‘. . . the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise’ ” (Isaiah 43:10,21).
Many more examples could be provided to demonstrate that it has always been God’s will that all those who know him in faith share that saving knowledge with others. Certainly, God’s Old Testament ceremonial laws were designed to keep Israel separate from other nations, but being “separate” did not mean uncaring, unloving, or silent. God’s people have always had reason to share their Savior with others.
Contributing editor James Pope, professor at Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minnesota, is a member at St. John, New Ulm.
James Pope also answers questions online. Submit your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Do you have a manuscript, idea, or story from your own life you’d like to share for use in Forward in Christ or on wels.net? Use our online form to share it to our editorial office for consideration.
Get inspirational stories, spiritual help, and synod news from Forward in Christ every month. Print and digital subscriptions are available from Northwestern Publishing House.
Author: James F. Pope
Volume 102, Number 5
Issue: May 2015
Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2018
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us