And many Jews did accept the new deal, at the start. All Jesus’ disciples were Jews, as were the first new believers, all 3000 of them on the first Day of Pentecost in Jerusalem, when the Church was born.
But what came next was totally unexpected, to the Jews at least. After all, they’d had God to themselves since He first beckoned Abraham out of the eastern lands! But it couldn’t last. Could they really believe that God would only be interested in one tiny nation and would be happy for the rest to (literally) go to hell? Didn’t they realise that they, the Jewish nation, were simply God’s chosen instrument to establish a bridgehead among the nations? Does a trowel complain when the builder uses it to create a house?
God gave a clue at the beginning of the story.
“The LORD had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12:1-3)
All peoples on earth were going to be blessed here, not just a favoured few. It was a theme repeated by the great Old Testament prophet, Isaiah.
“And now the LORD says—he who formed me in the womb to be his servant to bring Jacob back to him and gather Israel to himself, for I am honoured in the eyes of the LORD and my God has been my strength— he says: “It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.” (Isaiah 49:5-6)
Of course it was too small a thing. We’re talking of Heaven and Hell here!
“All the nations you have made will come and worship before you, O Lord; they will bring glory to your name.” (Psalm 86:9)
The nations could hardly give glory to God if they didn’t know Him. So they had to get to know Him first. Jews weren’t natural evangelists, particularly to the hated Gentiles, who had never done them any favours. Remember the story of Jonah and his distaste for preaching to the Gentile city of Nineveh? “How could God be so merciful to such a wicked city?” cried Jonah. “How could God be so merciful to such a wicked people?” cried Jesus’ chief disciple, Simon Peter, until God sent him a dream to change his mind and send him to Cornelius, the Gentile Centurion.
“Then Peter began to speak: “I now realise how true it is that God does not show favouritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right.” (Acts 10:34-35)
The scene was set for the explosion of the gospel of Jesus, from Jerusalem, to Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth, a process that is still in full flow today.
So the Gentiles were allowed in, but they were never intended to dominate. The ideal situation, of Jew and Gentile in balance, is described by Paul in the letter to the Ephesians:
“Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (that done in the body by the hands of men) — remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.” (Ephesians 2:11-16)
A bold ideal, but not one that has ever been achieved in the Christian world (although the Puritans tried it, but without a single Jew in sight) – a Christianity where Jew and Gentile live together in harmony and understanding, each contributing towards the relationship, creating a shining witness to the World of a people to be envied. Within a few generations of allowing the Gentiles in, they had totally dominated, stripped away the Jewish roots of the faith and, in their place, taking on pagan practices from the cultures of the World.
It was a tragedy, not just for the Jews, but for the Gentiles too. If they only had read and understood what Paul had to say in his letter to the Romans, they may have tempered their treatment of the Jewish people. Countless Jews may have lost their lives during this period, but what do you think was the condition of the souls of the Christians at the forefront of the anti-Semitism that was relentlessly perpetrated? Paul explained it very clearly in his letter to the Roman Gentile Christians.
This will be explained next week …
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Why did God choose to save the Gentiles?
Written by: Miriam Emenike
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