Since arriving in Israel two days ago, I began to experience what the apostle Paul speaks of in this verse; great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. Why?
It is the tragedy of the ages, that when God sent his Messiah to the people of Israel, they hardened their hearts and did not receive him. As the Gospel writer, John stated so clearly, “He came into his own and his own did not receive him.”
Paul, while being the apostle of the Gentiles, carried this sorrow continually in his heart. Like Moses before him, he was willing, if possible, to lose his own salvation for the sake of his own people. To him, the greatest tragedy of the ages was that the Messiah’s own people became the first rejecters of Him when He appeared. But the apostle goes on to explain how this was according to divine plan so that the Gentiles might be saved.
We must remember that the rejection of the Messiah by Israel was the cumulative effect of their previously having rejected the Prophets who came before Him and announced his coming. The clearest statement of that can be found in Jesus’ parable known as the Parable of the Tenants (Matthew 21:33-41). After planting the vineyard, the vineyard owner sent his servants to collect the fruit. “When the season for fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to get his fruit. And the tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other servants, more than the first. And they did the same to them.
“When this failed, the owner decided to send His Son assuming that they would respect him. “But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.’ And they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him” (21:38-39).
Here is clearly stated, by the Jewish Messiah Himself, how Israel had cumulatively rejected the Prophets of the Old Testament. So it is not surprising that when the Son, the Messiah Jesus appeared, they rejected Him as well. Only a small remnant believed. But according to the apostle Paul in this section, this is in keeping with the plan of the ages; that the majority of Israel be hardened so as to allow the Gentiles to come in (Romans 11:7-10). Only the elect remnant was chosen, and the rest were hardened.
As we walked back last night from the Jerusalem Market, we came upon a spontaneous worship service in the streets of Jerusalem led by South Korean believers. Christians, Orthodox Jews, and others stopped and sang some of the Christian songs led by these Koreans. It was a beautiful site (see the attached video on my Facebook page). It was obvious that some of the Israelis singing did not really understand what they were singing. When the police came and broke it up, I was standing next to an orthodox Jew who was upset that the police were shutting it down. He argued with the police that these people should be left alone because they were blessing Israel.
Jerusalem is the most vibrant city on earth. To see what has been built and established in just a few short decades is incredible. Bu everywhere we went to Jerusalem yesterday, my heart was breaking for my people who don’t know the Messiah. How I long for them to know Yeshua (Jesus) as the lamb slain on their behalf. I poured out my heart to God as we walked the streets of Jerusalem. Could there be a greater tragedy than that the people of Israel rejected their own Messiah?
But it is not as though the God of Israel is not working to bring many to faith. Consider the following story which first appearing in the magazine Israel Today in 2007:
“A few months before he died, one of the nation’s most prominent rabbis, Yitzhak Kaduri, supposedly wrote the name of the Messiah on a small note which he requested would remain sealed until now. When the note was unsealed, it revealed what many have known for centuries: Yehoshua, or Yeshua (Jesus), is the Messiah.
With the biblical name of Jesus, the Rabbi and kabbalist described the Messiah using six words and hinting that the initial letters form the name of the Messiah.” Is that not incredible? The name of the Messiah was revealed as Yeshua to one of the most prominent rabbis in Israel. Is this not evidence that the Ruach HaKodesh (the Holy Spirit) continues to be at work today to bring Jews to faith in their Messiah?
Let us continue to pray that all the Lord our God has called will come to believe that Jesus is the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world; the One whom Moses and the Prophets spoke of Jesus of Nazareth.