Children Of The Promise
Privileges Of Israel

In a Brief Survey of the Epistle of Paul to the Romans
Based on sermons preached in PCC Worship Services, July 2003 to Sep 2005
Part 43b of 83

“…4  Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; 5  Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen. …” (Romans 9:1-13)

Paul has just spoken about his deep feelings for his kinsmen according to the flesh. These, he tells us are the Israelites. And as Israelites they possess numerous spiritual benefits, which God has bestowed upon them as a chosen nation. He lists seven benefits.

First, to them pertains the adoption. When God sent Moses to speak to Pharaoh, He instructed him to tell Pharaoh: “Thus saith the LORD, Israel is my son, even my firstborn” (Ex 4:22). Israel was an adopted nation.

Secondly, to them pertains the glory. Only to the nation of Israel did God manifest His glory. His glory was encapsulated in the ark of God. When the daughter-in-law of Eli was about to give birth after the ark was captured by the Philistines, she named her child Ichcabod, because as she says: “the glory is departed from Israel: because the ark of God was taken” (1 Sam 4:21).

And God also manifested His glory in a cloud that filled the temple, which was known as the shekinah glory.

When the children of Israel were in the wilderness, the cloud of the Lord led them by day, and we are told, “the glory of the LORD appeared in the cloud” (Ex 16:10). But later after the tabernacle was completed, we are told:

“A cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle” (Ex 40:34).

Likewise when the temple was complete under the leadership of Solomon, it is recorded:

“…the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud: for the glory of the LORD had filled the house of the LORD” (1 Kgs 8:11).

Again, thirdly, it was only with Israel that God made covenants. To them alone pertains the covenants. Paul does not indicate which covenants he is referring to; but the Scripture speaks about God making a covenant with Noah (Gn 6:18); with Abraham (Gen 15:18; 17:2); with Isaac and Jacob (Ex 2:24); with the Israelites under the leadership of Moses (Ex 34:10); with King David (2 Sam 7:12-16), etc.

When we study the covenants together, we see that they all administrations of the one Covenant of Grace, for which Christ is our covenant head. But it is certainly true that in the Old Testament, the covenant was not made with any other nation, but with Israel.

And not only covenants, but fourthly, the giving of the law. To no other nation did God give the Law. Even when God spoke the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai, it was prefaced in a way to indicate that it was given to them as a covenant people: “I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage,” (Ex 20:2) He says.

God’s Moral Law is universal. This Law is written in the heart of man because man is created in the image of God. All who break God’s Law, sin against God. But since the fall of Adam, sin has darkened the heart of mankind, and so no one by nature knows the Law exactly. Yet God chose to reiterate the Law directly to Israel alone, of all the nations in the world.

And not only the Law, but fifthly, the “the service of God,” or the way of worship. God is the living and true God. He alone is worthy to be worshipped. He alone should be worshipped. But He would receive worship only when it is done in the way that He himself has appointed. He will not accept any mode of worship invented by man.

Yet, God chose only to reveal to Israel how He should be worshipped. Israel alone possessed the plan for the Tabernacle and the Temple. Israel alone knew how the sacrifices were to be made and what they represented. Israel alone had the priesthood. No one in the world could rightly worship God except the Israelites (cf. Ex 25-30).

And sixthly, it was also to Israel alone that God made promises. It was to Israel alone that God promised an inheritance (Ex 12:25; Dt 19:8; Jos 23:5). It was to Israel alone that God promised an everlasting kingdom and kingship (1 Kgs 8:25). So it was to Israel alone that the promise of the coming Messiah was given. And therefore, it was to Israel alone that God promised good and salvation (Jer 32:42; Jer 33:14):

“Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will perform that good thing which I have promised unto the house of Israel and to the house of Judah” (Jer 33:14).

But finally, to Israel was also accorded the greatest privilege that any nation could ever enjoy;—for unto them was the promise of the Messiah fulfilled. Christ Jesus the God-Man; Christ “who is over all, God blessed for ever” took on human flesh and was born in Israel. His genealogy can be traced back to the fathers or the patriarchs (Mt 1:1-16; Rom 1:3).

Such was the great privilege that Israel enjoyed as the chosen nation of God.

But if this is the case, how is it that God seems to have rejected Israel. Does it not seem that God’s promises and prophecies concerning Israel have come to naught?

Has not God declared through Isaiah?

“My word… that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it” (Isa 55:11)

Why has God’s Law, promises and threatenings apparently come to naught? Has God’s Word failed?

And are there not many prophecies that seem to speak of the prosperity of Israel as a chosen people? How does God’s rejection of Israel square with all that have been said about Israel as a chosen people?

This question is an important one for us to ask, for it has implication upon the question: Will God’s promises fail for us? If the promise of God’s salvation is unto us and our children, then wouldn’t God be failing to keep His promise if any one of us or children turn away from the Lord and is lost?

…to be Continued Next Issue

—JJ Lim