Last week, I asked to be notified if I started to get close to half an hour as I preached, and as you will no doubt remember, I was in full flow and reminded to stop. I am carrying on from where I left off.

I will “reverse” a little bit, give a brief recap, and start again at the advantages Paul lists that the Jews have in 9v4.

To recap …

  1. I noted that despite the fact the Jews had all the things Paul lists, despite the fact they were waiting for and looking for a messiah, a Saviour, yet they missed Him. We have to take care not to miss the things of God, His voice, His guidance.
  2. I then noted the passion and concern Paul had for his kinsmen according to the flesh. How much do we love our people?
  3. I then started to look at the things Paul lists, I’ll start again and more fully recap from this point

But firstly, I will read the entire passage again, but we are concentrating this morning on v4:

I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit—that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh. They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.

What do the Jews have?

Noting again, in v4, Paul gives a number of advantages which their ancestry gives them. He lists a number of things that the Jews benefited from, so we read, from Romans 9:4 “They are Israelites, and to them belong, (1)the adoption, (2)the glory, (3)the covenants, the giving of (4)the law, (5)the worship, and (6)the promises”.

It these 6 things I want to look at, consider how they point to Jesus, the thing that Paul seems to suggest they missed, and look at a Christian application to them as well.

The adoption.

The people of God are chosen, right from the start of their history, they had a sense of being chosen by God. They had a very real sense of being part of God’s family.

Although adoption was not common in the Jewish world, it was common practice in the Roman world. Birthright and ancestry is very important to the Jews, so Paul here seems to be cutting across a cultural barrier in referencing the fact that adoption belongs to the Jews.

The point I think here is that even though their lineage (Abraham is our father) marked them as God’s people, The root of that is choice, Abraham was not from any particular line and he had no ancestral claim (if you like) to be favoured by God. God chose him. God adopts us into his family, but even Abraham, the father of the nation of Israel was chosen, and so was adopted in that sense.

The people of God called themselves God’s chosen people, but they didn’t really grasp what that meant.

Rachel was a lady in one of the churches we went to back in the day. She was adopted. Unlike many adopted people who seem to live with real emotional and even mental problems around the fact they feel abandoned, she did not. She had a very healthy self-esteem. Why? Because the flip side of the coin of rejection is choice. Natural parents get no choice. They cannot choose their children, they get what they get — “warts and all” as they say. Rachel recognised that her mum and dad could have chosen any of the orphans in the orphanage, but they didn’t choose any of them – they chose HER. Instead of feeling abandoned and worthless, Rachel felt chosen and special not rejected and unlovable.

Aside: This just goes to show how our attitude can really make a difference as we go through life.

For us, we have a very real understanding of being adopted into His family, we believe that by faith we are adopted into God’s family.

Jesus invited believers to address God as “our Father” (Matthew 6:8–9). In 2 Corinthians 6:18, Paul is quoting Scripture and describes God’s heart …
“I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.”
God has made this spiritual adoption possible through faith in Jesus, so for example, John 1:12,13 says, “to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God”. So, as Christians, WE are adopted into the family of God, and joint heirs together with Jesus Christ.

“For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him” (Romans 8:15-17).

The glory.

Although this letter is in Greek and the word Paul uses is (δόξα) Doxa, he is referring to what people call the shekina glory.

“When Solomon finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the LORD filled the temple. The priests could not enter the temple of the LORD because the glory of the LORD filled it. When all the Israelites saw the fire coming down and the glory of the LORD above the temple, they knelt on the pavement with their faces to the ground, and they worshiped and gave thanks to the LORD, saying, “He is good; his love endures forever” (2 Chronicles 7:1-3).

This glory is the very presence of God. Which should elicit a response Cf. Isaiah 5:9 “woe is me …”.

WE want that don’t we? To have the presence of God in our lives? To always be aware of and attuned to His presence? The Jews had the promise of God. That even after the temple, the very dwelling place of God had been destroyed, that they would experience him.

Haggai 2:1-6,7 “This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘In a little while I will once more shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. I will shake all nations, and what is desired by all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,’ says the LORD Almighty”.

The Jews had the knowledge of the glory of God embedded in their culture. The Scriptures I’ve quoted and others reminded them of God and His glory.

There is a risk for us in today’s modern age, a trap I’ve seen people fall into. Sometimes people mistake atmosphere for God’s presence. The music is great, the atmosphere is brilliant, they get caught up in it all and mistake the feelings and the emotions for the presence of God. We have to remember that whilst it is possible for the presence of God to be so overwhelming, it is also possible that we can be in His presence and not know it. Genesis 28 describes Jacob wrestling with a man all night, and in the morning Genesis reports that, “ Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it”” (Genesis 28:16).

That said, an awareness of the presence of God is so very necessary for us as we walk through life. Matthew 28:19 “I am with you even to the end of the age”. A promise we can rely on. “Never will I leave you, nor forsake you”

The covenants

Noting that a covenant relationship is a relationship at a completely different level to all other relationships. In the Biblical sense, the covenants Paul is talking about here are not between men, but between God and his chosen people.

I Thought it would be good to list them here. There are generally five recognised Old Testament covenants God made with His people …

1. The Noahic Covenant – Genesis 9

After having sent a global flood to destroy the wickedness that had become so prevalent on earth after the Fall, God promised Noah (and by extension all humanity) to never again destroy the world with a flood.
Genesis 9:11 “I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth”.

2. The Abrahamic Covenant – Genesis 12

God would chose one man to become one nation which would (or should ) the instrument of His blessing to the entire world.
Genesis 12:1-3 “Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonours you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed”.

Note God promised Abraham three specific things:
1. He will be made into a great nation (12:2).
2. This nation will be led into the Promised Land (12:1).
3. Through him (Abraham) all people of the earth will be blessed (12:3).

3. The Mosaic Covenant – Exodus 19-24

Exodus chapters 19-24 is key to understanding both redemptive history and the history of Israel as a nation. A conditional promise, the Mosaic Covenant is dependent on the peoples’ response to the law He gives through His servant Moses. “Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel” (Exodus 19:5-6).

God tells Moses that if Israel obeys, they will be His chosen people, His treasured possession. Ultimately, these blessings will be extended to all people.

4. The Davidic Covenant – 2 Samuel 7
After the people disobeyed the commands made in the previous covenant, God made the Davidic covenant as a means to bring them back into relationship with Himself. The key passage for this unconditional promise is 2 Samuel 7:12-17, “When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be a father to him and he will be a son to Me; when he commits iniquity, I will correct him with the rod of men and the strokes of the sons of men, but My loving kindness shall not depart from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. Your house and your kingdom shall endure before Me forever; your throne shall be established forever”’.

Here God tells David and his descendants that his house will rule over Israel forever.

5. The New Covenant – Jeremiah 31
Despite the failure of God’s people to live up to the covenants that were made, God graciously made a new one with his people:

“Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah— not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the LORD. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. No more shall every man teach his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more” (Jeremiah 31:31-34)

In this passage God makes several distinct promises:

  1. He would change their hearts and give them a zeal for obedience and a desire to follow Him.
  2. He will be their God, and they will be His people
  3. He will forgive their sins.

Looking at these covenants through the lens of the New Testament, through the lens of salvation, we can, I am sure, see how, in some way, they all point to Jesus! But as I’ve already pointed out, the Jews missed it!

We don’t live under those old covenants, we live under a new one. The one prophesied by Jeremiah. Jesus Christ came to fulfil the Law of Moses (Matthew 5:17) and to establish this New Covenant between God and His people. He says at the last supper, “this cup is the new covenant in my blood” (Luke 22:20).

The New Covenant was originally given to Israel and includes a promise of fruitfulness, blessing, and a peaceful existence in the Promised Land. In Ezekiel 36:28–30 God says, “Then you will live in the land I gave your ancestors; you will be my people, and I will be your God. . . . I will call for the grain and make it plentiful and will not bring famine upon you. I will increase the fruit of the trees and the crops of the field, so that you will no longer suffer disgrace among the nations because of famine.”

After the resurrection of Christ, Gentiles were brought into the blessing of the New Covenant, too (Acts 10; Ephesians 2:13–14). We are now no longer under the Law but under grace (Romans 6:14–15). The Old Covenant served its purpose, and was replaced by “a better covenant” (Hebrews 7:22).

Under this New Covenant, we are given the opportunity to receive salvation as a free gift (Ephesians 2:8–9). Our responsibility is no longer to obey the Law, but to exercise faith in Christ, the One who fulfilled the Law on our behalf and brought an end to the Law’s sacrifices through His own sacrificial death. Through the life-giving Holy Spirit who lives in all believers (Romans 8:9–11), we share in the inheritance of Christ and enjoy a permanent, unbroken relationship with God (Hebrews 9:15).

The law

Linked very closely to the Mosaic covenant, which is enshrined in the Mosaic Law.

The thing about the Law is this. The law points to God and it points to Jesus. It reveals the very serious nature of Sin, what that means and it points to our need for salvation, it points to the need for a sacrifice and to the provision of a saviour. In Galatians, Paul describes it as a teacher or guardian: “the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith” (Galatians 3:24).

We encounter the Law in various places in the Bible, it is often coupled with what are described as “the prophets”, and these two are quite literally the words of God speaking to his people, and the Jews saw it as such.

The law basically had three foci ..

  1. Civil law — these laws regulated Israelite society and showed the nations around that God’s people are not some kind of disorganised rabble, but an ordered, lawful society.
  2. Ceremonial law — these laws provided religious customs and served to remind the people of who they were. Laws about shellfish, or cloths woven from two different threads and so on reminded them of their call to holiness, sacrificial laws reminded them of the seriousness of sin and its consequences.
  3. Moral Law — these laws revealed the very nature of God and are the ones which we see repeated again and again in the New Testament.

The worship

The Jews knew that God had brought them out of Egypt so that they could worship God, they had the law and the commandments, so they knew full well that worshipping other Gods is a big fat “No No”,

“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
“You shall have no other gods before me.
“You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments”.

Ex. 20:2-4

They knew that the worshippers went ahead of the army when they went into battle.

They knew that worship brings us into the presence of God (Psalm 68:24,25): “Your procession, God, has come into view, the procession of my God and King into the sanctuary. In front are the singers, after them the musicians; with them are the young women playing the timbrels”.

Jesus has an encounter with a Samaritan woman at well in John 4, and the conversation comes round to worship. He says to her “You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews” (John 4:22), Notice here that salvation and worship are linked.

In the John passage, we worship, Jesus says, in spirit and in truth. Worshipping in Spirit does not mean we get all stupid and fall about and all that kind of stuff, it is not just with our voices or our bodies we worship God – we worship Him in the depths of our being. In our very Spirit.

The promises

If I make a promise to you, it does not depend on anything you do or say, it is something I do “unilaterally”. The nature of a promise is that it does not depend on the recipient.

Gosh – I can’t list all the promises God made to the Jews here, or I’d be going on for hours! We do however need to know that God made promises AND, that if God makes a promise, we can rely on it. These are not flippant, casual promises such as we often make; these promises of God are rock-solid, unequivocal commitments made by God Himself …

God is not human, that he should lie,
not a human being, that he should change his mind.
Does he speak and then not act?
Does he promise and not fulfil?
(Numbers 23:19)

Here are just a handful of the promises that the Jews had… There are clearly the covenant promises God has made which we have already looked at and I won’t repeat.

– God promised Israel to be their God and make them His people (Leviticus 26:12–13).
– God promised that if we search for Him we will find Him (Deuteronomy 4:29).
– God promised protection for His children (Psalm 121).
– God promised that His love will never fail (1 Chronicles 16:34).
– God promised Israel that their sin could be forgiven, their prosperity restored, and their nation healed (2 Chronicles 7:14).
– God promised blessing for all who will delight themselves in His Word (Psalm 1:1–3).

There is one more thing that I want to talk about from these verses, but I think it would be better to leave that for next week. We are going to dig into v5 where Paul says:

“Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of the Messiah, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen.”

Christ is God. This is direct evidence that the New Testament clearly teaches both the humanity AND the divinity of Christ. And since our faith stands or falls on Christ, it is important enough for us to dig a little deeper and look at what that actually means.

So next week we will dig into this most important of subjects.