May 10, 2022
“I speak the truth in Messiah – I am not lying, my conscience is testifying to me with the Holy Spirit – that I have intense sorrow and continual anguish in my heart.”
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“I speak the truth in Messiah – I am not lying, my conscience is testifying to me with the Holy Spirit – that I have intense sorrow and continual anguish in my heart. For I wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from the Messiah for the benefit of my brothers, my countrymen by physical descent. They are Israelites and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the temple service, and the promises. The forefathers are theirs and from them, by physical descent came the Messiah, Who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.” Romans 9:1-5
As a young believer, when I began focusing on Bible reading and prayer, I found myself fighting off profound loneliness. Have you ever felt that way? On the one hand, I was overjoyed to spend time with God and learn from Him. On the other hand, I drifted further and further from some of my old friends, many of whom were professing believers yet hardly ever spent time with God. My pursuit of the Lord even led to complete estrangement from some individuals within that former circle of friends. That distancing was simply the result of the compounding effects of the World’s influence on them, contrasted with the Spirit’s influence on me. Their Worldly pursuits had muddied their “Living Water,” and my pursuit of the Lord was becoming “Anointing Oil” for me…and we all know oil and water don’t mix. Godly, Bible-pursuant Christian community is necessary to sustain a believer long term. Paul is describing that tension.
In moments of fleshly nostalgia, I almost wished I weren’t a believer for a moment, so I could hang out with those old friends again, unhindered by the tension that my faith evoked within our relationships. Of course, we cannot give in to such fantasies, the passionate cries of the flesh to take day trips to “Egypt,” as it were. We cannot go back. At least, we cannot go back and expect to be comfortable. Concerning today’s passage, I wonder if that loneliness and longing to connect with a people who mainly had rejected him hadn’t crept into Paul’s thinking. I wonder if that’s not the emotion prompting him to bear his soul in such a way to the Church in Rome.
And I identify with Paul here. I travel to Israel regularly to lead music on Christian tours and participate in the ongoing day-to-day ministry efforts of Israeli Messianic congregations and humanitarian relief organizations. Whenever I travel to Israel, I tend to go with the flow and disappear into the religious culture. To do this would mean never sharing the truth of the Messiah or sharing in the persecution of Paul and countless other Jewish believers who have come before me. Doing so would be the most selfish thing imaginable, for the most anti-Semitic thing I could do is withhold Messiah from the Jewish people! To paraphrase Paul, to leave behind Jesus is to leave behind God! (v. 5b)
No, we must take our cues from Paul. We will feel the flesh’s pull, and by the Spirit’s power, we will overcome it, standing on the shoulders of those faithful ones who went before us and heeding the higher call to deny ourselves, take up our crosses and follow.