Beloved For The Father's Sake

Israel is not generally loved by Gentiles. In spite of the fact that the world owes to the Jewish people some of our greatest achievements in music, medicine, politics, science and technology, social advancement and theology, there is a lurking anti-Semitism in the thoughts of most Gentiles.

We owe them indeed our very knowledge of God, and the Messiah, and the Scriptures, yet they are not loved by most people. But Paul assures us in his Letter to the Romans that "they are beloved for the sake of the fathers. For the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable" (11:28, 29).

God has a special interest in them, but not because of their many strengths, for He said, "the LORD did not set his love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples; but because the LORD loves you, and because he would keep the oath which he swore to your fathers . . . " (Deuteronomy 7:7,8).

God loves His people "for the fathers' sakes" and expresses His attitude to them via the prophet Hosea: "When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son . . . I drew them with gentle cords, with bands of love" (11:1,4), thus replicating the tender relationship of a father to his son.

God has chosen to express His great love for Israel by also likening it to a husband-wife relationship. "For your Maker is your husband; the LORD of hosts is his name; and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel" (Isaiah 54:5). And Hosea uses this figure of speech extensively in his heart-broken outpourings, his own bitter experiences reflecting the Lord's yearning over His people:

"I will betroth you to me for ever; yes, I will betroth you to me in righteousness and justice, in loving-kindness and mercy; I will betroth you to me in faithfulness, and you shall know the LORD" (2:19-20).

But Paul in his Letter to the Romans also says that "concerning the gospel they are enemies for your sake" (11:28), these words written primarily of the Jews of his generation, and primarily of their religious leaders.

The gospel as concerning which they had become enemies, was first preached to Jews and believed on by them. About three thousand of them became believers by the preaching of the gospel on the day of Pentecost, and they had "favour with all the people" (Acts 2:47).

But soon persecution began–persecution at the hands of the rulers of the people, mainly the Sadducees. Peter and John were arrested and warned against preaching in the name of Jesus. Then the apostles were arrested and beaten. Finally Stephen was stoned to death, a martyr for his faith in the Lord, and the assembly of believers at Jerusalem suffered persecution.

Thus, little by little, the nation itself was turned from the Messianic faith at the instigation of the rulers of the people, and the alienation thus begun deepened and developed, so that, as Paul was compelled at last to write: "Concerning the gospel they are enemies for your sake."

And we must remember that between the Jewish people of this day and the Lord Jesus there stand long centuries of dreadful bitter persecution by those who have borne, however falsely, the name of Jesus, the Messiah of Israel. We who have lived through the Holocaust with the murder of six million of God's people by a so-called Christian country have little ground for protesting the persecution of the infant church of believers by the Jews of Paul's day.

Especially is this so when we remember that the gospel which the Jews once rejected has become the precious possession of all believers in Israel's Messiah. It is "for your sake" that, "concerning the gospel they are enemies"–"for your sake". Instead of accusing them for their national rejection of their Messiah, those who have been blessed through that same rejection should have love and compassion for them until they do at last recognize Him.

If as Paul points out "they are beloved for the sake of the fathers" and there has never been a time, not even when Israel was out of fellowship with God, when He did not yearn over His people, then "beloved for the sake of the fathers" means that when every other plea for Israel has failed, God remembers the fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Matthew records that John the Baptist told the Pharisees and Sadducees who came to his baptism: "Do not think to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones" (3:9).

The Messiah also charged the rulers: "I know that you are Abraham's descendants, but you seek to kill me, because my word has no place in you . . . If you were Abraham's children, you would do the works of Abraham" (John 8:37,39). The Word teaches that one can be the object of an especial love because of one's godly ancestry, yet one cannot rest on that for salvation.

Jewish people have indeed a double claim on God's love, firstly for "God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16), and secondly, they are "beloved for the sake of the fathers."

At a time when Gentile ancestors were idolaters, worshipping stocks and stones, the fathers of Israel knew and worshipped the one true God and faithfully taught their children: "Hear, O Israel! The LORD our God, the LORD is one! ( echad ) " (Deuteronomy 6:4).

But today, blinded by centuries of rejection of their true Messiah, and with His cross still a stumbling block, Israel is "concerning the gospel . . . enemies" for the sake of the previously unprivileged Gentiles. But they are still "beloved for the sake of the fathers."

Jeremiah assures us: "'For I am with you,' says the LORD, 'to save you; though I make a full end of all nations where I have scattered you, yet I will not make a complete end of you . . . Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with loving-kindness I have drawn you'" (30:11; 31:3).

In the day when the misunderstandings and misconceptions of the centuries are swept away in their joyful recognition of their Messiah, He will return, and "In that day a fountain shall be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness" (Zechariah 13:1). Then in very truth they will be "beloved for the fathers' sakes."