URC Daily Devotion 18 August 2023

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18 August 2023

Romans 11: 25-36
So that you may not claim to be wiser than you are, brothers and sisters, I want you to understand this mystery: a hardening has come upon part of Israel, until the full number of the Gentiles has come in.  And so all Israel will be saved; as it is written,

‘Out of Zion will come the Deliverer;
    he will banish ungodliness from Jacob.’
‘And this is my covenant with them,
    when I take away their sins.’

As regards the gospel they are enemies of God for your sake; but as regards election they are beloved, for the sake of their ancestors;  for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.  Just as you were once disobedient to God but have now received mercy because of their disobedience,  so they have now been disobedient in order that, by the mercy shown to you, they too may now receive mercy.  For God has imprisoned all in disobedience so that he may be merciful to all.

O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgements and how inscrutable his ways!

‘For who has known the mind of the Lord?
    Or who has been his counsellor?’
‘Or who has given a gift to him,
    to receive a gift in return?’

For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory for ever. Amen.

For three chapters Paul wrestles with the question of why so many of his own race and nation have rejected the one he proclaims as chosen Messiah, Saviour of Jews and Gentiles alike.  He expresses anguish, confusion and longing for his people.  His ideas and arguments go in many different directions, drawing on the witness of the Hebrew Scriptures and his own experience and faith.   His conclusion and underlying theme is that God’s mercy has quite amazingly reached out to all people, but this same mercy continues to hold his ancient people Israel.  Gentiles have been received into the family of God, but not to the exclusion of the Jewish people. The Church is not a replacement to God’s ancient people, but a grafting beside the original graft – yet all dependent utterly on the mercy, grace and kindness of God.
The Church today recognises its involvement in the sin of antisemitism over centuries from the vicious mediaeval pogroms to the horrors of the holocaust.  That prejudice and persecution remains in the society of which we are part, taking new forms, like a snake with many heads.
We can give thanks for the work of the Council for Jews and Christians and some of the acts of contrition in recent years, made by Christians for past actions of the Church, but we must not be complacent.  Our debt to the race of which Jesus and Paul were part is immeasurable; our debt to the Hebrew Scriptures with all their wisdom and promise is immense; our debt to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus is beyond words.
So, Paul ends these chapters by handing over all his wrestling and questions to the mercy and mystery of God.  It is that God who opens our minds to new possibilities and new hope for our world, amid the messy reality of our diverse and divided human race.
May the depths of your grace and mercy hold us, Living God;
the riches of your wisdom and boundless love give us hope;
the wonder of your compassion guide us
in our living and our seeking after truth.
For from you is all life;
through you is all life;
and to you is all life.
To you be the glory,
Creator, Saviour and Spirit of all
now and for ever. Amen.

Today’s writer

The Rev’d Terry Hinks, Minister of Trinity High Wycombe and Cores End Churches

New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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