08 Mar 2020
1. The Righteous Judgment - Fierce judgment awaits the city. They have murdered and will murder more of God's servants. Their blood cries out for justice. And the judge of all the earth will do right. He will judge Jerusalem. God is a God of wrath. Sin must be judged. Do not harden your heart and store up wrath for the day of wrath when God comes in righteous judgment. Repent and turn to Jesus to be saved! 2. The Rebellious Jerusalem - Jesus repeatedly called out to them, but they were not willing. Guilt is properly laid upon them. But even their rebellion is not a frustration of the plan of God. God intends for their rebellion to be brought out to its fullest when He sends even more of His servants who they will kill. The hardening and drawing out of evil from their hearts were to let them "fill up the measure of their fathers" so that when God judges in His full wrath, His people will see His power, wrath and the riches of His glory, and be thankful especially that they themselves are the vessels of mercy. 3. The Returning Jesus - Even in the midst of wrath, God remembers His mercy. Yes, Jerusalem will be destroyed. But there remains a day of salvation. Jesus hints of His return, and on that day, Israel will finally recognise and submit to Him for who He really is. In all this, Jesus reveals the character of God- full of wrath, and also full of love. And how can we not be struck with the wisdom, knowledge and power of God, as He works out the ultimate salvation of the world- that through the partial hardening that has come upon Israel, the fulness the Gentiles can come in, which leads to the restoration of Israel, and to even greater salvation of the world. May this theology lead us to doxology!
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We are at Matthew chapter 23, the last six verses. So if you have your Bibles, it will be great for you to turn to it. In the meanwhile, I’d like to show you a little video clip.
I saw this several years ago, and it was amazing, because I've never seen chicks coming under the mother's feathers, or wings, like this. But obviously this is a storm, this is rain, and the mother is so generous and sacrificial to take care of her own kids.
And when I saw this video, it immediately reminded me of a verse in the Bible, a verse that you have just read. Matthew chapter 23, the basis of our thinking today, leads us to Jesus weeping over Jerusalem.
He says, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers a brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” [Matthew 23:37]
Chapter 23 of Matthew can be divided into three parts; I shared that with you early on.
The first part, first 13 verses or so, really speaks about the warning that Jesus gave to the crowds regarding the Scribes and Pharisees.
Then we looked at chapter - verse 14, all the way to 30, 34, and saw that that was about the woes that Jesus pronounced upon the Scribes and Pharisees.
Today then, in verses 34 to 39, we see the weeping of Jesus over the city of Jerusalem.
So, without much ado, I'd like us to look at His lament over this city and, by implication, over this nation, this people of Israel. “O, Jerusalem, Jerusalem” [Matthew 23:34] - what can we learn? Three things.
1. The Righteous Judgment
Number one, I'd like us to see the righteous judgment that is pronounced upon the city of Jerusalem. The city will be judged. There will be a severe punishment inflicted upon them, and it is all because they brought it to themselves. God is righteous to pronounce this judgment upon this city.
We see in verse 38, Jesus saying, “See, your house is left to you desolate.” [Matthew 23:38] This might refer to the temple, this might refer to the city, and this might also refer to the whole nation. And surely, we see that judgment was inflicted upon Jerusalem not many days from here, and we will study that next week onwards.
But this is a judgment pronounced upon, upon the house of Israel. You say, “Why?” The Bible tells us in verse 34 it's because Jesus will send prophets and wise men and scribes, and the people of Israel, the people in Jerusalem, instead of receiving these prophets and messengers from God, they will kill them, crucify them, flog them and persecute them. And in so doing, they will bring upon themselves all the righteous blood that has been shed on Earth. [Matthew 23:34-35]
So, the judgment upon Israel is just, and it is appropriate, because Israel will do terrible things to God's people who come in the Name of God. It is not unjust judgment, it is righteous judgment.
And this really has been the whole record; this whole line of evil, that wicked people have done towards the people of God. We see in verse 35, Jesus saying: “from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah”. [Matthew 23:35]
So Jesus is saying: Ever since the beginning - you say: how far in the beginning? The day Cain murdered Abel, his brother. Why did Cain murder his brother Abel? Did Abel irritate Cain? Not really, Abel merely offer an acceptable worship to God. But Cain being jealous, Cain being of the flesh, Cain being of the devil, would not allow that to happen, and he took it into his hands to murder his own brother, Abel.
So from that day onwards, it started a whole chain of people who would persecute and kill God's people, all the way to Zechariah the son of Barachiah. Zechariah is mentioned in 2 Chronicles 24. Now in our modern Bible today, the Old Testament ends with the book of Malachi. But for the Hebrews, for the Jews in those days, their Bible is somewhat rearranged differently. So the first book is Genesis, but the last book is 2 Chronicles.
So what Jesus is saying: “Ever since the beginning, from the A to the Z of your history, you have always murdered My people. So I will send you more, and you will murder them, and then it will come upon you all the blood of righteous people shed on earth; judgment will be inflicted upon you. And it is only just and right that, that should happen.”
When Abel died, God said to Cain, “What have you done? The voice of your brother's blood is crying to me from the ground.” [Genesis 4:10] What is the blood of Abel crying for? Crying for justice. How is it that this wicked man could kill the righteous man? It is unjust! And therefore there is a cry for justice, way in the beginning.
And then, when we read the last book of the Bible, the book of Revelation, we see again the same cry for justice. “They” - these are the saints who died for their faith, these are the saints of God who died because the people of the devil would not tolerate them – “They cried out with a loud voice, ‘O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” [Revelation 6:10] So again, this is a cry for vengeance, this is a cry for justice, this is a cry for judgment from God.
And the Bible therefore tells us, there comes a day where the holiness, the righteousness of God mandates that there will be punishment and wrath poured out upon evildoers. The Bible tells us of that fact. The Bible says in Romans chapter 2: “because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God's righteous judgment will be revealed.” [Romans 2:5]
Maybe in modern day churches, this is somewhat under preached, isn't it? Because we hear a lot about people telling others: “Come to Jesus, He loves you. Come to Jesus, He saves you.” But if we do not help people understand why they should be saved, the Gospel is one that is without teeth, the Gospel is one that is without bite.
We really need to help people understand the need for the Gospel, before they will appreciate the Gospel. And the great need of the Gospel is exactly because we, today, as sinners are storing up wrath for the day of wrath, when God's righteous judgment will be revealed.
Whether you're rich or poor, healthy or unhealthy, smart or not so smart, the deep need of the human heart, the deep need of the human life, the deep need of your soul is that you need forgiveness. Because we are all sinners before a most Holy God, and He will judge all sinners. And let me add this - he judges all sinners righteously; this is the righteous judgment.
So today, regardless of your background, regardless of your occupation, you need to know Jesus Christ. Why? Because otherwise, on that day when you stand before the Holy God, you would only receive His fierce wrath.
But Jesus, the Son of God, came exactly to take your place in bearing the wrath of God. The Bible tells us Jesus is the propitiation for our sins - it's a big word. But the word simply means the appeasement of God's wrath for our sins.
The Bible tells us that God is a God of wrath, don't forget that. We are so used to hearing God is a God of love. But God is also a God of wrath, and His fierce wrath will be poured out upon those who do not stand in Jesus Christ.
It's a scary thought. The Bible speaks about that coming day of judgment. But the wrath of God, even though it's going to be fully displayed on that day, it's not limited only to that day. Because even right now, the wrath of God is being seen. The Bible says in Romans 1: “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men”. [Romans 1:18]
Now, the Greek here - or the Greek original, in this text, is richer. It says the wrath of God is being revealed. It's not just revealed once in the past, but it's being revealed all the time.
And this takes us back to how when we sinned against God, when Adam and Eve sinned against God, God cursed Adam and Eve, God cursed the serpent, and God cursed this world. So much so that we see today disasters, catastrophes, pestilences; we see earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions.
Let me say this - these were not, I think, in the original creation by God. Everything was perfect, everything was good. There is no disease, there is no death. There is no Corona virus; there's no Covid 19.
And so when we see disasters happening around us, when we see death, when we see disease, when we see Covid 19, it is a reminder that all is not well between God and man. God's wrath is being revealed every single day. It's uncomfortable, but that's the reality.
There's this song we sing often in our church. It's called “In Christ Alone”, and it's written by the Gettys. They are quite a popular group in a church, they gave us wonderful modern songs or hymns. And in this song, they had this stanza, this verse, this phrase that goes: “on that cross, as Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied.”
But when this song was selected by a group of people, they, they are the Presbyterian Church in the US, and they wanted to select songs and hymns for their congregational singing. So they came to this song, In Christ Alone, and they loved the song, except for a phrase in this song.
Guess which phrase? Cannot be the first one right? “On that cross as Jesus died” - if you don't agree, then you're “jialat” [colloquial expression used to describe something terrible] lah. But to be fair, what they disagreed on was not that much better anyway. They disagreed that they should sing “the wrath of God was satisfied”.
So they wrote to the Gettys, and suggested to change the lyrics. They said, “We love your song, we want to use it, but we want to change the words here” – to? Not bad ah, “the love of God“ - ? “Revealed” - but don't rhyme leh; “on that cross as Jesus died, the love of God revealed” - a bit flat lah.
So they were very clever to suggest, “Let's change ‘the wrath of God was satisfied’, to ‘the love of God was magnified’.” Wah, smart ah, not bad ah. But the whole idea is to avoid the word “wrath”, so that you may put in the word “love”.
Why? Because people are more familiar, people enjoy, people are more encouraged, when they know about the love of God. And let me get this clear to you - the love of God is an amazing reality in the Bible. You can't go wrong, saying that God is a God of love, because the Bible says, “God is love”. Wonderful! I wish, and it is true, people would know the magnified love of God.
However, the problem is not so much what is put up or suggested, the problem is what wants, what is intended to be avoided. It's almost like saying, you know, we should teach people positive stuff, and not let people know the difficult stuff. Don't tell them about the wrath of God, because that's too scary, that's too fierce, appeal to them, attract them with the positive attribute of love.
It was another man, Timothy George, who said about this case: “I don't see this as an isolated case. It fits into a wider pattern of downplaying parts of Christian doctrine that are offensive.” If I may add, offensive to the human flesh. We don't like to hear judgment, and punishment, and holiness, and wrath and anger of God. Oh, tell us more about salvation, oh tell us more about love.
But let me say this - knowing the love of God, without knowing the wrath of God is weak; it is superficial. The real comprehension of the love of God necessitates an understanding of the wrath of God.
You would not know how much God loves you when Jesus went to the cross until you realize how wrathful God is against our sins. That diamond doesn't shine bright, unless it's set in the context of black velvet.
And we don't know the grace of God, if we do not know the wrath of God. It is not offensive. It is offensive if you do not know the Gospel, but it is beautiful, and fortifying the wrath of God, when we know the love of God.
And that's why John the Baptist and Jesus Himself would preach with great urgency. In the beginning of the book of Matthew, they both said the same thing. They both said: “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.” [Matthew 3:2, 4:17]
You say: Why? Because salvation is near. That's true, but also judgment is real! And with great urgency, they commanded people, they implored people everywhere: Repent, because the wrath of God is coming.
So, this text reminds us about the righteous judgment that will fall upon Jerusalem. They would continue to kill God's messengers. And God has justly pronounced judgment upon them, His wrath upon the nation, and there is no fault with God, He is righteous in all His ways.
2. The Rebellious Jerusalem
Second thing I'd like us to notice from this text, is the rebellious Jerusalem. The people were rebellious, the people would not listen.
You see, Jesus is like that mother hen, that says to the chicks: “Come, come, the storm is coming. Come and take shelter under my wings, I offer you protection.”
And you know, I realize, when people hear about danger, they know how to take cover. Don't you think so? I think so. I know this from our recent struggle and, and battle with Covid-19.
I still remember, it was maybe - I can't, one or two weeks back, I can't remember exactly - but when it was DORSCON Orange, Singapore changed. I wanted to buy a carton of milk from NTUC. And I couldn't. Because I, I, I had lots of people queuing up buying instant noodles, and rice, and toilet paper.
Now, the situation is not so widespread yet, but people sensing danger are already making preparations. They know - danger is coming, we've got to change the way we live.
Now, and I thought, when I saw this, I thought, “Wah, it's a uniquely Singaporean trait, so kiasu. Wah, buy toilet paper, buy instant noodles, as if the world is ending, typical Singaporeans.”
Until I realized it's not Singapore - it's everywhere. This is Indonesia. They have long lines today as well, even though they have four cases, but already long lines.
And not just here in Asia, where we are nearer to where the source is, but even faraway lands like Canada. I have a friend in Canada, and I saw his Facebook post about long queues of people at Costco.
And, of course, America has been saying, “We've got it under control”, but recently also not so much under control. Toilet paper – everywhere, people seem to go for the same stuff, I do not know why; maybe they need to use it to make mask, I don't know, but toilet paper is sold out.
And I know this is serious, this is really important to people when I saw this church sign. I mean, this is serious man!
When people hear about danger, they take cover, they know that they have to make all the necessary preparations.
And therefore, it is so bizarre and it is so inappropriate that when Jesus gathers Israel, repeatedly warns them of the judgment, and the wrath, and the danger that is to come, the Bible tells us, He tells us, they were not willing.
And by the way, this warning is not just once, it's many times. Jesus Himself said: “how often”? [Matthew 23:37] That's the lament. “So many times I've warned you, I’ve warned you, I’ve warned you, but you would not come!”
Maybe it's like what He said in John 5: “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life.” And it is true – “it is they” - the Scriptures – “that bear witness about me”. Yet - reading that, knowing that and knowing of the danger that is to come, “you refuse to come to me”. [John 5:39-40]
So what is the problem? Why is it that Israel will not be saved? Wherein is the issue? Is it because Jesus didn't tell them? Is it because Jesus is not willing to save them? Is it because they have no chance to come to Him? No.
JC Ryle, he puts it here: “Let us understand that the ruin of those who are lost is not because Christ was not willing to save them, nor yet because they wanted to be saved, but could not. But simply because they would not come to Christ.”
Not only would they not come to Christ, they want to silence the voice of God. They wanted to get this warning out of their life. They wanted to continue in their blindness, in their rebellion, and so in order to do that, they kill the prophets, they stone those who are sent to Jerusalem. [Matthew 23:37]
They wanted to silence those voices. They were so rebellious that the messengers will be killed, instead of humbling themselves.
Now, why did God still send prophets and messengers to them? Verse 34 - it's interesting, knowing that Jerusalem is not willing, knowing Jerusalem is rebellious, Jesus says: “Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes”. [Matthew 23:34] “I send them to you, and I know some of whom you will kill, crucify, flog, persecute.”
Why? Verse 35: “so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed”. [Matthew 23:35]
We say to ourselves: I know why God still sends prophets when Israel is rebellious. Because when God sends the prophets, maybe amongst all of them some, some may repent and believe, and they might be saved.
And perhaps that's true. There may be individuals who may by the sovereign grace of God, truly repent and believe and be saved, that's true.
But you realize that's not the logic Jesus gave here. His reasoning is compelling – “I send you these guys, so that - this is the reason - I send you more for you to kill, so that on you may come all the righteous bloodshed.” Whoa, what are you saying?
Well, Jesus is saying: “I want to bring out your wickedness. I want to surface your evil. I want to let your wickedness and rebellion come to a boiling point, so that it's maxed out.” You say, “Are you sure?” Yes. Verse 32 – “Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers.” [Matthew 23:32]
So the reasoning is even though Israel is rebellious, God will continue to send His people. While some may be saved as a result of these messengers, the reason He gave here is: as Jerusalem kills My people, they will max out their guilt; they pile on God's righteous judgment upon them. And when God does that, He will be glorified.
You say how do you get that? I want to be alluding to a parallel in the Bible; not directly here, but a parallel in the Bible. In the Bible, there is an archetype of rebellion and opposition towards God. There's someone throughout Bible history who exemplifies that stubborn rebellion against God.
And I'm sure you know by now - I'm talking about, huh, huh, who, who is the stubborn, rebellious guy before God? Wah, this one! I thought it would be like -
I'm sure you know; you guys are shy.
I'm not talking about Satan, he will be one of course, but the human archetype, human example would be? Pharaoh. Pharaoh during the times of Moses. Isn't it? “Hah, aiyoh, so easy ah?” Okay, yah, it's, it's Pharaoh.
And the Bible talks about Pharaoh, quite a bit. So Pharaoh is a example of a man who has hardened his heart towards God, isn't it? He refused to let God's people go to worship God.
So the Bible tells us that for this very purpose, God said: “I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my Name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” [Romans 9:17]
Now God did not save Pharaoh from his sins. So the glory of God that is shown, the power of God that is shown in Pharaoh's life is not that of saving grace. But the power that is shown in Pharaoh's life is that of wrath, and judgment, and power upon him.
You see, God could have just wiped out Pharaoh the moment he said “no” to God, right? You say no - piak, die, can, game over. Not bad; I mean, this rebellion is quelled straight away.
But God did not do that. He used a very elaborate and prolonged process to draw out the hardened, rebellious heart of Pharaoh. So He sent Moses ten times. I mean, if I were to repeat the story, you will fall asleep.
But – “It's so long. How come this guy is so thick? How come this guy is so rebellious? First time should learn his lesson already! Wah, all the river become red blood? Aiyoh, you should have repented!” No, no, no, no, this guy won't. First plague, second plague, third plague, all the way to the ten plagues.
God could have shortened the whole process at any point of time. But no, He used these ten rebellious acts of Pharaoh to bring about and to manifest His great power in judgment upon Pharaoh.
“For this purpose” - to draw out, to manifest My wrath and My power – “I have raised you up… that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth”. [Romans 9:17]
And did it work? I think so. In Joshua chapter 2 - many years later, Joshua Chapter 2 is many years later, forty over years later, isn't it?
Forty over years later, Rahab, when she met with Israel, when she met with the spies from Israel, this is what she said: “the fear of you has fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you. For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt.” [Joshua 2:9-10]
This is history! This forty over years ago, but we are still talking about it. Oh, because God has manifested His power upon Pharaoh, upon Egypt in crossing the Red Sea. So Romans 9 continues this line of reasoning - God, desiring to show His wrath, and to make known His power.
Now, what does this tell you? This tells me that God wants us to know His wrath and power. He wants us to know it. It's not an offensive doctrine that you should hide somewhere and say, “Oh, it is such a terrible thing, I should not broadcast this.” No, no, no, no, no, no. The Bible says He wants us, He desires us to know His wrath and power.
Yes! He wants us to know His grace, and mercy, and compassion, and tender-heartedness. Yes! He wants us to know Him as Father. But He wants us also to know Him as the Holy One of Israel, with wrath, and power, and justice, and judgment.
So in order for Him to fulfil His desire, to do His heart's will, the Bible says He “endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction”. [Romans 9:22-23]
Now, that encounter between Moses and actually God and Pharaoh is not something God looks at with delight. The rebellion of Jerusalem is not something He looks at with delight. Because the Bible says He “endures with much patience”.
His, He is grieved with rebellion. He is grieved with sin. But in order to serve the greater function of showing, and manifesting His wrath and power, He subjects Himself to enduring with much patience, the sins and the rebellion of these vessels of wrath prepared for destruction.
Then, Paul goes on to reason in verse 23: “in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy”. [Romans 9:22-23] Now, let's look at this. “In order to” - in other words, this is the ultimate reason, right? He endures with patience – why? So that His wrath and power may be known, in order to let this be known by the vessels of mercy - meaning you and me, who follow Jesus, who are recipients of grace, who know God and are now receipt, receptacles of God's mercy.
So God is saying, “I endure, so that My wrath and power may be known, so that the riches of My glory may be known, by My vessels of mercy.” The riches of glory includes His power, His wrath, and the desire of God is that a whole redeemed humanity would know God in a way that we would not have known, if He had not demonstrated His power and wrath upon vessels of destruction.
Now, this is mind boggling. But God is always working all things, do you realize, for the good of the vessels of mercy? And when we, as vessels of mercy, see the holiness, the wrath, the justice of God, and seeing that we are spared from all that - oh, I think it should naturally work in us a greater appreciation of His love for us.
And my friends, you and I who believe, this is an amazing statement – “which He has prepared beforehand for glory”. [Romans 9:23] You know what you are destined for? Glory. Glory.
We will share in His glory, we will participate in His glory, we will behold His glory, and therefore, God prepares us along this life's journey. As we see His judgment, His wrath on the world, and how we are spared by His grace, it prepares us to worship Him, and to know Him in the glory that is to come.
So, far from being helpless, when Jesus said, “I send you prophets, you will kill and you will persecute, you will flog”, He's saying, “Fill up the measure of your fathers - let your wickedness be fully manifested, then God's fierce wrath and judgment will come upon Jerusalem, and that the world will know My wrath and My power and My glory.”
God is not foiled. He is not obstructed. His ways will always be done.
So this text is a difficult one. It speaks about the righteous judgment upon the people of Israel. The reason is because they are rebellious towards God, and yet God is still fulfilling His promises and His purposes through it all.
3. The Returning Jesus
Lastly, it's the very last verse in this text, verse 39: I'd like you to know that in the midst of wrath - this is a, this is a judgment passage, right? But in the midst of wrath, in the midst of judgment, at the very end comes a message of mercy.
At the very end speaks of a day, a future day of hope still, for the people of Israel. Because we read in verse 39, Jesus returning to Israel; the returning Christ, the returning Jesus. It says: “For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’” [Matthew 23:39]
In other words, Jesus is saying: “You will see Me again. But when you see Me, you will not curse me, you will not kill me, you will not persecute me, you will not hate me, but you will say, ‘O blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord.’”
In other words – “I will come again, and I will come again to a people who will receive Me. I will come to a people who will recognize Me. I will come to a people who will believe upon Me.” So He's saying there will come a day of great salvation yet, for the people of Israel. This has always been a plan of God.
We see in Zechariah: “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy”. [Zechariah 12:10] So God will one day work supernaturally. He will pour out on the house of David a spirit of grace - apart from God working, no chance. But God says, “One day I'm going to do that.”
Zechariah 13: “On that day there shall be a fountain opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and uncleanness.” [Zechariah 13:1]
So there will be a day where I will spare them of their sin, forgive them of their sins, and they will not have to go through the wrath of God. There will come a day of great salvation. There will come a day where Jesus says, “You will see Me, and when you see Me you will say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord.’”
Now finally, why? I always like to hypothesize. Actually, why can't God kill Pharaoh straightaway? Can lah, but He has His reason, right? To show His wrath and power upon a stubborn man.
The another why I have is - why, why God doesn't save Israel then? 2000 years ago, He could have just poured out His Spirit on Israel, all Israel saved, finish end of story, yay. Why didn't He do that?
Have you ever asked yourself why? Oh, we say, “Oh, because Israel too stubborn, God cannot save.” No, not true. It is true that they are stubborn, and they deserve to be damned. They deserve to be judged righteously by God.
But on the other hand, the Bible also presents to us a God-centered reasoning. So God has this purpose, why Israel was not fully saved. The reason? No one would have figured it out unless the Bible tells us, isn't it?
So in Romans 11, we are told this is the reason: trespass or rather, “through their trespass”. [Romans 11:11] So let me break it down – “their” here refers to Israel. Go back and read Romans 10, 11 and you will know, it's about Israel. Rather, through Israel's sin, through Israel's rebellion, through Israel's unwillingness to turn to Jesus, what has happened is that salvation has come to the Gentiles.
If God saved Israel, then perhaps Gentiles would have no chance. But because Israel spurned the offer of salvation through their own hardened hearts, the Gospel is now given to the Gentiles, and salvation has come to the Gentiles.
We live in a day where by far the number of people coming to Jesus is more amongst Gentiles, than amongst the Jews, even if you make it proportionate. That's the reality, that's the world we live in. But, that's not the end. God is not saying, “Alright Israel, you're forever set aside. I'm only going to save Chinese, Indians, Caucasians, no more Jews.” No, no, no, no. God is saying, “Yes, I'm saving the Gentiles in big number, but the reason is, so as to make? Israel jealous. Why? So that it may stir them to hunger for Me again.”
So we read in verse 12: Now if their trespass - if the rebellion of Israel – means riches for the world, if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, can you imagine how much more it will be when they are fully included into the Kingdom of God? [Romans 11:12]
If Israel disobeyed, and Gentiles are blessed, wow, can you imagine what it will look like when Israel one day provoked to jealousy, will believe, will come to God? What a great blessing they will be to the whole world. That's the genius of God's plan.
If you still don't get it, look at verse 25 - a same explanation. “A partial hardening” - now God is not caught off guard with the hardening of Israel. He knows it, He willed it, He did it. “A partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And in this way all Israel will be saved.” [Romans 11:25-26]
So I think God didn't save all in Israel during the time of Jesus. It is His will, but they are also fully responsible - both aspects are equally true. And there is a great reason behind it: so that through their trespass, the Gentiles may be saved. And when the Gentiles are saved, the Israelites will be saved. And when the Israelites are saved in great numbers, the world will be saved.
And this is the genius. And so Paul breaks out in ecstasy, he breaks out in exuberant delight: “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!” [Romans 11:33] This is a plan no one here would have figured out. Only God. Oh, the depth of all this.
“How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable His ways! ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord, who has been His counsellor?’ ‘Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?’ For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” [Romans 11:34-36]
I mean, it's like Paul cannot take it, know? He was at like “Wah, this - wah this so amazing!” And he wrote all these words down in, in this fashion.
What do you learn about God? I know this is a passage about judgment. This is a passage that is primarily about Jerusalem. But don't you see God here? Don't you see how holy, and just, and wrathful, and yet a God who is so full of love and mercy and compassion, a God of great wisdom and knowledge?
That's who our God is. He's so, so, so far above us. Just as the heavens are higher than the Earth, so are His ways higher than our ways? [Isaiah 55:9]
And I think, my hope, my goal this morning is that you may know God. We call that theology by the way; theology, the knowledge of God, the study of God, the learning of God.
I hope that with this morning's theology, it leads you also, like Paul, to doxology - to praise, to worship of His Name. That's what worship service is about. That's what Christianity is about. Knowing God, and responding to Him worthily as God.
Let's bow for a word of prayer together.
Our God is not like other gods. Our God cannot be fathomed by mere human imagination. The God of the Bible reveals Himself to be someone totally different from a lot of what we expect.
The world today talks about deities, as if they are weak and impotent. As if they are indulgent, and just purely emotional. But the God of the Bible is revealed in the Bible in perfect beauty.
He is holy, He is wrathful towards sin. Yet He is a God of amazing love and compassion. He's a God of great wisdom and knowledge. He's a God worthy of our worship.
Things happen around us, disasters happen around us, catastrophes happen around us. We go into trials, we go into pain. But let us worship Him because He is worthy of our worship. Even if it means that we should suffer, even if it means that we should die, He is worthy, don't you see?
So few of us are willing to really follow Jesus. I think the problem lies in theology; we don't really know God. We don't really know how great He is. We don't really know how good it is. We don't really understand what it means that He's an awesome God, aweful [Old English word, which means to be full of awe] God. And it is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of an angry God.
If you're here today, and you do not know Jesus as your Lord and Saviour, I beg you - do not continue to store up wrath for the day of wrath, when you face the righteous judgment of God. There is no way you can appease God's wrath on your own. There is nothing you do that is worthy of paying for your sins.
But this is why the Gospel is such Good News. When we are absolutely damnworthy, when we are absolutely helpless, Jesus God's Son came.
Do you see how amazing God's love is now? God's love is amazing, not because He healed you of some disease, or helped you in your career, or gave you some breakthrough in your job.
I'm not saying these are bad things, but these things pale in comparison to the Gospel of Jesus Christ that declares to us: we were sinners heading to hell to face the fierce wrath of God, but Jesus took it all. He became the propitiation for our sins, He became the appeasement for our sins. He drank the cup of wrath. He took in the fierce punishment that is due to us.
That is the love of God. That's how much God loves you. Friends, would you today repent and believe in Jesus Christ?
Dear church, do you know what it means for God to love you? Look to the cross, look to the cross, that's what it means. Jesus was not on the cross like an actor. He was not merely hanging there. He was bearing the fierce wrath of God on Himself for you.
What a beautiful doctrine this is, the wrath of God. Because when we know the wrath of God, we can better know the love of God.
And may this love be something that nourishes and blesses your heart, that you will say: “He's worthy of worship. For through Him, to Him, for Him, are all things, to God be the glory. May my life be lived for His glory.”
Father, thank You today for Your Word. Save souls, encourage hearts. Bring us to Yourself. Bring us not to the gods of our own figment of imagination. But bring us to the God of the Bible, to You.
And then may this theology result in doxology, result in worship, result in glory and honor and praise to Your Name. You are worthy. We thank You in Jesus’ Name, Amen.
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