There is nothing more painful, more heartbreaking, than the turning away. We have read stories about it, and for far too many of us, we’ve experienced the turning away ourselves. Truth be known, we may have even been the one who did the turning. If you aren’t following me then let me paint a picture for you with a few strokes of sorrow against a backdrop of disappointment.
Jill grew up in a wonderful family environment. She was loved by her mom and dad. They not only provided what she needed, but they went out of their way to make sure they provided extras that they didn’t have while they were growing up. Jill was the apple of her daddy’s eye and the joy of her momma’s heart.
They had always had a good relationship and that is what shocked her parents when it began to happen. Jill turned away. Overnight her mom and dad became “stupid.” Jill acted like she was embarrassed of them. Her friends became the wellspring of life for her. Her boyfriend, a fifteen year old, tall, and lanky looking kid, became her consuming desire. Jill’s mom and dad felt that he was bad news, a bad influence, and the daughter they had spent years loving and encouraging was going to get hurt. Jill’s mom tried to talk to her about boys and specifically her boyfriend, but Jill wouldn’t listen. Her dad worked double-time to stay connected to his sweet daughter, but she wasn’t interested. As time rocked along the distance between Jill and her parents grew and grew, and the young “Svengali’s” hold on Jill became a cancer in her parent’s heart. They could not figure out how Jill could reject the two people who loved her with the purest love for some manipulative maniac who was only out to fulfill his detestable desires and then leave her scarred and broken. Their arms were constantly outstretched, inviting Jill back to what once was, but it was in someone else’s arms that Jill found what she thought she was looking for.
Joyce and Jim had been married for five years. They met at work and Joyce instantaneously was mesmerized by Jim’s outgoing personality and his GQ like good looks. She never dreamed that one day he could be her husband, but God’s grace sometimes works in mysterious ways so that the frog does get the Prince. Jim and Joyce were married on a hot summer day and they were convinced that their love was invincible.
Joyce enjoyed every waking minute she spent with Jim. She wanted Jim to know how much she loved him so she went out of her way to show him. She left him notes where she knew he would find them. She arranged weekend getaways for just the two of them. She wanted to make memories that would last a lifetime. Joyce didn’t want Jim to ever think that she took their relationship for granted. Throughout the first five years of their marriage Joyce knew that she had been blessed beyond anything she deserved and she wanted to show her gratitude.
Then things began to change. Jim grew distant. They didn’t spend as much time together as they once had, but Joyce didn’t give it much thought because they both were working more than they had in years past. As the months passed, Joyce knew that something had changed, but she couldn’t put her finger on it until the day that Jim told her he no longer wanted to be her husband—he wasn’t attracted to her any longer. Joyce panicked. She suggested they go to marital counseling. Jim said, “No.” Joyce suggested they take a trip. Jim said, “No.” Joyce suggested… Jim said, “No!” Joyce still loved Jim, she wanted to spend the rest of her life together with Jim, but Jim no longer wanted to spend time with Joyce. Joyce’s arms were outstretched, but Jim was no longer drawn to them.
The turning away. It’s heartbreaking isn’t it? What I’ve just shared with you is the modern-day version of the biblical story of the Prodigal Son, loved by his dad, but willing to walk away for what he thought was a better deal. It’s the story of the prophet Hosea and his wayward wife, Hosea, with roles reversed, set in the modern-day context as Jim and Joyce. Whether it is an ancient story told in God’s Word or a contemporary heartbreaking headline—the turning away has been experienced by most of us who carry the mantle of “human.”
In our Scripture for today, found in Romans 10:11-21, we find the story that trumps every story of the turning away that has ever been told. How could God’s “chosen people,” loved by God, provided for by God, and forgiven by God time-after-time turn away from His outstretched hands? At the very end of our Scripture for today Paul writes,
21 But concerning Israel he says, “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people.” (Romans 10:11-21 NIV)
What a tragic picture. Throughout Israel’s history God had loved, nurtured, and provided for His people in every way possible, but they had turned away from His outstretched hands to do their own thing.
As we work our way through Romans 9-11 we have to keep in mind that Paul is addressing God’s relationship with His chosen people, the Israelites. Why had they not embraced Jesus as the Messiah? There had to have been more than a few folks who were wondering if God’s promises to His “chosen people” had failed. In Romans 9:6, Paul made it clear that God had not failed in the least. Paul writes,
6 It is not as though God’s word had failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. (Romans 9:6 NIV)
In our Scripture for today, Paul goes even further in explaining to us the faithfulness of God and the turning away of God’s chosen people. Take out your Bible and let’s read together.
11 As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” 12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile–the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” 16 But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?” 17 Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ. 18 But I ask: Did they not hear? Of course they did: “Their voice has gone out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.” 19 Again I ask: Did Israel not understand? First, Moses says, “I will make you envious by those who are not a nation; I will make you angry by a nation that has no understanding.” 20 And Isaiah boldly says, “I was found by those who did not seek me; I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me.” 21 But concerning Israel he says, “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people.” (Romans 10:11-21 NIV)
Paul could not be more clear—“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord,” Jew or Gentile, that covers the whole gamut of the human race, “will be saved.” This is good news for you and me. What an amazing statement! Our salvation is not based on who we are, what we have accomplished, our untapped potential, or what we have to offer, but it is based on what God has done for us through His Son Jesus, and our willingness to accept His gift. This is good news for us, but it was a huge stumbling block for the Jews. Let’s pick up our study at verse 14. Read along with me.
14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (Romans 10:14-15 NIV)
Paul asks four questions: How can they call on the Lord when they have not believed in Him? How can they believe in Jesus when they have not heard about Him? How can they hear unless someone tells them? How can those who are to tell them do so unless they are sent? Paul has in mind two groups of people: First of all, there are those who have not heard or believed in Jesus. Secondly, there are those who know and love Jesus who must go and tell those who do not know.
The answer to the questions Paul has raised is found in verse 15, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” That’s God’s answer, but to most people that is an odd statement isn’t it? We are well versed in the attractiveness of beauty. Our society is mesmerized by beautiful people whose glamorous faces and chiseled bodies adorn magazine covers, stroll the red carpet, and are adored by the masses, but we hold no fascination over their “feet.” God says, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” God’s statement is quite a contrast with our fixation on the outer beauty of people isn’t it?
This reminds me of an experience that the prophet Samuel had when he was sent to find the future king of Israel. Samuel was sent to the house of Jesse where, among Jesse’s sons, Samuel would find the king God had chosen for His people. In 1 Samuel 16:6-7 we read,
6 When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, “Surely the LORD’s anointed stands here before the LORD.” 7 But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:6-7 NIV)
God didn’t choose the good-looking son of Jesse, Eliab, He chose the least likely candidate, David. God wasn’t looking for the potential winner of “Israel’s Next Top Model,” He was looking at the heart.
The statement, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” is found in Isaiah 52:7 and Nahum 1:15. It is important to know the context of the statement found in Isaiah 52. God’s people were under the oppressive hand of the Babylonians. They had been carted off to a foreign land, their nation was in ruins, but a herald would come running to deliver the good news that the fall of Israel’s enemies was certain—God’s King would be triumphant!
The Jewish rabbis believed that the messenger was the herald of the coming Messiah who would not only deliver Israel from her enemies, but He would deliver God’s people from their sins as well. What’s really interesting, but missed by the Jewish people, is that the very next chapter of Isaiah paints the most vivid picture of the Suffering Servant. Read along with me from Isaiah 53:1-6.
1 Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? 2 He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. 3 He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 4 Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. 6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:1-6 NIV)
Who is this Suffering Servant? It is obvious isn’t it? Jesus fits the description like no other who has ever lived. He is our Deliverer! He is the One who has come to free us from our sins and reconcile us to God! How beautiful are the “feet” that bring good news to those who do not yet know.
For them to know what they do not know, we must carry the good news to them. We must go where they are, seek them out. For that to happen it is necessary for us to leave the security of this stained glass sanctuary and invade the darkness where the light has yet to shine. Our feet must carry us into the highways and the hedges, the office complexes and neighborhood parks, and to every place where people live and work and play.
Do you want to be one of the “beautiful people?” I’m not talking about those who find themselves on the cover of People Magazine or on the catwalks of New York or Paris; I’m talking about one of God’s “beautiful people.” Then change your focus. James Montgomery Boice wrote these words.
May I suggest that you start thinking of beauty the way God does. What you think is beautiful now is going to be a thing of the past in just a few short years. Those you think beautiful now will no longer be beautiful in physical terms. But the beauty of the bearers of the gospel will last forever. What is more, they will go on getting more and more beautiful, as they use not only this life but eternity to praise the Lord Jesus Christ more fully. (James Montgomery Boice, Romans: Volume 3. pg. 1252.)
Paul says that for people to know Jesus they must be told, by you and me, about Jesus and His wondrous grace and mercy. When we come to Romans 10:18, Paul turns his attention back to the Israelites when he writes,
18 But I ask: Did they not hear? Of course they did: “Their voice has gone out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.” 19 Again I ask: Did Israel not understand? First, Moses says, “I will make you envious by those who are not a nation; I will make you angry by a nation that has no understanding.” 20 And Isaiah boldly says, “I was found by those who did not seek me; I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me.” (Romans 10:18-20 NIV)
There is a difference between those who do not know because they have not heard and those who have heard and yet reject what they know. Paul makes it known that the Jews have not only heard, but they understand what they have heard. Paul says, “Did they not hear?” And the answer to the questions is, “Of course they did.” Paul then quotes from the Septuagint, or Greek version, of Psalm 19:4– “Their voice has gone out into all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world.” Even in King David’s day, he is the one who wrote Psalm 19, it was understood that the glory of God was for the nations, and not just the nation of Israel. The revelation of God’s majesty, glory, and grace has been proclaimed in each and every generation and to all people. The Jews are without excuse.
Not only have the Jewish people heard the good news, but they have fully understood the message of what they have heard. Paul quotes from Deuteronomy 32:21 and Isaiah 65:1 when he writes,
I will make you envious by those who are not a nation; I will make you angry by a nation that has no understanding. I was found by those who did not seek me; I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me.
The message of the gospel is for all people, even Gentiles like you and me. That was intolerable for the Jews. They were the chosen people of God, not the Gentiles. They had the message of truth. They had the Temple. They had the covenants. They had the Law. They had it all. They refused the message of their own prophets. They rejected Jesus as their Messiah. They denounced the message of the Apostle Paul that salvation was by grace through faith for all who would believe—Jew and Gentile. This was a message that was the fulfillment of Judaism, not a contradiction of it. Jesus said that He came to fulfill the law, not destroy it. In Matthew 5:17, Jesus said,
17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. (Matthew 5:17 NIV)
If the Gospel was a lie, if it was sheer lunacy, some insignificant cult of kooks, then the Jews would have simply dismissed it, but their response wasn’t indifference, it was envy and anger. Christianity wasn’t the only religion that sprung up in the first century. There was always a new teacher or new philosophy that made its way into town, but the reaction of the Jews towards Jesus and His followers was altogether different. They were jealous, they were envious, and they were livid.
God said, “I will make you envious by those who are not a nation. I will make you angry by a nation that has no understanding.” The Hebrew word used in Deuteronomy 32:21, for “jealous,” is the word, “?????” (qana) and it means, “to envy, be jealous, or to cause jealousy.” The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament says,
This verb expresses a very strong emotion whereby some quality or possession of the object is desired by the subject. The term may be used in a purely descriptive sense to denote one of the characteristics of living men (Eccl 9:6), or in a derogatory sense to denote hostile and disruptive passions (Prov 27:4) or in a favorable sense to denote consuming zeal focused on one that is loved (Psa 69:9)…It expresses the feeling which barren Rachel had toward prolific Leah (Gen 30:1). Joseph’s brothers were similarly related to him after his fateful dream (Gen 37:11). Edom’s deep jealousy of Israel’s favor before God accompanied anger and hatred (Ezek 35:11).
The Pharisees and Sadducees were jealous of Jesus. The Jewish people were jealous of the move of God upon the lowly Gentiles. It was the Jews who were the chosen people. They were the guardians of the truth, the privileged people of God.
Jealousy is a strong, and oftentimes, destructive emotion isn’t it? Joseph’s brothers were jealous of Joseph because they recognized the special relationship he had with his dad. Jealousy among friends can ruin a friendship. Jealousy in a marriage will destroy any hopes and dreams for the future. And jealousy stirred in the hearts of God’s chosen people to the extent to where they were blinded by it. They could not, they would not, even consider Jesus.
Before we get out of here this morning I want to go back to the first verse we looked at in the beginning of our study. Paul quotes from Isaiah when he writes,
21 But concerning Israel he says, “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people.” (Romans 10:11-21 NIV)
What a picture! The gracious, compassionate hands of God extended, reaching out, and yet because of the people’s stiff necks and unwillingness to let go of their preconceived notions, they will not nestle in His arms of mercy. The prophet Isaiah and the Apostle Paul describe God’s people as both disobedient and obstinate. They knew the truth of God, but they rejected it in favor of their own desires. They were disobedient. They were also obstinate. The original Hebrew word from Isaiah 65 and the Greek work used in Romans 10:21 mean, “rebellious, stubborn,” or “to contradict.” It is a word that has as much, if not more, to do with attitude as it does actions.
When Jesus stepped onto the scene, He totally fulfilled everything that the prophets had ever predicted about the coming Messiah. It was like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Micah, and other prophets were sketch artists and their picture of the Messiah was an exact representation of who Jesus was. Yet, the Jews rejected Him. He preached good news to the poor. He came to bind up the hearts of the brokenhearted. He came to proclaim freedom for the captives and yet His message fell on deaf ears. It was not like the Jews had never heard those words before when Jesus stood up to read from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah in Luke 4. This is how Isaiah reads.
1 The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, 2 to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, 3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion– to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. (Isaiah 61:1-3 NIV)
When Jesus had finished reading the words of Isaiah, He said, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” But they would not believe. Let’s turn our gaze away from the Jewish people for a moment and take a look at ourselves. What is it that you are holding onto with such a tight grip that you won’t hold onto Jesus? I don’t know what it is, but you do, and God certainly does. You know the truth. You know that you need Jesus. You know that your way has not worked. You know. Yet you persist in being stubborn and refusing God’s Son. Lay down your stubbornness and fall into His arms this morning.
At the beginning of our study this morning we took a look at two examples of how love spurned can break our hearts. I’ve got news for you. When our love is rejected by those we love we will suffer a broken heart, but if we reject God’s outstretched arms we will suffer a much greater loss. We will not only suffer through this life never having experienced the abundance of walking with Jesus, but we will miss out on life eternal. For those who are willing to confess their stubbornness and sin and fall into the arms of the Savior there will be doors of grace and mercy that will open we can’t even imagine. God will shower us with the blessing of His presence, even in the most difficult of times, and He will reassure us of the future He has already provided for us because of what His Son Jesus accomplished on our behalf. Won’t you invite Jesus into your heart this morning?
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
May 20, 2014