Paul is agonized over Israel’s failure to recognize Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah. It breaks his heart that they cannot share his conviction that Jesus is the fulfillment of the ancient promises. But even amid his sorrow, he is becoming aware that God’s purposes will not be thwarted. Paul realizes that perhaps salvation history is beginning to move beyond the Jews. Perhaps the ancient promises will be not just for the elect, the chosen people, but for all people. The Messiah comes from the Jews, but the Messiah is “over all, God blessed forever.”
In the rest of this section of Paul’s letter to the Romans, he affirms his assurance that God’s mercy will not and cannot be constrained: The mysterious abundance of grace will flow where it will. Paul seems to be on the cusp of his world-shaking understanding that what God has done in Jesus is good news for all creation. But first he has to come to the dead end to which his expectations and assumptions have led him.
Sometimes what seems to us like a dead end will, if we follow it as far as we can, turn out to be a threshold rather than a wall—an opening, not a closing.
Often in hiking, the trail seems to end in a blank wall of impassable stone. But if one follows the way closer to the impasse, what seems an impenetrable barrier discloses a hidden cleft in the rock, a passage not visible from afar. We must persevere to the apparent end to see it and be willing to relinquish our own expectations of what lies ahead and our own assumptions about what God has in mind.
Sometimes, Lord, your grace is so abundant, your purposes so large, that we don’t see them at first. Help us to trust that you are the way and to follow where you lead us. Amen.
Jacob is attacked one night by an unknown assailant and wrestles with him until morning. We discover that the assailant comes from God, so Jacob is given a new name, Israel. The psalmist is feeling unjustly accused and cries out to God. He is confident that he would be vindicated if all the facts were known. In Romans, Paul deals with difficult theological issues. He states that he would sacrifice his own soul if his fellow Israelites would accept Christ. Jesus teaches a crowd that is growing hungry, and his disciples are trying to figure out how to feed them. They see only what they lack, while Jesus asks them what they have. This story is a lesson about offering God what we have and trusting God to multiply it.
Read Genesis 32:22-31. When have you been forced to wrestle with yourself or your self-identity? How did this struggle reveal a blessing?
Read Psalm 17:1-7, 15. When have you felt the need to serve as your own advocate before God? How has this experience affirmed your trust in God?
Read Romans 9:1-5. When have you experienced Paul’s anguish that others do not accept what you have come to know in your faith, whether by conversion, denominational change, education, or encounter with God? How do you continue to be in relationship with such family or friends?
Read Matthew 14:13-21. When have you witnessed small acts of sharing that have led to great abundance?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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