“Even so then, at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace. And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; otherwise grace is no longer grace.” – Romans 11:5-6
Many times I’ve heard the story of the ungrateful child suddenly displaced by an unwanted little brother or sister, but the story of little David and his adopted sister, Joanna, has always stuck with me best…
David was the firstborn, of course, beloved in every way. His parents had chosen the season of his birth carefully and given his name even greater consideration prior to conception. He was adored, nurtured, and cared for beneath a cathedral of stars, between strong cedar walls, under the spoken banner of his parent’s love.
Even so, little David had a mind of his own, and he did not care to surrender it to his parents’ will yet. He grew entitled, a little warped beneath firstborn pressures, and, by age seven, dove headlong into rebellion against his parents. He had a few fistfights with dad; he tied his mother up and shoved her in a closet – more than once. Little David would disappear for a day or two, always returned with big promises, but, ultimately, resorted to the same old tricks and deceptive behaviors.
Bereaved by their only son’s sudden and selfish behavior, the parents decided to adopt a little girl, a foreigner. Her name was Joanna.
The parents lavished Joanna, as they had lavished David. Little David accused them of being unfair. The generous parents also put before her a whole sky-scape of stars, raised her between thick walls of good-smelling cedar, and called her by their own last name – called her their own. Little David protested.
He claimed she did not have to keep the same rules he had to keep; she did not have to eat all of her vegetables, as he recalled doing (even if he hadn’t); and, eventually, he claimed that she did not really exist at all, except in her own mind.
His parents were his own.
His house was his own.
His name was his own.
He denied that she had any rightful claim to the stars or the cedars or their love. He denied it by trying to be extra good sometimes and by pretending his own parents didn’t exist at other times.
The problem was that as little David tried harder to be better than little Joanna, he fell further from his parents’ graces. He did not understand that his parents’ love and devotion had never been his to earn or to keep – at least, not in the ways he thought. Like wise King Solomon, who prayed for God to keep his heart, while he went his own way against God’s wiser advices, little David prayed for his parents to love him more than Joanna, while he simultaneously hated them in his actions and in his own heart.
Still, Joanna loved her older brother because he was born of that which she loved even more: their parents’ love.
That story was my version of Romans 11, the lost passage of today’s cultural Bible…
Growing up in the church, I never heard one ill word spoken against Israel or the Jews, ever. It seemed to be understood, back in that not-so-distant day, that to speak such was to speak against God Himself – or, rather, one of His beloved children.
The name David means ‘beloved’. The name Joanna means ‘God is gracious’. And are not both (names I chose on purpose) true? From the ‘stem of Jesse’ (King David’s father) came the Messiah, Jesus: the hope of the Jews and the grace of the Gentiles.
Recently, while reading about the burning of the Catholic Churches in Canada, I came across one news article (if one can rightly call it that) filled with venomous speech towards the Jews concerning the matter. The claim was that Jewish media had incited the violence, directly or indirectly.
I cannot speak to the claim or whether it is true, but I was grieved by the carelessness of the words in that article… Indeed, I have been alarmed by many interesting, truthful or untruthful, words against Israel lately. It seems, everywhere I look, everyone needs to hear again the words of the lost passage, Romans 11 – but especially the saints!
“…There is a remnant according to the election of grace…”
And, yes, that remnant remains even now…
Can you name them?
Have you nursed them from birth, taught them to walk or talk?
Did you show Abraham the stars of the sky and, in them, his descendants?
Did you deliver Daniel from the lion’s den of his false accusers?
Can you alone see into a man’s heart by the mere color of his skin or birthright?
Did you go to the cross to deliver Paul from Saul, knowing that he would first stone Stephan?
We are not so ignorant, saints! We do not have to offer lost words on this heated topic. While, I understand, ‘anti-semitism’ means different things to different people, I here take only the meaning of a generalized hatred against Jewish people, ‘the Jews’, or Israel – as if they were the only sinners on the chopping block awaiting judgment. I fully protest such short-sighted sentiment.
We are fully made aware of the fact that they (Jews) have been ‘broken off’ that others (we, Gentiles) might be ‘grafted in’ (into ‘the Vine’, into fellowship with God).
“Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either” (v20).
Do you think that God is impressed with how you’ve pointed out their blindness? – Blindness He subjected them to on your behalf? Careful, lest you fall, brethren, into their same sin.
“Concerning the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but concerning election they are beloved for the sake of the fathers. For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable… For God has committed them all to disobedience, that He might have mercy on all” (v28-29, 32).
Little Joanna, you should weep for your elder brother; you might pray for him; but never, ever should you assume the seat of honor before him. Little David remains our Father’s child – whether in part or in whole; that is God’s business, not yours.
Grace is, was, and will be a gift…
Do not begrudge those to whom it is given.
“Blessed are the merciful; for they shall obtain mercy.” – Matthew 5:7