Thursday, May 27, 2010

A Thankful Gentile


28 years ago today, the Lord saved me.  As I glanced at my watch this morning in my office, I saw the date and was reminded of what took place on May 27, 1982.  What a difference that memory made in my reading of Scripture today.  As I read each passage, I thought of myself as a young boy, not fully aware of the unfathomable riches that became mine that day.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you…
One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple…
I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living…
As I continued to read, I noticed a common theme running through several of the Psalms I opened, that is, Israel and the Gentiles as recipients of the blessings of salvation.  What a mysterious blessing for you and me that God set apart Israel to be a light for the Gentiles.  Psalm 87 speaks of this plan in a unique way:
 1 On the holy mount stands the city he founded;
 2 the LORD loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwelling places of Jacob.
 3 Glorious things of you are spoken, O city of God.

Zion is the city of Jerusalem and the psalmist clearly conveys that it is a most special place in God’s sight.  It is the location of God’s temple, the symbol of His presence with His people.  The "glorious things" spoken of the city in the following verses are quite surprising:
  4 Among those who know me I mention Rahab and Babylon; behold, Philistia and Tyre, with Cush-- "This one was born there," they say.
 5 And of Zion it shall be said, "This one and that one were born in her"; for the Most High himself will establish her.
 6 The LORD records as he registers the peoples, "This one was born there."

What are the glorious things spoken of Jerusalem?  Gentile nations, all of which were at one time enemies of God, were born there.  Rahab (another name for Egypt), Babylon, Philistia, Tyre, and Cush were born in Jerusalem.  In other words, these certain peoples are spoken of as citizens of Zion.
This may seem confusing until we look at the wider context of Scripture.  In Genesis 12:3, when God first called Abram, He said, “in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”  Only in the New Testament do we see explicitly the scope of that blessing.  In Acts 26:22-23, Paul summed up the message of the Old Testament saying, “I stand here testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass: that the Christ must suffer and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles." 
It was God’s intent from the very beginning to save both Jews and Gentiles through a gospel that would come through the Jews.  This was demonstrated by Jesus Himself when He brought salvation to the Gentiles of Samaria, saying to the woman at the well, “Salvation is from the Jews” (John 4:22b).  This begins to shed light on the text of Psalm 87, but another reference will be helpful. 
In Ephesians 2:11ff, Paul tells of the Gentiles hopelessness prior to Christ: you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.  There was a barrier between the Gentiles and the Jews.  The Jews had been given the blessings of God, and there was no salvation for the Gentiles.  But…
 2:13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.  In Christ, God made the Jew and Gentile one and reconciled them to Himself “in one body through the cross.”  The ramifications for the Gentile are staggering:
  19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,
 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone,
 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.

What we see in Psalm 87 is this magnificent reconciliation in poetic form – Gentiles, former enemies of God, have been brought into His house and made fellow citizens with the Jews and members of His household. 
The next psalm on my list this morning was Psalm 117.  A fitting response to the truths of Psalm 87.
  1 Praise the LORD, all nations! Extol him, all peoples!
 2 For great is his steadfast love toward us, and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever. Praise the LORD!

God’s eternal providence began orchestrating my salvation long before 1982.  Amazingly, all the events of salvation history have been steps that God took to bring about the certain salvation His elect.  I’m thankful today to be a Gentile, a former enemy of God, saved by a Jewish Messiah, forever joined with believing Israel, reconciled together in one body to God through the cross. 
Praise the LORD.

Posted by Greg Birdwell

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