I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. Romans 9:2
Paul is filled with great sorrow and anguish that his Jewish family, given all their history with God, can’t see be past their religiosity and plant their eyes on the Messiah. He agonizes over what they are missing and the devastating results that will follow.
Paul asks why Israel, who was pursuing a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching it, but the Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness attain it. He answers, “Because they [the Israelites] did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone.” In other words, you will never attain it if you are counting on human works…only by grace, through faith in the work of Jesus. Instead of seeing Jesus as the answer to all they had been searching for, they stumbled over Him.
Jesus fulfilled what we could not, and this is where we put our faith. I visualize Paul desperately yelling, “WHY CAN’T YOU SEE? YOU HAVE BEEN GIVEN EVERY BENEFIT OF BEING ABLE TO SEE! THE SCRIPTURE YOU HAVE MEMORIZED SINCE CHILDHOOD POINTS TO IT. THIS IS IT. THIS WAS ALWAYS IT. JESUS IS IT. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE BELIEVE.”
This is a message for any of us who have had all the benefits of a Christian upbringing. We know the stories. We go to church. We volunteer to serve. We even generously give. But do we have faith, or do we rely on our actions and religious routine? It’s all good, but one will save us and the other will not. Do we know and believe in Jesus as Messiah, Savior, Lord? Do we stumble over the stumbling stone – our activities getting in the way of relationship and submission? Is our heart hardened by the culture around us full of posturing, striving, being independent, focusing inward, feeling entitled because of our good works…or is our heart positioned to believe that it isn’t us who saves us? You alone, Jesus.
Questions: Do you think it is sometimes harder for those who grew up around religion to have faith (instead of relying on works)? What are potential stumbling stones?