God's Memorandum of Understanding to the Gentiles
Romans 11 January 13, 2001
It's easy to lose track of how certain present realities began.
For instance, there is good reason in distant past for some of our common everyday sayings, but we continue to say them without the present knowledge of why.
If we knew the origin of some of our everyday sayings, they would mean much more to us.
Let's take a short history lesson on the proposed origin of some of these sayings.
I say 'proposed origin' because I'm not really sure that anybody really remembers this stuff or just thought it up, but I'm sure you will find these stories interesting.
Most people got married in June because they took their yearly bath in May and still smelled pretty good by June. However, they were starting to smell; so brides carried a bouquet of flowers to hide the body odor. Baths consisted of a big tub filled with hot water. The man of the house had the privilege of the nice clean water, then all the other sons and men, then the women and finally the children-last of all the babies. By then the water was so dirty you could actually lose someone in it-hence the saying, "Don't throw the baby out with the bath water."
Houses had thatched roofs -- thick straw -- piled high, with no wood underneath. It was the only place for animals to get warm, so all the dogs, cats and other small animals (mice, bugs) lived in the roof. When it rained it became slippery and sometimes the animals would slip and fall off the roof-hence the saying "It's raining cats and dogs." There was nothing to stop things from falling into the house. This posed a real problem in the bedroom where bugs and other droppings could really mess up your nice clean bed. Hence, a bed with big posts and a sheet hung over the top afforded some protection. That's how canopy beds came into existence.
The floor was dirt. Only the wealthy had something other than dirt, hence the saying "dirt poor." The wealthy had slate floors that would get slippery in the winter when wet, so they spread thresh (straw) on the floor to help keep their footing. As the winter wore on, they kept adding more thresh until when you opened the door it would all start slipping outside. A piece of wood was placed in the entranceway, hence, a "thresh hold."
In those old days, they cooked in the kitchen with a big kettle that always hung over the fire. Every day they lit the fire and added things to the pot. They ate mostly vegetables and did not get much meat. They would eat the stew for dinner, leaving leftovers in the pot to get cold overnight and then start over the next day. Sometimes the stew had food in it that had been there for quite awhile hence the rhyme, "peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in the pot nine days old." Sometimes they could obtain pork, which made them feel quite special. When visitors came over, they would hang up their bacon to show off. It was a sign of wealth that a man "could bring home the bacon." They would cut off a little to share with guests and would all sit around and "chew the fat."
Those with money had plates made of pewter. Food with a high acid content caused some of the lead to leach onto the food, causing lead poisoning and death. This happened most often with tomatoes, so for the next 400 years or so, tomatoes were considered poisonous. Most people did not have pewter plates, but had trenchers, a piece of wood with the middle scooped out like a bowl. Often trenchers were made from stale bread which was so old and hard that they could be used for quite some time. Trenchers were never washed and a lot of times worms and mold got into the wood and old bread. After eating off wormy, moldy trenchers, one would get "trench mouth." Bread was divided according to status. Workers got the burnt bottom of the loaf, the family got the middle, and guests got the top, or "upper crust." Lead cups were used to drink ale or whiskey. The combination would sometimes knock them out for a couple of days. Someone walking along the road would take them for dead and prepare them for burial. They were laid out on the kitchen table for a couple of days and the family would gather around and eat and drink and wait and see if they would wake up. Hence the custom of holding a "wake."
England is old and small and the local folks started running out of places to bury people. So they would dig up coffins and would take the bones to a "bone-house" and reuse the grave. When reopening these coffins, 1 out of 25 coffins were found to have scratch marks on the inside, and they realized they had been burying people alive. So they thought they would tie a string on the wrist of the corpse, lead it through the coffin and up through the ground and tie it to a bell. Someone would have to sit out in the graveyard all night (the "graveyard shift") to listen for the bell; thus, someone could be "saved by the bell" or was considered a "dead ringer."
We use many of these sayings all the time; we quote them and even apply other meanings to them, but to really understand them we must look to history for their origin and meaning.
It's like that in the Christian life too.
We enjoy our present salvation by faith in Christ but easily forget the reality of its historical meaning, and sometimes we apply different meanings.
When we do that we can misapply our understanding and dangerously drift from the original truth.
We live in an area where there are many orthodox Jews close by.
What do you think when you see them?
I saw one family as they were just about to get in their car at the WalMart parking lot up on Touhy Ave.
The woman had a headcovering and both husband and wife were dressed in dark colors as you might envision some of the Amish we are familiar with, but they were driving a mini van and not a horse drawn carriage.
The man wore a broad-brimmed hat and had long black curls streaming down his face just in front of his ears.
I immediately knew they were Jewish and I thought about just going up and embracing them – but I didn't think they would quite understand.
ILLUS.: Other Jews (as Christians) I have had a special affinity toward, like Ron Hirshhorn and Mark Miller, or even Marc Gozzolo.
In Romans chapter 11 (found on page 1761) of your pew Bible, Paul gives us a history lesson on the origin and place of our salvation as Gentiles.
He gives us a memorandum of understanding from God regarding our position and God's plan.
As Gentiles, we must not forget how we got into God's plan and how he will yet carry it out for the Jews.
Recall that Romans 9, 10, &11 address the 'Jewish problem' regarding the gospel, and that Paul is trying to bring the Jewish and Gentile elements together in the Roman church to accomplish God's objectives.
These chapters answer the question of why God hasn't saved his own chosen people if the gospel is so effective.
Here are some things that God wants us to keep in mind as Gentiles – a history lesson, if you will.
We must remember our origin and the scope of God's plan.
We might remind ourselves also that the church in Germany forgot these things and paid the price in WWII, and that God's promise to Abraham included the words, "Whoever blesses you I will bless, and whoever curses you I will curse."
Anti-Semitism is not dead, and we dare not fall into it.
The greatest fear of Gentiles that Jews have (and a great impediment to evangelization toward them) is a prevailing idea that we hold them singularly responsible for the death of Jesus and therefore hate them.
But anyone who can affirm his salvation must also be able to affirm that it is his own sins that placed Jesus upon the cross (Rom. 3:23).
In this, our Christian destiny is inseparably knit together with the Jews.
If we reject them, we reject ourselves.
ILLUS: from JerUSAlem Connection newspaper, "Salvation is from the Jews," page 6, written by a Catholic priest, Richard John Neuhaus, who converted from Lutheranism.
What terms of understanding does God attach to his offer of salvation for Gentiles?
I. Cycle One
A. Narrative (vv. 1-10)
God reserves the right to save some of the Jews by grace along with the Gentiles even though he has largely rejected the Jews in their rejection of him for now.
II. Cycle Two
A. Narrative (vv. 11-12)
God reserves the right to use the Gentile situation to save the Jews just as he used the Jewish situation to save the Gentiles.
III. Cycle Three
A. Narrative (vv. 13-16)
God reserves the right to multiply the Gentile salvation blessing by eventually restoring and including the Jews in that blessing as they were at first.
IV. Cycle Four
A. Narrative (vv. 17-21)
God reserves the right to humble the Gentiles by continually reminding them of the Jewish roots of their salvation.
V. Cycle Five
A. Narrative (vv. 22-24)
God reserves the right to exhort the Gentiles not to fall into the same error of unbelief and pay the same price as the Jews.
VI. Cycle Six
A. Narrative (vv. 25-27)
God reserves the right to limit the number of Gentiles he will accept for salvation in order to complete his salvation plan for the Jews.
VII. Cycle Seven
A. Narrative (vv. 28-32)
God reserves the right to dispense his own mercy as he sees fit in order to complete his salvation plan for the Jews regardless of their disobedience.
VIII. Cycle Eight
A. Narrative (vv. 33-36)
God reserves the right to limit our understanding in order to prompt our praise of his ways as God.
What terms of understanding does God attach to his offer of salvation for Gentiles?
Whereas God reserves the right to save some of the Jews by grace along with the Gentiles even though he has largely rejected the Jews in their rejection of him for now.
Whereas God reserves the right to use the Gentile situation to save the Jews just as he used the Jewish situation to save the Gentiles.
Whereas God reserves the right to multiply the Gentile salvation blessing by eventually restoring and including the Jews in that blessing as they were at first.
Whereas God reserves the right to humble the Gentiles by continually reminding them of the Jewish roots of their salvation.
Whereas God reserves the right to exhort the Gentiles not to fall into the same error of unbelief and pay the same price as the Jews.
Whereas God reserves the right to limit the number of Gentiles he will accept for salvation in order to complete his salvation plan for the Jews.
Whereas God reserves the right to dispense his own mercy as he sees fit in order to complete his salvation plan for the Jews regardless of their disobedience.
Whereas God reserves the right to limit our understanding in order to prompt our praise of his ways as God.
Therefore be advised that whether you can understand it or not, you owe your eternal life to God through the Jew.
If your attitude is "forget the Jew" then God's attitude is "forget you."
Can we want what Jesus has (eternal life) if we reject who Jesus is (a Jew)?
In his own words Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4:22, "Salvation is from the Jews."
Those roots go deep, and if you would drink living water, you must abide in him.
The answer to the 'Jewish problem' is that God is still very much in control of his salvation plan and his promise to Abraham.
The LORD met with Balaam and put a message in his mouth and said, "Go back to Balak (king of Moab) and give him this message." So he went to him and found him standing beside his offering, with the princes of Moab. Balak asked him, "What did the LORD say?" Then he uttered his oracle: "Arise, Balak, and listen; hear me, son of Zippor. God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill? I have received a command to bless; he has blessed, and I cannot change it. "No misfortune is seen in Jacob, no misery observed in Israel. The LORD their God is with them; the shout of the King is among them. God brought them out of Egypt; they have the strength of a wild ox. There is no sorcery against Jacob, no divination against Israel. It will now be said of Jacob and of Israel, ‘See what God has done!’ The people rise like a lioness; they rouse themselves like a lion that does not rest till he devours his prey and drinks the blood of his victims." (Numbers 23:16-24 NIVUS)
"God brought them out of Egypt; they have the strength of a wild ox. They devour hostile nations and break their bones in pieces; with their arrows they pierce them. Like a lion they crouch and lie down, like a lioness— who dares to rouse them? "May those who bless you be blessed and those who curse you be cursed!" (Numbers 24:8-9 NIVUS)
Indeed, if you would love God, you must love the Jew.
Your salvation depends on it, since Jesus is the Jew you must love.
Just a memorandum of understanding from his Father. It's a family thing.
If you bless him you are blessed. If you curse him you are cursed.
As a nation, and as Christians, we must not forget Israel, and I am so thankful that we continue to support her.
ILLUS: from JerUSAlem Connection newspaper, "89 Senators Send Open Letter to President Bush," page 3.
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: "May those who love you be secure. May there be peace within your walls and security within your citadels." For the sake of my brothers and friends, I will say, "Peace be within you." For the sake of the house of the LORD our God, I will seek your prosperity. (Psalms 122:6-9 NIVUS)