Paul comes back to the core of the matter. The heart of the promise and the goal of the Law.
In our last reading I forgot to mention a very heartfelt cry from Paul. He loves his fleshly brothers. He longs for Israel to receive Jesus. That love is one of the things that drove him to pen this letter. He said that he would gladly be cut off from Jesus if it meant that all of Israel would be saved. “I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh” (verses 2-3). THAT’S love! That’s Jesus’ kind of love.
Paul knows what Israel’s problem is and he can’t fix it. Israel received so much from God, including the “Law that would lead to righteousness” (verse 31). But they got so caught up in the “do’s” and “don’ts” that they thought THEY were responsible for earning their way into God’s presence.
I can understand their dilemma, especially with also receiving the “blessings” and “curses” in Deuteronomy 28. We still have people today that believe that if they follow all the rules they are bound to be blessed beyond all measure and can earn their way into Heaven.
But that is not what God called for. He called for an Abraham kind of faith. A Joshua and Caleb kind of faith. A faith that saw what was and didn’t even count it as important because of the promise they had already received from God. A faith that can clearly see there is NO earthly way and not lose hope in the promise. God said it and that’s all I need to know.
That is the only way to God. Working won’t get you there. There is no good enough. You have to trust God to take you where you can’t go yourself.
I’m presented with a picture that I want to try and share on this point. My mind is turning to the point of death for each of us.
I see the person who is “working his way to Heaven” come to the end of his days. If he has done enough good in his life, he should be handed a key that he can use to let himself into Heaven. There should be something different that happens to him at the moment of death than what happens to the people who “didn’t make the cut.” Some special door only his key fits.
Then I see the person who trusts God’s word about what comes after this life. He doesn’t need a special key. He knows he can’t open the door, only God can. He has faith in God’s promises that when he steps from this life that God is going to catch him. His death looks exactly like everyone else’s because it is not him doing the work.
The big problem for our first man is that what is “good enough?” When can he be sure he has made it? He would never be able to rest. He would never know peace. Our second person already has peace because he knows where his hope comes from. That’s faith.
Father God, thank You that I don’t have to be good enough. You did that for me. Thank You that You open the door for me. Thank You for Your promise to not only meet me on the other side of death but to also walk with me daily on this side. Thank You for placing this message into the hearts of Your disciples so they would write it all down for me. Help me have Caleb kind of faith. Days full of “Holy Cow’s” and not “Yah buts“.