So Paul’s feeling sad and bad about at least some in his community of origin, and their relationship to humanity and divinity. Dominant traditions read this as ‘they blew it’ and now, read c.10 as ‘this is how they blew it.’ Like any sales pitch, criticize the alternative, then offer your product as the answer.
As the graphic for Week #1 put it: “Jesus is the answer – what is the question?”
Paul prays to God for their salvation. What is salvation? Do just some, or all of his former co-religionists need it? Does Paul really mean he wants them to get ‘tickets to heaven’, that their current ones are invalid, and he’s selling Christian tickets? Please God, no!
Surely we read last week in c8 a bigger cosmic vision, God birthing one new heaven and earth to fulfill, not replace this one! Surely the righteousness of God, and the faithfulness of God, shown through the righteousness of Christ, and the faithfulness of Christ, is bigger than good bargains on ‘tickets to heaven’!
Any or all of us may ask – are we put right with God, ‘justified’ – are we responding with human righteousness and faithfulness – or are we conforming to this world, resisting transformation by renewal of ourselves to be more Christ-like, conforming to that image?
People who have great enthusiasm and zeal, imagining heaven to be some other time, in some other place, for some other people may not recognize or realize it here and now, living as if it were so, to make it more so.
The terrible irony of my reading of c10 is that Paul says some in Israel misconstrued Torah – they reduced it to a ticket to heaven for their club and clan – and needed to imagine a bigger plan of salvation…Yet the dominant Christian reading of Paul replicates exactly the thing he is opposing!
The good news of God’s righteousness and faithfulness, extended through Christ’s righteousness and faithfulness invites us to say yes, I believe that’s what God’s up to – and I’d like to be part of that now the news of human righteousness and faithfulness, trying to match Jesus’ righteousness and faithfulness, invites us to try to be godlike, superior to get out of this world and into that heaven.
The rest of the chapter, as I read it, piles up a list of scripture references, reminders to teachers of Romans, to show congruence with the traditions only our twisted cultural memory can make this ‘Jews stubbornly refused and resisted, so God cancelled their tickets and gave us new ones’ This is the Paul of Galatians, denying distinctions between Greeks and Jews, or limitation of the invitation to one class of people –
Why would he be building a new exclusive club? Coming to the end of my daily quota, I wonder who has read this far – arguing against the pietists who narrow the gospel, should I rather have challenged the secularists, who similarly diminish Paul into a ‘straw man’ opponent, As if he only ever meant ‘ticket to heaven’ theology.
1 Brothers-and-sisters, the desire of my heart and [my] prayer to God on their behalf [is] for salvation.
2 For I bear witness to them that they have zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.
3 For being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their particular [righteousness, viz. for Israel alone] they did not submit to the righteousness of God.
4 For the goal of the law, Christ, is righteousness [of God] for every believer.
5 /For Moses writes that “the human being who does” the righteousness which is from Torah “will live by it” Lev 18:5).
6 And the righteousness from faithfulness speaks thus: “Do not say in thy heart” (Deut 9:4; 8:17 ?), “Who will ascend into heaven” (that is, to bring Christ down)?
7 or:“who will descend into the abyss” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead)?
8 But what does it say? “The word is near to thee, in thy mouth and in thy heart” (That is, the word of faithfulness which we proclaim) (Deut 30:12-14),
9 [namely] that if thou confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord and believe in thy heart that God raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
10 For with the heart it is believed unto righteousness and with the mouth it is confessed unto salvation.
11 For the scripture says: everyone “who believes in him will not be put to shame” (Isa 28:16).
12 For there is no distinction between the Jew and also the Greek, for the same one is YHWH of all, being generous to all who call upon him.
13 For “everyone who will call upon the name of YHWH will be saved” (Joel 2:32).
14 Now how could they call upon one in whom they had not believed? And how could they believe one whom they had not heard? And how could they hear without a proclaimer?
15 And how could [proclaimers] proclaim unless they were sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who proclaim good tidings of good!” (Isa 52:7).
16 But not all have become obedient to the good tidings, for Isaiah says: “YHWH, who has believed our message?” (Isa 53:1).
17 Therefore faithfulness [comes] from the message and the message [comes] through the word of God.
18 But I say: Have they not heard? Indeed they did; “Their voice has gone out to all the earth and their words to the ends of the inhabited world” (Ps 19:4).
19 But I say, did Israel not know? First Moses says: “I will make you jealous of that which is not a nation; by a foolish nation I will make you angry” (Deut 32:21).
20 And Isaiah makes bold to say: “I was found by those who did not seek me; I was manifested to those who did not enquire for me,”
21 and to Israel he says: “All day long I stretched out my hands to a disobedient and rebellious people” (Isa 65:1-2)
1 Believe me, friends, all I want for Israel is what's best for Israel: salvation, nothing less. I want it with all my heart and pray to God for it all the time.
2 I readily admit that the Jews are impressively energetic regarding God but they are doing everything exactly backwards.
3 They don't seem to realize that this comprehensive setting-things-right that is salvation is God's business, and a most flourishing business it is. Right across the street they set up their own salvation shops and noisily hawk their wares. After all these years of refusing to really deal with God on his terms, insisting instead on making their own deals, they have nothing to show for it.
4 The earlier revelation was intended simply to get us ready for the Messiah, who then puts everything right for those who trust him to do it.
5 Moses wrote that anyone who insists on using the law code to live right before God soon discovers it's not so easy – every detail of life regulated by fine print!
6 But trusting God to shape the right living in us is a different story – no precarious climb up to heaven to recruit the Messiah,
7 no dangerous descent into hell to rescue the Messiah.
8 So what exactly was Moses saying? The word that saves is right here, as near as the tongue in your mouth, as close as the heart in your chest.
9 Say the welcoming word to God "Jesus is my Master" – embracing, body and soul, God's work of doing in us what he did in raising Jesus from the dead. That's it. You're not "doing" anything; you're simply calling out to God, trusting him to do it for you. That's salvation.
10 With your whole being you embrace God setting things right,and then you say it, right out loud: "God has set everything right between him and me!"
11 Scripture reassures us, "No one who trusts God like this heart and soul – will ever regret it."
12 It's exactly the same no matter what a person's religious background may be: the same God for all of us, acting the same incredibly generous way to everyone who calls out for help.
13 "Everyone who calls, 'Help, God!' gets help."
14 But how can people call for help if they don't know who to trust? And how can they know who to trust if they haven't heard of the One who can be trusted? And how can they hear if nobody tells them?
15 And how is anyone going to tell them, unless someone is sent to do it? That's why Scripture exclaims, A sight to take your breath away! Grand processions of people telling all the good things of God!
16 But not everybody is ready for this, ready to see and hear and act. Isaiah asked what we all ask at one time or another: "Does anyone care, God? Is anyone listening and believing a word of it?"
17 The point is, before you trust, you have to listen. But unless Christ's Word is preached, there's nothing to listen to.
18 But haven't there been plenty of opportunities for Israel to listen and understand what's going on? Plenty, I'd say. Preachers' voices have gone 'round the world, Their message to earth's seven seas.
19 So the big question is, Why didn't Israel understand that she had no corner on this message? Moses had it right when he predicted, When you see God reach out to those you consider your inferiors-outsiders! - you'll become insanely jealous. When you see God reach out to people you think are religiously stupid, you'll throw temper tantrums.
20 Isaiah dared to speak out these words of God:People found and welcomed me who never so much as looked for me. And I found and welcomed people who had never even asked about me.
21 Then he capped it with a damning indictment: Day after day after day, I beckoned Israel with open arms, And got nothing for my trouble but cold shoulders and icy stares.