In Part 1 we saw that God’s judgment of Israel took centuries, yet from God’s perspective he executed it “without delay.” Lifting up my head from my Bible for just a moment to survey the current landscape, where we are not allowed even to attend church services, I am stunned by this thought:
Are we Christians today in a period of judgment “without delay” because of our disunity?
Let’s compare God’s word, concerning the Gentiles’ election as vessels of mercy and Israel’s judgment as vessels of wrath, with our current situation:
“What shall we say then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law” (Rom 9:30-31).
Paul is saying that Israel tried to obey rules and regulations to the letter, but instead of earning righteousness through the law, they became vessels of the wrath of God. Why? What was missing? Paul answers, saying that by contrast, the Gentiles became vessels of mercy simply through faith in the Word of God shared with them concerning Jesus as King.
Simply through faith.
Yet what we see today, as we languish under a law of closed churches, a law that is being made up as we go along by rulers and not by God, is more of a spirit of fear than a spirit of faith. While it is true we are commanded to obey our rulers on earth, is this a slippery slope leading us to bow to a law not from God, leading to disunity from God? Make no mistake, precautions are appropriate for those at high risk. And technology has helped connect us to some extent. But many are saying they will never return to church for fear of catching the virus.
I cannot prove that we are being judged by God for lack of unity, but I can illuminate an especially virulent strain of fear during these times. I use this example only to highlight our lack of faith in unity, not to demean legitimate health concerns.
Paul now answers the implications of Israel’s lack of faith - the stumbling block:
“Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, as it is written, ‘Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame’” (Rom 9:32-33; Isaiah 8:14 and 28:16).
What or who is the stumbling block, the rock of offense? It is Jesus, of course! This is the same Jesus who prayed for perfect unity as his final plea to God before going to Gethsemane and a brutal death on our behalf.
There are no easy answers to our current health situation.
But it is wise for us to look in the mirror and make sure that our stumbling block has not become fear and disunity based on works of the local law rather than faith in the eternal promise. Let us bypass the stumbling stone of government power brokering with faith! Let us do everything in our power of faith to come together again as family!