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2. The spiritual privileges of the chosen people
(Romans 9:4-5)
4who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises;5of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen.

Paul wanted to remind the church in Rome of the spiritual privileges and rights of his people. He confessed, at the same time, that those privileges had not helped him and his people to recognize or accept the true Messiah; therefore they had hated him, denied him, and envied him to the point that they had delivered him to be crucified, hardening their hearts, even against the Holy Spirit. Just as darkness falls gradually and not suddenly, so the hardening fell upon his people.
What were the blessings that belonged to Paul’s fellow countrymen which distinguished them from other people?
Their original name was the children of Jacob, the swindler, and not the children of Israel. But their father, who was charged with sins, did not let go of the Lord until the Lord had blessed him. Because of Jacob’s firm faith the Lord changed his name to Israel, which means, ‘he who wrestled with God, “El,” and prevailed by his faith’. Jacob was not physically strong, nor was he good mannered, but firm faith dwelt in him, which saved him from God’s anger and judgment (Genesis 32:22-32).
Jacob was one of the ancestors of Jesus. Jesus is the Lamb of God who took away the sins of the world, and struggled with God to save us from the judgment of our sins. He took hold of God by faith, and did not let go of him until God had blessed us all. The Son of Mary is our Savior who freed us from judgment. Therefore, the true struggler with God is not Jacob, but Jesus, who is the only and true Israel who has redeemed us from the anger of God.
The Jews, Christians, and Muslims who do not accept this mediator, who struggled for them, will neither participate in his blessings, nor belong to his chosen spiritual people. This knowledge filled Paul’s heart with sorrow because he saw that the majority of his people did not recognize their promised rights, but rejected them obstinately in their spiritual blindness and excessive pride.
The Lord ordered Moses to proceed to the Pharaoh of Egypt and tell him that the children of Jacob were altogether his firstborn (Exodus 4:22; Deuteronomy 14:1, 32:6; Hosea 11:1-3). The Lord suffered from the stubbornness of his children who did not honor him, although he had granted them the right of adoption. They were not born again, but had the right of the firstborn to the Lord.
The glory of the Lord dwelt in the holy of holies, the innermost chamber of the tabernacle, while the chosen people wandered in the wilderness. The Lord protected them and guided them through dangers, and performed many miracles (Exodus 40:34; Deuteronomy 4:7; 1 Kings 2:11; Isaiah 6:1-7; Ezekiel 1:4-28; Hebrews 9:5). However, the Lord punished his chosen ones and threatened them with death because of their disbelief, but the supplication of Moses and Aaron saved them from his deadly glory (Numbers 14:1-25).
Paul reminds the Jews of other privileges found in a series of covenants which testify the great and powerful statements of God, that the Lord, Creator and just Judge, has bound himself to this small people forever. The Holy Bible speaks of the following covenants:
God’s covenant with Noah (Genesis 6:18; 9:9-14).
God’s covenant with Abraham (Genesis 15:18; 17:4-14).
The Lord’s covenant with Isaac and Jacob (Genesis 26:3; 28:13-19; Exodus 2:24).
The Lord’s covenant with Moses (Exodus 2:24; 6:4; 24:7-8; 34:10, 28).
But, regrettably, the Holy Bible repeatedly testifies that the people of the old covenant left those promises time after time, therefore the prophet Jeremiah said that the Lord had decided to make a new covenant with them, including a spiritual birth of his disobedient people (Jeremiah 31:31-34).
The law is the foundation of the Lord’s covenant with his people through the prophet Moses. The book of the covenant with its ten commandments was a starting point for a total of 613 commandments, including 365 negative commandments (prohibitions) and 248 positive commandments, according to Maimonides.
In the beginning of these commandments we read the direct statement: "I am the LORD your God. You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:1-3).
He, who investigates the intent of these commandments, finds the commandment: “You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy” (Leviticus 19:2). The core of these commandments is: “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:5), and “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18).
But we find that nobody, except Jesus, kept all these commandments (Psalm 14:3; Romans 3:10-12).
The worship of God before the tabernacle, and then in the temple of Jerusalem, required first of all the purification of the sinner through several bloody sacrifices that he might be entitled to approach God and worship him piously. This was achieved through the recitation of psalms, hymns and pleas, the confession of sins, the performing of rites, and through worshipping. He who penetrates deeply into the book of Psalms, in the Old Testament, clearly finds the spirit and implementation of these statements. The most important of all these acts of worship, without offering sacrifices, was receiving the blessing.
These acts of worship reached their highest point at feasts, particularly the Passover, the Pentecost, the Tabernacles, and Yom Kippur (Atonement Day).
The concentration on the dwelling of God in the temple of Jerusalem strengthened the unity of the nation. But in spite of this spiritual center, there were many villages which made altars for Baals and paid sacrificial tributes to other gods, raising their images and statues, which provoked God to anger against them.
The Old Testament is full of several prominent promises, in which we find three purposes:
a) The presence, forgiveness, protection and consolation of the Lord their God (Exodus 34:9-11).
b) The promises of the coming of Christ, the Prince of Peace, and the meek Lamb of God (Deuteronomy 18:15; 2 Samuel 7:12-14; Isaiah 9:5-6; 49:6; 53:4-12).
c) The outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the chosen people and all flesh (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 36:26-27; Joel 3:1-5).
But, alas! The majority of the Jews did not recognize the coming of the Lamb of God, the King of their people. They neglected the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, having expected the rise of a powerful political state. Therefore they neither recognized their sins, nor looked for the new spiritual birth. Many promises were fulfilled by the conduct of Jesus and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on his followers, but the majority of the chosen people neither recognized, nor accepted, the fulfillment of these promises for them.
The fathers of the chosen people were not philosophers, but shepherds and priests for others. They were represented by Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, for their sincere faith overcame their weaknesses. The Lord of the covenant was called the God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob (Genesis 35:9-12; Exodus 3:6; Matthew 22:32).
Neither Moses, nor David, nor Elijah, nor any other personality of the Old Testament, established any university or academy, but they repeatedly experienced the truth and power of the Lord, in spite of the corruption of men. They lived in conformity with their faith, and became a good example for their people, and a fountain of blessing for their grandchildren.
However, the greatest privilege and honor of the people of Israel was the coming of the expected Christ, the King of Kings, the true High Priest, and the incarnate Word of God, in whom we see the authority, power, and love of God present among men. He said: “I am the light of the world,” because the love of God dwelt in him, and the Holy Spirit glorified him. He and God are one, as he confessed: “I and My Father are one” (John 10:30). According to this truth, the apostle Paul called him “God”. He did not say “a god”, but the true “God”, as all the churches confessed that Christ is God from God. Light from light. True God from the true God; begotten, not created, in one essence with the Father.
The Jews were enraged, made troubles, and cursed the Christians because of the confession which Paul stated in his epistle to the church in Rome. The majority of the Jews considered Jesus as a misleader, blasphemer, and rebel against God, and they had delivered him to the Romans, their colonists, to be crucified. They have continued in their hardening since the time of Isaiah, i.e. 700 BC. (Isaiah 6:9-13; Matthew 13:11-15; John 11:40; Acts 28:26-27).
From these verses we find the hardening of their hearts increased and became more crystallized and clear. They did not repent of their sins, but regarded themselves righteous because they kept the law of Moses, looking at all others as castaways.
At the time of their hardening, John the Baptist came to prepare the way for Christ, and a good choice of the people were baptized by him. They heard from him that Jesus was the Lamb of God, and understood that Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit to set up a new spiritual kingdom; and all those who were baptized by the one crying in the wilderness were prepared to accept Christ. Jesus did not call the legal experts, the pious, or the scholars to follow him, but he called those who confessed their sins before the Baptist, and they became his disciples and were filled with the Holy Spirit. The mystery in the chosen people is neither knowledge, nor riches, nor political experience, nor greatness, but confession of sins and brokenness of spirit. Those who confessed their sins penitently received from Christ salvation and eternal life.
The lawful privileges, which the people of Israel enjoyed, in addition to the presence of God with them, had a negative effect on the majority of the Jews. They became proud and dominant over the other nations, and they assumed themselves righteous, and therefore not in need of repentance. They did not recognize their sins, but hardened their hearts for ages against God, against Christ, and against his pure Spirit, until they became rich in rights, but poor in spirit.
In his past life, Paul was one of them, fanatic and proud. He tortured the followers of Christ, forced some of them to fall away, and killed those who were firm in their faith. But his meeting with Christ, in his radiant glory near Damascus, dispersed his dreams, imaginations and pride, and made him confess his offense and corruption. He became broken by the grace of Christ, born again by the Holy Spirit, and an apostle of the Lord Jesus.
Paul recognized that what saves man is neither being a descendant from the seed of Abraham, nor circumcision, but justification by the atonement of Christ and becoming filled with his Holy Spirit. As such, man is grafted into the spiritual body of Christ, becoming a member of it. Through his preaching of the gospel to the new generation of Abraham, Paul recognized that the spiritual kingdom of God could never be similar to the political state of Israel. Regrettably, the spiritual body of Christ suffers violent persecution in Israel today. Paul did not speak about a political state, but about the spiritual kingdom of Christ, which appears in good manners, truthfulness, and purity everywhere in the world.

O heavenly Father, we thank you for your patience with your chosen people, and magnify you for the promises you made in the Old Testament for this mutinous people, in spite of your warnings and punishments. Forgive us and our people, if we have not reciprocated your great love with faith and faithfulness; and save many of the children of Abraham by renewing their minds, and purifying their hearts for the living Jesus Christ.
How many privileges did Paul name for the people of the old covenant? Which one of them appears the most important to you? Why was the grace of God unable to save most of the chosen people, who fell from one judgment into another?