The people who descended from Abraham through Isaac are valued by God. From their beginning, they were special to God. Their place in God's heart did not continue by existing. They often deceived themselves by believing "bad things cannot happen to us because we are God's special people." They were special to God because Abraham's relationship with God was special (Exodus 17:1-7; Deuteronomy 4:37; 7:6,7; 10:15).
They suffered consequences when they abandoned faith or embraced evil. That happened often in the period called the judges. (See Judges.) Being "special to God" did not protect them from the Philistines in King Saul's reign or later prevent the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities. However, their faithlessness, disobedience, and ungodly behavior did not destroy their place in God's heart.
When the United Kingdom divided, the Northern Kingdom dedicated itself to idolatry. Jeroboam established worship sites at Dan and Beersheba to discourage people from returning to Jerusalem's temple (1 Kings 12:25-33). In the Northern Kingdom's entire existence, their kings never renounced idolatry, never returned to Jerusalem to observe the holy days (Deuteronomy 16:16). For almost 200 years they ignored God's pleas. Read Hosea 11:1-11 and note God's love for these people. Near the time for the Assyrian captivity, God grieved because the Northern Kingdom rejected His love.
When the Southern Kingdom's wickedness made their Babylonian captivity inevitable, God plainly informed Hezekiah of that captivity (Isaiah 39). God also used the same messenger to comfort His people (Isaiah 40:1).
Paul indicated that Jesus' death and resurrection did not end these people's place in God's heart. Paul as a Christian missionary affirmed God's continuing love for Israel (Romans 11:25-29).
The power of the gospel was [is] incredible. Through Jesus Christ God saved people who existed in differing cultures. The saved renounced evil, not their culture. In Christ they were called to be God's community of believers [the church] within their culture.
God did not expect Jews to cease being Jews because they were Christians. The first Christians were thoroughly Jewish (Acts 2). Daily they went to the temple to pray (Acts 2:46). The apostles Peter and John did that (Acts 3:1). This first congregation functioned within its culture. They renounced evil and embraced God's purposes.
Paul never asked Christians who were not Jews to adopt Jewish practices. Neither did Paul ask Jewish Christians to cease Jewish practices. The gospel's message: depend on the resurrected Jesus Christ, not your culture, for salvation. Cultural practices save no one. Jesus Christ can save anyone.
While Paul did not place spiritual confidence in his Jewish heritage, neither did Paul renounce his Jewish heritage.
Read Philippians 3:2-11.
Paul did not renounce Jewish culture, traditions, and practices. Rather, he placed no spiritual confidence in them. They were not the source of his salvation.
Read Acts 21:17-26.
Read Acts 16:1-3 and Galatians 2:1-3. Explain why Timothy was circumcised and Titus was not.
Read Acts 20:16. On this occasion, why was Paul in a hurry to get to Jerusalem? Consider Deuteronomy 16:16.
Read Genesis 17:7; 17:13, and Exodus 12:14. Note the use of everlasting and permanent. To Jews their customs and practices were not temporary because their covenant with God was an everlasting covenant.
Link to Teacher's Guide Quarter 1, Lesson 9
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