Paul’s heart is broken for his countrymen. From his own personal experience, he understands how immersed someone can be in zealous religion and yet remain so far from divine reconciliation and intimacy. It grieves Paul that his Jewish brothers and fathers are so religiously active and remained relationally alienated. It gives him no pleasure to quote Isaiah:
But of Israel he says, “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people.” (Romans 10:21; Isaiah 65:2)
Paul knows how Israel has been temporally blessed. In history, God has often honored and improved his chosen people by means of his mighty hand. Numerous are the occasions when the omnipotent Father flexes his muscle on behalf on his favorite sons. Paul remembers and rejoices in these glorious stories of God’s covenantal favor.
Even more importantly, Paul understands how much God has spiritually blessed Israel. The Heavenly Father has given to Israel judges, prophets, priests, scribes, apostles, and prophets. Through these men, God gives his good, holy, and wise Law. From their teachings and writings fantastic rules for living and worship are presented to God’s people. Then, in their writings, God presents his glorious Gospel — the good news of his mercy and grace to undeserving sinners. Paul knows well how much Israel has been honored. To them, the Scripture have been given. Through them, God’s Law and Gospel has been passed down through the centuries. Israel is indeed a most blessed and favored nation.
However, Paul grieves, for he also sees how Israel continues to be a “disobedient and contrary people.” They are “disobedient and contrary” in regards to God’s Law. Though being recipients, authors, memorizers, teachers, practitioners, copiers, and guardians of God’s written sacred commands, they are not faithful. All in Israel are sinners. No one obeys perfectly. No one keeps his will. No one is righteous; no not one. In addition, they remain disobedient and country in regards to God’s Gospel. Though they are guilty and damned, and though God is still holding out his hands to them, they continue in their religiously-based rebellion.
The Heavenly Father had been holding out his hands of mercy and grace to men through the Old Testament promises and ceremonial rites. Within the ancient sermons and ceremonies of the Old Covenant, the Good News of Jesus Christ had always been proclaimed.
In recent time, the Holy Son had come to earth. He stretched out his hands for them on the cross as he died for the transgressions of his friends. Then, following his resurrection he reached out his hands beckoning sinners to come. Yes, with great passion Jesus called Jews and Greeks to place their faith in his substitutionary work on their behalf.
Then, following his ascension, the Holy Spirit held out his hands through inspired Apostles and disciples. Paul himself was one such messenger urging his readers to repent, believe, and confess allegiance to Jesus.
However, despite God’s mercy and grace, despite God’s loving appeal, command, and invitation, despite Paul’s best labors, his ethnic brothers and fathers largely defied God. The Jewish people diminished and disobeyed God’s Law. They disbelieved God’s Gospel, and left in such a condition, despite their religiosity, they remained at enmity with God. They were a “disobedient and contrary people.”
Oh reader, hear the call of the God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, the Apostle Paul, the sacred text, and your friend who pens this blog.
God has blessed you with his Law. He has given you beautiful rules for righteousness. Within his sacred word, glorious and wise commandments are found.
However, sadly, you have not heeded God’s instruction. Tragically, you have alienated yourself from him. You are in danger of God’s eternal condemnation because you are a “disobedient and contrary” person.
However, there is Good News; God has also blessed you with his Gospel. You are hearing it right now. Despite the fact that you have spurned his counsel, rebelled against him, and have earned his eternal wrath, he has not stopped loving you. He promised his Son. He sent his Son. And now through the Word of God he stretches out his hands to you. A substitutionary law-keeper and a substitutionary righteousness is available for you. He is the Savior of all who give up and beg for pardon and rescue. He is the Savior of all who repent and cease being “disobedient and contrary” to the Gospel.
So, how will you respond? Oh friends, do not be like Israel then and now. Do not be counted amongst those who remain zealously religious and yet separated from God. You are already a “disobedient and a contrary” people in regards to his Law. Why remain a “disobedient and contrary” people in regards to his free and undeserved Gospel?
Instead, right now, respond as did the Apostle Paul. Forsake your own righteousness. Trust no longer in your own religiosity. Hit your knees, scream to your Heavenly Lover and request his performance on your behalf. Guilty sinner, all day long God holds out his hands to many, and all day long many remain disobedient and contrary. But not you, not today, not any longer! Jump in Christ’s loving arms and enjoy the relationship you don’t deserve because Christ took upon himself the condemnation he did not deserve. No longer be disobedient and contrary to the Gospel.
Then, continue your worship. Rightly respond with affectionate prayer. Pray that his Spirit might assist you in being less “disobedient and contrary” to his instructions. For this is a trait of those transformed by Christ — those who are no longer “disobedient and contrary” to the Gospel find themselves longing to be less “disobedient and contrary” to God’s good Law.