I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it through the Holy Spirit— I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people, those of my own race, the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption to sonship; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of the Messiah, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen.
Several years ago I went with a large group on a tour of the Holy Land. A close friend accompanied me along with a hundred or so strangers from all over the country. I cannot speak for anyone else, but my friend and I certainly went on that trip with something specific in mind. We expected to be touched and moved just by walking on that ground. We thought every experience in Israel would be magical and miraculous. What I think we really did was idolize the land, and God set us straight pretty quickly. For us, the trip turned out to be one of great sorrow. While we were excited to see so many places mentioned in the scriptures, to walk on roads where Jesus walked, something else struck us in a more significant way. Seeing members of God’s holy nation living blind to the fact that their Messiah already has come tore our hearts to pieces.
It is one thing to read about this in scripture, but it is a completely different story when we see it today. To watch people elevate a wall, the remains of the Holy Temple, almost to a place of worship, and to watch them fold up their prayers and stuff them in the cracks between the stones, just brings pain. The way has been made for us to take our requests straight to the Father. The one who made that way was a Jew himself, and He came to save a people who were waiting for him. In that time and place, so many of them simply missed his coming. And now, two thousand years later, so many more of God’s chosen people still miss the fact that his Son has been here and can save us. To see a people still searching for a Savior whose entrance was made centuries ago and who is available now for anyone to know just breaks your heart.
Imagine the sorrow that the Father feels for those of his nation Israel who continue to reject his Son and live in darkness. We should have at least a measure of that sorrow as well. Our hearts should be crying out for them to realize who Jesus is. Paul was so upset by this that he was willing to give up his own place with Christ if that is what it took for his people to wake up. Christ now has torn down the wall between Jew and Gentile and has opened the door for all to come to him so that the salvation of the Gentile might provoke the Jew to jealousy. The point of this is for Christ’s own people to realize who He is, to confess and believe that He is the Lord. Father, raise in us a sorrow for your people Israel that would bring us to contend for them in the spirit to come to know your Son.