"So, too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace."
"And if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again."
In this letter to the Roman Church, (which was predominantly Gentile, with a minority of Jewish believers) Paul writes to educate them about God's plan of salvation and righteousness for all mankind, Jew and Gentile alike. He wanted the Church to understand the relationship between Jew and Gentile in God's overall plan of redemption. We are not meant to be separated.
While it was true that the Jewish hierarchy had rejected Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah, verse 5 is Paul's reminder that a remnant of Jewish Believers were still faithful and have been sanctified (set apart) through the grace of God. They should be included in the Body of Christ.
Then in verse 23, Paul holds out hope that these faithful Jews will one day be grafted back into the olive tree, which represents the people of God. Paul knows that they are the chosen people and God will be true to his promises concerning them. There will be a future for them as long as they persist in believing. That was true in A.D. 57 and it is true in A.D. 2012.
These verses have such meaning for me, because I am seeing this hope of the righteous remnant appearing before my eyes. I have shared with you my very personal relationship with Avihai and Ophir, a married couple who are living in Jerusalem and are part of the modern-day remnant.
I can't tell you how much they struggle. It is incredibly expensive to live in Israel, and they struggle to pay the rent on a very small apartment for themselves and their three small children. In addition, the buildings are old and damp and the entire family is constantly struggling with sinus infections, strep throat and fevers. Their oldest daughter, Liya, just turned 6 this week and was born with Down's Syndrome. The constant rounds of antibiotics for strep throat are taking their toll on her.
I celebrated with them this last year when Liya learned to walk. The video they shared brought tears to my eyes as they praised Jesus (Yeshua) for His blessings on their daughter. And they pray for her complete healing and restoration, believing that all things are possible through our Lord.
You see, their faith and their commitment to spreading the Gospel of Jesus has led them to become part of a ministry in Israel that preaches the Word. Their income is small and they willingly sacrifice for their faith. They are modern-day disciples of Yeshua who accept Him as their Messiah, Redeemer, Savior and King; they recognize Him as the Son of God, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah and the inheritor of the everlasting throne of His ancestor King David ..... all the things that the Bible says this Jewish Jesus is!
They are not (as some mistakenly assume, and Avihai is quick to point out) Christians. They observe the Jewish feasts and view the way of life given in Torah (can be interpreted as the first 5 Books of Moses, or in another sense, the entire Old Testament) as the expression of God's continued covenant with the children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. That covenant still exists, and unlike the false teaching of some Christians, the Church has not replaced them as the Chosen Ones.
Needless to say, they have chosen a difficult path. Their fellow Israelites, both secular and Orthodox, go out of their way to persecute them, and it is against the law in Israel to proselytize, so they must be very careful.
But in them, I have found such inspiration and a fellowship in our shared belief. They have taught me so much about the Hebrew perspective of our Bible and the prophets. And they have broadened my understanding far beyond what it was before I knew them. I know my Lord in a deeper and more profound way than ever before. And so much more is being revealed to my as I study Scripture.
It is no accident that our paths have crossed, and until recently all of our correspondence has been by email and letter. But one afternoon this week, I answered the phone and I heard Ophir's voice for the first time! I haven't stopped smiling since! Because I know that this friendship is blessed; that I can do my part to tell others of what I've learned and what part God wants me, as a Christian, to play in the restoration of His chosen people. I can encourage them in a covenant friendship by praying for them, defeating anti-Semitism, financially supporting them, and being a shoulder to cry on. I understand that part of my faith, and my role as a Christian, is to hasten the day, as Isaiah describes in Chapter 60, when nations will come to the light of Israel.
I know that God has ignited a fire in me; and a hunger to know the roots of my faith in a deeper way. And my friendship with Avihai, Ophir, and their beautiful children Liya, Gilya and Noam are a light unto my soul.