Friday, November 7, 2008

Faith, Works, and The Stone of Stumbling

"Israel, although pursuing a law of righteousness, did not attain to the law. For what reason? Because he pursued it, not by faith, but as works. They stumbled on the 'stone of stumbling*.'"-Romans 9:31-32

All throughout the book of Judges, the Israelites would do what was right as long as someone was there leading them in the right direction. During the reigns of the Kings of Judah from Jerusalem, the same thing happened. Israel just could not follow the law, no matter what happened. At some point, they would fail. The is why God brought the destruction of Judah to the Babylonians. It was punishment for their constant rebellion.

After the return from the exile, the Jews never committed idolatry again. However, they had other problems. They were lax in completing the temple, "the house of Jehovah", and then they were lacking in giving the best of their possessions to God. They would only give him the poorest of their things for their sacrifice, their "polluted bread", "blind animal", "lame animal or a sick one". (Haggai 1:2, 4; Malachi 1:7-8, 13) Their actions showed that their hearts were not complete towards their God.-1 Kings 8:61

Going along with that thought, if the Israelites hearts had been complete towards God, God would have helped them. But it wasn't just their heart that needed to be changed, but their thought pattern. The Israelites would tell themselves, "This and this and this is allowed, but that and that and that is forbidden." Can you see the problem in that? They looked at the Law of Moses as a list of prohibitions and when it became to difficult for them, they stopped following it. They were relying on their own strength. What they should have done is walk by faith. (2 Corinthians 5:7) If they had walked by faith they would have realized that they could not do it on their own, they would have seen that they needed God's guidance, and prayed for help accordingly. Their Almighty God, Jehovah, wanted to help them.-Isaiah 41:13

Christians today are in the same boat. We cannot stay on The Way without the help of God's spirit. (Galatians 5:16) What we need to do so that we will not stumble on the "stone of stumbling" is pray for this spirit and also pray for wisdom. God will give us both. (Luke 11:13; James 1:5) So, may we never fall into the same trap as the Israelites, thinking that we can accomplish our walk with God without His help.

*The "stone of stumbling" is a reference to Isaiah 28:16, which is prophetic of Christ Jesus.-Isaiah 8:14; Matthew 21:42; Ephesians 2:20; 1 Peter 2:6-7