"I will provoke you to jealousy by them that are no people, and by a foolish nation will I anger you" (Rom. 10:l9).

One holy human response toward God can provoke another! We see this principle declared in our text. The "jealousy" of reference is a response of the Jews, brought on by seeing God's working among another people Gentiles. They would want a legitimate blessing that had been procured by others -- "another people."

PROVOKING TO EMULATION. Paul explained his Apostleship in view of this great truth. He was, indeed, a minister to the Gentiles. The reason behind his ministry, however, was actually to reach the Jews. Thus, he wrote, "I magnify mine office, if by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are of my flesh, and might save some of them" (Rom.  11:13-14). By his own confession, Paul devoted his Apostolic office to saving some of the Jews who had fallen.

       He carried a great burden for these people. "I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh" (Rom 9:2-3).  Whatever we may think of that expression, we have no inspired record of any person carrying such a burden for the Gentiles, or any group thereof. Even in the case of our Lord, He wept over Jerusalem, lamenting the hardheartedness of the people (Matt 23:37-38). There is no account of him weeping over Samaria (John 4:4-9), the ten cities of Decapolis (Mk 5:19-20), or other such areas.

We dare not take this matter further than the Spirit takes it. None should assume God has no interest in the Gentiles, or that it is wrong to carry a burden for them. We must see, however, that God DOES have an agenda for the Jews, and has consistently confirmed that agenda has not been abandoned. He has no special Gospel for them, no special Savior, and no unique grace. Our text confirms He will use the effects of the Gospel of Christ to awaken these slumbering people.

A fallen state that cannot be remedied, on the other hand is accompanied by the admonition "Let them alone" (Matt 15:14). If reprobacy were the result of Divine decree, it would be foolish to labor to dispel it. Such activity would be fighting against God, and could hardly be met with His blessing.

Paul used the appointed office of an Apostle to save some of those God had blinded. He was not, however, competing against God, but laboring together with Him. This is expressly stated in Romans 11:11. "I say then, Have they (the Jews) stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for TO PROVOKE THEM TO JEALOUSY." That was not Paul's agenda, but the intention of Almighty God! God, in the Gospel, is consistently seeking to bring about moral recovery -- even among the Jews.

I have often pondered how unattractive the Christian Gentiles must be to Israel. Jews are, by nature, a radical and devoted people, thinking nothing of severing themselves from the rest of the world upon the basis of their culture. They will never be provoked to jealously by halfhearted and uncommitted Christians. They must be unimpressed by the statistical trivia and religious appearances that dominate the Western Christian world. They appear to have no interest in the fastest growing church, or the faddish spread of emulated praise among the churches. Well educated preachers, finely tuned organizational structures, and the likes, have not moved them to any known emulation.

       But should the day arise when real Gospel effects become more prominent, and the zeal of the house of the Lord consumes people as it did Jesus Christ, a different circumstance may well occur. I long for the prominence of radical and zealous faith such as will provoke the ancient people to godly jealousy. It can come through our generation! It will, however, require a dramatic and zealous departure from the kind of Christianity made popular in our time.

PRAYER POINT: Father, in the name of Jesus, I desire to be among those who provoke men and women who do not know You to fervently desire to appropriate such wonderful knowledge.

-- Monday: IT IS TIME TO AWAKE --