Ask God to orient or reorient you to Himself. Confess any known sin. Thank Him for His forgiveness. Be still and reflect on Jesus and His sacrifice for you. Ask the Holy Spirit to open your heart and mind to God’s Word. Pray for others in your life that they, too, would know and love God today.
“1 Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. 2 For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. 3 Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. 4 Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.”
In verse 1, Paul expressed his heart’s desire for God’s people. Remember the word for “heart” means innermost being. Paul wants us to grasp the depth of his concern for his own people. Notice too, that this is his prayer.
Last week, we talked about God’s sovereignty and His choice to harden some people and show mercy to others. Why would Paul pray to God, if, in God’s sovereignty, their choices didn’t matter? I think Paul wants us to see that our prayers do matter—that man’s choices matter. Think about it: Paul is showing us that God’s sovereignty and human responsibility stand in relationship to each other as an antimony, “an apparent contradiction”. As Terry pointed out last week, the Bible holds both of these truths together: the complete sovereignty of God and the complete responsibility of man.
Notice the word zeal. It’s not a word that is used much today. It means “an intense desire for something.” In the case of the Israelites, the zeal was for God. Many of the Jews were even called Zealots, a person characterized by strict devotion to God. In fact, one of Jesus’s disciples Simon was known as a Zealot. Yet Paul says that in their zeal for God, they missed it! Why? Because their zeal wasn’t based on the truth. I think it is important for us to remember that Paul is speaking from his own experience. As a Pharisee, before his conversion, he had an intense zeal for what he thought were the things of God. He persecuted the early church for what he considered to be blaspheme, even holding the cloaks of the men who stoned Stephen. He had zeal, but it was not based on knowledge.
I don’t think Paul is opposed to having zeal. But if a person has it, it needs to be based on the truth: a righteousness that is revealed in Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection. How do we know this kind of righteousness is true? As John Piper put it, “The law was kept perfectly by Christ. And all its penalties against God’s sinful people were poured out on Christ. Therefore, the law is now manifestly not the path to righteousness; Christ is. The ultimate goal of the law is that we would look to Christ, not law-keeping, for our righteousness. This is the truth that Paul longs for his people to know: that Jesus is the fulfillment of the law. It is freely offered to all who would believe.”
When I read this passage, I’m challenged to think about the things that I’m zealous about. Then I am challenged to ask myself if my motives are based on the truth of the Gospel. If not, what needs to change?
This passage also challenges me to think about the folks God has brought around me who don’t know the truth. I’m encouraged to continue to lift them up in prayer before the King. My desire is to be like Paul and continually pray for their salvation. As long as they have breath in their lungs, I need to pray for their salvation. Who has God brought into your life that you can lift up in prayer?
*From what you have just read and considered, what is a personal implication/application for your life today?
(Personalize this prayer today; make it specific to the circumstances that face you.)
Ask God to lead you through His Spirit as you go through your day. Ask Him to bring to mind the truth of the Gospel and its implications for what you will encounter today. Tell Him “Yes” to His will and ask Him for His power and protection to live out this “yes.” Ask God to create and reveal opportunities to proclaim the Good News today. KEEP PRAYING THROUGHOUT YOUR DAY.
Inspiration and insight for the devotionals came from the following books: Reading Romans with John Stott; The Message of Romans: God’s Good News for the World (The Bible Speaks Today Series), Stott, John; Romans (The NIV Application Commentary Book 6) Moo, Douglas J.; Encountering the Book of Romans: A Theological Survey (Encountering Biblical Studies) Moo, Douglas J.; Believers Bible Commentary; The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, with the New International Version, Romans through Galatians; NIV Application Study Bible. The Cambridge Bible Commentary, Romans, Best, Ernest; Romans 8-16 For You: For reading, for feeding, for leading (God’s Word For You – Romans Series Book 2, Keller, Timothy.