Refresh: Begin with prayer. Ask for the Holy Spirit to open your heart to new understanding and for God’s character to be revealed.
Read: Romans 9:1-33 in the New Living Translation (NLT). Note 1–3 insights or questions.
Reflect: The Bible places a strong emphasis on genealogies and family lineage. Who your parents were—more specifically, who your father was—meant a great deal. Don’t get me wrong: I love my family so much, but when I think of “family,” I don’t think back more than a few generations. I’m sure we all have stories that have been passed down about our great, great, great, great, great grandparents, but the Bible holds a different kind of weight when it talks about ancestry.
In the beginning of Chapter 9, we find Paul in great distress about the Jewish people. He is sad for his people, because he himself is Jewish. He is so distraught that they just don’t seem to understand that he is even willing to have himself cut off from Jesus so that they could be helped and understand better. He talks about the privilege they have. They are almost like royals when it comes to God. They were His chosen people. They were people to whom God made incredible promises. They had great ancestors and were the earthly family of Jesus. These privileges only increase Paul’s struggle for them in his heart and soul.
He explains his sorrow by revealing that he is sad because they are not all really God’s children. He says that only some of the people of Israel are truly God’s people. I see Paul struggling for the Jews because he knows many of them didn’t see or know Jesus when He was on earth. Paul himself even struggled until Jesus met him on the road to Damascus and changed his life forever. Paul knew the law, the Bible, backwards and forwards. He thought he was doing the right thing by persecuting those who followed this Jesus character. He knew his people were the chosen ones and, because of that, he felt confident. When Paul met Jesus, he realized that his “family privilege” was really a facade. Paul thought he knew the word, but he hadn’t yet met the Word. He hadn’t yet met Jesus, the one whom all this was about.
Paul is in anguish because many of his brothers and sisters are just like him, blinded because they think they are already good because of the privileges they have. He is willing to do anything for them to see and understand the good news that is Jesus. Paul wants them to see that there is more than just an earthly family heritage for them.
Recalibrate: Have you ever felt “safer” or “more special” because you were a part of a specific church? What would you be willing to give up for someone else to know Jesus?
Respond: Ask God for a clearer picture of your life stripped down and solely dependent on Him.
Research: Call a family member and learn a story about them or another family member who is no longer with you. Share a story about your own life currently.
Remember: “Is God unjust? Certainly not!” (Romans 9:14, KNT).
Jessyka Albert has been associate pastor at Boulder Adventist Church since 2016. She grew up in Washington State, graduated from Union College, and is engaged to Kiefer Dooley, Rocky Mountain Conference associate youth director. Pastor Jessyka has a particular passion for children and youth, and is instrumental in creating amazing faith experiences for these groups.
Using your family photos, point to each one and tell your little one your family member or friend’s name and what it is you love about them. If you have old family photos, point out who everyone is and how lovely family is. Make a love heart and put a photo of you and your children inside it. Love lives inside each of us.
Make a list of all the people you know in your family or friend circle. Beside each of their names write what you appreciate about them and are thankful for. Even though sometimes we don’t get along, God has put us together to show what living a life loving God and each other looks like. The Israelites in Paul’s time got very stuck in loving leaders and laws from the past and not loving people in the present.
Have you ever seen someone who has more than you and wondered why you don’t have what they have? I remember going to my friend Logan’s house when I was in seventh grade. Logan lived in a huge house in the suburbs of St. Louis. He had siblings, a stay-at-home mom, and, coolest of all, this guy who lived with him called a “dad.” I didn’t have a dad, and after spending the day at Logan’s, I wanted one. His dad was awesome! He played catch with us all afternoon, bought us dinner, and talked to us about girls. When I got home that night I felt emptiness. Why didn’t I have a dad? As the years went on, I would occasionally hear my friends complain about their dads. “My dad is so annoying!” some would say. As I look back on my friends, I realize they didn’t know that the relationship they had with their fathers was a privilege that they were taking for granted. It would be easy to judge them, but we all have things we take for granted. Is there anything you are taking for granted about God? I know there is for me! It is easy to forget how blessed we are to have a Jesus who died for us and loves us. May we never take for granted the privilege of knowing Jesus.