The Paradox of Grace and Truth

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Photo: Wikimedia Commons

This is the one before the last of the Torah portions: Ha’azinu, Deuteronomy 32:1-52. This Torah portion is the basis for the apostle Paul’s theology and mission to bring the Good News of salvation to the nations (the Gentiles). If we don’t understand chapter 32 of Deuteronomy, we don’t understand the apostle Paul, and the message, the letters, and the very mission in which God sent him to preach the Good News to the nations.

The portion of the reading from the prophets this Shabbat is from 2nd Samuel 22:1-51. It is also very interesting and important. It is a true psalm of King David, and one of the last things that we know that David wrote.

The main message of King David is written on the day that God saved him from King Saul, who was seeking to kill him. The second line of this Psalm has great significance also from a messianic point of view:

“Jehovah is my rock, my castle, and my deliverer to me; My Rock-God, in whom I trust: My shield and horn of my salvation, my fortress and my refuge, My Saviour; from violence Thou redeemest me.” — Psalm 18:2

The phrases that David uses in this Psalm are very messianic. Calling God “my rock” is reminiscent of the meeting of Moses with God on Mount Sinai – when he, Moses, is ordered to stand on the rock and God reveals His back to Moses, and spells out His character in words. Among the words that God shares with Moses in Exodus 34:6,7 are phrases like “merciful and gracious”, and the most important phrase is “grace and truth”.

In John 1:17, the apostle John uses the phrase, “full of grace and truth”. This phrase is a very messianic phrase, and it is used 20 times in the Old Testament, but many Christians don’t know or understand the significance of these two words: grace and truth.

Because of the importance of this pair of words, the translators of the book of Exodus purposefully masked the connection of the words of John in his first chapter with Exodus 33:20-34:7. The importance of these two characteristics of God’s nature attributed to Yeshua by the apostle John (by the Holy Spirit) is great, and it should be explained now.

Grace and truth are two characteristics that are not able to be together under normal circumstances. Look, If you come to the marketplace and ask to buy two pounds of fresh fish, the fishmonger gives you two and a half pounds of fish.

If you only paid for two pounds you didn’t get a true value for your payment. You got grace of half a pound more than you paid for. It is not truth, it is now grace!

The only event and situation where God has expressed these two characteristics at the same time is on the cross of Yeshua. On the cross, the truth is that a Jew, the King of the Jews, the Messiah, was crucified on a Roman cross. He was killed on one of the most cruel means of execution and killing devised by men to kill other men.

The cross was the truth, but out of this horrible truth divine grace was born for the multitudes. Both truth and grace were born at the same time from the same event of Yeshua’s death, burial and resurrection.

I said that chapter 32 of Deuteronomy is the basis for Paul’s teaching to the Gentiles, and also the basis of his understanding what is happening with the nation of Israel. Here is a synopsis in three points:

  1. This song of Moses, chapter 32 of Deuteronomy, is a court case. God is inviting the heavens and the earth to judge between Him and Israel. In this court and judgment, God is the plaintiff. God says that He did everything right and good for His children, for the nation that He nourished through the desert of Sinai. And He fed them manna and gave them water from the rock for 40 years.
  2. They, Israel, were ungrateful and turned to idols and betrayed the Almighty who nursed them and kept His promises to their fathers: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Israel provoked God to jealousy by turning to worship Idols.
  3. God is going to use the Gentiles to provoke Israel to jealousy, and provoke them to seek Him, because He has hidden His face from them.

This is the exact background and motive that Paul uses when he writes the letter to the Romans chapter 9-11, and specifically the following verses:

“I say then, have they stumbled that they should fall? Certainly not! But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles. Now if their fall is riches for the world, and their failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more their fullness! For I speak to you Gentiles; inasmuch as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, if by any means I may provoke to jealousy those who are my flesh and save some of them. For if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?” — Romans 11:11-15 [NKJV]

Now compare Paul’s text with the source of his inspiration and commission to go preach the good news to the nations (the Gentiles):

“But Jeshurun grew fat and kicked; You grew fat, you grew thick, You are obese! Then he forsook God who made him, And scornfully esteemed the Rock of his salvation. They provoked Him to jealousy with foreign gods; With abominations they provoked Him to anger. They sacrificed to demons, not to God, To gods they did not know, To new gods, new arrivals That your fathers did not fear. Of the Rock who begot you, you are unmindful, And have forgotten the God who fathered you. And when the Lord saw it, He spurned them, Because of the provocation of His sons and His daughters. And He said: ‘I will hide My face from them, I will see what their end will be, For they are a perverse generation, Children in whom is no faith. They have provoked Me to jealousy by what is not God; They have moved Me to anger by their foolish idols. But I will provoke them to jealousy by those who are not a nation; I will move them to anger by a foolish nation. For a fire is kindled in My anger, And shall burn to the lowest hell; It shall consume the earth with her increase, And set on fire the foundations of the mountains.’” — Deuteronomy 32:15-22 [NKJV]

The important thing in these texts is that God’s program to include the Gentiles is not a Pauline-and-New-Testament invention, but it was a part of God’s program from the days of Moses, going like a crimson thread through the classical prophets:

“He will lift up a banner to the nations from afar, And will whistle to them from the end of the earth; Surely they shall come with speed, swiftly.” — Isaiah 5:26

“He will set up a banner for the nations, And will assemble the outcasts of Israel, And gather together the dispersed of Judah From the four corners of the earth.” — Isaiah 11:12

“Thus says the Lord God: ‘Behold, I will lift My hand in an oath to the nations, And set up My standard for the peoples; They shall bring your sons in their arms, And your daughters shall be carried on their shoulders…’” — Isaiah 49:22

“The Lord has made bare His holy arm In the eyes of all the nations; And all the ends of the earth shall see The salvation of our God.” — Isaiah 52:10

“For you shall expand to the right and to the left, And your descendants will inherit the nations, And make the desolate cities inhabited.” — Isaiah 54:3

“On that day I will raise up The tabernacle of David, which has fallen down, And repair its damages; I will raise up its ruins, And rebuild it as in the days of old; That they may possess the remnant of Edom, And all the Gentiles who are called by My name,’ Says the Lord who does this thing.” — Amos 9:11,12

This last text from Amos 9:11-12 is what Jacob (James) is quoting to the other apostles, and to Paul and the elders of the church in Jerusalem, to convince them that the Gentiles don’t need to convert to Judaism, but that they have the right and the privilege to be our brothers and not be circumcised, but just keep the laws that God gave to Noah in Genesis 9.

Yes, dear brothers and sisters, the inclusion of the Gentiles in the Kingdom of God is a part of God’s plan from the beginning. The Gentile brothers in our day have a big challenge and a big job to do, and that is to provoke the Jewish people to jealousy. The question is how?

The answer is definitely not by sending missionaries to Israel to share their divisiveness and systematic theologies, and confuse and confound our dear Jewish brothers and sisters. The only way for Gentiles to provoke the Jews to jealousy is to love the Jews, to stand with the Jews, to support Israel, and to love the God of Israel and the land of Israel even more than we Jews do.

When we see Gentiles stand with Israel, support good works in Israel, and support their local Israeli Jewish brothers and sisters by prayer, and by every other means — that shows support and identification with the local body of Yeshua in this land of Israel.

This is the God-given task and mission and challenge of the Gentile Christians. To stand with Israel in every way, and stand and support the local non-denominational disciples of Yeshua in the land of Israel.

Above all, do what is free and the most powerful amongst us — pray for us and with Israel as a nation, and as a people, and as the only Jewish state in the world. This is God’s commission for the Gentiles from Moses to Paul, and until the Lord returns to Zion with glory.

This article originally appeared on Netivyah and reposted with permission.