Theme: Hope for the Gentiles
In this week’s lessons, we are reminded of the need to praise the Lord for his enduring love and faithfulness toward us.
Scripture: Psalm 117:1, 2
Here is the place to notice how Paul cites Psalm 117:1 near the end of a significant section of Romans (Rom. 14:1–15:13). This long section deals with how Christians who consider themselves “strong” should treat their “weaker” brothers and sisters, and how the “weak” should regard the “strong.” As usual, Paul ends the section by citing proofs from the Old Testament, in this case Psalm 18:49 (in v. 9), Deuteronomy 32:43 (in v. 10), Psalm 117:1 (in v. 11) and Isaiah 11:10 (in v. 12). The surprising thing is that the texts he cites do not deal with the relationship between weaker and stronger people specifically but rather are prophecies that the gospel would one day be extended to the Gentiles. These texts say:
Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles;I will sing hymns to your name.
Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people.
Praise the LORD, all you Gentiles,and sing praises to him, all you peoples.
The root of Jesse will spring up,one who will arise to rule over thenations; the Gentiles will hope in him.
It is a wonderful and amazing thing that the gospel should be extended to the Gentiles, for the Old Testament taught the exclusive privileges of the Jews as God’s unique people and by contrast that there was no hope for the Gentiles apart from their becoming Jews. Earlier in Romans Paul had asked whether there was any advantage in being a Jew, and he answered, “Much in every way! First of all, they have been entrusted with the very words of God” (Rom. 3:2). He meant that the Jews had the Bible, while the Gentiles did not. In Romans 3 Paul interrupted his listing of the Jewish advantages at that point, mentioning their possession of the Bible only, but he picked it up again in chapter 9, adding, “Theirs is the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ” (vv. 4, 5). The Gentiles had none of these advantages. Therefore, Paul was able to tell the Ephesians that before they had heard about Christ and had believed on him, they were “excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world” (Eph. 2:12).
That is a very grim assessment. But if “salvation is from the Jews,” as Jesus himself told the woman of Samaria (John 4:22), meaning that God had been working with Jews almost exclusively from the time of Abraham to the time of Jesus Christ, then it is accurate. It means that for many centuries God was working with Israel specifically and there was literally no hope of salvation for the masses of the world who were not Jewish.
Fortunately, this former absence of hope is not the final word for Gentiles since Gentile salvation was nevertheless also promised in the Old Testament, though it was future. This is the great insight of Psalm 117. When we notice how many verses Paul cites to make this point, we get a glimpse of how carefully and persistently he had to argue the truth about Gentile salvation when teaching Jews.
How does Paul usually end his teachings? What is surprising about how Paul uses this psalm to conclude Romans 14:1-15:13?
Why is it amazing the gospel was extended to Gentiles?
What were some advantages the Jews had over the Gentiles?
Observation: Repetition of a theme can indicate a difficult teaching.