This is something that has been bothering me. I only recently have rejoined the Lord, and I've been working on studying the Bible. So much of the Old Testament seems to be anti-Gentile. Yet I am a Gentile. How do I study it? It seems that many times Gentiles are excluded from God's plan, or outright destroyed (Book of Joshua). What causes God to act as though we are inferior throughout so much of the OT. What causes him to change his mind later?
I'm not trying to find reasons to doubt, but it seems that we are an afterthought. Even Jesus at first refused a Gentile.
Mar 7:25 For a certain woman, whose young daughter had an unclean spirit, heard of him, and came and fell at his feet.
Mar 7:26 The woman was a Greek, a Syrophenician by nation; and she besought him that he would cast forth the devil out of her daughter.
Mar 7:27 But Jesus said unto her, Let the children first be filled: for it is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it unto the dogs.
Mar 7:28 And she answered and said unto him, Yes, Lord: yet the dogs under the table eat of the children's crumbs.
Mar 7:29 And he said unto her, For this saying go thy way; the devil is gone
out of thy daughter.
I want to understand this, it's become a major stumbling block for me. Are we only wanted because so many Jews rejected Jesus?
My response is in Green:
Let me start at the end of what you asked, no we are not after thoughts. God's plan of salvation came through the Jews, but it included us from the very beginning. Let me show you:
18 Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him.
18 and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.
Right from the start God told Abraham that through him (or through the Jews) all nations would be blessed. All nations other than Jews are Gentiles so this is speaking about us. It is showing that the Messiah of the Jews (Jesus) would also be the savior of all nations.
You asked why God dealt harshly with the Gentiles in the Old Testament, well let me show you:
24 Do not defile yourselves by any of these things; for by all these the nations which I am casting out before you have become defiled. 25 For the land has become defiled, therefore I have visited its punishment upon it, so the land has spewed out its inhabitants.
It was because they didn't follow God and He was punishing them. If you read the Old Testament you will see plenty of places where the same things happened to the Jews. God sent them into captivity a number of times and caused famines in their land and diseases that killed many of them, and He allowed their enemies to kill many of them in wars too. Again all for the same reasons because they didn't follow Him.
People have this idea that God didn't save Gentiles in the Old Testament, but that just shows that they don't read or don't understand the Old Testament. For example read the book of Jonah. What is it about? It is about a prophet, Jonah, whom God sends to a nation (a Gentile nation) to warn them to turn back to God. Jonah doesn't want to go and we read about his troubles, that part of the story most people know and understand, but look at this:
1 But it greatly displeased Jonah, and he became angry.
2 And he prayed to the LORD and said, "Please LORD, was not this what I said while I was still in my own country? Therefore, in order to forestall this I fled to Tarshish, for I knew that Thou art a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity.
3 "Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for death is better to me than life."
4 And the LORD said, "Do you have good reason to be angry?"
Do see what Jonah was saying, why he was so mad he wanted to die? Because he didn't want God to forgive these people, he wanted them to die in their sins, yet he knew that if they turned from their sins God would forgive them. That is exactly why he didn't want to go preach to them. So as you see people who claim God didn't care about the Gentiles in the Old Testament either haven't read the book of Jonah or don't understand it. There are many other places that show God did care.
God could have made it so that anyone He wanted was in the genealogy of Jesus. Yet if you read that genealogy you will find a couple of very important names. Not only are they women's names, which is very unusual since the Jewish genealogy always goes through the Father, but they are also Gentiles. One is Rahab. Rahab was a prostitute in Jericho. She trusted God and hide the spies, and again showed her faith by hanging a red cord in her window when the attack came. She became part of Jesus' genealogy. The second one is Ruth, who was also a Gentile, but who trusted God.
So that brings me to Jesus statement and treatment of the Gentile woman with the daughter who had the demon. This conversation makes a lot of people ask why, but they miss the whole point. The Jews tended to look down on the Gentiles, just like Jonah, they didn't think that anyone other than a Jew should or could be saved. I will show you more of that in a moment, but just know that is true.
So with that in mind, when this woman came to Jesus, you can imagine what the people around Jesus thought. I am sure they kind of laughed in their hearts or maybe even out loud. Jesus was saying exactly what they would have expected Him to say. But that isn't the end of the story, if it was, then I would have to agree with you, but she showed her faith in Him and He healed her daughter. Why? Well the Bible tells us that Jesus told her because of her answer, and of course that is true, but what does that mean? It means that she showed faith and He rewarded that faith. This was a lesson to the Jews around Him, not as most people think a slam on this woman. He was showing that just being a Jew had nothing to do with being saved, but rather having faith.
Look at something that John the Baptist said:
7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, "You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?
8 "Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance;
9 and do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham for our father'; for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham.
He is telling the Jews that just because they claim Abraham as their father means nothing, what matters is that they follow God. Now he says that God can raise up children to Abraham from the rocks, but what most people miss is that he is really saying that God can make children to Abraham from the Gentiles. Now look at this:
39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Him, "Teacher, rebuke Your disciples."
40 But Jesus answered, "I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!"
Who are the stones? The Gentiles. Now look at what Paul has to say:
16 For this reason it is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace, so that the promise will be guaranteed to all the descendants, not only to those who are of the Law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all,
17 (as it is written, "A FATHER OF MANY NATIONS HAVE I MADE YOU") in the presence of Him whom he believed, even God, who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist.
The children of the Law are the Jews, the children of faith are all those both Jews and Gentiles who have believed the gospel. Now I said I would go back and talk more about how the Jews felt. Under the Law a Jew was not to even go into the house or to eat with a Gentile, but look at this:
9 On the next day, as they were on their way and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray.
10 But he became hungry and was desiring to eat; but while they were making preparations, he fell into a trance;
11 and he saw* the sky opened up, and an object like a great sheet coming down, lowered by four corners to the ground,
12 and there were in it all kinds of four-footed animals and crawling creatures of the earth and birds of the air.
13 A voice came to him, "Get up, Peter, kill and eat!"
14 But Peter said, "By no means, Lord, for I have never eaten anything unholy and unclean."
15 Again a voice came to him a second time, "What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy."
16 This happened three times, and immediately the object was taken up into the sky.
17 Now while Peter was greatly perplexed in mind as to what the vision which he had seen might be, behold, the men who had been sent by Cornelius, having asked directions for Simon's house, appeared at the gate;
18 and calling out, they were asking whether Simon, who was also called Peter, was staying there.
19 While Peter was reflecting on the vision, the Spirit said to him, "Behold, three men are looking for you.
20 "But get up, go downstairs and accompany them without misgivings, for I have sent them Myself."
Now this might not mean much to us, but to Peter this was a big deal. He was being told to ignore much of what God had said in the Law and to do things he had always been taught not to do. Now look at this:
1 Now the apostles and the brethren who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God.
2 And when Peter came up to Jerusalem, those who were circumcised took issue with him,
3 saying, "You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them."
I won't quote any more than that, you can go read it, but the point is that the Jews were upset with Peter and he had to explain to them why he did what he did. Then look at their reaction:
18 When they heard this, they quieted down and glorified God, saying, "Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life."
God's plan always included the Gentiles, but He fulfilled His plan through the Jews. God loved the Gentiles in the Old Testament, but the Old Testament is about Jesus and His coming, and He was a Jew, so it is basically a book about the Jews. That is why we don't read more about how God dealt with the Gentiles in the Old Testament, it isn't central to the story.
I hope that helps.
E-Mail Ralph (whose comments are in green)
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