1 I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it through the Holy Spirit— 2 I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people, those of my own race, 4 the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption to sonship; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. 5 Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of the Messiah, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen.
With chapter nine Paul begins a primary focus on Israel and his people, citizens of Israel – fellow Jews. His writing on this topic through the next two chapters, but here in the first sentence Paul tells us of a truth that pains him greatly.
I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it through the Holy Spirit— I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart.
What caused Paul to have such great sorrow and unceasing anguish in his heart? Reading through the rest of the chapter beyond the verses above we discover why – a lack of belief in the final verses of this chapter.
30 What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; 31 but the people of Israel, who pursued the law as the way of righteousness, have not attained their goal. 32 Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone. 33 As it is written:
“See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes people to stumble
and a rock that makes them fall,
and the one who believes in him will never be put to shame.
Verse 33 is a quote from two verses in Isaiah 8:14 and 28:16 which read in full as
He will be a holy place; for both Israel and Judah he will be a stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall. And for the people of Jerusalem he will be a trap and a snare.
So this is what the Sovereign Lord says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who relies on it will never be stricken with panic.
Paul could just as easily have quoted from Psalm 118 which says
The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone;
For the rejected cornerstone is Jesus the Christ, rejected by Paul’s people which caused great sorrow and unceasing anguish in his heart.
Who do you love and pray for who has yet to find their way to Jesus? May you pray for them with all the intensity and love in your heart as Paul prayed for his people, the people of the promise, the people of Israel.