Summary: God is not through with the Jew...or with you.
Holding on to Hope
Rev. Brian Bill
Certain names will always be associated with the Chicago Bears: Papa Bear Halas, Gale Sayers, Mike Ditka, Jim McMahon, and Walter Payton. And perhaps the greatest middle linebacker ever to play the game was Mike Singletary. For 12 years he led the Chicago defense, prowling from sideline to sideline, calling the defensive signals, barking out orders, and then there were those incredible piercing eyes that could look right through you. “Samurai Singletary” would lean forward, look straight ahead, and then focus his eyes on the quarterback. After his retirement he was voted into the NFL Hall of Fame. No one doubts (not even a Green Bay Packers fan like me!) that he belongs there. He is what a middle linebacker should be.
Speaking of “Packer persecution,” when I came into my office on Thursday, I found this note under my door: “Dear Pastor Brian, you would not believe what happened! A huge group of Bears broke into the church and saw your Packers cup – they couldn’t stand the sight of it so they trampled it to the ground. We tried to stop them but it was no use…Okay so that’s not exactly what happened. Actually [we] were messing around and it got knocked off a counter and broke into a bunch of pieces…I am so sorry! If you could find it in your Packer-loving heart to forgive us that would be amazing…” I’m leaving the names off but the two cup culprits are seniors in our high school ministry.
Anyway, where was I? For a number of years Singletary served as a motivational speaker, traveling the country inspiring others to rise to new levels of excellence. But he always dreamed of becoming a coach. He eventually became linebackers coach and assistant head coach of the San Francisco 49ers, a once-proud franchise that has fallen on hard times. It’s hard to remember the days of Joe Montana, Bill Walsh, Ronnie Lott and Jerry Rice. Having won five Super Bowls, the 49ers today are a far cry from those championship teams.
They are, in fact, one of the worst teams in the NFL. That’s why two weeks ago the 49ers fired their head coach Mike Nolan and named Mike Singletary as the interim head coach. Some people thought it was a big promotion because Singletary had never been a coordinator, much less a head coach. But he proved his mettle in last Sunday’s game against the Seattle Seahawks.
In his first head coaching game, he benched turnover prone quarterback J.T. O’Sullivan in the second quarter and then he took exception to Vernon Davis’ attitude and pulled him out of the game and sent him to the locker room in the fourth quarter. In a post-game conference, Singletary explained: “I told him that he would do a better job for us right now taking a shower and coming back and watching the game than going out on the field…simple as that.” Singletary called Davis’ actions “uncoachable” and said that he would rather play with a 10-man squad than have to deal with an apathetic 11-man squad (www.espn.com).
Sending a player to the showers in the 4th quarter is a pretty gutsy move. Let’s face it; even established coaches rarely do something like that. Maybe Mike Singletary figures he’s got nothing to lose. Perhaps he knows that he needed to do something to shake up and wake up his team. But if you want to win, you’d better have the right guys out on the field. And you might as well send the rest of the team to the showers.
It may surprise you to know that God feels the same way. Sometimes he has to send people to the showers in order to get their attention. It’s not enjoyable or easy to do, and it’s not fun at all if you’re the one who’s been pulled off the field. But God always knows what he’s doing. He never pulls us off the field without a good reason.
In a similar way, God sent Israel to the locker room not only because of their attitudes, but because of their actions. He then put a new team on the field, called the Gentiles. But He’s not done with Israel either. By watching salvation from the sidelines, the hope is that Israel will see its error and want to get back in the game.
Last week we learned that failure is not final because we don’t see all that God is doing, grace is a gift not a reward and there are consequences to rejecting Christ. The nation of Israel for the most part has rejected Christ but this failure is not final for them. If last week the focus was on the grace of God, today we’re going to learn about the grafting of God. Next week we’ll understand more about the guarantee of God and then we’ll finish up Romans 11 two weeks from today as we celebrate the glory of God.