for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
– Romans 14:17
After spending four weeks on the Sermon on the Mount, I thought it would be fitting to transition to this single verse in Paul’s letter to the believers in Rome.
In His teaching, Jesus was dealing with Jews who were used to hearing their religious leaders stress the importance of dietary provisions of the Law of Moses – what foods could be eaten and which couldn’t. Jesus had to show His fellow Jews that such provisions were only temporary – until God’s Messiah could establish an eternal kingdom.
…”…Do you not understand that whatever goes into the man from outside cannot defile him, because it does not go into his heart, but into his stomach, and is eliminated?” (Thus He declared all foods clean.)
– Mark 7:18-19
Paul is reinforcing this point in his letter to the Romans. Ancient Israel had as its purpose to produce and protect the writings that would validate and explain the Messiah that it would also produce (but, alas, did not protect). These writings came to be called the Old Testament. Pious Jews today still venerate those writings, but, for the most part, are blind to what they say about Messiah. Thus they still focus on the “eating and drinking” portions.
Why did the Jewish religious leadership in Jesus’ day by and large not embrace Jesus’ kingdom? Because they preferred to keep it for themselves. They did not want to give up the income, power, and prestige that came from being in control. Even today, anyone – Gentile or Jew – who rejects Jesus does so because he does not want to give up what he has. You see, you are a kingdom and you are either your own kingdom or His kingdom. Most people choose autonomy over authority – that is, they choose to answer only to themselves and do not want to be under the authority of God.
Those who give up their lives to the service of God gain righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit – the Holy Spirit being the presence of God in our hearts and lives. This is what Jesus was offering in the Sermon on the Mount.
(Remember that prayer is more about listening than talking. Use the words below to start yourself, but then allow time to reflect more on the Scripture above before you say the “Amen.” During that time of quiet reflection, let God shape your thoughts and wait for a sense of peace to come. That’s your signal to say “Amen” and go forth to the day.)
Lord, I will do what You think is righteous today…and I will trust You to give me peace and joy as I do…(this is where you remain quiet to let Him work in your thoughts)… Amen.
(All scriptures, unless otherwise noted, are taken from the NASB.)