Rom.2:28,29 – For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God.
What is it that would cause God to ‘praise’ someone ? Now I am not talking about worshipping a person, I mean what causes God to stop and take notice. I think this gets at the heart of why the Pharisees were rejected and some unexpected individuals took their place. One of the shocking ones for the Pharisees was a Roman Centurion. Really Lord! One of those hated Romans ?! How could the Lord take the time and even grant the request for one of our oppressors? The key ingredient was faith. Jesus said He hadn’t seen any Jews with the faith that this Centurion displayed. He told Jesus, “just say the word and my servant will be healed. The Centurion got it, faith was the source of life. This faith got the attention of the Lord, it still does that today. Here is how Adam Clarke describes today’s verse describing what gets God’s attention.
“Such a one is a true Israelite, who walks in a conformity to the spirit of his religion: his countrymen may praise him because he is a steady professor of the Jewish faith; but GOD praises him, because he has entered into the spirit and design of the covenant made with Abraham, and has got the end of his faith, the salvation of his soul”.
So this is the way it has always been whether in the New Testament or in the Old Testament, it is faith that pleases God and faith that God rewards. Circumcision was only a sign not a formula. Abraham was circumcised by faith and became the father of all who receive God’s promises by faith. Paul was making a point, true Jewishness has nothing to do with circumcision and everything to do with faith.
So to answer the question I posed at the beginning of this devotion, “What would cause God to praise someone?”, we have to look at our heart and not just our outward actions. The Jews had become adept at practicing their religion on the outside while their hearts were far from God. At the end of the day it is the heart that the Lord is after.