"1 I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit— 2 that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh. 4 They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. 5 To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen. 6 But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, 7 and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 8 This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. 9 For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.” 10 And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God's purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— 12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” 14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God's part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. 19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? 25 As indeed he says in Hosea, “Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’ and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’” 26 “And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’” 27 And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved, 28 for the Lord will carry out his sentence upon the earth fully and without delay.” 29 And as Isaiah predicted, “If the Lord of hosts had not left us offspring, we would have been like Sodom and become like Gomorrah.” 30 What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; 31 but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. 32 Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, 33 as it is written, “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”
"1 Brothers, my heart's desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. 2 For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. 3 For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God's righteousness. 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. 5 For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them. 6 But the righteousness based on faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) 7 “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); 9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. 18 But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have, for “Their voice has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world.”19 But I ask, did Israel not understand? First Moses says, “I will make you jealous of those who are not a nation; with a foolish nation I will make you angry.” 20 Then Isaiah is so bold as to say, “I have been found by those who did not seek me; I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me.” 21 But of Israel he says, “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people.”
"1 I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! For I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. 2 God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he appeals to God against Israel? 3 “Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life.” 4 But what is God's reply to him? “I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” 5 So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. 6 But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace. 7 What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened, 8 as it is written, “God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that would not see and ears that would not hear, down to this very day.” 9 And David says, “Let their table become a snare and a trap, a stumbling block and a retribution for them; 10 let their eyes be darkened so that they cannot see, and bend their backs forever.” 11 So I ask, did they stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather, through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. 12 Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean! 13 Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry 14 in order somehow to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them. 15 For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead? 16 If the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, so is the whole lump, and if the root is holy, so are the branches. 17 But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, 18 do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you. 19 Then you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” 20 That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. 21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. 22 Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God's kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off. 23 And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. 24 For if you were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, the natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree. 25 Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. 26 And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written, “The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob”; 27 “and this will be my covenant with them when I take away their sins.” 28 As regards the gospel, they are enemies for your sake. But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers. 29 For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. 30 For just as you were at one time disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience, 31 so they too have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may now receive mercy. 32 For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all. 33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! 34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord or who has been his counselor?” 35 “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” 36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen."
Historical Context & Message
Chapter 9 is a chapter of the Bible with which I've always struggled to comprehend. This chapter is all about God's sovereignty in whom He chooses to extend His mercy and His wrath. The biggest theme throughout this chapter is "how can I be secure in God’s love and salvation to me when it seems that Israel was once loved and saved, but now seems to be rejected and cursed? Will God also reject and curse me one day?" Paul begins by saying just because one may be in the lineage of Abraham (in the flesh), it doesn't make them in the lineage of Abraham (in the faith). To put it in today's terms, one may call himself a Christian and go to church, but unless he truly believes in Jesus Christ as His Savior he is not a Christian. It all comes down to where our faith lies - not our bloodline or lineage or works or self-righteousness - we are only saved by faith.
He goes on to further make his point by comparing Jacob and Esau, brothers who were both in the bloodline of Abraham, but not in the faith of Abraham. In Malachi 1 and also in Romans 9:13, God says that He loved Jacob but hated Esau. The words love and hate do not mean that God loved one less than the other; but rather, they refer to acceptance and rejection. God did not love Esau less than Jacob because He still blessed Esau (Genesis 33:8-16, Genesis 36). Rather, He accepted Jacob over Esau, as heirs to His promised covenant with Abraham. God chose Jacob's descendants before Jacob and Esau were even born, meaning it was not their performance or actions that determined God's decision (Genesis 25:23). So why did God choose Jacob over Esau? That's not for me to attempt to answer because I am not God. "Our greatest error in considering the choices of God is to think that God chooses for arbitrary reasons, as if He chooses in an “eeny-meeny-miny-moe” way. We may not be able to fathom God’s reasons for choosing, and they are reasons He alone knows and answers to, but God’s choices are not capricious. He has a plan and a reason." Charles Spurgeon was once confronted by a woman who didn't understand why God 'hated' Esau, to which Mr. Spurgeon replied, "That is not my difficulty, madam. My trouble is to understand how God could love Jacob." Such wisdom! Who are we to question God and His decisions (Job 38-41, Romans 9:20-21)? He chose to save you and I from an eternity apart from Him.....don't question it, just accept it!
God works everything together to reveal His glory. Whether through sadness or triumph, God is weaving everything together into a beautiful tapestry that brings glory to Him. And, we are instruments of His glory. In verses 17-18, Paul discusses the hardening of Pharaoh's heart during the Israelites' exodus from Egypt. I've read the passage hundreds of times and each time wonder why God chose to harden Pharaoh's heart. Did God condemn Pharaoh to hell just because He wanted to? What I have come to know is that God did not condemn Pharaoh and harden his heart unwillingly. He simply allowed Pharaoh's heart to harden as it was so inclined. He does the same to us today. If we don't want to Him, He allows us the freedom to make that choice and bear its consequences. God will sometimes bring glory to Himself through hardening the hearts of people, and sometimes through extending mercy to people. In verses 15-16, Paul discusses God's mercy and how it is solely based on God - not on man or anything we can do. "Remember what mercy is. Mercy is not getting what we do deserve. We are in a dangerous place when we regard God’s mercy towards us as our right. If God is obliged to show mercy, then it is not mercy – it is obligation. No one is ever unfair for not giving mercy." God is sovereign in whom He chooses to extend His mercy. We must trust that He has a plan and that it is a good plan (Jeremiah 29:11). If God's extension of mercy was solely based on us and our performance, could you even imagine the pressure, stress and fear associated with this kind of responsibility? One little wrong action or word could remove God's mercy and incite His wrath. I thank God that His mercy is based solely on Him because He is sovereign - He knows the plan from beginning to end, and all its twists and turns (Proverbs 16:1-4). He is unchanging (1 Samuel 15:29). He is faithful (Deuteronomy 7:9). And, He is merciful (Lamentations 3:22-26). I am not any of those things, and neither are you.
In Chapter 10, Paul is speaking to the Jews who have been persecuting him since he became a follower of Jesus. He readily commends their zeal for God. However, he charges them with ignorance. They have chosen to remain ignorant to salvation through Jesus Christ because they refuse to accept the simplicity of salvation apart from the constraints of the law. They want to please God, but have their own ideas of how to do that. They have chosen to pursue their own righteousness, which is insufficient for salvation. It all boils down to a desire of control and a distrust of God. Because they did not trust God to make good on His promise of salvation, they took matters into their own hands. They clung to something they could control - their behavior and their works. Unfortunately, there are so many chinks in this armor of belief.
(1) No one can perfectly perform every letter of the law because we are imperfect beings; we will always fall short (Romans 3:23). And, when we do fall short, what will save us then?
(2) Just because one believes he can obtain salvation through works doesn't mean he can or will. Truth is absolute and can only be found in the Word of God. Believing salvation can be obtained through any means other than Jesus will not save you. Salvation through Jesus is the only way to heaven (John 14:6).
Following the law is a matter of the head. Following Jesus is a matter of the heart. Verse 10 tells us that we must believe with our heart and confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord. Simple. But, just because something is simple doesn't mean it is easy. No one enjoys letting go of control. Yet, that is exactly what God requires of us because if we don't fully let go, then we can't fully trust Him. So, how can we take this giant leap of faith and trust in Jesus? Through reading the word of God. Verse 17 tells us that faith comes through hearing the word of God. "Word of God" here is referring to the rhema word of God, meaning "that which has been uttered by the living voice." God Himself will strengthen your faith in Him as you seek Him through His Word. The words in the Bible are more than just words on a piece of paper, like any other book. The word of God is alive and active and contains power (Hebrews 4:12-13). Our part is to let go of our self-righteousness, place our trust in Jesus, confess with our mouths and believe in our hearts that Jesus is Lord. God does the saving. There is nothing we can do to save our own souls. We need a Savior. We need Jesus. Let's learn from the Jews of this time to whom Paul was speaking. Let's not believe ignorance is bliss, or truth is relative, or self-righteousness is sufficient for salvation. Let us, instead, confess Jesus as Savior, believe in Him and trust in God. There is beauty in the simplicity of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.
“The idea is that men are sitting feasting comfortably at their banquet; and their very sense of safety has become their ruin. They are so secure in the fancied safety that the enemy can come upon them unaware. The Jews of Paul’s day were so secure in their idea of being the chosen people that the very idea became the thing that ruined them." (1) The majority of the Jewish people at this time thought that because they were the chosen nation of God, that that equaled salvation. As Paul has been proselytizing throughout Romans, salvation only comes through faith in Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 2:8 and 1 Corinthians 1:23 refer to Jesus as the "stumbling block" for the Jews. They were looking for a political Messiah, so since Jesus didn't fit into their preconceived notions of what a Messiah should look like and how He should behave, they rejected and crucified Jesus as a false prophet. Now, this was only the majority belief, not each individual's belief. God set aside a remnant of Jews who believed in Jesus and in salvation through grace by faith. The apostles were part of this very remnant, as they were Jews. Historically, God has always enlightened and saved a remnant of Israel that would choose Him and seek Him. In Genesis, God saved Noah and his family, as well as Lot and his daughters. In Numbers through Deuteronomy, God save Joshua and Caleb and their descendants. In 1 Kings, God saved a remnant of faithful followers in Elijah's time (vs. 2-4). And, according to eschatology, God will save a remnant of Israel in the last days (Revelation 7). God has never and will never abandon His people, Israel.
In verses 7-15, Paul begins to discuss why Israel as a whole rejected Jesus. God allowed their eyes to be blinded to the Truth so that salvation could be offered to the Gentiles. This is what is known as the Church Age. God has not forgotten Israel or broken the covenant He made with them, but is placing it on hold briefly while the Church spreads the Gospel throughout the world. You see, this was Israel's calling - to share Jesus with the world and bring all men to salvation. It is important to note that God will accomplish His plans and purposes whether or not we choose to participate. God's original intent was for Israel to bring the message of Jesus to the nations, but Israel rejected Jesus and this calling. Therefore, God gave this mission to the Gentiles. Since then, God has used the Church to provoke Israel to jealousy, so that they will want what we have - salvation (vs. 14). When this mission is complete in the end times and the full number of people have been brought to God by the Church, He will again bring the focus back to Israel and fulfill His promised covenant.
Now, Paul turns his attention to the Gentile listeners. The Church (Christian Gentiles) have been grafted in to the family of God. He then reminds them that the Israelites are still God's chosen people. So, although the Church is the one bringing the message of Christ to the nations, Israel has not been passed over. We should not allow pride to creep in to our hearts or allow judgment and persecution toward God's chosen people to reign.
Bringing it Full Circle
Verse 29 is a beautiful reminder of the God we serve - His gifts and callings are irrevocable. This is being said in reference to the Jews, but also applies to all of us. God has never given up on Israel, even though she has rejected Him over and over again. And, God has never given up on us either. Even if we have made mistake after mistake and find ourselves in a cycle of sin, He is still lovingly calling us to Himself. He will always make a way for us to return to Him when we stray. Whether or not we choose reconciliation and restoration is up to us, but He will always extend His mercy and grace to those whom He has called.
Trust in the sovereignty of the Lord. We don't always understand why He allows certain things and not others, or why He extends mercy toward some while dispensing wrath toward others. But, the thing we must come to understand is that we don't have to know why. We are His creation, not the other way around. We don't have the authority to question His decisions. I'm not saying that we can't ask God questions - that is an entirely different subject. We can freely ask God questions; however, He does not owe us an answer. He does not owe us an explanation. We can ask and wonder and pray, and sometimes He may tell us why. But, that is His prerogative and we should not believe we are owed anything by God. He didn't have to save us, but He did. He didn't have to give us the promise of heaven, but He did. He didn't have to give us His Word, but He did. He didn't have to give us His Spirit to dwell within us, but He did. None of this was done because we were owed anything. What we deserve is a hell far worse than any of us have ever experienced here on earth. But, God in His rich mercy chose to save us and extend His faithfulness. I am not saying any of this to send you into a state of guilt (that's from the enemy), but rather to send you into a state of gratitude. This is the God you serve. Be thankful and receive His mercy.
Be reminded that God does not give up on us. I once heard Beth Moore say that God isn't disappointed in us when we sin and fall short of reaching Him because He knows the end from the beginning; He knows exactly how many times it will take to reach our hearts. So each time we fall short, it's not a disappointment, but a victory - one time down and ___ to go. God isn't a God of shame or guilt, so if you're feeling ashamed and ridden with guilt I want you to know that that's Satan's game, not God's. The Holy Spirit will convict us lovingly to let us know we've strayed from His best for us, but He will not condemn us. God always seeks reconciliation and restoration. He doesn't write off anyone, ever. My challenge to you today is to choose Him - seek Him, pursue Him, answer His calling. God will not give up on us, but He also won't force His way in to our hearts. We are His chosen people and have been called to bring glory to Him. Let us receive Him today and always with open hearts.
1) In what areas of your life are you holding onto control? What fears are you living out of that fuel your distrust of God in these areas?
2) We don't always understand why God allows certain things and not others, but the thing we must come to understand is that we don't have to know why. We are His creation, not the other way around. We don't have the authority to question His decisions. We can freely ask God questions; however, He does not owe us an answer or an explanation (Job 38-41, Romans 9:20-21). Discuss a time when you questioned God and His goodness. Talk about your journey with submitting to God's sovereignty.
3) Let's do an exercise in thankfulness. Play some worship music and take the next 5-10 minutes to pray and thank God for all He has done in your life. Write it down and put it somewhere visible, so you can revisit it daily and train yourself to dwell on His goodness and faithfulness.
Father God, I trust in your sovereignty. I admit that I wrestle with not knowing why, but I do know that you are a good God. I know the plans you have are good and will bring about your glory (Romans 8:28, Jeremiah 29:11). Forgive me for the times I have felt I was owed anything by you, Lord. I know that anything you do for me is over and above what I actually deserve. For that I am thankful and praise your great Name. I ask you to continue to teach me the Truth of your Word and continue to mold my heart to be more like yours. Let your praise ever be on my lips and your Word ever hidden in my heart. In Jesus' name I pray, Amen!