Through the Bible in One Year

Day 268

Romans 9:14-29

In the first thirteen verse of chapter 9 Paul begins his instructions on God’s sovereign choice by using examples and illustrations from Israel’s early days.  In fact he goes all the way back to Abraham and Isaac.  The two men who are considered the founding fathers of the nation of Israel to begin to show proof that is not biology that makes one a child of God but God’s sovereign choice.  We are going to see in these fifteen verse Paul give overwhelming evidence from the Old Testament to proof the point that he has already made in the first thirteen verses.

What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses,

“I will have mercy on whom I have mercy,

and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”

It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. For Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.—9:14-18

If Paul is arguing that Israel’s existence is dependent on God’s decision rather than human effort, then is that decision unjust?  No, because—again—the Old Testament itself maintains that God’s mercy is always his free action, as he said to Moses in Exodus 33:19.  Membership in the people of God has nothing to do with human desire or effort (Romans 9:16).  Indeed, God hardens whomever he wishes to harden (Romans 9:17-18, which is quoting Exodus 9:16).

One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us? For who is able to resist his will?” But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’” Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?

What if God, although choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory — even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?—9:19-24

If God is so completely in charge, and if what God has planned cannot be stopped, how can we still be responsible (Romans 9:19)?  The answer is that we are not to question God’s actions any more than the clay can object to the potter’s purpose in modeling in it (Romans 9:21).  God’s sovereignty is total, so he may, if he so desires, delay his judgement on those prepared for destruction (Romans 9:22) in order to show his glory to his own people (Romans 9:23), to Christians (Romans 9:24).

As he says in Hosea:

“I will call them ‘my people’ who are not my people;

and I will call her ‘my loved one’ who is not my loved one,”

and,

“In the very place where it was said to them,

‘You are not my people,’

there they will be called ‘children of the living God.’”

Isaiah cries out concerning Israel:

“Though the number of the Israelites be like the sand by the sea,

only the remnant will be saved.

For the Lord will carry out

his sentence on earth with speed and finality.”

It is just as Isaiah said previously:

“Unless the Lord Almighty

had left us descendants,

we would have become like Sodom,

we would have been like Gomorrah.”—9:25-29

Paul concludes his initial argument introduced in verse 6: God’s Word has not failed, because all along God has determined his true people by his promise and his own free action.  In Hosea, for example, Israel had disobeyed to the extent of forfeiting their covenant status and effectively becoming Gentiles, and it was God’s call rather than their biological status that led to their restoration (Romans 9:25-26, which is quoting Hosea 2:23 and 1:10).  God’s commitment to Israel does not mean the salvation of every individual Israelite, because Isaiah’s prophecy states that out of their vast number only the remnant will be saved (Romans 9:27-29, which is quoting the Greek of Isaiah 10:22-23).  Indeed, biologically speaking, Israel came near to total destruction like Sodom and Gomorrah, and only the action of the Lord Almighty preserved them (Romans 9:29, which is quoting Isaiah 1:9).  Again, the Old Testament is clear that Israel’s covenant status is only the result of God’s decision, and Israelites are never secure simply because they are biologically part of the nation.

However, all of this does not just apply to the people of Israel.  Think about it and ask yourselves the question do I think that way?  And unfortunately the answer for the vast majority of the “first world” church is yes.  And when I use the term “first world” I am referring to most of Western Europe, the United States and Canada.  These two countries and one region have a history of being “Christian,” but have forgotten that there is a huge difference between being “historically Christian” and actually being true Christians.  Let me put this in simple and easy to understand terms for those of you who are to dense and stubborn to understand what I am trying to say: Just because your momma and daddy were Christian and you “raised in Christian family” does not make you a part of the people of God.  God’s people are those who do God’s will (Mark 3:35).   The ultimate question you should be asking yourselves is this: Have I personal chosen to follow God by committing my everything to him or am I just “carrying on an old family tradition?”  And that is where we will pick up tomorrow as Paul continues to drive home this point that it is not the “carrying on an old family tradition” that brings one into a right relationship with God.

Tomorrow’s Bible Readings:

Isaiah 48:12-50:11, Ephesians 4:17-32, Psalm 69:1-18 and Proverbs 24:5-6

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