In our study of Romans chapter nine, we look at the term "election" and the fact that God makes choices. In chapter 8, we saw how God has brought salvation to the Gentiles and sealed it with the Holy Spirit. There are those that use that fact to say that "the church has replaced Israel as God's people" but we will see how that way of thinking is incorrect. As we shall see, that "replacement theology" is not of God.
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I am speaking the truth - as one who belongs to the Messiah, I do not lie; and also bearing witness is my conscience, governed by the Ruach HaKodesh:
At this time, Paul was being accused of being a liar and an enemy of the Jews (his people). He begins this section with the fact that he has a clear conscience before God as witnessed by the Holy Spirit. We, too, may be falsely accused of all kinds of things because of our faith in Yeshua Messiah but, like Paul, we can have a clear conscience before God if we listen to the Holy Spirit.
my grief is so great, the pain in my heart so constant, that I could wish myself actually under God's curse and separated from the Messiah, if it would help my brothers, my own flesh and blood, the people of Isra'el! They were made God's children, the Sh'khinah has been with them,
While many of the Jews considered Paul to be an enemy of both them and God, he still considered them to be his brothers. He goes on to explain that he wished that he could be wrong and that they could be saved but he knew that Yeshua Messiah was the only way. This brought extreme sorrow to his heart as he watched his fellow Jews reject Yeshua knowing what their fate was without him. The same type of thing is happening today as it is popular to say that all those who believe in God are going to heaven but it is not true. Satan and his demons believe in God and they are not going to heaven (see Revelation 20).
the covenants are theirs, likewise the giving of the Torah, the Temple service and the promises; the Patriarchs are theirs; and from them, as far as his physical descent is concerned, came the Messiah, who is over all. Praised be ADONAI for ever! Amen.
Paul gives us a list of things that set the nation of Israel apart from all other nations. The first is their adoption as a nation of God. (Israel is the only nation that is referred to as a "son of God"). The second identifying mark is the fact that they had the glory (presence) of God with them (They are the only nation that has ever had the visual physical presence of God with them). The third characteristic is the fact that they had the covenants (promises of God) through Avraham. The fourth thing is that they were the people that God gave his law to in the form of the Ten Commandments. The fifth mark is the fact that they were a chosen people to serve God in the temple. The sixth is the fact of the many promises that God has made to them as a nation. The seventh is the fathers (lineage of the faith) from Abraham to Isaac, to Jacob. The final mark is that Yeshua Messiah was a Jew in the line of King David. As we can see by this list, it is not possible for the nation of Israel to be eliminated or replaced because of their unique relationship with God.
But the present condition of Isra'el does not mean that the Word of God has failed. For not everyone from Isra'el is truly part of Isra'el;
Paul reminds us that there are two different groups of people that are referred to as "Israel". The first group are the physical children of Abraham through his grandson Jacob (God changed his name to Israel). The second refers to Abraham's spiritual children through his faith (children of God). He also reminds them (and us) that, just because you are in the first group, does not mean that you are a part of the second group. It reminds us that our faith, like Abraham's, is a personal relationship with God through Yeshua Messiah.
indeed, not all the descendants are seed of Avraham; rather, "What is to be called your 'seed' will be in Yitz'chak." In other words, it is not the physical children who are children of God, but the children the promise refers to who are considered seed. For this is what the promise said: "At the time set, I will come; and Sarah will have a son."
Paul reminds them of the promise that was given to Abraham in Genesis. Although Abraham had other natural born children, Isaac was the child that was promised from God. Ishmael was one of Abraham's children but he was not the child promised by God. He was an attempt by man (Abraham and Sarah) to fulfill the promise through their own efforts. This is the same type of struggle that men deal with today as we see the struggle between grace and works for salvation. It is so hard for some to simply trust in God and his promises instead of trying to work for their salvation.
And even more to the point is the case of Rivkah; for both her children were conceived in a single act with Yitz'chak, our father; and before they were born, before they had done anything at all, either good or bad (so that God's plan might remain a matter of his sovereign choice, not dependent on what they did, but on God, who does the calling), it was said to her, "The older will serve the younger." This accords with where it is written, "Ya'akov I loved, but Esav I hated."
This passage describes "election" which is the fact that God makes decisions based on the fact that he is sovereign (in control). Man rebels against God and his choices as we will often trust the judgment of mere men but not the judgment of God. This is the same type of thing that the apostle Paul was talking about with lawsuits among believers (see 1 Corinthians 6). We see this election in the fact that, before her twins were born, Rebekah was told that Esau would serve Jacob which was the opposite of their tradition. We also see that God was just and right in this election when, after many years, Esau was a godless and prideful man. It is at this point that God said "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated." (see Malachi 1).
So are we to say, "It is unjust for God to do this"? Heaven forbid! For to Moshe he says, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will pity whom I pity." Thus it doesn't depend on human desires or efforts, but on God, who has mercy.
Is God right in his decisions (election)? Although we may not see it at the time, we must know that God knows the hearts of all men and so his decisions are just.
For the Tanakh says to Pharaoh, "It is for this very reason that I raised you up, so that in connection with you I might demonstrate my power, so that my name might be known throughout the world." So then, he has mercy on whom he wants, and he hardens whom he wants.
All of the apostles understood the concept of election as they had been chosen for no obvious reason to be apostles. They knew the story of how God had hardened the heart of Pharaoh and how he had shown mercy to them. The same principle applies to each and every one of us in that we can see no reason why God would have sent his son to die for us. That, my friends, is grace and we just have to accept the fact that God gives this gift to those he chooses.
But you will say to me, "Then why does he still find fault with us? After all, who resists his will?" Who are you, a mere human being, to talk back to God? Will what is formed say to him who formed it, "Why did you make me this way?" Or has the potter no right to make from a given lump of clay this pot for honorable use and that one for dishonorable?
There are those that will question why they are made a certain way or why they have the gifts that they have instead of others. For us to complain about how God made us is just like the piece of pottery complaining to the potter. We forget that we would be nothing without the creator.
Now what if God, even though he was quite willing to demonstrate his anger and make known his power, patiently put up with people who deserved punishment and were ripe for destruction?
This verse speaks about God's timing and the fact that he will decide when judgment begins. Why doesn't God deal with the sin and evil that surrounds us? The simple fact of the matter is that God is patient and only he knows when all of his children have been gathered.
What if he did this in order to make known the riches of his glory to those who are the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory - that is, to us, whom he called not only from among the Jews but also from among the Gentiles?
Why does God allow the evil of the world to continue? We see the answer here and it is to allow us to see and appreciate what we have in him. In our culture, today, we are a people of instant gratification where, if we want something, we get it immediately. But, with instant gratification comes a diminished sense of worth. Many times, waiting on something makes us appreciate it more.
As indeed he says in Hoshea, "Those who were not my people I will call my people; her who was not loved I will call loved; and in the very place where they were told, 'You are not my people,' there they will be called sons of the living God!"
Even the Old Testament prophets spoke of the fact that God's grace would be opened to Gentiles (those who were not God's people).
But Yesha'yahu, referring to Isra'el, cries out, "Even if the number of people in Isra'el is as large as the number of grains of sand by the sea, only a remnant will be saved. For ADONAI will fulfill his word on the earth with certainty and without delay."
Paul quotes from Isaiah 10 and reminds them as well as us today that your family line does not gain you a position in heaven. It is only through a personally restored relationship with God that we are saved.
Also, as Yesha'yahu said earlier, "If ADONAI-Tzva'ot had not left us a seed, we would have become like S'dom, we would have resembled 'Amora."
Paul quotes Isaiah again (Isaiah 1:9) as he prophesied about the coming judgment of Israel and the remnant that would survive. The descendants also refers to Yeshua Messiah who was a Jew and the apostles who followed him.
So, what are we to say? This: that Gentiles, even though they were not striving for righteousness, have obtained righteousness; but it is a righteousness grounded in trusting! However, Isra'el, even though they kept pursuing a Torah that offers righteousness, did not reach what the Torah offers. Why? Because they did not pursue righteousness as being grounded in trusting but as if it were grounded in doing legalistic works. They stumbled over the stone that makes people stumble.
There is in the heart of man the desire to labor for their own salvation. The "stumbling stone" that is referred to is the grace of God as demonstrated by Yeshua Messiah. That grace is a gift and so works have no part in salvation. Those who simply and humbly accepted the gift (the Gentiles) were made right with God. Those that continue to try to earn righteousness stumble and fall as they can never achieve it.
As the Tanakh puts it, "Look, I am laying in Tziyon a stone that will make people stumble, a rock that will trip them up. But he who rests his trust on it will not be humiliated."
Paul quotes from the prophet Isaiah speaking of the rejection of Yeshua by the Jews. It says "I lay in Zion" reminding us that it was an act of God sending his son as an atoning sacrifice and a gift not any work on our part. We all have the choice of accepting that gift (grace) or facing the judgment that is to come.