Read Romans 9:1-33
1I speak the truth in Christ — I am not lying, my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit— 2I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, 4the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. 5Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen.
6It is not as though God's word had failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. 7Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham's children. On the contrary, "It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned." 8In other words, it is not the natural children who are God's children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham's offspring. 9For this was how the promise was stated: "At the appointed time I will return, and Sarah will have a son."
10Not only that, but Rebekah's children had one and the same father, our father Isaac. 11Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad — in order that God's purpose in election might stand: 12not by works but by him who calls — she was told, "The older will serve the younger." 13Just as it is written: "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated."
14What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! 15For he says to Moses,
"I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion."
16It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy. 17For the 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." 18Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.
19One of you will say to me: "Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?" 20But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? "Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, 'Why did you make me like this?'" 21Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?
22What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath — prepared for destruction? 23What 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— 24even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles? 25As 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,"
"It will happen that in the very place where it was said to them,' You are not my people, 'they will be called 'sons of the living God.'"
27Isaiah cries out concerning Israel:
"Though the number of the Israelites be like the sand by the sea, only the remnant will be saved. 28For the Lord will carry out his sentence on earth with speed and finality."
29It 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."
30What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; 31but Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it. 32Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the "stumbling stone." 33As it is written:
"See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame." (NIV)
This is a section of the letter where Paul laments the lack of faith in Christ by the Jews. Paul begins with his desire that all the Jews would see. He is so desirous of this that he said he would be willing to trade his salvation for all the Jews. He then comes back to list all the Jews had going for them (the adoption as sons; the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship . . . the promises. [and] the patriarchs) and they still failed to recognize Christ.
This leads in his mind that some might ask, “Did God fail?” “Is God Unjust?” He answers no to both questions and proceeds to bring about an argument that it is faith and not trying to follow rules and laws that make the difference. He points out that not all failed to recognize Christ and through the ages, God has always had a remnant that remained faithful.
Paul goes on to point out that God is patient with those who reject him so that those he wants to show mercy to might find that mercy. People have often asked why does God delay bringing about his glory and ending all the suffering on earth. This is one of the passages that is lifted up to answer that question. God is waiting for others to come to accept him. And while he waits, there is still suffering, but that suffering is for the salvation of more people. We need to see that this is God’s love being played out in patience.
The early Christians looked on suffering differently than we do today. We have lost what it means to suffer with Christ and as Christ did so that others might come to a saving knowledge of Christ.
Paul ends with saying that our righteousness is through faith and nothing else. And Faith is connected to trust in which we trust God’s ways as given to us through Christ. So there is an aspect of obedience, but the obedience is a result of faith and not a fore runner to faith. Faith comes first. And out of faith comes love and obedience because we want to, not because we have to. Obedience out of love looks entirely different than obedience because we have to. One brings one closer and the other drives one away. Paul uses the term “stumbling block” to describe what obedience because we have to looks like.
What does it mean to put your trust in Christ? How do you approach being obedient to God and his ways? What does God’s mercy mean to you personally?
Blessings and Peace: