God’s Chosen People
9 I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it through the Holy Spirit— 2 I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people, those of my own race, 4 the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption to sonship; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. 5 Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of the Messiah, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen.
6 It is not as though God’s word had failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. 7 Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children. On the contrary, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” 8 In other words, it is not the children by physical descent who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring. 9 For this was how the promise was stated: “At the appointed time I will return, and Sarah will have a son.”
10 Not only that, but Rebekah’s children were conceived at the same time by our father Isaac. 11 Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: 12 not by works but by him who calls—she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”
Paul is shifting gears here in Romans. He has just reached the highest of highs in describing the gospel and its impact on our lives. We are forever attached to God as His children. We are co-heirs of Christ, we share in His suffering and we share in His glory and are forever immersed in the love of God!
Now, Paul turns his view toward the Jewish people, his people and considers the reasons and purpose for their rejection of Jesus as the Messiah of God. This issue of God’s purposes for Israel will dominate the next three chapters.
If we are going to address the issue of Israel and their relationship to Jesus and therefore to God, we should start with some of what Jesus is recorded to say on the topic. I call this the unspoken context of this passage.
- The Unspoken Context
- The New Testament Context of Messiah and Israel
Jesus then began to speak to them in parables: “A man planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a pit for the winepress and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and moved to another place. 2 At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants to collect from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. 3 But they seized him, beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 4 Then he sent another servant to them; they struck this man on the head and treated him shamefully. 5 He sent still another, and that one they killed. He sent many others; some of them they beat, others they killed.
6 “He had one left to send, a son, whom he loved. He sent him last of all, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’
7 “But the tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ 8 So they took him and killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard.
9 “What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others. 10 Haven’t you read this passage of Scripture:
“‘The stone the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
11 the Lord has done this,
and it is marvelous in our eyes’[a]?”
12 Then the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders looked for a way to arrest him because they knew he had spoken the parable against them. But they were afraid of the crowd; so they left him and went away.
How do folks see themselves in this story? And how does Jesus view the Jewish folk of His day in this story? John 1: 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.
Besides discussing some of what Jesus has said, we should look further back and think about the context of being blessed vs being cursed by God and what this means and why it is important. I use this language because of Paul’s statement in verse 3 about wishing he were cursed instead (of them).
- Cursed vs Blessed
Genesis 12: The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.
2 “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you;
I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.
3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. 2 All these blessings will come on you and accompany you if you obey the Lord your God:
3 You will be blessed in the city and blessed in the country.
4 The fruit of your womb will be blessed, and the crops of your land and the young of your livestock—the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks.
5 Your basket and your kneading trough will be blessed.
6 You will be blessed when you come in and blessed when you go out.
7 The Lord will grant that the enemies who rise up against you will be defeated before you. They will come at you from one direction but flee from you in seven.
8 The Lord will send a blessing on your barns and on everything you put your hand to. The Lord your God will bless you in the land he is giving you.
9 The Lord will establish you as his holy people, as he promised you on oath, if you keep the commands of the Lord your God and walk in obedience to him. 10 Then all the peoples on earth will see that you are called by the name of the Lord, and they will fear you. 11 The Lord will grant you abundant prosperity—in the fruit of your womb, the young of your livestock and the crops of your ground—in the land he swore to your ancestors to give you.
12 The Lord will open the heavens, the storehouse of his bounty, to send rain on your land in season and to bless all the work of your hands. You will lend to many nations but will borrow from none. 13 The Lord will make you the head, not the tail. If you pay attention to the commands of the Lord your God that I give you this day and carefully follow them, you will always be at the top, never at the bottom. 14 Do not turn aside from any of the commands I give you today, to the right or to the left, following other gods and serving them.
Numbers 6: 22 The Lord said to Moses, 23 “Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them:
24 “‘“The Lord bless you and keep you;
25 the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you;
26 the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”’
27 “So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.”
Blessing is literally every good thing that God has for our lives. It is a very broad category. John 10:10 Life more abundant!
- Cut off
This language of “cut off” is interesting because of where it is also mentioned in terms of judgment.
Mark 11:12-14, 20-21 12 The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. 13 Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. 14 Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it.
20 In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots. 21 Peter remembered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!”
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes[a] so that it will be even more fruitful.
4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
Paul is grieved over the rejection of Christ by Israel and the consequent cursing and cutting off of Israel from the kingdom of God.
- Has God’s Word Failed?
Why ask this question? What does God’s Word say about the Children of Israel?
- The overarching narrative expectation
The Bible is a series of stories. They are stories that help us to live in God’s world in a manner that makes our lives the best that they can be. That life that is the best that it can be is described as a blessed life. And what that life contains is “Shalom”
Genesis 1-11 Introduction. In terms of time, if you accept it on the face of the narrative we are talking about nearly the same amount of time as the rest of the OT. The issues are topical. The problems for which the rest of the Bible is a solution is stated.
The context for the narrative is the Children of Israel. If Moses is the compiler of the stories, then it is COI in the wilderness. What do the COI need to know and do?
Genesis 12 a man appears in the narrative who dominates the next 12 chapters. God makes promises to Abraham that are reflected in contrast with the desires of the people and pursuits of Babel.
3 They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. 4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”
Abraham to Jesus’ day. The expectation for a Davidic Messiah. This expectation is the same that we have for Jesus’ return. The world will be set right for Abraham’s descendants.
And so, the story for the Jews at time of Christ is that Messiah will come like the Second Coming is expected by Christians today. That is the end of the narrative. That is the end of their story. And they are wrong! (The warning about the destruction of the temple should be seen from this perspective!) And the natural tendency to rebellion against Rome is born from this, and the expectation that God will act in history to deliver His people! Has God’s word failed or have we misunderstood the stories? Should there be an expectation that it is easy to misunderstand God? Is it easy to not follow God and claim that we are following? (This would describe much of the history of Israel!)
- Not all physical descendants are chosen by God
This is described in John 1:
11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
Natural descent: Eliezer of Damascus
Husband’s will: Ishmael
Of God: Isaac
In the current context: Natural descent: those who trust in genealogy.
Those born of God: Those who are in Christ! Isaac is an OT “type” of Jesus.
And the main feature of the Old Covenant is the disobedience of the Jewish people, not the obedience of the Jewish people.
And so we come to Jesus Himself and the relationship of the Jewish people to Jesus.
- The Reality of Jesus
1 In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. 3 The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.
In these last days God has spoken to us by His Son. (Transfiguration)
The Son is heir of all things
The Son made the universe
The Son is the radiance of God’s glory
The Son is the exact representation of God’s being
The Son sustains all of creation by His powerful word
The Son provides purification for sins
The Son is currently sitting at the right hand of the Father
This is a lot to accept about Jesus.
But this is the message!
In the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God and the Word was God. The Word became flesh and lived among us. We have beheld Him, full of Grace and Truth. The Son is the One who has made God known!
And so the main message of the gospels:
Who is Jesus? He is the Messiah, the Son of God.
Hence the emphasis on Jesus’ authority as a teacher, healer, deliverer and forgiver of sins.
What did Messiah come to do?
- He came to institute the kingdom of God,
- to provide forgiveness for sins and
- make the people who received Him into the children of God, born of God.
With Your blood You purchased people for God from every tribe, tongue and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God. Revelation 5:9-10
This is not the picture of the Davidic Messiah that they expected.
This is why the gospels begin with proofs of Who Jesus is. Because the Who of Who Jesus is resolves the issue of how we are to handle our confusion or disappointment over how God works in our lives.
John 6 statement of Jesus: 61 Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 Then what if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before!
John 6 statement of Peter: “To whom shall we go, You alone have the words of eternal life.”
Jesus’ statement to Peter in Matthew 16:
“May it never be”, “Get thee behind me Satan” You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of man!
III. You Must Be Born Again!
Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus, a Jewish leader.
- A different story about God is revealed
3 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”
14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”
John 12: 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33 He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.
The true heavenly or kingdom purpose of Messiah’s coming is expressed in Crucifixion and Resurrection, Ascension and Pentecost.
- A different story about you is revealed
Different options: 1. We are all children of God
- Israel are God’s children
- Jesus is God’s son and those in Him are God’s adopted children.
The identity of the people of God lands in Christ. There is a reason that the genealogies in the Bible stop when they get to Jesus.
- This is a narrative that fits reality
In other words, what Jesus has done fits God’s redemptive story that concerns Israel, but it establishes a new covenant!
- The facts about Jesus’ person. The Son of God is a greater identity than Israel. The Son of God is a greater revelation than Israel. To be in the Son of God and His blessing is the greatest place that you can be in this life.
- The facts about Jesus’ ministry. What Jesus has done is greater than any person in salvation history. The whole book of Hebrews is about this.
- The facts about Crucifixion, Resurrection and Pentecost in the light of OT covenant promises
Isaiah 52:13-53:12; Jeremiah 31:31-35 and Joel 2:28-32 are examples.
31 “The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah.
32 It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors
when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt,
because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,”
declares the Lord.
33 “This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.
34 No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the Lord.
“For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”
Joel 2: 28 “And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams,
your young men will see visions.
29 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days.
30 I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and billows of smoke.
31 The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood
before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.
32 And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved;