In the first 8 chapters Paul dealt with some vital issues that are needed for our growth in truth. To give us the right perspective of God's message to us, we need to know who God is, and be convinced that He works everything for our good according to the counsel of His will!
In contrast to the dismal picture of natural man's opposition to God, Paul revealed the beauty and grandeur of the spiritual man's submission to God! God's faithfulness can be seen as a tower of strength to accomplish our wonderful salvation in Christ! In Christ we have life, obedience and victory! He is the faithful One, always willing and able to take us out of our dilemma!
This chapter shows Paul's great concern for Israel, God's own chosen and privileged people, his kinsmen according to the flesh! "I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart." (vv.1-2) His overwhelming desire was that his brethren might receive what God was offering. Their stubborn refusal to receive Christ brought great sorrow and unceasing grief to his heart!
His passion for Israel comes out so powerfully in the words, "I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren." (v.3) That is quite a statement, isn't it? Of course Paul knew that was an impossibility, for he knew his security in Christ! He also knew that his separation from Christ wouldn't do the Jews any good, for it wouldn't join them to Christ!
Paul could not understand how they could refuse to believe in their own promised Messiah, especially in view of God's wonderful provision for all who are in Christ. The Gentiles responded eagerly to the gospel, but the Jews didn't. How could he account for this strange anomaly?
Our great desire for everyone, and especially our family members, is that they might come to the Lord and receive the wonderful salvation the Lord has for all. This burden comes from the Lord.
The Israelites had great advantages. To them "belongs the adoption as sons, and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises, whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh..." (vv.4-5) Jesus came to His own, and His own people did not receive Him! Everything God did in Christ belonged to Israel. It was offered to them first, that they might receive it and pass it on. But they didn't!
To the Israelites belonged the adoption as sons. This does not refer to God adopting believers as children - they are born of the Holy Spirit through faith. Adoption is a term used to describe the placing of a son. Galatians 4 gives us a greater understanding of this. The picture is of a child that is under the care of servants until it reaches maturity. At that time it is given the status of a son - a place above the servant! The servant no longer has jurisdiction over the son! The servant symbolizes the law. To come out of the bondage of the law we have to be in the grace of Jesus Christ! There is no grace in the law; it can only condemn - it cannot pardon. When we come into Christ, the law no longer has jurisdiction over us. We are placed above the law, for grace is above the law. That is our adoption as sons! Now the indwelling Spirit causes us to cry, "Abba! Father!"
Jesus received His adoption as a Son after He was baptized in the Jordan River. At that time the Holy Spirit came upon Him in the form of a dove, and the Father proclaimed, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased." (Matt. 3:17) From that time on, He was no longer under the law. He was led by the Holy Spirit in everything He did and said!
Although the adoption belonged to the Israelites, they did not receive it because they wanted to remain under the law. Jesus said, "Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father; the one who accuses you is Moses, in whom you have set your hope." (Jn. 5:45) Even though they could not keep the law, they were proud of it and wouldn't give it up! So they rejected the gospel, the power of God and the glory! The darkness and blindness of the carnal mind can only be removed when we are in Christ and receive the Holy Spirit's teaching!
To them belonged the glory - they were the only people on earth who knew the shekinah glory - that outraying of God's presence. In the wilderness they were led by a protecting cloud by day. This cloud became a flame of fire at night, providing warmth and light. They were a nation in whom God chose to place His visible glory by His supernatural care of them!
They also had the covenants. Notice the progression of revelation in these covenants. In the first covenant to Abraham, God swore that He would be God to him and his descendants. In Exodus we see God's covenant with the nation of Israel. As Israel stood before Mount Sinai, they heard the audible voice of God coming out of the clouds, speaking in their own Hebrew language, giving them the ten commandments! This had not happened to any other nation! There Israel promised to do whatever God told them to do! By this promise they entered into a covenant relationship with God. Years later, God made a covenant with David, and promised that the coming Messiah King would be a descendant of his. The promise of a new covenant in which He would wipe away their sins and remember them no more, came to Israel and Judah.
They had been given the temple service. All the offerings - the burnt-offerings, the sin-offerings, the trespass-offerings and the peace-offerings enabled Israel to come and worship God as individuals and as a nation. As the Jews worked their fields, they could turn their eyes to the temple, and know that their representatives, their God-given priests, were serving God in the temple on their behalf. On the day of atonement the high priest would make atonement for them, and Israel would know that their sins were covered. That was the best for that time. The Gentiles who wanted to know God had to join the nation of Israel.
They had the promises - the promise of a kingdom of righteousness, the promise that man's sin would one day be wiped away, the promise that one day a king would reign in righteousness, the promise that through king David's descendant all the nations of the earth would be blessed! No other nation had promises like these! Israel was the public custodian of God's promises.
In the Lord Jesus Christ the new age of righteousness has come into being. This righteousness was witnessed by the law and the prophets. They all spoke of this age in which we now live. This kingdom is founded on righteousness and ruled by the King of righteousness! It is the fulfillment of the promises! It's here, for in Christ we have the fulfillment! "For as many as are the promises of God, in Him they are yes; therefore also through Him is our Amen to the glory of God through us." (2 Cor. 1:20) The New Testament was not yet in existence when this was written, so Paul is referring to the promises in the Old Testament.
All the promises - and Paul underlines that by saying, as many as they may be! These promises encompass all the promises of the Old Testament. All of them are fulfilled in the Lord Jesus Christ! They become ours when by faith we add our Amen, our thank you, to them. All the promises, beginning in Genesis and continuing through the centuries to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the pouring out of His Spirit and thus bringing His kingdom of righteousness into us, are fulfilled in Christ!
No wonder Paul was so frustrated with Israel! Israel had such a rich heritage! Though the promise and the fulfillment of a righteous kingdom had been given them, they rejected the fulfillment! They wouldn't leave the righteousness of the law in favor of the righteousness of Christ!
Israel's rejection of the righteousness of God is the greatest tragedy in history! Israel became the enemy of the kingdom of righteousness! The custodians of the promises and prophecies were the most bitter enemies of it! They who had been so close, were now so far! In spite of all the advantages listed, they missed it! No wonder Paul sorrowed for them!
"Whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen." (v.5) The Jews looked back with pride at their fathers - Abraham, Isaac and Jacob! According to the flesh Jesus was a descendant of the fathers; He was Jewish - He looked like a Jew and spoke the Jewish language. But the flesh does not count for righteousness. His flesh veiled His true being, so people did not perceive that He was a man from heaven.
After all the training and enlightenment the Jews had received, they should have been the ones to open the door to the whole world, and explain what righteousness is all about. But they blew it because they would not leave their laws and traditions!
The great sorrow Paul had in his heart for his people, didn't cause him to wallow in grief and sorrow, and get depressed. He wasn't saying that God couldn't do everything He wanted to do - that He just wasn't able to bring it to pass. That would put us into a very sorry situation indeed! Instead, he emphatically declared that the word of God had not failed!
"But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel." (v.6) What happened? Had God failed? This looks like a problem until we find out who the Israel is to whom the promises were made! They were not made to natural Israel, but to spiritual Israel - the Israel of faith!
Paul then explained the difference between natural Israel and spiritual Israel, and that not all who are descended from Abraham are the true Israel. (vv.7-13) The statement, "For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel," is the key to understanding the word Israel. It shows that Israel is not synonymous with the Jewish nation. If it were, most of the Old Testament would only have meaning for the nation of Israel, because other nations like the English, Germans, Chinese, etc., are not mentioned - not even Americans! So if the Old Testament prophecies and promises simply apply to natural Israel, they have no meaning for Gentiles. Then all the scripture choruses we sing about coming to Zion, and blessed be the Lord God of Israel, would not apply to us, and we would be stealing someone else's promises.
To understand the term Israel is extremely important for Jew and Gentile alike, as well as for the church. The Jews thought they had merit simply because they were Israelites. They thought they had credit with God because He had chosen them to be the custodians of all His promises. They believed they were special (and many still do) because they were the descendants of Abraham to whom the promises were given!
The fact that the Middle East is full of Abraham's descendants according to the flesh does not mean they are the children of the promise. Those who believe that the promises were given to natural Israel, are in ignorance and deception. If Israel means natural Israel, then the typology is all wrong. Israel has to be a people of faith, a people who rule with God! Natural Israel rejected Christ and crucified Him. Even today, most Jews do not know Christ; they are not in the kingdom of righteousness.
Abraham was chosen of God to be a man of faith. He didn't merit or deserve anything, so he had no reason to boast. Neither do the present-day chosen of God have reason to boast. It has nothing to do with merit; it is God's choice! Receiving the word of promise is the important part!
"Nor are they all children because they are Abraham's descendants, but `Through Isaac your descendants will be named.'" (v.7) The Old Testament symbolism opened up to Paul. The physical descendants of Abraham are not the children of God; they are only natural Israel, children according to the flesh. They rejected Christ because they were not of faith! To them Jesus said, "You are of your father the devil." (Jn. 8:44) God is spirit, so His children must be spiritual children - children of faith, children of the promise! Being Abraham's descendants in the flesh did not make the Jews children of God. Spiritual insights always emphasize the fact that God's promises do not fail! We have to understand how God works!
Isaac was the son of promise. It was God who said that Sarah would have a son. "For this is the word of promise: `At this time I will come, and Sarah shall have a son.'" (v.9) Isaac was a miracle. It was impossible for the flesh to produce him. The reproductive organs of Abraham and Sarah were dead to that activity. Isaac was a child of promise; the Lord spoke the word, fulfilled His word, and Isaac came forth. God had chosen him to be the one to receive the promise. Isaac didn't work for it nor did he merit it - he simply received it! This was to demonstrate that God works according to His word of promise.
Ishmael was also Abraham's descendant, but he wasn't a child of promise; he was the result of fleshly activity. In fact Ishmael was the result of unbelief - of Abraham's effort to help God fulfill His promise. He and Sarah thought God needed some help in bringing about His promise. They falsely thought it meant that a child through Sarah's maid Hagar could be counted as Sarah's son. So Ishmael was born. He had been born of self-effort, not of promise, so he could not carry the promise. Abraham was willing to settle for Ishmael, but God had to keep His promise! God always says what He means.
All of God's dealings have to come through His promises. That is the way God works. Only the children of the promise are regarded as Israel. Isaac, the son of promise was born through a miracle wrought by God's word. Abraham and Sarah responded in faith, and Isaac was born. So the true Israel is that company of people who are chosen by God. Those who are chosen of God always respond in faith.
"And not only this, but there was Rebekah also, when she had conceived twins by one man, our father Isaac; for though the twins were not yet born, and had not done anything good or bad, in order that God's purpose according to His choice might stand, not because of works, but because of Him who calls, it was said to her, `The older will serve the younger.'" (vv.10-12)
Jacob was also a child of promise. Before the twins were born, God said the younger would be lord over the older one. Esau was born first, and in the natural, he had the right of the inheritance and the blessing of the firstborn son, but he didn't get it. The firstborn typifies the natural, and the natural has to be bypassed for the spiritual to come forth. To keep this symbolism, Esau had to be bypassed. So God said, "The older will serve the younger," and Jacob, the younger one, received the blessing.
God's choice had nothing to do with works or heredity.
God said that the bringing of the Messiah into the world would come through Jacob. God also blessed Esau, but not with that blessing. By this Paul proved to the Jews that effort and natural descendancy did not make them Israelites. They had to be a people of faith, like Abraham was. They had to be made right with God like everybody else! Since it is so critical for us to comprehend the meaning of the term Israel, Paul put great emphasis on this in his letters!
That is why it is so important for us to understand to whom the Old Testament belongs. Does it belong to the nation of Israel or to the church? Because Paul preached the revelation of the symbolism contained in the Old Testament, he was beaten up in every city he went to, put in prison, and spent years in the dungeons of Rome. The Jews wanted to keep everything in the natural realm; their eyes were blinded to the spiritual; they did not want to admit that the true Israel is a people of faith!
Paul realized that God had never intended to bring about a spiritual promise through the flesh - through natural Israel. It is also important for us to understand this concept! This knowledge should release us from all self-effort, self-righteousness and the zealous striving of the flesh!
In Paul's explanation, he begins with Abraham, who is the father of the Hebrew nation - his physical descendants. But Abraham is also the father of the people of faith - his spiritual descendants; these are born of the promise! Paul emphasizes the difference between the two.
"That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants." (v.8) Ishmael was born according to the flesh; Isaac was born according to the promise! He was God's choice; Isaac had nothing to do with that choice! God performed a miracle to bring him into being. "For this is the word of promise: `At this time I will come, and Sarah shall have a son.'" (v.9)
It was through Isaac's descendants, the children of promise, that the Messiah would come into this world. The Messiah was not coming through Ishmael because he was not the son of promise. He was born of fleshly activity, and the flesh has to be bypassed. God also had promises for Ishmael, but God chose Isaac, the son of promise, to be the one who would bring the promised Messiah into the world.
Jacob was the first Israelite, for Israel dates back to Jacob. Jacob's name means supplanter - the twisted or corrupt one. Throughout his life he got what he wanted. We wouldn't want to go into business with him, because we would lose no matter what! He supplanted his brother Esau, and grasped the birthright right out of his hands. He persuaded Esau to sell his birthright to him for a supper - a real hot deal! Together with his mother he deceived his old father! Jacob reaped what he had sown when he worked for his uncle Laban, another conniver! There he met his match. He was worse than Rebekah, and worse than Jacob. Jacob and Laban battled it out, cheating each other for many years, until finally Jacob got his way. By that time he had cheated Laban out of most of his herds. When Jacob left, he was loaded with flocks, herds and servants.
Then the news came - Esau's waiting for you! He's been waiting 20 years, he hates you buddy. And Jacob goes to pieces - his brother still wants to kill him. Esau loved to fight, while Jacob preferred to scheme and cheat! Maybe he could win Esau's goodwill through gifts. So he sent thousands of dollars' worth of flocks and herds and servants to him as gifts. Everyone was instructed to bow before Esau and say, "My lord, Esau! A present from your humble servant."
After everyone had gone, Jacob was left alone. He was half scared to death. At Peniel he met with God. He wrestled with this man all night. Finally the man put out the socket of Jacob's thigh. But Jacob wanted the blessing! And he said, "I will not let you go unless you bless me!" And the man asked, "What's your name?"
Now Jacob had to own up to who he was! Jacob - supplanter, schemer, a cheat! The socket of his thigh was knocked out and he was lame. He had lived up to his name, and he had to own up to his failures and inability. Then God in His mercy changed his name and changed him! From now on his name would be Israel.
According to Young's, Israel means to rule with God. It comes from the Hebrew sar, a prince, meaning prevailed or ruled as a prince. The EL of Israel is used of God, as in Elohim. Jacob had striven with men and with God, and he had prevailed. This does not mean he had won over and against God, but that he had persevered in his desire for the blessing. He had been conquered by God. From now on Jacob would no longer be a supplanter; he now had a new name! As he had lived up to his name Jacob, the supplanter, he would now live up to his new name Israel; because he was conquered by God he would now rule with God! We cannot rule with God unless we are conquered by God!
For the rest of his life Jacob dragged his leg in remembrance of God's mercy. God could have killed him, but He just put his thigh out. In addition to that, God gave him a new name - Israel! This was God's choice, not Jacob's doing.
A true Israelite is not one who carries an Israeli passport, but one who has faith and rules with God! He has faith, like Abraham had. Only he who has been conquered by God can rule with Him! Not all Israel is Israel - they only happen to be called that.
Jacob is a good illustration of seeing that God's promises and purposes come to pass. Behind Jacob's manipulation and conniving ways was the promise. The reason Jacob received the blessing was because God spoke the word before Jacob and Esau were born; not because of Jacob's conniving, but in spite of it. Again, the firstborn, symbolizing the flesh, had to be bypassed.
It was the call of God on Jacob's life that took Jacob out of his deceitfulness! After years of suffering, Jacob, the supplanter, was changed and conquered by God! We must remember that Jacob valued the birthright throughout his life! Because he did not have the faith that God could give it to him without his conniving, he sought to obtain it by unfair means. If we are honest, we will admit that there have been times when we also did a bit of conniving to help God keep His promises. All this fleshly activity has to go!
The emphasis is on the fact that God is the one who is bringing His plan into being! God said that Jacob would have the blessing and the inheritance, and because He had decreed that, that's what took place! Jacob's works had nothing to do with his calling. Isaac received the promise before he was born - and so did Jacob!
"Just as it is written, `Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.'" (v.13) That's a quote from Malachi 1:2b-3a. This does not sound like God to us, does it? Doesn't He love all people? Isn't Esau included in the all? Why would He make a distinction between two children, born of the same parents? Some may even say, "That's not fair, God can't do something like that!"
Paul tells us that He can! God can do absolutely anything that He wants with everyone. If He wants His Messiah to come through a certain branch of the family, that's up to God - He doesn't need to explain to us why He is doing it! Who do we think we are anyway? Greater than God? God is not accountable to us! We can't win an argument with Him.
To understand this passage we need to know that God is teaching us a principle. In type it shows that everything that does not respect God's covenant will be cast off. God put His blessing of the covenant on Jacob - not on Esau. This does not mean that God had a personal hatred for Esau and didn't want anything to do with him. In type, God is showing us that the flesh has to be bypassed, and the firstborn symbolized the flesh. He hates everything pertaining to fleshly activity.
However, God also had a promise for Esau. He too would become the father of a nation; his descendants were called Edomites. Esau was already living in Edom when Jacob returned from Haran. It was a rich country because of its iron and copper mines and the trade routes that passed through on the King's Highway. The Edomites were hostile to the Israelites, and would not allow them to pass through their territory on the way to the promised land; they had to go around it. God would not allow the Israelites to destroy the Edomites because He had "given them the land."
"What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! For He says to Moses, `I will have mercy on whom I have mercy and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.'" (vv.14-15) The emphasis here is on the fact that God is not unjust - He is a merciful and compassionate God! From an earthly point of view it may seem that Esau got a bum deal - and Ishmael too. But when we begin to understand the symbolism and the principle God is teaching us, we acknowledge the wisdom of our God! God, in His sovereignty, always makes His choices according to His infinite wisdom and mercy - and they are always to humanity's advantage!
We are impressed with God's sovereignty - His right to do as He pleases! Sovereignty means to be supreme in power and position; this supremacy includes being independent and not limited by any other power, whether in heaven or on earth! This is our God! He has an indisputable right to do as He pleases with what He has made!
God, in His sovereignty, deals righteously and mercifully with everyone - Jew and Gentile alike! This is illustrated in these chapters by verses like, "So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy...For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; for `Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved'...For God has shut up all in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all." (9:16; 10:12-13; 11:32) Because of our disobedience and rejection of God, we are all in need of mercy - and God shows mercy to everyone!
Since God is totally just and merciful, we can trust Him implicitly! His judgments are always right, and things will always happen according to His decrees! We only have the rights He gives us. His choices come out of His great love for humanity!
Moses had a very unique relationship with God. The LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, just as a man speaks to his friend. When Moses asked the Lord to show him His glory, the LORD replied, "I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the LORD before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion.'" (Ex. 33:19)
God's choices come out of His goodness, compassion and mercy. Because He is sovereign and totally just and good, He has the authority to choose those on whom He will have compassion and mercy! So God was showing His goodness and ability through the hardness of Pharaoh's heart! The glory of His power was proclaimed to all the nations!
Just as Moses recognized that God was a God of compassion and mercy, so we too have to proceed from that foundational truth! To comprehend this, we have to understand God's ways, not only His acts. Moses always depended on God's goodness and compassion - not on the law! Whenever the children of Israel were in trouble, he appealed to the mercy of God! Moses knew that according to the law the Israelites were guilty. He interceded for them when God offered to cast them off. When God offered Moses the opportunity to become the head of a great nation out of his own descendants, Moses rejected that offer, and appealed to God's mercy and compassion for Israel. He reminded God of His promises!
Moses had an intimate knowledge of the very essence of God. His knowledge did not come from the scriptures, but through God's revelation of Himself to Moses, his communion with God, and his life experiences with Him. This is also how we get to know God!
Moses found favor in God's sight. When he looked at God, he discovered that there was favor there; he didn't discover judgment and harshness! And this is what God wants us to find, because that is God's attitude toward us.
"So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.'" (v.16) Everything depends upon God's mercy! The whole plan of redemption and salvation depends upon Him! That should burst our bubble of self-importance, shouldn't it? We think it all depends on our choices, our will, and our doing! But God says it depends on Him - on His choices and His mercy! The point is, that God shows mercy! He is a sovereign God, and He always does things justly and mercifully!
"For the scripture says to Pharaoh, `For this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate My power in you, and that My name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth.' So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires." (vv.17-18)
God raised up Pharaoh. The only reason Pharaoh was on that throne, was because God put him there. God gave him that authority - he didn't get there on his own. God gave him authority, and made him ruler over Egypt. Why? God wanted to demonstrate His power and have His name proclaimed throughout the whole earth. God wanted the nations to know Him, and He used Pharaoh for that purpose.
God did this by hardening Pharaoh's heart. In Exodus 4:21 it says, "The LORD said to Moses, `When you go back to Egypt see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders which I have put in your power; but I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go.'" Then in chapter 5:1-2, we see how it came about. Moses came to Pharaoh, and said to Pharaoh, "Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, `Let My people go that they may celebrate a feast to Me in the wilderness.' But Pharaoh said, `Who is the LORD that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I do not know the LORD, and besides, I will not let Israel go.'"
The moment Pharaoh said, "Who is this God?" God could have wiped him out, and the exodus could have taken place a year earlier than it did. Why did God let all those plagues take place? To make His name known among the nations!
Pharaoh was a very stubborn man. He had great pride in all his wealth and power! Enslaving the Israelites gave him a lot of cheap labor. To let all these advantages go because of a command from a God whom he did not know - no way! This seems very natural, doesn't it? Yet the LORD was involved in that, because man cannot do the will of God without having God's divine influence working upon him. When God withholds His influence, man will act according to the desires of the flesh. Without God's influence, man's heart will grow harder and harder!
Obviously, God was setting Pharaoh up in order to show everyone that He was able to deliver Israel completely and supernaturally on His own! He could deliver them from anything, and He can deliver us from anything! In type it shows us that He can deliver us from all the wiles of the devil! So God used Pharaoh for a demonstration of His power.
Throughout that time Pharaoh wanted God out of his life. God endured his obstinate behavior with much patience in order to show His greatness, and to show that man's resistance cannot thwart the will of God! Pharaoh's resistance served God's purpose. Pharaoh had no say in the matter. His resistance brought forth a demonstration of God's power and wrath to both Israel and the surrounding nations.
"So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires." (v.18) God has the right to show mercy to the Gentiles! He also has the right to harden natural Israel. He will do whatever is needed to fulfill His purpose and His promises!
Intellectual arguments center on the fairness of God's dealings. Didn't Pharaoh get a dirty deal? The minute we get into that kind of thinking, we are in trouble with the LORD, because we are questioning His justice and His righteousness. We are questioning the very essence of His being. God's ways are above reproach! He is truth and there is no darkness in Him!
After God showed His power by getting His people out of Egypt, He led them into another predicament. Pharaoh regretted that he had let all his slave labor depart, and decided to bring them back to Egypt. He caught up with them as they were camped in front of the Red Sea. Now the Israelites were sandwiched between Pharaoh's great army and the Red Sea! What could they do?
This was a complete setup. It was all in God's plan to make them vulnerable to Pharaoh, then to deliver them, and to punish Pharaoh and his army. By the Spirit of God, Moses had the confidence to say, "Do not fear! Stand by and see the salvation of the LORD which He will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you have seen today, you will never see them again forever. The LORD will fight for you while you keep silent." (Exodus 14:13-14)
Waiting for the Lord to act when it seems as if there is no solution, is not always easy. Our knees may shake as we rest in the Lord. But we can rest assured that God will always fulfill His promises! We know the rest of the story - how God opened a pathway through the sea, and the Israelites walked across on dry land. But Pharaoh and his army were drowned as the sea came together again. In type we see that God uses evil to show the world that He can deliver!
"You will say to Me then, `Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?'" (v.19) That is the thinking of the carnal mind. It cannot submit itself to God. It is always striving against God. It casts its judgment on what God says and does.
"On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, `Why did you make me like this,' will it?" (v.20) Let's keep the issues straight: God is the Creator, we are the creature. Our relationship is in that order!
"Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use?" (v.21) Who do you think you are, that you think you have a right to disagree with God? We need to learn our place in God. Who is God? Are we God or is God, God? Who makes the choices? We or God? Would God make a creature and give him power that supersedes His power? God reserves sovereignty for Himself alone! We may think that we are making the choices, but God says He is making the choices! Jesus told the disciples that they had not chosen Him, but He had chosen them. Paul repeatedly writes, "chosen of God".
Will we believe God or our carnal mind? Instead of arguing with God, let's recognize that He is God. His plans are always the best, and we receive whatever God gives us, knowing that His best is best for us. Besides, He is going to accomplish His will whether we agree with Him or not! Pharaoh thought he could do his own will, but he couldn't - and neither can we! The Lord is going to do whatever He wants to do. The devil can't stop Him and neither can humanity! The devil is not a free agent, and he is not having a happy glorious time. The Lord is just using Him.
"What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory," (vv.22-23) God endures with patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction. This was exemplified in the patience He had with Pharaoh. God could have killed Pharaoh on the spot when he refused to acknowledge God, and in effect declared himself to be above God. But God endured him patiently, knowing that this would redound to His greater glory.
God has purpose in everything He does! Whatever the goal of His purpose requires, He does! In the end He will make known the riches of His glory upon vessels prepared for glory! There are two kinds of vessels - vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, and vessels of mercy prepared for glory! They are fitted or prepared for the purpose God has for them.
If we do not receive God's mercy, we will receive His wrath - for His wrath is on all unrighteousness and ungodliness. No one deserves God's mercy or anything good from God; we all need His mercy and goodness! God uses the work of the enemy to show us our need for His mercy and salvation! Our dilemma shows us our need!
The more we grow in revelation knowledge, the more of God's purposes are revealed to us. At this present time, a mystery still remains. Since we don't understand all things, we need the obedience of faith in order to co-operate with Him. It's important to see that man's will cannot prevent God from accomplishing His will!
"Even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles." (v.24) We, both Jews and Gentiles, are called of God. We are all vessels in need of mercy. From Rom. 8:29-30 we learn that God prepares these needy vessels for glory! "For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined...and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, these He also justified; and these whom He justified, these He also glorified." The point is that God has chosen us for justification and glory! He pours His love and life into us, and that makes all the difference! God's ability is truly amazing!
The mercy He shows us is not due to anything we have done; it is God's choice. Since it is not due to our efforts, we have no reason for boasting. Jacob was a sneak and a deceiver, but God chose him and changed him! Even as Jacob was a vessel in need of mercy, so are we. If we weren't cheats and scoundrels, we wouldn't need mercy. This includes both Jews and Gentiles. God is able to change each one of us!
Then Paul refers to a prophecy in Hosea. He said that a day is coming when "I will call those who were not My people, `My people,' and her who was not beloved, `beloved.' And it shall be that in the place where it was said to them, `You are not My people,' there they shall be called sons of the living God.'" (vv.25-26) He pointed to a day when there would be a people of God, another Israel, and He said, "Here they are, Jews and Gentiles!"
Hosea stood in Israel at a time when they had rebelled against God to the nth degree. Hosea's children were to be an object lesson to Israel. So God told him what to name them. The first one was to be called "not My people". Israel's pride was in the fact that they were God's people. Now little "not My people" ran around the streets, and Hosea used him as his text. He said, "Israel, you are no longer the people of God." They were finished. God refused to own them because of their unbelief and sin. Though they were called Israel, they were not the Israel of faith!
Hosea had another child, and God said, "Call that child `not mercy'." So little "not mercy" ran around with "not My people". Hosea also used him as a text. The covenant mercies of God were no longer for them. Though they were Israel in name, they were not really Israel because they were not a people of faith. That was when they went into captivity.
God was finished with the Israel of the Old Testament, but the day would come when there would be a people called the people of God. They would receive the love and mercy of God! These sons of the living God would include both Jews and Gentiles alike. We now know that these are the ones who have faith in Jesus Christ; these are the ones who do not trust in their own works!
Those who were strangers and aliens to God's promise, God now calls His people. Why? Because we chose God? No - because God chose us! When God decides to show compassion, He does it. Regardless of the condition of that vessel, it ends up becoming a son of the living God - because God has decided to do it. These sons are the true Israel, the spiritual Israel, the Israel of faith!
So Paul said, "Isaiah cries out concerning Israel, `Though the number of the sons of Israel be like the sand of the sea (that's natural Israel), it is the remnant that will be saved." (v.27) It's a little group within a big nation - a nation as big as the beach with its millions of grains of sand. Only those, who like Abraham, respond in faith to God's promise, are accepted by God. They are not accepted for anything they have done but because of faith in what God has done! They are a company of Jews and Gentiles who believe in Christ. These are the Israel to whom God made all the promises. We (both Jews and Gentiles in Christ), are the fuIfillment of that prophecy. Everyone, both Jew and Gentile, has to come on the same basis. No one has earned or merited this place in Christ. It is all God's mercy and His choice!
The remnant is the true Israel! Natural Israel was looking to its ancestry and its past, and this produced boasting. But they were looking at natural descent instead of spiritual descent. They were carrying an Israeli passport but they were not part of the true Israel. Their descent was condemning them because they did not have the faith of their father Abraham. But God always had His chosen remnant - His people of faith through whom the Messiah would come!
I believe this pictures what God is doing today! He is choosing the people through whom Christ will be revealed to the world. Paul's epistles are written to those who are chosen of God. God sent Jesus to bring us a revelation of the Father! And Jesus said that as He was in the world, so are we. Just as Jesus has revealed the invisible God to us, so we are to reveal the invisible Christ to the world that they may get to know Him! This is God's purpose for His chosen ones!
His chosen ones do not form the popular majority; they are the remnant. Of the 32,000 soldiers that followed Gideon, only 300 were chosen to defeat the Midianites. God's power is demonstrated when the impossible is accomplished through a few! God chooses those whom He wills to do His will! There are many carnal Christians who are zealous for God according to their own ideas and works. These do not reveal Christ to the world. They may boast about being spiritual descendants of Abraham, but their lives reveal that they are not people of faith. However, God has His chosen ones who will reveal the Christ! Those who choose for themselves are not included in that number; they have to be chosen of God!
"`For the Lord will execute His word on the earth, thoroughly and quickly.' And just as Isaiah foretold, `Unless the Lord of Sabaoth had left to us a posterity, we would have become like Sodom, and would have resembled Gomorrah.' What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith." (vv.28-30)
The Gentiles, who knew they were sinners and never thought of becoming righteous, received God's merciful and gracious gift as soon as they heard it! They took it and were grateful. Those who sought it, missed it, and those who didn't even know its name, found it!
"But Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone, just as it is written, `Behold, I lay in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense, and he who believes in Him will not be disappointed." (vv.31-33)
How tragic that Israel, as a nation, did not attain righteousness because they were pursuing it by self-effort; they depended on their own works! They tried to be better than everyone else, so they could proudly stand before God and point to their own achievements. By doing this, they missed the righteousness of God that is freely given in Jesus Christ! When Jesus came, they stumbled over Him. We cannot come to Him in our own righteousness; we have to come in humility and repentance. Israel wouldn't come that way. They weren't willing to be vessels that needed mercy. So Jesus became a stumbling stone to them.
Jesus is either a living stone or a stumbling stone to us. Peter said, "And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For this is contained in scripture: `Behold, I lay in Zion a choice stone, a precious corner stone, and he who believes in Him will not be disappointed.'" (1 Peter 2:4-6)
"`The stone which the builders rejected, this became the very cornerstone,' and, `a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense,' for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed. (vv.7-8) When we receive Christ by faith, He is a living stone, and we share in His life. To believers He is a living stone and to unbelievers He is a stumbling stone. He was a stumbling stone for Israel because they were pursuing righteousness on a wrong foundation.
God has the right to do whatever He pleases because He only pleases to do what is right. His word has not failed, nor will it ever fail! It gives us great security to know that He is a God of mercy!
Scriptures are to be approached from an attitude of submission to God. Listening to the voice of the Spirit turns the light on. An intellectual or philosophical attitude will miss the spiritual application. Trying to determine what God can do and what He can't do, is not in our department. Every argument we have with Him will be lost. We believe what He did do, and agree with what He is doing.
The basis for faith is the very essence of God. Therefore we have to let go of our own ideas and believe God - for He is truth! By submitting to Him and believing Him we can receive His promises. The Israel of God consists of the living company within Israel and the multitude of believing Gentiles! These are the ones who receive the promise!