Now tonight I want to get us into Romans chapter 9. And my intention tonight is to just kind of move along in this chapter as far as we can. I'm not in any big hurry because I want to help you to understand the chapter. I don't want to leave anything out, have anything short‑circuited so that we can understand this argument of Paul here, this presentation. It's not an easy chapter to understand. Even when you understand it it's not easy to believe it because there are some things that are said here, some affirmations about the sovereignty of God that leave us with very profound questions. But we must dig into the chapter, we must understand it because God has revealed it to us for His own glory.
Now we are very much aware as we were in Israel the last couple of weeks that it is a land of contrast, a land of wide contrast. It's a land of great biblical history and yet it's a land of great immediate modern contemporary life. It's a land where once people were totally committed to God and now they seem rather indifferent to that whole thing. There are many contrasts, but some things are the same. And I regret to say that it is today the same as it was in the time of our Lord in the sense that they reject Him now as they rejected Him then.
Some believe and affirm to me that the only Messiah that will ever come is the state of Israel itself. The very secular, those who believe that, and they affirm that the state of Israel is in fact the Messiah. On the flight home I read a book that was given to me by one of the guides that was with us and that book affirms that Israel is the Messiah. The book tries to say that Christians have their Messiah and that's Jesus Christ and that's fine for them. And if they want to believe that that's the plan of God and it's all right and that's the way God intended it, but don't try to push your view onto the Jew, don't send any missionaries, don't try to give them the gospel of the new covenant. They understand who their Messiah is and their Messiah is none other than the nation itself.
And he drew a very interesting parallel. He said, first of all, the Messiah was born of sovereignty by God, by God's promise and we think that's Christ...he said that's really the nation Israel. The Messiah was protected in Egypt...we think that's Christ taken into Egypt to escape Herod, that's really Israel taken into Egypt in captivity to preserve it as a nation during famine and other difficult times. The Messiah is despised and rejected and hated, we think that's Christ but they say that's the nation Israel. The Messiah was killed by the Romans, we say that's Christ, they say that's the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. The Messiah will rise again on the third day, we say that's Christ, they say that's the nation Israel after 2,000 years of captivity or 2,000 years of trial, 2,000 years of non‑ existence as a nation, it is now in the third millennia since that time going to rise to the fullness of a power in the world and so forth and so forth. And many of them see their Messiah in the nation Israel. And so they still reject Jesus Christ as they did when He was on the earth.
Now others of them are waiting for the Messiah. They really believe there is coming a Messiah. They believe the eastern gate which is now sealed was sealed by the Turks will split wide open at the coming of the Messiah and He will again enter the city of Jerusalem to take His throne to reign and rule forever and ever. Only that's not going to be the Second Coming of Messiah, for them it's going to be the first coming because He's not been here yet.
Now it's interesting to see these two dominant views. One is the secular view that Israel really is the Messiah, the nation itself, there's no actual Messiah. And then the other view that there will be coming a Messiah. Both of them reject the fact that Jesus Christ is the Messiah. And this is a shocking kind of rejection because the land is literally filled with the revelation of God regarding His Messiah, Jesus Christ. It's impossible to escape the fact that that land was traversed and criss‑crossed by the prophets who gave very clear instruction and clear word and clear message about the coming of the Messiah, that that land also was criss‑crossed by the Lord Jesus Himself with His disciples in a ministry of teaching and healing, a ministry that could never be denied, a ministry that touched that nation from top to bottom. And the events of His life are marked down for all the world to know through history. And yet with all of the biblical data, with all of the history that fills that land, there still is an open rejection of Jesus Christ. This nation was uniquely chosen by God to be blessed and to be the source of a blessing for the whole world. But because they've rejected their Messiah they have not been blessed and they have not been a source of blessing to the world.
Now this brings up a very interesting question that Jews are even asking today. And this question was brought to me through this one particular guide. And they are asking this basic question: how can the gospel, the new covenant, the message of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, how can that really be God's message if the Jews never believed it and still don't believe it and the Jews are God's people? That's the question. I mean, how could God give a message that His own people would reject? To put it another way, if the leading Jews of the time of Christ didn't believe He was the Messiah, if for the most part the Jewish people didn't believe He was the Messiah, if Jews dominantly throughout all of history don't believe He's the Messiah and if Jews today don't believe He's the Messiah and Jews are the chosen people of God who have the revelation of God, then He couldn't be the Messiah. You understand? That's really the query that they struggle with.
The conclusion is then that Christianity is just another religion. It is, in fact, if imposed on Judaism a blasphemous heresy. They want to cultivate, at least some of them do, a dialogue with Christianity because they want to accept Christianity insofar as Christians can be of assistance to them in the advance of their particular goals. They like premillennial Christians because we tend to be pro‑Israel. They like evangelical Bible‑believing Christians because we are pro‑ Israel. But they see us as a means to an end, for the most part, to assist them and help them in the objectives of their new identity while not accepting our Christ, our Messiah. And the bottom line struggle in their minds is that Jesus can't be the Messiah or the religious leaders of His time never would have rejected Him. The people never would have rejected Him. The Jews throughout history wouldn't reject Him. And people today wouldn't reject Him because after all, the Jews are God's chosen people to whom He's given His revelation. And if they are in fact that they would have known their Messiah when He got here. So if they didn't recognize Jesus as the Messiah, then He isn't the Messiah.
Now that isn't anything new today, that's exactly the way they felt in Paul's day, nothing's changed. It's really remarkable...nothing's changed. That was their question in Paul's day...how can you say that the new covenant gospel of faith in Jesus Christ sets aside the old covenant, that this Jesus is the Messiah in whom we are to place our faith for salvation when none of the leaders of Israel believe that? Could God be sending a message that His own people wouldn't accept? Could God be giving a gospel that His own leaders would deny and consider to be a heresy and a blasphemy? And they did indeed, you know, feel it to be that because that's why Paul was commissioned to stamp out Christianity. No, they say, it's impossible. And further they would add this, the character of the new covenant is directed seemingly to the Gentiles and that even makes it more unacceptable that God should turn His back on Israel to call out a Gentile church? Impossible. That God should reject His covenant people? That God should set aside His promise to them, that God should say to the Jew who was identified as a chosen race, "You are no longer My people, I'm now calling a Gentile church." It's impossible for them to accept that rationally, humanly. And so that's really their dilemma.
And as I said, I read this book which attempts to explain all of that and they want to allow us to have our Messiah but not have us to force ours on them. Their content to see it the way they see it because if they have to agree that Jesus is the Messiah, Jesus is the Savior and the way to salvation, then they've got to admit that their whole nation missed it and they can't acknowledge that. It just seem too impossible...it just couldn't be. And then they've got also to acknowledge that God has for the time anyway set aside Israel as the nation of blessing and called out a Gentile church, and that for them is equally impossible for them to believe.
And so they're going to have that objection not only today but they had it in Paul's day and he faces it in chapter 9. And beginning with verse 6 and really running to the end of the chapter, and we're going to take a few weeks to get through this, it will probably take us January because we have music and other things coming up this month. But I want to take my time allowing this to unfold because it's so very very important a subject. In this chapter from verse 6 to 33, Paul gives four reasons why Israel's unbelief doesn't violate God's character. You see, the Jew is going to say, "Boy, if God sets aside His people and if God sends a Messiah that no Jews believe in, then God's word doesn't mean anything and God's character is changed and His promises have changed and His covenants have changed and everything is overturned and we can't accept that." And so Paul says in chapter 6 (I think he means 9) four things really, the unbelief of Israel is not inconsistent with God's promise, the unbelief of Israel is not inconsistent with God's person, the unbelief of Israel is not inconsistent with God's prophets and the unbelief of Israel is not inconsistent with God's prerequisite. And what he is saying there is this, because Israel doesn't believe doesn't mean God has violated His promise, verses 6 to 13, doesn't mean God has violated His person integrity, verses 14 to 24, doesn't mean God has violated His prophets word, verses 25 to 29 and certainly doesn't mean God has violated His prerequisite, verse 30 to 33.
Now what Paul is doing here is saving the character of God, if you will, from being condemned. He's holding up the integrity of God here. Because Israel does not believe doesn't mean God has cancelled His promises. You see, that's where the Jew is. He's saying, "Look, if you tell me this is true then I'm going to look at God and say, `God, You didn't keep Your promise. You didn't keep Your covenant. You changed Your Word and You violated everything we know to be true about You. What Your prophet said isn't true and all the rules of the game have been altered.'" And the Jew would say that is to blaspheme God for God keeps His promise, God never changes His person, God's prophets' word will come to pass and God's prerequisites are still the same. And so they're saying, "Look, we can't accept Christianity without overthrowing everything we know to be true about God and that's blasphemy...that's blasphemy."
And so, they're facing this dilemma. Has God cancelled His promises? Has God all of a sudden become unjust and unrighteous and untrustworthy? Were the words of the prophets wrong?
Now in order to get a good look at what Paul is saying we want to just take these in units so let's look tonight at verses 6 to 13. This is unit number one in this sort of four‑part dealing with the problem. And here the Holy Spirit answers any accusation that might be leveled at God saying that if Israel rejected and was out of the covenant then God's word would be broken, His promises useless, His character untrustworthy because He changed His mind, He'd overturned everything He said. And Israel would have been able to say God is not a covenant keeping God, you can't trust Him.
Now is it important for Paul to deal with this here? Of course it is. And I told you that some weeks ago that he's been presenting justification by grace through faith. He's been presenting the means of salvation and having presented that he stops and he answers the question about where does the Jew fit in because he knows that any reader who's reading and knows about the history of Israel is going to say, "Well, you keep telling me to come to God through Christ, you tell me that Christ will save me and Christ will take away my sin and Christ will give me His Holy Spirit and Christ will give me eternal life and Christ will take me all the way to glory and He'll never let go of me and He'll love me forever and so forth. You tell me all of that but I'm going to ask you a question. If I can trust Jesus Christ with my life how come He didn't keep His Word to the Jews?" You understand? That's the question that could come up. And so he wants to answer that and in chapter 9, 10 and 11 he develops this whole theology of how the Jew fits in to God's redemptive plan.
Now the first issue that I want you to see in verses 6 to 13 is that the unbelief of Israel is not inconsistent with God's promises...it is not inconsistent with God's promise that Israel did not believe in the Messiah. Most Jews believe and believed then that all Israel is saved by birth. You're born into the covenant because of Jewishness. You're born as Abraham's seed so you're automatically a part of the Kingdom, that's common Jewish belief. Thus a national rejection of the gospel made no sense to them and disqualified the gospel from being true in their minds. So Paul wants to help us to understand how the gospel can be true and at the same time be rejected by the people of the covenant. And that's what he's going to tell us as we come into chapter 9.
Now remember verses 1 to 5, I just want to touch base with those. Paul sort of sets up the chapter by telling us how much he cares for Israel. He says in verse 2 he has heaviness of heart, sorrow, he can wish himself accursed from Christ for the sake of his kinsmen, the Jews. And he says in verses 4 and 5, they have received the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service, that is the liturgical liturgy, the ceremonial sacrificial service, the promises, the fathers and even Christ came through them and to them.
In other words, with all that privilege how sad, he says, how sad that they have not believed. How sad that they are lost and that's why he could wish himself accursed for the sake of them being saved. And what he is saying in verses 1 to 5 and he says it by implication rather than directly is that Israel's no longer a blessed nation, Israel's no longer in a sense the apple of God's eye at this point, they're no longer the one on whom God pours out the benedictions of His great mercy and grace. And Paul is grieved about that. Oh he doesn't come out and just blurt out and say, "You're all cursed," he sort of lets his emotions leak out a little bit and he implies that they are no longer the blessed nation that they once were. And because of this the question comes: has God's plan changed? I mean, does God say He's going to do something, change His mind in mid stream? But, you see, if you thought that then you'd reject the gospel because you'd have the same fear that He would reject you sooner or later and change His mind and that leaves you in a very insecure position. So Paul must answer the issue.
So, the question that we see then as we look at chapter 9 verses 6 and following is what about Israel and how could they reject and God's promises still be valid? And so he says from 6 to 13, the unbelief of Israel is not inconsistent with God's promise. Look at verse 6. "Not as though the Word of God has taken no effect." Stop there.
To paraphrase that, "I say nothing which implies that the Word of God is failed, or literally has fallen. When I say Israel has been set aside and Israel is no longer blessed and that nation to whom God gave the covenants and the promises and all the law and the ceremonies and everything, that nation has been set aside, when I say that that is not to say that the Word of God has failed...that is not to say that God's promises have been violated or broken or cancelled." The Old Testament affirms that God can't do that, Jeremiah 32:42, "Thus says the Lord, Just as I brought all this great disaster on this people, so I am going to bring on them all the good that I'm promising them."
In other words, God said, "Because I bring disaster doesn't mean I ultimately won't bring good." And in Isaiah 55 God said, "Whatever word proceeds out of My mouth will never return...what?...void but always accomplish the purpose to which I send it, or always succeed in fulfilling its objective." So what Paul wants to say here is that Israel's rejection somehow some way is still consistent with God's promise, still consistent with God's faithfulness, still consistent with God's covenant. And what appears as a breech of promise is only an apparent breech, not a real one.
Now the Word of God, notice it there, verse 6, the Word of God, that refers not so much to the Old Testament as a whole but to the covenants and promises of verse 4. When God gave covenants and promises to His people Israel to save them, to give them a Kingdom, to give them glory, to bless them, to give them a King, and so forth, He meant what He said. These have not been cancelled. They haven't been cancelled. Beloved, you must understand that. That's why the nation Israel still exists. That's why it's still there. Of all of the people of that part of the world who existed when Israel existed, there are none left but the Israelites. And God has preserved them because He has yet to fulfill those promises and yet to fulfill those covenants. And their unbelief in no way violates those.
Well how do you explain it then? The end of verse 6, "For they are not all Israel who are of Israel." That's a very important statement. For they are not Israel who are of Israel. What does he mean by that? He means that God never promises unconditionally to each offspring of Abraham covenant blessing just because he is an offspring of Abraham. Did you get that? You see, the Jew believes that because he is fleshly descending from Abraham he therefore is included in the covenant...because he is a Jew by birth he is therefore a child of promise. He is therefore redeemed, if you want to put it in our parlance. He is therefore saved. He is therefore going to go to heaven. But God never intended that all Israel would be redeemed Israel...for they are not all the true Israel who are of the fleshly Israel.
Listen to it this way. The real Israel is contained within the natural Israel. To put it another way, spiritual Israel is contained within physical Israel. And though the nation, now listen very careful distinction, though the nation was chosen as a nation to be a vehicle to transmit the Scriptures, to be a vehicle to propagate the message of monotheism, one God, though the nation was chosen to be a witness nation, the choosing of the nation as an entity does not mean that every individual within that nation was also chosen to salvation. So the fact that Israel does not believe, that many individuals don't believe doesn't cancel the promises because God never intended in His sovereignty that every Jew would believe but that within the physical Israel there would be a believing remnant. The nation was elected to privilege but only individuals are elected to salvation. The real Israel is the Israel of faith and throughout all of the history of Israel there have been faithless Jews. It isn't anything just common to the time of Christ.
In fact, if you go to chapter 11 you will find that in verse 4 during the time of Elijah, go way back, in the time of Elijah, verse 4, God says, "I have reserved to Myself 7,000 men who've not bowed the knee to the image of Baal." But what about the multiplied tens of thousands of others? They had bowed the knee to Baal, they had entered into paganism. Even in Elijah's time all Israel was not true Israel. You understand the point? Very important. The nation was chosen to privilege but individuals are chosen to salvation.
To put it another way we need to look at Hebrews chapter 11 and verse 4...Hebrews 11:4 the great chapter on faith. And it says in verse 4, "By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain by which he obtained witness that he was righteous." Humph, righteousness didn't come because he was born of Adam. Righteousness didn't come because he offered a sacrifice. Righteousness came because he offered an excellent sacrifice that was born of his righteousness...very important. In other words, there's a difference between religion and righteousness. The true Israel is the Israel of righteousness, the Israel of faith. Look at John 1 and meet such a person. John 1:47, Jesus saw Nathaniel coming to Him and said of him, Behold a real Israelite, alethos, genuine." Behold a genuine Israelite. How so? "In whom is no evil, no deceit, no facade." This Nathaniel was not only an outward Jew, he was an inward one, you see. That's the issue.
John chapter 8, same concept, verse 39, but here Jesus is confronted by the religious leaders and their hope, of course, is in their Abrahamic descent. They believe they're part of the Kingdom because they were born of the seed of Abraham. They say in verse 33, "We are Abraham's seed," that's their claim to fame. In verse 39 they answered and said, "Abraham is our father...that makes us invincible. Jesus said to them, If you were Abraham's children you would do the works of Abraham." Now what does he mean by that? Well they were Abraham's children physically but he says if you were really Abraham's children spiritually you would do the things that he did. And what did he do? He did righteous things. So the fleshly Israel, the nation of privilege is not necessarily the same as the redeemed Israel, the nation of righteousness, the individuals who obey God.
Look at Galatians chapter 3 for another Scripture that will help us understand this. Chapter 3 verse 6, "Even as Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him for righteousness, know ye therefore that they who are of faith the same are the children of Abraham." Verse 9, "So then they who are of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham." That's the point. And so when we go back to Romans chapter 9 we really are hearing an echo of what he said in Romans chapter 2 verses 28 and 29, for he is not a Jew is one outwardly neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh but he is a Jew who is one inwardly and circumcision is that of the heart in the spirit and not in the letter whose praise is not of men but of God.
So, what are...what our answer is initially in understanding this question from Paul is that to begin with we want to know a very basic fact, that not all Israel is really Israel. Or not all Jews are really saved. But the ones who have faith in God as God has prescribed it in the Word, they are the true Israel. So that helps us. Because, you see, if we believed like the Jews believe that the whole nation is saved, then we would have a problem understanding how they could reject the true Word of God, right? But if we realize that there are only select ones in the nation who are saved then we could understand the rest could reject the truth and it could still be the truth. The reason why the rejection of the Jews involved no failure on the part of the divine promise is that the promise was never addressed merely to the natural descendants of Abraham. The true Jew and the blessed Jew is the believing Jew, and it's always been that way. When a Jew received Jesus Christ as Savior and Messiah, all the promises are fulfilled, all the promises are fulfilled. When a Jew comes to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, then that Jew enters into covenant blessing, the fulfillment of the promises. That's the promise of God.
In Galatians 3:29 it says, "If you are Christ's then are you Abraham's seed and heirs according to the promise. If you are Christ's then you're really Abraham's seed and heirs according to the promise." Will God keep His promise with Israel? You better believe He will. But His promise to Israel is not just to fleshly Israel, not at all, His promise to Israel has always been to spiritual Israel. And the fact that the whole nation rejects doesn't mean that He's changed His promise...no, no. Why there are a lot of times in its history when the nation on the widest margin rejected and it was only a remnant that believed. And God kept His covenant promise with the ones who believed...as He always will and always has.
In chapter 9 again would you look at verse 29? And as Isaiah said before, "Except the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, a remnant, we would have been a Sodom, we would have been made like Gamorrah." I mean, Israel as a nation would have been wiped out just like the rest except that God preserved a righteous seed.
So, the doctrine of the remnant is very important for a contemporary Jew to understand as it was for a Jew in Paul's day, that the national unbelief and rejection of Israel doesn't mean God's promises are not true, doesn't mean His covenants aren't being kept, it simply points out the thing that they should have known throughout all their history that for the most of the history of Israel the major portion of the nation rejected the truth of God and it was always a remnant that believed it. And there was, by the way, in the time of Christ a redeemed remnant of Jews.
So, the Word of God has not been violated at all, not at all. Now in verse 7 Paul supports this in a most fascinating way by carrying us all the way back to Abraham. "Neither because they are the seed of Abraham are they all children, but in Isaac shall thy seed be called."
Now take the first half of this verse, very interesting. He says neither because they are the seed of Abraham are they all children. Now he distinguishes between the seed of Abraham and children. Children here refers to those who enter into salvation, those who enter into covenant blessing, those who enter into the promise, life eternal. He says just because you are the seed of Abraham...that's a phrase that has to do with racial identity, just because you're Jewish, just because you descend from Abraham doesn't mean you are a child of salvation, doesn't mean you're a child of blessing, doesn't mean you're a child of promise, doesn't mean you are a child of God. No.
And he wants us to see why. Here is his illustration. "In Isaac shall thy seed be called." Now this is most important. Because we know that everybody who descended from the loins of Abraham is not automatically in the covenant, everybody descending from Abraham is not automatically in the promise, everybody descending from Abraham is not automatically in salvation blessing and the best way to prove it is to go right back to Abraham and look at his own biography. Who was the first son born of Abraham? Ishmael...Ishmael, he was a son of Abraham. But Ishmael was excluded from the promise. He was excluded from the covenant. The second son and the first legitimate son born of Sarah was Isaac. And Isaac was included. Was Isaac better? Did he earn it? No, it all happened before Isaac was ever born or Ishmael. It was the calling of God, "In Isaac shall thy seed be called."
You remember the story. God came to Abraham and Sarah and said, "Even though you're barren these many years...they were between ninety and a hundred years old, never had a son...I'm going to give you a son, he's going to be a child of promise and through him is going to come a nation," and so forth and so on. And they didn't believe it was possible at first and so Sarah felt maybe if they were going to have a child it would have to be with somebody other than her. So Abraham went unto his handmaiden by the name of Hagar, Abraham impregnated Hagar, she gave birth to a child by the name of Ishmael and it says in Genesis 21:13 that Ishmael is your descendant. So he was definitely a descendant of Abraham. Abraham was his father and that gave him rights of descendancy.
But Ishmael was rejected, he was outcast, he was put apart from the line of promise. And God gave to Abraham and Sarah in spite of their sinfulness the child of promise who was Isaac. And in him, it says in verse 7, the seed was called.
Now the point here is this, that it's obvious that God chooses some of the sons of Abraham to blessing, not all of them. And it's obvious from the very start, He rejected Ishmael. He accepted the line to come through Isaac. And I don't know if you remember but Abraham had another wife by the name of Keturah through whom he had a couple more sons. And they too were rejected. So just being a child of Abraham doesn't put you in the place of blessing. And that's verified by the illustration of the case of Isaac. The chosen nation was to come through the loins of Isaac. Paul's argument is very simple. Ishmael and Isaac demonstrate that God never intended all those naturally descending from Abraham to receive covenant blessing. The point is, God is selective...or better, God is elective. And the key word is "called," chosen by sovereign will.
When you look around the world today and you say, "Why if the gospel is true doesn't Israel believe?" just ask yourself this question: did God say that every Jew descended from Abraham was a child of promise? The answer is no, we know it from the very start, only one of Abraham's sons was chosen to be the child of promise. And it's been that way all through the history of Israel, God has selected out specific individuals to specific individuals a remnant to redeem and so today we are not thrown off the fact...by the fact that most of Israel doesn't believe. We don't say God has cancelled His covenant and God has cancelled His promises. No, because He was always selective, yes elective when He gave those promises. And history shows us they were always meant for the few and not the many. Mere natural descent lays no claim to the promise.
And the next verse explains it, verse 8, it starts out "that is," which indicates to us that he's giving us a further explanation. "That is they who are the children of the flesh," that is equal to the phrase "Abraham's seed" in verse 7, or the seed of Abraham. Those who are physically descending from Abraham...these are not the children of God...that's equal to the children of verse 7. In other words, just being physically from the loins of Abraham doesn't mean you're a child of God. "But the children of the promise...that's another way to say the children of God, or the children of verse 7...are counted as the seed."
Who are the true children of God? It's the children of promise. They're called that because they were called by God to receive the promise of salvation. They are considered the true seed. They are regarded as the recipients of promise. And Isaac is the illustration. You know, Isaac is a perfect illustration of a believer because he was born by a special act of God, he was born by supernatural power and he was born according to a divine promise. He's a picture of anyone who is redeemed.
So, verse 8 makes it clear. What I'm saying, he says, that is what I mean to say with the illustration of Isaac is that those who are the children of the flesh of Abraham are not necessarily the children of God. But the children of the promise of God are counted as the true seed...the true seed then are the ones God elects out of the children of the flesh.
Now verse 9, "For this is the word of promise, at this time will I come and Sarah shall have a son." Now the word of promise was given in Genesis 18 and you remember, perhaps, I could read you two verses from Genesis 18 in case you may have forgotten. Verse 10, "And he said, I will certainly return unto thee according to the time of life and lo, Sarah thy wife shall have a son...Sarah thy wife shall have a son," that's the word of promise, Genesis 18:10. Verse 14, "Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the time appointed I will return unto thee according to the time of life and Sarah shall have a son." The word of promise is repeated. Verse 10, it's repeated in verse 14. And here in verse 9, "This is the word of promise, at this time will I come and Sarah shall have a son," quoted right out of Genesis 18:14. That's the promise. Sarah shall have a son. Not Hagar shall have a son, and not Keturah shall have a son, Sarah shall have a son. And so God is selective. Isaac was born at a special time, born by the special power of God and born by the promise of God. He is the child of divine choice as God acts in human history.
Just as it is said of Ruth that she was uniquely set by God in a special place, chapter 1 verse 6, just as it is said of Esther that she had come to the kingdom for just such a time as that, just as the Bible tells us God acts through various human beings at special times in history, just as it says of Christ in Galatians 4 that He came at appointed time in the fullness of time, God sent forth His Son made of a woman, made unto the law and so forth, so it is that in the right moment in the right time by the right choice God chose to give a child of promise, Isaac. And this is all just an illustration, simply pointing out the fact that God is selective.
It's very difficult for the Jews to accept this because what it says to them is that within the Jewish race there are some that are chosen to be the children of the promise, not all. So wholesale Jewish unbelief doesn't make us panic like God has overturned His promises. So Paul's statement here is, "Look, not all Israel is Israel, it's a remnant. And so the unbelief of Israel doesn't mean that this message can't be true, Israel has been unbelieving in all of the messages God has sent. And if you need an illustration, remember this, Abraham had several sons, only one was chosen by God...only one was a child of promise, only one. And God has always worked through an elect remnant, a saved minority."
But there's even a stronger illustration...verse 10: "And not only this, but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by Isaac our father..." We'll stop there. Not only this, not only the illustration of Abraham and Isaac, but the illustration of Isaac and Rebecca. Not only did Sarah receive along with Abraham a promise of a son, but so did Isaac's wife, Rebecca. Rebecca was the daughter of Bethuel, remember...from Padan‑Aram, chosen as a wife, as a bride for Isaac. You remember that great story of how the servant went to find a bride for Isaac. Marvelous story, Genesis 24. And she was to be the bride. And she came back and was the bride. And according to Genesis 25 she gave birth. And you remember, she gave birth to twins, Genesis 25, you can read it in verses 19 to 24. Their names were Jacob and Esau. And from those two God chose one through whom would come the line of promise and the one was whom? Jacob...Jacob. God's unconditional election finds its most unequivocal expression in the choice of the younger twin born to Rebecca. Esau was first born and he should have had the right of primogenitor, which meant a double blessing and double respect. But God chose Jacob and what it means is God is selective. And He's not only selective but sometimes He chooses what doesn't seem to be the way you should choose. He has that sovereign right.
And again Paul is saying, "You see, not all the natural children are the children of promise. They weren't in the case of Abraham and they weren't in the case of Isaac." So when Rebecca had conceived by one, that's one man, that is by our father Isaac, jump to verse 12..."It was said to her," verse 11 is a parenthesis, "It was said to her, The elder shall serve the younger." Who said that? Who said that? Genesis 25 says God said it. God says I choose Jacob...I choose the younger to be set over the elder. And that was against the normal course of life. But that was God's choice.
Now if you read Genesis 25 you find a lot of interesting things about these two men, Jacob and Esau. Let me just tell you a little bit about them. I'm not going to take the time to read Genesis 25, you can read it on your own. The elder son, the first born of the twins was Esau. Esau was a hairy man, it says, he was sort of viral outdoor hunter type, he was his father's favorite and all that. He should have had the special blessing. He should have had the double inheritance, as 1 Chronicles 5:1 promised. He should have had the double respect, 2 Chronicles 21:3 promises. He was a wild man of the desert though. As he grew and developed he definitely was not concerned with things of God. In fact he married one of the Canaanites. And then he married another Canaanites...Canaanite wife. And he brought nothing but grief to his parents. So he was wild, son of the desert, indifferent to the things of God, married pagan forbidden wives out of the Canaanites. And then to make matters worse, he married his cousin. His cousin was Ishmael's daughter, Genesis 28 tells about that.
So, he is pagan. He is incestuous. And then to make things worse he sold his birthright. It didn't mean anything to him to be the first born so he sold it for a meal. He distained it. I mean, it was useless to him, it was meaningless to him. He had no thought for things like that. He was indifferent to the things of God. He was indifferent to the covenant. He was indifferent to being a child of promise. That meant absolutely nothing to him. In fact, in Hebrews 12:16 it says, "Lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau." He was a fornicator and a profane person who for one morsel of food sold his birthright. For you know how afterward when he would have inherited the blessing he was rejected and then it says he found no place of repentance though he sought it with tears. He was so corrupt and so evil, so profane that even when he intellectually wanted to repent, he couldn't find a place for repentance. He couldn't even bring himself to repent he was so evil.
So he was the one who was first born. He was not chosen of God. And his life confirmed that, didn't it? You see, when God chooses that's only part of it. God rejected Esau as the line of promise. And Esau also rejected God. And you can be sure that God only rejects those who reject Him and only chooses those who choose Him, that's the divine mystery. The other one was Jacob, he was the younger. And verse 12 says that the text said the elder shall serve the younger, you can read it in Genesis 25, God said that. The elder is going to serve the younger. He bought the birthright from Esau. He received the blessing. Oh, he received it by deception, didn't he? He pretended to be Esau. His mother put him up to it. Stupid. What would Rebecca do that for? She knew God said the elder will serve the younger. She knew God said Jacob is the one I choose, why do you do that? Why don't you trust God if He says it's going to be that way that He'll make it happen without being a deceiver? Isn't it sad the way people take things into their own hands? His mother put him up to it in spite of the Word of the Lord. All they had to do was wait and God would have worked it out that he receive the blessing, but they tried to deceive and get it on their own. And consequently poor Jacob had a life of pain and sorrow and trouble.
Jacob did seek God. He's the one who wrestled with an angel and out of that wrestling God changed his name from Jacob to what? To Israel. And he did seek God. He had a heart for God. But he suffered because of his sin. He was chastened by the Lord. He was hated by his brother. His life was full of pain and sorrow. But he did seek God and there was a righteousness in him. And he was God's chosen child. So the point that Paul is making is the same point only he's using a different illustration. When it came to Jacob and Esau, God made a choice, too. So it shouldn't be surprising to us that all of the Jews don't believe, why all of Abraham's sons weren't chosen as children of promise nor all of Isaac's either.
Let me take this a step further...fascinating truth. When it says the elder shall serve the younger, I don't think it's talking simply about Jacob and Esau. I think it's talking about what's going to come out of their loins, the nations. Out of the loins of Jacob came the nation what? Israel. Out of Esau came...do you know who came out of Esau? Let me tell you. In Genesis 25:23 when the prophecy came to Rebecca, God said to her, "You're going to have two sons. The elder shall serve the younger." And then God said, "You bear in your womb two nations...two nations." And I think that's the essence of what it's saying here. Two nations...because we know of no account in the life of Jacob and Esau where Esau actually served Jacob. We don't know of any incident. But it's two nations that are in view. Esau never personally served Jacob. But Edom was the nation that came from Esau and Edom was put in servitude under Israel.
Now Edom means red, that's from the pottage that Jacob gave him in chapter 25 of Genesis. Esau lived in Mount Seir. Mount Seir is east of the Dead Sea. Genesis 36 verse 8 says it came to be called Edom. So Esau went to Mount Seir and gave birth to the Edomites...later known as the Idumaeans. The people were idol worshipers. You read 2 Chronicles chapter 25 and you'll find that they were idol worshipers. You read Numbers chapter 20 verses 18 and following and you'll find that they were the enemies of Israel.
So Esau went down to Mount Seir, out of the promised land, and produced a race of Edomites who were pagan idolatrous anti‑ Israelites. And God gave some very strong messages to those people. In Amos 1, "Thus saith the Lord," verse 11, "for three transgressions of Edom and for four I will not turn away its punishment because he did pursue his brother with a sword and did cast off all pity and his anger did tear perpetually and he kept his wrath forever. But I will send a fire upon Teman which shall devour the palaces of Bozrah." That's the ancient name of the capital of Edom. So Edom had set itself against Israel. But God moved in judgment.
The prophet Obadiah, in fact you can read the whole book of Obadiah to get the picture of God's judgment on Edom..."The vision of Obadiah, thus saith the Lord God, concerning Edom and how God is going to judge them for violence...verse 10 says...against thy brother Jacob, shame shall cover thee and thou shalt be cut off forever." And Edom was made a vassal in servitude to Israel by the judgment of God.
So Israel, coming from the loins of Jacob, was the chosen nation. Edom, from the loins of Esau, the object of wrath. And what it's saying again is God is selective. Two sons born of Isaac, and Isaac was the child of promise, but even again God chose...God chose. This was God's choice.
This is confirmed by a shocking statement in verse 13, "As it is written, Jacob have I loved but Esau have I hated." Now would you listen carefully to me? That is a direct quote from Malachi 1:2 and 3. It is a direct quote from Malachi chapter 1. "I hated Esau, laid his mountains and his heritage waste." He hated Esau. Verse 2, "I love Jacob. Jacob I loved, Esau I hated." Now listen carefully. I do not believe that this is a primary reference to the individual Jacob and the individual Esau, I don't think that's the point. Because that's never said in the Old Testament. That is never uttered in the book of Genesis. God never says when those young men are born "I hate Esau." He never says it during the life of Jacob and He never says it during the life of Esau. There's no such statement made. In fact, it is probably nearly a thousand years later when the prophet says "Esau have I hated." And the Esau of His hatred is the idolatrous pagan kingdom of Edom that's come from the loins of Esau. And the Jacob He loves is the Israel, the Israel of God, His people, His nation...the people of blessing.
Now some have tried to say in that verse what it means is, "Jacob have I loved and Esau have I loved less," it doesn't say that. It says He hated him. I mean, let God hate if He wants to hate, and He hates evil and He hates idolatry and He hates paganism and so He hates Esau...He hates. You can read about God's hate in Psalm 5:5, Psalm 11:5, Psalm 26:5, you can read it in Proverbs 6:16 where it says six things the Lord hates, yea seven are an abomination to Him. In Jeremiah 44 verse 4 the abominable thing I hate, says God. You can read it in Hosea 9:15, Amos 5:21, Zechariah 8:17 and Malachi 2:16 and many other places, God hates. He hates evil, He hates wickedness, He hates idolatry. And He hated what He saw in the seed of Esau. It says at the end of verse 4 of Malachi 1 that against Edom the Lord has indignation forever.
So the Lord's selective and out of the birth of twins Esau chose against God, God chose against Esau. Jacob chose even in spite of his sin for God, God chose Jacob. Both were born of Abraham, both were born of Isaac, both were not children of promise. And out of their loins came two nations, one the people of promise, one the people of eternal indignation, judgment and wrath.
Now we close by going back to verse 11 and picking up the final principle as it's repeated, the parenthesis. Having considered the two illustrations, just remind yourself of the principle. "For the children...that is Jacob and Esau...being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him that calleth."
What's that saying? It's saying God chose between Jacob and Esau before they were ever born. God chose them before they ever did any good or any evil. That's right. It's election, folks. God chose...God chose. You say, "That's a hard thing for me to understand." Of course it is, but does it help you to see that when they lived their life the one that God had chosen demonstrated that he too chose God? And the one that God had rejected demonstrated that he too rejected God? Does that bring some balance? It does for me. But the point here is this, that before either one of them were born God chose and He did it before they were born in order that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not through their works but of Him that calls. What's the point? The point is this, if God chose you because of what you did, then who gets the glory? You do. But the purpose of God is to glorify Himself...mark that down...that the purpose of God...what is that?...to glorify Himself. And the way that He glorifies Himself is to be the sovereign who chooses, not because of what you do but because of His own sovereign calling. The purpose of God is to exalt His sovereign purpose. And so He chooses before we've done anything good or bad, before they were born He chose, before they had done anything good or evil He chose...that the choice might redound to His glory.
Every person chosen to salvation whether in Israel or in the church is chosen by God before the person is born. The Bible says your name is written in the Lamb's Book of Life from the foundation of the world. And you will in life confirm that choice by believing. That's a mystery...that's a mystery.
But, you see, now listen to this, I'm going to close, we are so used to man‑centered theology that if it doesn't start with us, we can't understand it. We're introduced to the fact that God chooses between Jacob and Esau before they were born and we think that's unfair. Why? Because we are so proud, we are so self‑centered, we are so man‑centered even in our theology that if it doesn't start with our choice we can't handle it. And we want to start with us and try to work our way back to God and hope He makes sense from our view. God does the choosing.
And Paul makes a point of this here. God does the choosing. He does the calling. It's Him that calls. It's an effectual saving call, by the way. It's the kind of call mentioned in John 8:30 and John 9:27, 1 Corinthians 1:9, 1 Corinthians 7:15 and Galatians 1:6 and 15, Galatians 5:8 and 13 and Ephesians 4:1 and 4 and Colossians 3:15 and on and on. It's the saving call, the effectual call. So Paul is affirming the electing purpose of God who distinguishes by His own sovereign will. And all of that just to say this...that's all illustration of the fact that we aren't surprised when the nation Israel doesn't believe because not all Israel is Israel. God has His people. And we met some of them there, some of the remnant in that land. We have some of the remnant of Israel in our church, God bless them. What an enriching fellowship they are for us. They boast in their Abrahamic ancestry, Paul tears that down. Abraham had two sons, only one was a child of promise. Isaac had two sons, only one was a child of promise. And so God's Word stands...as it always will stand...and the unbelief of Israel is no inconsistency with God's promise. Next time we'll see that it's not inconsistent with His person either. Let's pray.
Lord, we thank You for our time tonight...even though we've taken a little longer than normal. How important it is for us to understand this great portion of Scripture. Thank You, Lord, for the clarity with which Your Word and Your Spirit speak to us and we give You praise in Christ's name. Amen.
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