Wednesday, April 20, 2011

In Search Of Truth, Romans 9:1-13

Beginning in Chapter 9, Paul focuses on the Jewish people and their relationship to God, while also giving insight to the nature of God's power and how it interacts with our free will.

Many believers today conclude that the nation of Israel and the Jewish people have no role in the Kingdom of God; that they have been cut off and are essentially now obsolete in purpose or irrelevant to God's plan for humanity. In history, we’ve seen “Christian” movements hate or persecute Jews in the name of God. But despite these movements being associated with Christianity by many, one doesn’t have to look far or deep in the Bible to see that hatred or disrespect for Jews is not biblical.

Paul's words stand in sharp opposition to any kind of "anti-Jewish" sentiments. He emphatically states, with Christ and the Holy Spirit as his witnesses, that he would rather be forever cursed and separated from God than see the Jewish people be separated from God forever for their rejection of Christ. (v.1-3)

Paul validates the extraordinary significance given by God to the Jewish people. They were selected out of all humanity to be the first among God's children. They had the honor of being on display as his representatives. They were made a part of God's plan for blessing humanity. They were the first to read and learn God's recorded words, which not only improved their lives but gave them a picture of what God is actually like! They alone were permitted to interact with God in worship through richly symbolic activities that illustrated who God is and what he lovingly does for us. They were repeatedly promised blessing by God. (v.4)

Among them God placed the wisest teachers and leaders in history, who delivered the words of God himself. And from their bloodline, God himself emerged as a human being. (v.5)

This is why Paul was so broken at the fact that the majority of Jews have rejected God. But this doesn't mean that God's purposes for humanity have failed. God didn’t place the totality of his plan in just one bloodline or culture. Nor are all Israelis God’s chosen nation of Israel.

In the time that Paul wrote Romans, it was a popular Jewish belief that simply being descended from Abraham guaranteed special standing with God. But God has always chosen people for special roles based on his own agenda, not on anyone’s previously good behavior or status in life.

Paul makes this distinction here, between the Israelites by blood and the Israelites within that group who are true Israelites by God’s choice and promise. Abraham had other children, but they were not part of this specific promise of blessing from God. And although his son Isaac had twin boys, before they were able to do good or evil, before they were even born, God chose one to have greater significance to his plan for humanity than the other. (v.6-13)

On a side note, when some translations say that God “hated” Esau in verse 13, it’s because of Paul’s use of a Hebrew idiom, in which an opposite word (hate versus love) is used in contrast while actually meaning simply a lesser degree. (Jesus did this in Luke 14:26) In other words, God enacted his loving kindness toward Esau to a lesser degree than he did toward Jacob. Though he still loved and blessed Esau. (Genesis 33:4-17, 36:1-7)

At this point, someone might look at this and say, “How is that fair? Why does Jacob, or anyone else get special treatment from God and others get less when they haven’t even done anything yet to deserve reward or punishment?”

Paul responds to this hypothetical complaint, and we’ll take a look at that next time!

Next- Our Will And God’s Will. Who Is Responsible?

Coffee House Question- Imagine living as a Jew in the time of the Tanakh. (The Old Testament) What one or two things from verses 4 and 5 of this chapter do you think you would be most grateful for or excited about?

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