Rom 9--11: This section contains "unfinished business."
Although Paul has insisted on the priority of the Jew (Rom 1:16) and has noted
in part his advantages (Rom 3:1,2...), he has also been obliged to expose the
Jews' failure and guilt, despite their being the chosen people of God. Those who
have been under divine training for centuries in preparation for the coming of
the Messiah have failed to receive him. Has the purpose of God been frustrated?
What does the future hold for this people? The problem faced here was
underscored in Paul's own ministry. He had been faithful in going to the Jew
first, but in place after place he had been rebuffed by Jewish unbelief. In Rome
itself his strenuous effort to win a favorable verdict for the Lord Jesus Christ
was to prove largely unsuccessful (Acts 28). Was his earlier statement about the
power of the gospel (Rom 1:16) too hasty, too optimistic? Or were his own labors
among his people inadequate? Paul could not subscribe to either conclusion. He
had to face the problem from the standpoint of God's purposes and ways.
Jew and Gentile are distinguished in the first three chapters
and are still distinguished, as the circumcised and the uncircumcised, in Rom 4.
In Rom 5 to 8 the Jew/Gentile tension drops out of sight, only to be renewed in
Rom 9 to 11 and brought under searching examination.
So was this former champion of Judaism now an enemy of his
nation and people? By no means! Here he states his willingness to die for them
if they would accept Christ. His own feelings are especially strong: "There were
ties of blood and the bonds of early days, which to a man of large sympathies
were productive of much distress" (CRom 99).
MY CONSCIENCE CONFIRMS IT: Gr "suneidesis" has the
sense of an independent witness within, examining and passing judgment on a
man's own conduct: cp Rom 2:15: "their consciences also bearing witness, and
their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them".
IN THE HOLY SPIRIT: That is, by his knowledge of the
principles of God expressed in the Word of God, that was given by the Holy
Spirit. Cp Rom 8:16: "The Spirit himself [Christ?] testifies with our spirit
that we are God's children."
Both in depth and persistence Paul's sorrow was great. It
never left him! It was there in the beginning of his enlightenment when he
prayed in the Temple and pleaded that he be allowed to preach to his countrymen
FOR I COULD WISH THAT I MYSELF WERE CURSED AND CUT OFF FROM
CHRIST: Cp with Moses: "But now, please forgive their sin -- but if not,
then blot me out of the book you have written" (Exo 32:32). But, ironically (and
as Paul of course knew), one HAD ALREADY been "cursed" for the sake of Israel,
to deliver them from bondage: "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by
becoming a curse for us, for it is written: 'Cursed is everyone who is hung on a
tree' " (Gal 3:13; cit Deu 21:23).
Notice the "could": Paul is not praying to be cursed; he says,
'I COULD pray!' It was a desire, but it was a passing desire beyond
This readiness to be "cursed", although impractical, takes on
poignancy in light of the fact that Paul had in fact already suffered the loss
of all things in order to gain Christ (Phi 3:8). So he would be facing a double
MY BROTHERS, THOSE OF MY OWN RACE: Paul retained this
nomenclature even though not referring to brethren in Christ (cp Acts 13:26,38).
But more than a blood relationship is involved, because he goes on to cite the
spiritual heritage of his people that he shares with those of them who have not
become Christians. This use of "brothers" appears elsewhere (eg, Acts 2:29;
3:17; 22:1; 28:17).
THE PEOPLE OF ISRAEL: "Israel" -- in ct to Jews --
takes them back to their origins, to one father who obtained his name from God.
Cp 1Ki 18:31: 12 stones for the 12 tribes: "Your name shall be Israel." Cp
Paul's other descriptions of Israel: Phi 3:5; Acts 13:16,26.
ADOPTION: Lit, the "sonship". No other people had God
as their Father in the specific sense that Israel enjoyed: Exo 4:22; Hos 11:1;
Isa 63:8,16,19; 64:8; Deu 14:1. The Gr "huiothesis" ("adoption as sons", used
also in Rom 8:15) does not occur in LXX, but the idea is certainly present,
especially in Deu 14:1,2 (cf Exo 4:22; Hos 11:1). Paul uses the word, as though
to say that even the status of Israel was not something necessary and inherent,
but the result of an act of graciousness on the part of God.
THE DIVINE GLORY: The "splendor of the divine presence"
(NEB). The "Shekinah" glory that shone in the Most Holy Place and above the
mercy seat, first in the cloud and the pillar of fire by night, then in the
Tabernacle and later in the Temple. The purpose of this Glory was that God might
dwell among His people (Exo 25:8,22; 40:34; cp 1Ki 8:11; Deu 4:32-36).
THE COVENANTS: Or "covenant" (singular) -- the covenant
made at Sinai (Exo 24:8), a covenant made with the nation (cp Exo
THE RECEIVING OF THE LAW: Which followed immediately
after the covenant, in Exo 24:12.
THE TEMPLE WORSHIP: In AV, "the service of God" -- ie,
of the priests in Tabernacle and Temple. "Have Aaron your brother brought to you
from among the Israelites, along with his sons Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and
Ithamar, so they may serve me as priests" (Exo 28:1).
AND THE PROMISES: The promises to Abraham (Gen 12:1-3;
15:18; 17:7; 22:16-18), and to David (1Sa 7:12-16). Cp Eph 2:12: the covenants
THE PATRIARCHS: God's love for Abraham, Isaac, and
Jacob became the ground of His love for Israel (Deu 7:7; 10:15). He even called
Himself the "God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob" (Exo 3:16; Acts 3:13; 7:32). And
because of this love, Israel not only had the privilege of first hearing the
gospel (Acts 3:25,26) -- "to the Jew first" before "the Gentiles" (Rom 1:16;
AND FROM THEM IS TRACED THE HUMAN ANCESTRY OF CHRIST:
"Of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came" (AV). The Messiah was the core of
the promises, and indeed of everything else that went before: sonship, glory,
covenant, law, etc, all found their fullest meaning in his life!
A subtle distinction is to be noted between "theirs" and "from
them". Israel cannot lay claim to Christ in the same way she can claim the
patriarchs, even though he entered the human family through the Israelitish gate
(cf Rom 1:3). Christ is much more than the patriarchs. In his earthly origin he
belongs to the one nation, but in his heavenly origin and mission he cannot be
claimed exclusively by any segment of the race -- rather, he belongs to the
WHO IS GOD OVER ALL, FOREVER PRAISED: Or, as the NIV mg
puts it, "who is over all. God be forever praised!" (Cp NEB: "May God, supreme
above all, be blessed for ever.") Also, there is another possibility: "An
alternative wording has been favored by a few scholars, arrived at by emendation
of the text... yielding the following: 'whose is the God over all, blessed for
ever.' This would make Israel's possession of the true God her climactic
blessing, and it would be a fitting close to the paragraph" (EBC).
"Who is over all", if that is the correct rendering, testifies
that the Father had committed all power and authority to His Son (Mat 28:18;
On the other hand, "GOD over all", if that is correct,
testifies that Jesus is the fullest manifestation of Almighty God -- the express
image of the Father's person in human flesh (cp Col 1:15; Heb 1:2; Phi 2:9). Cp
ideas in Mat 23:39; Zec 14:9: the one who comes in the "name" of the LORD! Also
cp Psa 45:6,7 -- cited Heb 1:8,9 -- where Jesus is addressed as "God", but only
because he has been "blessed" by HIS God forever (Psa 45:2 -- which is the very
phrase of Rom 9:5).
IT IS NOT AS THOUGH GOD'S WORD HAD FAILED: The Word of
God "is quick and powerful" and will surely accomplish the end to which it is
sent (Heb 4:12; Isa 55:10,11). But what is that purpose? Paul shows that God's
purpose does not call for the salvation of every single Jew.
FOR NOT ALL WHO ARE DESCENDED FROM ISRAEL ARE ISRAEL:
That is, not all born of Jacob are necessarily the chosen "seed" (cp idea, Rom
2:28,29). Fleshly descent is not the key requirement that Jews imagined; they
laid great weight upon their genealogical line, a fact that was often productive
of bitter and vain arguments (see 1Ti 1:4; Tit 3:9).
References to a deeper sense of the name "Israel": John
1:45-51 (an Israelite indeed is one in whom is no guile); Gal 6:16 (those only
who find true peace in God); Luk 3:8; Jer 9:25,26; Isa 56:3-5,8 (sons of
strangers fare better than sons of Jacob).
Cit Gen 21:12. Sarah had sought from Abraham that Hagar and
her son Ishmael be cast out from Abraham's encampment (Gen 21:10). Abraham had
found it a very hard matter; he loved his son Ishmael. But Yahweh agreed with
Sarah: it was through her son Isaac that the seed would be generated.
At first glance, this would appeal to the nationalistic Jew.
But hidden in this argument was a "sting": if natural descent was not nearly as
important as divine selection, as in the case of Ishmael's rejection in favor of
Isaac, then in like manner the natural descent of Isaac's children was not
nearly as important as the divine selection of those who had or would develop
faith -- whether Jew or Gentile! In other words, the same argument that
effectively dismissed Ishmael and his line could also dismiss Isaac's line -- or
at least some part of it.
A true son of Abraham, and thus a true Israelite, is one with
the faith and behavior of Abraham. Jesus reasoned this way to the Jews: John
8:33-40. But if natural descent conferred eternal life, then the descendants of
Ishmael would be on an equal level with the Jewish people.
CHILDREN OF THE PROMISE: As was Isaac, whose birth was
promised, and then miraculously granted (see v 9; Gen 17:16,17;
This statement of promise was given by God to Abraham in Gen
18:10. Sarah, listening in the door of the tent, found the message too good to
be true. She was past the age of bearing children and her husband Abraham was
also old and stricken in age (v 11). Laughing within herself she said, "After I
am worn out and my master is old, will I now have this pleasure?" (Gen 18:12).
Humanly speaking the birth of a child was impossible. It could only be by the
promise of God, by the involvement of God, that the true seed could be
AT THE APPOINTED TIME: In Gen 18:10 it is "the time of
life" but the question of time is emphasized again in Gen 18:14: "At the TIME
APPOINTED..." Not only was Isaac born out of a promise but a promise to be
fulfilled at a SET TIME (cp Gen 21:2). This time was first appointed in Gen
17:21 -- a year after Yahweh appeared to Abraham with the covenant token of
circumcision (Gen 17:1,10,11) -- and probably nine months from the visitation of
I WILL RETURN: God was personally involved n this
birth, literally so in giving strength and revitalization to this aged couple --
just as He is spiritually involved in the calling of each of His sons and
daughters by the Word (hence causing them to "born after the Spirit": Gal 4:29;
"Yet why was there need for another child? What was wrong with
Ishmael to fulfil the role? Abraham would have been happy with that and even
submitted Ishmael to the consideration of God (Gen 17:18).
"God saw further than Abraham, and in His inscrutable judgment
another child was elected and promised of Him. The true seed of Abraham would be
born out of faith. God's election and power would provide His children. And to
emphasize the point, this promise of Isaac was first given on the very day of
the announcement of circumcision. The normal generative means of mankind were
inoperative. Any reliance upon the flesh was cut off and 'rolled away' (cp Jos
"So then, Ishmael, though a natural child, was not the chosen
seed of God. Therefore no other son of Abraham could assume heirship to the
promises on the basis alone of his fleshly descent" (LRom 8).
The argument carries over from v 9: "So then, Ishmael, though
a natural child, was not the chosen seed of God. Therefore no other son of
Abraham could assume heirship to the promises on the basis alone of his fleshly
"However, the Jews had a natural retort to this argument:
'Ishmael was cast out because he was the son of a bondwoman. His fleshly descent
was wrong! Isaac was chosen because he had the right mother! Can't you see the
emphasis, Paul, upon the son of the BONDWOMAN?' (Gen 21:10,12,13).
"This evasion only brought a crushing rejoinder! In the next
generation we have another two sons but this time of the SAME mother and father,
and again the Divine choice is seen" (LRom 8).
ONE AND THE SAME FATHER: And -- since they were twins
-- at the same time of conception! According to ordinary human expectation, they
should stand on equal terms before God in His dealings with them.
OUR FATHER ISAAC: Here Paul is stressing his
commonality with the Israelites.
YET, BEFORE THE TWINS WERE BORN: The characters of the
boys were neither formed nor known to man. Yet God -- who gave the power to
conceive to Rebekah, who was barren -- knew what manner of children He had
created, and their characters and destinies as well!
OR HAD DONE ANYTHING GOOD OR BAD: Why is this phrase
added, as it seems so obvious? In the previous example -- although the 'word of
promise" was given before the birth of Isaac (Gen 18:10) -- yet the full effect
of this electing promise was not apparent until the day of his weaning. It was
then that Ishmael's disparagement of his younger brother finally secured his
expulsion from the inheritance (Gen 21:10-12). Ishmael failed in behavior and
thus confirmed the election of God; he 'did evil'. But God had proclaimed the
destinies of Jacob and Esau before they were born, before any behavior was
known! Hence the power of God to exercise sovereignty over all His
IN ORDER THAT GOD'S PURPOSE IN ELECTION MIGHT STAND:
Being humans, our "logic" will always have trouble with these concepts because
we cannot work on two levels at once. We are conditioned -- by all our lives and
all our experiences -- to see and understand and make choices in a universe
where our freewill is King. We see, we process in our minds, and we choose, and
then we act. Free, sovereign creatures... making free choices.
But God lives in another dimension as well... maybe, we should
say: several different "dimensions" where we cannot really go! We can barely
understand what those dimensions mean. Maybe we DON'T understand, and the brain
starts hurting trying to reconcile His absolute omniscience (or foreknowledge)
and our freewill. How can we be choosing, really choosing, when God must already
know how we will choose?
But the Bible, it seems to me, says we CAN! So I have to think
that -- even if a part of my mind rebels at the juxtaposition of two ideas which
seem practically exclusive of one another -- then the fault (shortcoming,
weakness?) is with my own mind.
Put another way, I'd say we should be grateful that God has
given us minds that can even ASK such a question, about time and eternity and
the essential character and power of our Creator, while we -- when all is said
and done -- are nothing but a fragile combination of mud and blood and brain
synapses, sometimes firing and sometimes misfiring.
God has created us out of the dust, or clay, and given us a
mind which can dimly comprehend the Great Other, beyond ourselves and our eyes
and ears and smell and touch. In the words of Ecclesiastes, He has put
"eternity" into our hearts (Ecc 3:11). But like the clam on the seashore, our
little "hearts" and minds can't really fathom the depths of the sea, although it
lays there, right next to us. But what we know of the love of God tells us that
what we can only vaguely grasp now will surely be explained to us more fully
later, WHEN we are capable of receiving it.
At least, that's how I "make sense" of predestination,
foreknowledge, freewill, God, and man.
THE OLDER SHALL SERVE THE YOUNGER: Cit Gen 25:23. Lit,
"the greater shall serve the lesser" (RV). This sense is probably taken from the
preceding words: "and the one people shall be stronger than the other people."
In the context of this verse "the stronger" refers to the victor in the
"struggle" (going on within Rebekah's womb). Esau would win that context and
would be the firstborn, the first from the womb (Gen 25:25). But God decrees
that, despite his greater physical strength, Esau would still serve his younger
and weaker brother.
"In the individual lives of Esau and Jacob this was not
immediately obvious. Esau grew strong whilst Jacob was in Padan-aram and the
younger paid him deference when they again met by the river Jabbok (Gen
33:3,8-15). On the other hand Jacob obtained the birthright and the blessing
(Gen 25; 27). When Jacob returned from exile, it was he who entered the land of
promise whilst his older brother went back to Mount Seir. Even in possessions
Jacob had been greatly blessed, so that Esau marveled at the extent of his
family and herds and the magnitude of the present Jacob had sent to him (Gen
33:4-11). Esau was unable to provide for Jacob in any way because Yahweh had
made him self-sufficient (Gen 33:12-15). Jacob then passed on to be heir of the
great wealth and possessions already enjoyed by Abraham and Isaac. The
subservience of Esau, however, is more easily seen in his descendants, for Edom
was long subject to the kingdom of Judah (eg, 2Sa 8:14; 1Ki 22:47; 2Ki 14:7).
Jacob's future participation in the Kingdom of God will complete his ascendancy
-- when any profane person, like Esau, will be thrust out (Luk 13:28; Heb
12:16)" (LRom 10).
JACOB I LOVED, BUT ESAU I HATED: Cit Mal 1:2,3. What
was true for the brothers became generally true for their descendants as well --
for "Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be
separated" (Gen 25:23).
In this connection, by quoting Mal 1:2,3, Paul lifts the
discussion from what might appear to be a purely personal one to the plane of
corporate, national life. God's love for Jacob and hatred for Esau ought not to
be construed as temperamental. Malachi is appealing to the course of history as
fulfilling the purpose of God declared long before. Hatred in the ordinary sense
will not fit the situation, since God bestowed many blessings on Esau and his
descendants. The "hatred" is simply a way of saying that Esau was not the object
of God's electing purpose (cf the use of hate in Luke 14:26, where discipleship
is stated to involve "hatred" for one's own family and one's own life; they are
simply put out of consideration when one takes on himself the responsibility of
following Christ). The value of the account of the two brothers is to make clear
that in election God does not wait until individuals or nations are developed
and then make a choice on the basis of character or achievement. If He did so,
this would make a mockery of the concept of election, because it would locate
the basis in man rather than in God and His purpose. God's love for Jacob, then,
must be coupled with election rather than explained by some worthiness found in
him (cf Deu 7:6-8).
IS GOD UNJUST? NOT AT ALL!: No, of course not. "The
LORD is upright... and there is no wickedness in him" (Psa 92:15; cp Deu 32:4).
The thought that a major portion of Israel had been rejected was a great problem
to some of the Jews. It was all well and good if God rejected Ishmael and Esau
-- but when the principle of their rejection was applied to many of their own,
then they, the Jews, faltered at the righteousness of God.
HE SAYS TO MOSES: The one in whom Israel esp trusted
I WILL HAVE MERCY ON WHOM I HAVE MERCY, AND I WILL HAVE
COMPASSION ON WHOM I HAVE COMPASSION: Cit Exo 33:19. God taught Moses
himself this very principle of election. This was the instance when God withdrew
His presence from the nation as a whole, and confided esp in Moses himself -- to
whom He spoke "face to face" (Exo 33:7-11). Moses pleads with the Almighty, but
is rebuffed: God Himself will decide on what terms and when Israel might be
brought back into His favor.
MAN'S DESIRE: In this case (Exo 33), the man was Moses,
and his desperate desire was that God once again show favor to the
OR EFFORT: "Running" in KJV. That is, to be diligent,
or "make haste" (as Moses does in Exo 34:8).
BUT ON GOD'S MERCY: Moses earnestly sought God's favor
for Israel, but it was forthcoming only when God's chose!
The application, however, goes wider. All men "desire" their
own pleasures, and make great "effort" in pursuit of those pleasures (cp Gal
2:2; also cp Rom 9:30; 10:3). But their ultimate satisfaction, in all things, is
up to the mercy of God, and not their own desires or strivings.
FOR THE SCRIPTURE SAYS TO PHARAOH: "I RAISED YOU UP FOR
THIS VERY PURPOSE, THAT I MIGHT DISPLAY MY POWER IN YOU AND THAT MY NAME MIGHT
BE PROCLAIMED IN ALL THE EARTH": Paul is citing Exo 9:16.
"The question will always arise: 'Since God hardened Pharaoh's
heart, did Pharaoh not have any personal choice or freewill over this process?'
And the further question: 'If God planned all along to destroy Pharaoh's nation
and army, then how could Pharaoh have EVER had a choice of his own?' But it is
possible that God COULD have worked His purpose just as well IF Pharaoh had not
hardened his heart, and IF he had in fact heeded the warnings of Moses: "The
most careful attention should here be directed to what is not said by Paul in
this appeal to Exo 9:16. God did not say to Pharaoh that he had raised him up in
order to destroy him, or to drown his army in the Red Sea, but that God had
raised him up for the purpose of showing His power in Pharaoh and of having
God's name published throughout the earth. Just HOW God's purpose would be
fulfilled in Pharaoh, at the time God spoke, still remained within the
circumference of Pharaoh's free will to choose; whether by his own submission to
God's commands or by his rebellion against them, would be realized God's
purpose. If Pharaoh had submitted to God's will, God's name would have been
magnified all over the world and His power would have been demonstrated in
Pharaoh just as gloriously in that manner as it was in the manner of its actual
occurrence. Pharaoh had the free choice of obeying or not obeying God; but God
had purposed, either way, to use him as a demonstration of God's power and a
means of publishing the divine name all over the world; but the choice of HOW
this would come about remained with Pharaoh until he was HARDENED.
"What happened to the king of Nineveh, following the preaching
of Jonah, should be remembered in the connection here. Both Pharaoh and the
ruler of Nineveh heard the word of God, the one by Moses, the other by Jonah.
Nineveh received mercy; Egypt did not. God had a perfect right to spare one and
punish the other; but it is a falsehood to allege that God's doing so was
capricious and unrelated to what was in the two monarchs or to their
[respective] responses to God's word" (Coffman).
THAT MY NAME MIGHT BE PROCLAIMED IN ALL THE EARTH:
Echoed many times in the period of the plagues, leading up the exodus from
Egypt: Exo 7:3,4,17; 8:10,22; 9:29,30; 10:2; 11:9; 12:12. Subsequent history
reveals how effective Yahweh had been in this purpose (cp Exo 15:14; Jos 2:10;
9:9; 1Sa 4:8). The Pharaoh who confronted Moses was a remarkable man for pride
and will power. Yet through those very qualities the glory of the God of Israel
was the more magnified. A milder individual would never have served the purpose!
Ten times this Pharaoh turned back to challenge the power of Yahweh! With each
step the power of Yahweh was heightened and the news released throughout the
surrounding nations as they watched the growing drama. And so the record of
these great events has been the foundation of faith for many thousands, perhaps
millions, in all later times.
Thus the wrath of man can indeed contribute to the praise and
glory of God (Psa 76:10)!
THEREFORE GOD HAS MERCY ON WHOM HE WANTS TO HAVE MERCY:
This first phrase simply repeats v 15 -- but then Paul goes on to the additional
point of Pharaoh's case...
AND HE HARDENS WHOM HE WANTS TO HARDEN: How did God
"harden" Pharaoh's heart (Exo 4:21; 7:3,13; 9:12,35; 10:1,20; 14:8; etc)? "All
God had to do to antagonize Pharaoh was to touch his pride and tell him what to
do against his will, ie, 'let My people go', and enter into a competition with
Pharaoh as to who was the greatest. Pharaoh could have been impressed for good,
but in his position, pride and prejudice would have been just too much, and so,
without any special magic, God could quite easily harden Pharaoh's heart" (JP).
"But, perhaps the hardening was not just by means of plagues
but by a plethora of circumstances directed/engineered by God's angels which all
served in the end to increase the spiritual calcification of Pharaoh's wicked
heart. Every story of Israeli production shortfall, inefficiency, provincial
breakdown in the Egyptian 'empire', every report of domestic and civil strife
and unrest in Egypt together with the continual pressure to compromise which his
advisors must surely have subjected him to, generated another step in the
progressive hardening of his heart. The full responsibility for, and ownership
of, the hardening of heart was the man Pharaoh's, and not God's. If the reverse
were true, if God directly manipulated Pharaoh's thoughts and feelings, his
condemnation of Pharaoh would have been unjust. God manipulated circumstances,
not Pharaoh. He did not CREATE his thoughts, He REVEALED them"
"It has many times been pointed out that the record in Exo
tells us not only that God hardened Pharaoh's heart, but that Pharaoh himself
hardened his heart. Some find fault with God's action here who yet must
recognize a corresponding law in human life. It has been well said, 'It is by an
operation of a law of man's nature as God created that, he who will not turn, at
last cannot turn' " (CRom 105,106).
The hardening of Pharaoh's heart can profitably be related to
the principle laid down in Rom 1, that God's method of dealing with those who
reject the revelation of Himself in nature and history (and in Pharaoh's case
also in miracles) is to abandon them to still greater excess of sin and its
"Was it fair to harden a man's heart like this? If Pharaoh had
started off as a good man, then it certainly would have been very unfair. But
this was not so. God never makes a good man behave badly. Pharaoh started off as
a bad lot. He was already oppressing Israel cruelly before God said anything
about hardening his heart.
"Also, we have here another example of Heb idiom. God
sometimes says, 'I will do such-and-such', when He really means, 'I have
foreseen that such-and-such will happen, and I shall permit it to happen.'
"You can see that this is so from Isa 29:3; God says to
Jerusalem, 'I will camp against thee round about, and will lay siege against
thee.' But of course God Himself did not camp around Jerusalem and besiege it.
The Assyrian army did. And the Assyrians were acting under their own free will.
(Isa 10: 5-7 proves that.) So when God said, 'I will camp...', He obviously
meant, 'I will allow the enemy army to camp...'
"There is a second example of this idiom in Isa 29. V 10 says,
'The Lord hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep and (He) hath closed
your eyes.' V 13 explains what this really means. God did not blind the eyes of
people who were trying to see. He never does. The literal truth, as expressed in
v 13 was this: 'This people draw near Me with their mouth, and with their lips
do honor Me, but (they) have removed their heart far from Me.' If they 'removed
their heart far from God', this means that they willfully shut their own eyes.
God realized that they had done so. That is obviously what He meant when He said
that He had closed their eyes.
"In the same way, when a Hebrew read the words, 'I will harden
Pharaoh's heart', he would take it as a prophecy that the wicked Pharaoh would
harden his own heart. This is exactly what did happen. In the Exo story it says
15 times that Pharaoh's heart was hardened. Three times it says Pharaoh hardened
his own heart. Seven times it says God did the hardening. Five times it states
that Pharaoh's heart grew harder, without saying who hardened it.
"Clearly, God did not make a good man bad. He merely took hold
of a very bad man, and made use of his badness" (GT ch 20).
FOR WHO RESISTS HIS WILL?: "In Jer 18 we are told that
the prophet was sent to the potter's house, there to hear God's words. The
potter was working with the clay, and as he wrought, his work was marred. So he
crushed together and then refashioned the clay. And if Israel were workable in
God's hands, He would devise good for them (vv 5-10); but Israel would not (vv
11-23). Jeremiah had then to take an earthen vessel (Jer 19), baked and fixed in
shape, not now capable of being refashioned, and tell of impending disasters,
breaking the vessel as an illustration of God's intention to break them as a
"God is using the clay of sin-stricken humanity, remaking it
as He wills. He would do no wrong if He left the clay to perish. The soft,
responsive clay is being prepared for greater things, while the hard
unresponsive can only be destroyed.
"Paul puts an alternative to the statement that man cannot
answer God. Either that must be admitted or God has not power over the clay.
This would be absurd (Rom 9:21). It is in the power of God to make of part of
the lump of humanity an honorable nation, and of another part a dishonorable
one. And so with individuals. But as Israel were told by Jeremiah, God
conditioned His act upon Israel's response to Him" (CRom 106,107).
It IS possible to resist the will of God! Because, if man
successfully resists the direction in which God's intervention, or providence,
is pushing him, then ultimately God's will for him will change! Thus it may be
said that it is impossible to resist God's will WITHOUT CONSEQUENCES! And, sad
for the one who resists, the consequences are not what he or she would choose!
Consider Act 7:51: "You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears!
You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit!" (the
Sanhedrin DID resist the will of God, that they be converted through the
preaching of Stephen; and they and their nation perished as a result).
But also consider Acts 26:14: "I heard a voice saying to me in
Aramaic, 'Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick
against the goads.' " (Saul of Tarsus -- though he resisted for a while --
finally relented and did not continue to resist the will of God, or the Lord
Jesus, and so he repented and was baptized -- but the choice was his.)
TALK BACK: The NT's standard word for "answer" is
"apokrinomai". Occasionally this is intensified with another prefix, giving it a
somewhat hostile flavor: "answer back". Appropriately four out of five of its OT
occurrences come in the book of Job (eg, Job 16:8; 32:12)! So here, in the
middle of the exposition of Paul's doctrine of election comes the objection
"Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?" To this Paul's
main reply is: "But who are you, O man, to talk back to God?" Who are you, to
argue against God? He is the potter, you and Pharaoh are only clay.
The quotation here is a combination, of Isa 29:16: "Shall what
is formed say to him who formed it..." -- and of Isa 45:9: "Why do you make me
FORMED: In Isa 29:16, Heb "yatser" -- sw Gen 2:7,8 (man
created of dust of earth); Job 33:6 (Elihu was formed out of the clay). The Gr
is "plasso" = to form, or mold (cp Engl "plastic"). (In this context, by the
way, man plainly has free will -- see Isa 29:13,15: he exercises that free will
to remove his heart, and to hide, from God!)
"Throughout this consideration it has been emphasized that in
each context the human desire is recognized and God's action related to man's
behavior. Clay is without thought or power to determine its course. In this
respect the analogy of potter and clay has its limits. It is highly significant
that in a further use of this figure, this time by the prophet Jeremiah, the
express teaching of the section is that God's action is conditional upon human
behavior. In Jer 18 Jeremiah is told to go to the house of the potter, where God
would give him instruction. There he saw the potter molding a vessel but, alas,
he spoiled it. so he reworked the still soft clay into another shape according
as he saw fit. The lesson was for Israel, 'Behold, as the clay is in the
potter's hand, so are ye in Mine hand, O house of Israel' (v 6). If God spoke of
punishment or peace to any nation and that people reverted in their behavior
then He would repent of the evil or good He thought to do to them (vv 7-10).
However, Israel in Jeremiah's day had reached the unregenerate state. 'Behold,'
says God, 'I frame (Heb 'yatsar', as in Isa 29) evil against you, and devise a
device against you: return ye now every one from his evil way, and make your
ways and your doings good' (v 11). The response of the people was one of sullen
and determined indifference: 'There is no hope; but we will walk after our own
devices' (v 12)... There was nothing malleable in the nation's attitude.
"Consequently, Jeremiah was told to take a potter's earthen
vessel, fired and fixed in shape, unto the valley of the Son of Hinnom... (Jer
19:1,2). After stating a catalogue of the sins of the nation (Jer 19:3-9), the
prophet was instructed to break the earthen vessel in the sight of the people (v
10). 'Even so will I break the people and the city, as one breaketh a potter's
vessel, that cannot be made whole again' (v 11; cp Lam 4:2; Psa 2:9). There was
opportunity, but it had been refused; like Pharaoh, they had hardened their
hearts against Yahweh, and judgment would surely come upon them" (LRom 16,17).
This same lesson is given another NT application by Paul in
"Since God doth often vessels make of lowly matter for high
uses meet, I throw me at his feet. There will I wait until my Maker seek for
some such stuff whereon to show His skill. THEN is my time" (Xd
Paul does not stop to wait for an answer; the question assumes
there is no answer. God has put up with the proud and evil ways of wicked men
for a long time; even though as Creator He might have removed them early and
GREAT PATIENCE: The goodness and forbearance of God is
intended to lead man to repentance (Rom 2:4). Likewise, in the days of Noah, the
long-suffering God waited for man's repentance (1Pe 3:20). And it similar in our
day: "The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness.
He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to
repentance" (2Pe 3:9).
THE OBJECTS OF HIS WRATH: The negative aspect here is
intended to refer back to Pharaoh (vv 17,18), as well as -- more generally -- to
the Jewish opposition to the truth of the gospel.
PREPARED FOR DESTRUCTION: This designates a ripeness of
sinfulness that points to judgment unless there is a turning to God, yet God is
not made responsible for the sinful condition. The preparation for destruction
is the work of man, who allows himself to deteriorate in spite of knowledge and
conscience. Even when favor was shown to him, Pharaoh "sinned yet more, and
hardened his heart..." (Exo 9:33,34) -- so that, eventually, it would be plain
that Pharaoh had no one to blame but himself. So it may be seen, quite
reasonably, that God did not prepare Pharaoh for destruction, so much as Pharaoh
prepared HIMSELF for destruction!
TO MAKE THE RICHES OF HIS GLORY KNOWN TO THE OBJECTS OF HIS
MERCY: Ironically, it is often the "vessels of God's mercy" who most benefit
by seeing the destruction of the "vessels of His wrath": "This is what you are
to say to the house of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: 'You
yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles' wings
and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then
out of all nations you will be my treasured possession' " (Exo 19:3-5). So too
would Gentile believers marvel at their calling when the Roman legions descended
upon Jerusalem and destroyed the people of the Covenant in AD 70. It will always
be true, that the fullness of the mercy of God will come home to the righteous
only when they see the Yahweh's vengeance upon the wicked, and know that they
have been preserved therefrom.
WHOM HE PREPARED IN ADVANCE FOR GLORY: A very similar
statement was made by Christ: "Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your
inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world" (Mat
25:34). God has been working, through His angels and His Spirit, to bring many
sons to glory; indeed, it is His preeminent work (Rom 8:28-30).
Once more, Paul emphasizes that Gentiles will share with Jews
in this coming Glory.
Vv 25,26: Peter also refers to these same passages, in 1Pe
I WILL CALL THEM 'MY PEOPLE' WHO ARE NOT MY PEOPLE, AND I
WILL CALL HER 'MY LOVED ONE' WHO IS NOT MY LOVED ONE: Cit Hos 2:23. The
stumbling of Israel, their removal from the Divine mercy, and their later return
to favor. Also, Paul implies that if those who were "My people" could become
"not My people", and finally "My people" yet again, then there was no reason why
the Gentiles -- who started out as "not My people" -- could not also become "My
IN THE VERY PLACE WHERE IT WAS SAID TO THEM, 'YOU ARE NOT
MY PEOPLE,' THEY WILL BE CALLED 'SONS OF THE LIVING GOD': Cit Hos 1:10. The
argument: (1) If Israel could accept a principle of return to Divine favor for
themselves, how dare they refuse God the right to grant the principle to others!
(2) The very concept of ones who are "not My people" was introduced by Moses: "I
will make them envious by those who are not a people; I will make them angry by
a nation that has no understanding" (Deu 32:21); so Paul's use of the "no
people" passages in Hosea is justified and complemented by Moses' words. (Note
that this very verse is used by Paul, in Rom 10:19.)
Vv 27,28: Cit Isa 10:22,23. This quotation is taken from the
LXX. V 28 also echoes words of Isa 28:22, a similar context which speaks of
divine judgment upon Israel.
The inclusion of Isa 10:23 indicates that Paul also intends to
stress the surety of impending judgment upon Israel.
DESCENDANTS: "A seed" (AV). This quotation is also
taken from the LXX, whereas the Heb of Isa 1:9 speaks of a "remnant". However,
the "seed" IS or WILL BE but a "remnant", as Isa 6;13 implies. The essential
point is that only a remnant of Israel will be saved (cp Isa 7:3).
SODOM... GOMORRAH: Israel is compared to Sodom and
Gomorrah. Except for a remnant Israel would be equally obliterated. Cp Eze
16:45-56. God can draw and in fact has drawn back His favor from the sons of
Israel; they were never given a "free ticket" to the kingdom independent of
their faith and behavior. "For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel"
(v 6). Fleshly descent never gave anyone a title to divine grace and sonship,
and the Bible makes this abundantly obvious.
WHAT THEN SHALL WE SAY?: Introducing Paul's summary of
the foregoing argument.
PURSUE: Gr "dioko" = to pursue, implying fervent
activity: eg Acts 9:4,5; Phi 3:6,12. The Gentiles conducted their lives wholly
in ignorance of God's law, and thus, of course, with no intent to pursue
"righteousness" at all.
OBTAINED: Gr "katalambano" -- used in Phi 3:12 of the
runner winning a race. But how can a person win a race which he never entered?
and which he never intended to win?
A RIGHTEOUSNESS THAT IS BY FAITH: The prize of
righteousness, a covering from sins by the righteousness of God, had been
obtained by the Gentiles on the basis of FAITH. This hearkens back to the
earlier conclusions of Rom 3:27-30 and Rom 4. The very attitude of faith is
exclusive of a righteousness by human striving. Faith looks away from self and
puts its trust in God.
A supreme irony: the one who didn't even enter the "race" wins
it; and the one who works the hardest, striving to "win", loses altogether! It
is a pitiful picture of the nation of Israel struggling intensely to perfect
their religious life and coming up empty-handed. "The Gentiles, sunk in
carelessness and sin, have attained the favor of God, while the Jews, to whom
religion was a business, have utterly failed" (Hodge).
ATTAINED: Gr "phthano", to come before another. Not sw
v 30. The Jews could not attain this "righteousness" because they could not
continue in ALL things that were written (Gal 3:10; Deu 27:26). Since no one
could keep the Law perfectly, "The very commandment that was intended to bring
life actually brought death. For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the
commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death" (Rom
7:10,11). Thus the Law became "a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been
able to bear" (Acts 15:10).
THEY PURSUED IT NOT BY FAITH BUT AS IF IT WERE BY
WORKS: All the time they were traveling on the wrong road! Righteousness
before God could never be attained along the path of legal observance. It would
leave God out of the means of salvation and conjure in man a sense of
THEY STUMBLED OVER THE "STUMBLING STONE": Paul is
continuing the analogy of runners in a race. "Many of them will stumble; they
will fall and be broken, they will be snared and captured" (Isa 8:15). Spoken
initially of those Jews who sought for confederacies with Gentile powers, ie
Egypt, as a means of saving themselves from the Assyrians, but all to no
Most of this quotation comes from Isa 28:16. The context is
similar to Isa 8:14: Judah sought to hide from the great and mighty "flood" of
the Assyrian army (see Isa 28:2,15,17-19). In doing this they ignored the great
foundation stone, which was God Himself (see context also, wherein Hezekiah --
and by type the Lord Jesus Christ -- represent the chief cornerstone: cp 1Co
3:11; Psa 118:22; 1Pe 2:4-8).