This section reveals Paul’s despair that many of his fellow Jews have not accepted Jesus as Messiah. He has “great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart”(Rom 9:2) because they have received such blessings, yet have not responded to what God has done for them in Jesus. “But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but ‘Through Isaac shall your offspring be named’”(Rom 9:6-7). Their failure to accept the message is not God’s failure; God has always had a remnant of his people who remained faithful even when others were not.
Paul particularly has in mind the fact that God “changed the rules” on the Jews, transitioning from salvation through law (by works) to salvation through grace (by faith). Now the emphasis is not on the people’s goodness, but God who sets the rules as he wishes (Rom 9:11). But this opens him up to the charge that God has been unfair. “Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, ‘I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’ So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy…So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills”(Rom 9:14-16, 18). Paul emphatically rejects the charge that God is unjust by saving Gentiles by faith and allowing Jews who reject faith to be lost. It is God’s right to have mercy on those he wishes and harden those he wishes.
God can do what he wants. He can reveal things in the way he chooses, bless those he chooses, and allow hardship on those he chooses. If he wants to change the way he works, he is free to do that. It is easy for us—especially in doctrinal and theological matters—to attempt to limit God to actions and thoughts that we understand and agree with. This led the Jews down a path of rejecting God. God can do what he wants.
------------- One Thing to Think About: Which of God’s actions and thoughts do I have a hard time accepting?
One Thing to Pray For: Submission to the will of God—and gratitude for his grace to me
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