Romans 9:1-5 NLTse With Christ as my witness, I speak with utter truthfulness. My conscience and the Holy Spirit confirm it. (2) My heart is filled with bitter sorrow and unending grief (3) for my people, my Jewish brothers and sisters. I would be willing to be forever cursed–cut off from Christ!–if that would save them. (4) They are the people of Israel, chosen to be God’s adopted children. God revealed his glory to them. He made covenants with them and gave them his law. He gave them the privilege of worshiping him and receiving his wonderful promises. (5) Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are their ancestors, and Christ himself was an Israelite as far as his human nature is concerned. And he is God, the one who rules over everything and is worthy of eternal praise! Amen.
How do people confirm that messages are indeed from the Holy Spirit? How is the Holy Spirit supposed to be our witness? It seems to me, when we are on the same team, there is a way to support one another in all facets of life. How do we get that ball rolling? Is it as simple as we hear in church, or on the Internet?
Let’s face it. Most messages we hear come from someone’s imagination. What spirit influenced that person? When we ask questions, we usually receive the standard answer. “Of course I prayed.” Or they may be defending their leaders by saying, “of course they prayed.” Then what was the answer? How did the Holy Spirit communicate with that person, group, or committee? If they received a direct communication from God, I doubt if it would quickly be forgotten. On the other hand, if the message came from human resources, I could see how a standardized answer would be offered.
David wrote a list of Psalms telling us, he prayed, and how he received answers. All of the prophets in the Bible did the exact same thing. Moses wrote about how he first met God, and a series of communications with God after that. Some times God would speak directly with Moses. As was true in most cases. Moses has a special relationship with God. On the other hand, David’s story contained another twist. As a boy, David had a great relationship with God. In the fields, David had no trouble hearing God’s voice. David found it a little strange to find other people lacked that communication with God. But something happened. Influences inside Saul’s palace, an endless stream of wars, battles, a marriage, and other factors drew David away from God to a degree. David had to leave, get out on his own for a while, get back to nature, and back to God. That began a retraining process for David that started with one priest, and a set of stones that answered yes and no questions. David eventually grew back into a relationship with God, that was on and off to say the least. There were times David listened to God, sought out God’s advice, and went to God as a type or refuge. And there were times David didn’t think he needed God’s advice on a subject. David was human.
Daniel wrote a book that is one of the best sources of information about how God communicates with us. Daniel heard God in prayer, visions, dreams, and through messengers. Daniel played the part of a messenger, telling people what God thought about subjects, what their dreams were, and of course, all those messages about the future. Which brings up a good point to examine. All of the information written in Daniels books came from a direct revelation from God. No one can argue with that point. David’s book is the focus of study for many preachers, pastors, and teachers these days. If every word they are quoting is a direct revelation from God, shouldn’t each and every one of their explanations also be a direct revelation from God? If that was the case, wouldn’t each of their messages identify how and when God communicated with them? Why doesn’t that simple concept spread throughout the Bible seem to apply to the world today?
Paul is simply attempting to deliver a simple message, God loves the Jews and wants them to remain as His children. To deliver that message, Paul went out of his way to make sure the Jews knew the message was from God. If such a simple message in scripture required so much clarification, than why not other messages?
It seems that some of the Jews felt as if God abandoned them, because the priests and Pharisees killed God’s Son. It may seem rather difficult for us to share that type of guilt. If religious leaders committed a sin, would the entire congregation share in the guilt? And why, or why not? Maybe some of the Jews were more like Paul than what we generally considered. Maybe more Jews support Jesus’ death, and the persecution of His followers. Then in their own way, met Jesus while traveling their own roads. If it happened to Paul, it could happen to others. While Paul was blind, Jesus sent him to a Christian home to heal. There had to be a reason. That act of kindness and trust had to make an impression on Paul. When we look at the Gospels, we can’t argue the point, there were a number of Jews who called for Jesus’ death. People from all over the world were standing in Pilot’s courtyard. It was one of the most important Passovers in history.
There is no doubt Satan and his angels were in that courtyard on the day Jesus was sentenced to the cross. Demons influenced people. Many of them from distant parts of the world knew little about Jesus, or what was going on. All they did was follow the crowd. Of course they were prompted on by demons. Those people may have heard a story or two about Jesus. But how accurate were those stories? Were they first hand accounts, second, third hand, or nothing more than rumors? Were those stories from Jesus’ supporters, followers, friends, or foes? How well did those people know Jesus?
There is a ton of information we would have to examine to get to the truth about every Jew Paul wrote to in Rome. People don’t think about actual events and how they shaped lives and beliefs in Paul’s day. People don’t stop long enough to consider how modern day events effect people today. We could learn so much from the letters Paul wrote, if we stopped long enough to consider how one of the world’s most important events shaped lives, effected people, and changed them in one way or another.
Paul had to send the Jews in Rome all the way back to Abraham so they could see how God chose one man to begin a whole new movement on earth. Jews should have known that history. Christians should also know that part of scripture. Paul took that line from Abraham all the way up to Jesus. Jesus was a Jew. For the most part Jesus was rejected by the Jews. Which was one of the points Paul was trying to make. Why should the Jews continue to reject Christians, or certain Christians?
How Does God Choose
Romans 9:6-16 NLTse Well then, has God failed to fulfill his promise to Israel? No, for not all who are born into the nation of Israel are truly members of God’s people! (7) Being descendants of Abraham doesn’t make them truly Abraham’s children. For the Scriptures say, “Isaac is the son through whom your descendants will be counted,” though Abraham had other children, too. (8) This means that Abraham’s physical descendants are not necessarily children of God. Only the children of the promise are considered to be Abraham’s children. (9) For God had promised, “I will return about this time next year, and Sarah will have a son.” (10) This son was our ancestor Isaac. When he married Rebekah, she gave birth to twins. (11) But before they were born, before they had done anything good or bad, she received a message from God. (This message shows that God chooses people according to his own purposes; (12) he calls people, but not according to their good or bad works.) She was told, “Your older son will serve your younger son.” (13) In the words of the Scriptures, “I loved Jacob, but I rejected Esau.” (14) Are we saying, then, that God was unfair? Of course not! (15) For God said to Moses, “I will show mercy to anyone I choose, and I will show compassion to anyone I choose.” (16) So it is God who decides to show mercy. We can neither choose it nor work for it.
Paul dropped a bomb on the Israelites. Telling them, not all of them were God’s children, may have been blaspheme in the eyes of some of those Jews. That was not at all what they have been taught. Some Jews believed, they were born into God’s family based on their family line, which was traced all the way back to Abraham. There was nothing that could change that. But with that family line came responsibilities. They had to bring their sacrifices. The most important being the animal sacrifices. There was also the temple tax, first fruits from whatever business they ran, and a host of other donations to keep the temple up and running, and the priests employed. Along side the priests were a host of other people to interpret the laws, write books, explain just about every question people may have on scripture, and of course, enforce the laws, and provide security for the temple. The process required a huge amount of funds. Providing for those operations was part of being a Jew.
We should look back and read the entire story whenever an inspired author records a small part of scripture. The Christian mentality may be, that was only for the Jews, or they may think they know the scriptures so well, there is no need to review. But there is. As we’ve already reviewed, God’s Spirit communicates in various ways. Scripture may be the most important, and for many people, the first door to a lasting relationship with God. Be honest. Ask yourself, “was the Spirit really with me the last time I read that story?” Of course you may answer, “yes,” to that question. But consider this. Was the Spirit with you in the frame of mind Paul is trying to establish? God’s Word is a living word. Admit it. You open up the Bible, read a little bit, and there is little or no impressions on your mind. A few days or weeks later, you open the Bible, read the same passage, and guess what. Suddenly the story comes alive, and seems to center on your life at that particular moment. It is like you and God are in the same room, and He understands every detail in your life. Now why would you deny the Holy Spirit the chance to set the stage for a new and exciting lesson? Does the Bible always have to be about you, or are there dimensions you have been missing?
The LORD kept his word and did for Sarah exactly what he had promised. She became pregnant, and she gave birth to a son for Abraham in his old age. This happened at just the time God had said it would. And Abraham named their son Isaac. Eight days after Isaac was born, Abraham circumcised him as God had commanded. Abraham was 100 years old when Isaac was born. And Sarah declared, “God has brought me laughter. All who hear about this will laugh with me. Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse a baby? Yet I have given Abraham a son in his old age!” When Isaac grew up and was about to be weaned, Abraham prepared a huge feast to celebrate the occasion. But Sarah saw Ishmael–the son of Abraham and her Egyptian servant Hagar–making fun of her son, Isaac. So she turned to Abraham and demanded, “Get rid of that slave-woman and her son. He is not going to share the inheritance with my son, Isaac. I won’t have it!” (Genesis 21:1-10 NLTse).
I just inserted a small part of the story. I would never deny you the opportunity to spend some quality time with the Holy Spirit, to see what He has in store for you. Based on what Paul wrote in Romans chapter 9, this story shows us how Sara rejected Ismael and his mother. Did God reject Ismael? Only to a degree. God actually blessed Ismael and his sons. Sara was the one who started all the trouble. Ismael was to grow up to be the leader of a nation, and his sons would be given nations to lead. Sara demanded that Ismael leave. How different things may have tuned out if Ismael had a real father figure in his life. Especially a father figure like Abraham.
Was that the point Paul was trying to make? When we get back to Romans, we can see how family, and God the Father is a larger than life figure in the story. Isn’t Paul trying to explain how one child from Abraham grew up without the benefit of a kind and loving father? How does that apply to our lives with God? Do we really have the influence of a kind and loving Heavenly Father in our lives?
See how the Spirit can influence the way we perceive simple ideas, concepts, and lessons in scripture? One day we have no idea that lesson was in the story. The next day, we are asking why we never way that before. It happens all the time when you invite to Spirit to study with you, and when you learn how to let the Spirit lead in your studies.
As Paul gets into the story about Isaac, he sends us back to another story in scripture. Once again we have another story to relate to in ways we have never seen before.
But the two children struggled with each other in her womb. So she went to ask the LORD about it. “Why is this happening to me?” she asked. And the LORD told her, “The sons in your womb will become two nations. From the very beginning, the two nations will be rivals. One nation will be stronger than the other; and your older son will serve your younger son.” And when the time came to give birth, Rebekah discovered that she did indeed have twins! The first one was very red at birth and covered with thick hair like a fur coat. So they named him Esau. Then the other twin was born with his hand grasping Esau’s heel. So they named him Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when the twins were born. (Genesis 25:22-26 NLTse).
Imagine children in competition before they were born. There has to be a lesson in that. And how does it relate to the world today? All of us live in different places, have different jobs, environments, issues to deal with, and of course, follow different faiths at different levels. In certain parts of the world people are greatly effected by Ismael’s descendants. Some may be effected by Esau’s descendants. We will all view this story and its lessons in different ways. Sticking with the subject of the father, and his influence on his children, we can see how children can and will cling to certain aspects of their parents, be influenced by the world around them, and make good and poor choices. That is something we see in this world all the time.
Another aspect of this lesson is, how the events listed, and all the events that stemmed from the birth of Ismael and Esau effected this world. But the main point still remains, how the birth and death of God’s Son effected this world. With the help of the Spirit, we can have a look at how they effected the world immediately following Jesus’ ascension into Heaven.
Paul faced a group of Jews in Rome he had to remind about the origin of God’s children on this planet. Paul had to encourage those people to go back and review those stories. Not in the way they have been taught those stories, but examine them in the new light they received. Of course that light came in varying degrees to different people. Some people left Jesus. Some people followed Jesus for years. Some people saw and listened to Jesus for only a day. Some people witnessed the miracles Jesus performed. Some people were in fact healed by Jesus. Because few people in Rome actually saw any of those events, the Book of Romans gives us in in-depth look at how one inspired writer teamed up with the Spirit to reach a small number of people in the world capital.
Imagine the influences Rome had on people. It was a republic led by an emperor. Quite a strange combination showing how man made governments don’t work, and won’t last. How was Rome as a whole effected by Ismael and Esau? To my knowledge, not very much. I could be wrong, but I am not using history books to bring out the essence of the Bible. The question should be, how did the children of Ismael and Esau effect individuals? Did any of those children down the lines of either of the two spawn the gods found in Rome after Jesus’ resurrection? They may have had more influence than we can imagine. The facts are not important. The main message is, not all of those people associated with Abraham had a good influence on this world. They were not a part of God’s family. As a matter of fact, they often stood against God’s children.
There has always been a division between God’s actual children, those who choose to follow Him, and those who choose to follow their own paths. It began with Cain and Able, and continues today. The Lord started over with Noah. Then over again with Abraham. Finally God took a group out of Egypt. This world never seems to get the simple message. Paul sent the Romans back to another story to review.
One day Moses said to the LORD, “You have been telling me, ‘Take these people up to the Promised Land.’ But you haven’t told me whom you will send with me. You have told me, ‘I know you by name, and I look favorably on you.’ If it is true that you look favorably on me, let me know your ways so I may understand you more fully and continue to enjoy your favor. And remember that this nation is your very own people.” The LORD replied, “I will personally go with you, Moses, and I will give you rest–everything will be fine for you.” Then Moses said, “If you don’t personally go with us, don’t make us leave this place. How will anyone know that you look favorably on me–on me and on your people–if you don’t go with us? For your presence among us sets your people and me apart from all other people on the earth.” The LORD replied to Moses, “I will indeed do what you have asked, for I look favorably on you, and I know you by name.” Moses responded, “Then show me your glorious presence.” The LORD replied, “I will make all my goodness pass before you, and I will call out my name, Yahweh, before you. For I will show mercy to anyone I choose, and I will show compassion to anyone I choose. But you may not look directly at my face, for no one may see me and live.” The LORD continued, “Look, stand near me on this rock. As my glorious presence passes by, I will hide you in the crevice of the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and let you see me from behind. But my face will not be seen.” (Exodus 33:12-23 NLTse).
What did we learn from that part of the story, and how does it relate to Romans? There is one line that should draw our attention. God’s presence is what sets His people apart from the rest of this world? Isn’t that what Paul has been teaching in this chapter?
There was no doubt Moses shared a special relationship with God. They were close to each other. Moses moved as close to God as he could get. That was what that story was all about. But that wasn’t the same for every Israelite. For the most part, those people were descendants of Abraham. They should have known God and talked to God like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. But did they? Did they miss that aspect of being with God? What happened to it?