Israel's Rebellion

Paul regrets the loss of the Israelites as a whole (Romans 9:1-5)

Despite what others might think, Paul deeply regrets the fact that his physical brethren as a whole have rejected the victory over sin that God gave mankind. Paul’s strong stance that the Old Law had ended could lead people to assume that he lost all his love for his nation. Later this does happen (Acts 25:24). Paul most solemnly swears that this is not the case and states that the Holy Spirit can confirm this to be true. His grief is always with him and if he could, he would offer himself to be accursed by God if it would bring his brethren to salvation. It is a feeling similar to what Moses offered to God (Exodus 32:32).

As matters stood, Israel should have been saved. They were selected by God to be His people (Deuteronomy 7:6). God’s glory was with them (Exodus 25:22; Psalms 90:16). They were given covenants and the law (Psalms 147:19-20; Ephesians 2:12). They had the honor of serving God. The great men of the past were Israelites. And to top it off, the Messiah who is over all things physically descended from Israel. With all these advantages, it was disheartening to Paul to see them reject the promises.

Class Discussion:

  1. Is Paul saying that he wants to give up his salvation so that Israel would be saved?

Israel’s rebellion does not mean God failed (Romans 9:6)

Does this mean that God is failing to keep His promises? Not at all (Isaiah 55:11). What the nation of Israel failed to see is that God hasn’t restricted His promises just to the physical lineage of Israel (Romans 2:28-29).

The promise was not based on physical lineage (Romans 9:7-9)

Abraham, the man Israel sees as their founder, had more children than just Isaac, yet only Isaac was selected for the promise (Genesis 21:12). That selection by God caused many others to be rejected. In other words, just because people physically descended from Abraham, it did not mean they automatically obtained what God promised. The implication is that if God did it before, He could do it again. The distinction was not physical lineage, but the promise (Galatians 4:28). Isaac himself was not born of natural means because his parents were far past normal childbearing years. His very existence was due to a promise fulfilled (Genesis 18:10, 14).

The promise was not based on personal righteousness (Romans 9:10-16)

In turn, Isaac had twin sons, but before they were born God made a decision as to which of the two would receive the promise. It cannot be based on what either son had done because the choice was made and told to Rebekah before their birth (Genesis 25:21-23). God had a purpose He desired to accomplish and He set it in motion. The righteousness or the wickedness of the person did not factor into God’s decision.

Romans 10:13 almost sounds like God chose to love Jacob and hate Esau before they were born. But Paul is quoting from Malachi 1:2-3. This was written long after Jacob and Esau lived and died.

Calvinists want to say that Jacob was picked to be a righteous man and Esau to be a wicked man. However, read the prophecy closely. It says nothing about righteousness or wickedness -- that is being read into the text. God said that from the two children in her womb, two separate nations would develop. Because they struggled in the womb, the implication is that these two nations would not get along, but they would not be equal nations. The one descending from the younger child would be a more powerful nation than the other, and the nation descending from the older child would serve the nation from the younger child.

Included in this prophecy as well is that of the two children, the younger son was to receive the blessing as head of the family. This eventually led to problems as Isaac wanted the older child to have the blessing.

So even though neither child had shown the type of man he would become. Even though they had not yet done anything good or evil, God picked one over the other. That is what "election" means. The Greek word ekloge means a selection or choice. Why did God choose one brother to have a stronger nation descend from him? Paul's point was that the choice wasn't based on moral character. It was simply and solely God's decision in order to demonstrate that when God decides something is going to happen, man doesn't change that decision.

Esau could have chosen to be a righteous man and Jacob to be a wicked man. God's will would still have come out the same. However, Esau turned against God. "See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled; that there be no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal" (Hebrews 12:15-16). Notice that Esau's downfall was his bitterness. I suspect that he was bitter against God because God didn't pick him. We see that with many people. Because they weren't born rich, or talented, they blame God for not giving them privileges.

Notice that God did not decide against Esau. Esau was given the knowledge that he would found a nation. But God decided to give additional blessings to Jacob and Esau found fault with that. The choice continued down through their descendants. As a result, when we get to the days of Malachi, God noted:

""I have loved you," says the LORD. "Yet you say, 'In what way have You loved us?' Was not Esau Jacob's brother?" says the LORD. "Yet Jacob I have loved; but Esau I have hated, and laid waste his mountains and his heritage for the jackals of the wilderness." Even though Edom has said, "We have been impoverished, but we will return and build the desolate places," thus says the LORD of hosts: "They may build, but I will throw down; they shall be called the Territory of Wickedness, and the people against whom the LORD will have indignation forever"" (Malachi 1:2-4).

The original question is from Israel, the descendants of Jacob. God says He loved Israel. Now you have to remember that at the time this was written, Israel just came back from seventy years of captivity where they saw their nation totally destroyed and hundreds of thousands of people die. Israel's response was basically, "If you love us, Lord, you have an odd way of showing it."

God's response was to take a look at what happened to Esau's descendants. Their nation was completely wiped out. The remaining people thought that they would rebuild, but God said it wouldn't happen. Israel might be smarting from the punishment God gave them, but at least they still have a nation. Like a father disciplining an unruly child, God showed love to Israel (Hebrews 12:5-14).

Why has God been against Edom, the descendants of Esau? God says it is because of their wickedness. Their land, God said, would be known as the territory of wickedness.

Paul mentions this because some would look at the situation and conclude that God was being unfair. "Of course, Israel turned out better than Edom, God gave Jacob the better blessing." But Paul's point is that Jacob was not picked because he was better or because God looking through history knew Jacob's children would be better. In fact, Moses said their being picked by God had nothing to do with Israel's moral character. "Do not think in your heart, after the LORD your God has cast them out before you, saying, 'Because of my righteousness the LORD has brought me in to possess this land'; but it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD is driving them out from before you. It is not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart that you go in to possess their land, but because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD your God drives them out from before you, and that He may fulfill the word which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob" (Deuteronomy 9:4-5). God had His reasons for picking Jacob and later Israel, but they could not say it was because they deserved it, wanted it more, or were better people.

Class Discussion:

  1. Your friend gets a big bonus at work. Would it be proper to assume the boss hates you because you didn’t get the bonus?
  2. Is Paul talking about individual salvation or national salvation in this passage? How do you know?

God can choose who He will not give His promise (Romans 9:17-18)

Paul then uses Pharaoh as the opposite example. Here was a man God chose to bring down. If God chooses to bring a person down, then what can a person do? Rather than receiving mercy, God hardened Pharaoh. So why did this happen?

God controls the governments (Romans 13:1; Daniel 2:21). So why did God place such a wicked man into power over Egypt? He could have raised up a pharaoh who looked kindly on the Israelites, who did not give them severe burdens, who would have freed the Israelites without a fuss. However, such a ruler would not have driven the Israelites to willingly follow Moses. Many if not most would have been happy to stay in Egypt under such a ruler. A kind ruler would not have given God the ability to show His power, causing the nations to fear Israel and their God. So God put a wicked man in charge of Egypt and then used Pharaoh's wickedness against him.

It’s not fair! Who can fight against God? (Romans 9:19-21)

Ah! Then someone would say that it wasn't Pharaoh's fault that he was killed and Egypt plundered. He was manipulated by God. It was God's fault! It wasn’t Pharaoh’s fault that he chose to be stubborn; God put him in a situation where he would be stubborn. Paul's argument is "no." It was still Pharaoh's fault. God just used the evil that Pharaoh chose to do against him. The point being made is that God gets His way with the righteous and the wicked. The wicked can't stand in God's way any more than the righteous.

The implied question is why are the Jews blamed for the death of Jesus? Wasn't this God's plan? Weren't they manipulated into killing the Son of God? Thus the Jews are railing against God: "You can't blame us for Jesus' death because you made us like this!"

The statement is false. "Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed" (James 1:13-14). God might make use of evil people, but God never makes anyone evil.

We cannot blame God for our lives. We may not be favored. We may not be blessed. Just as the Jews learned, those blessings are not automatic. The question remains, what do we do with what we are given? God has the right to use us as He sees fit. His use of us does not justify our rebellion against Him. "Why wasn't I born rich, or pretty, or strong, or athletic, or talented?" I don't know, but what will you do with your life as it is?

The Jews had a role in killing Jesus because they clung to their sins. God used that to accomplish His ends, but it didn't excuse the Jews for sinning.

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