Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Lost Israel

NOTE: Here I will touch lightly on the passages that seem to teach predestination, just clarifying their meaning in the big picture. If you believe in predestination, just hang on with me for a little while longer. After Romans 16, there will be at least one devotional on free will and perhaps more, explaining the truth and causes of confusion.

READ: Romans 9
KEY VERSE: Romans 9:32
Romans 9 is a stark contrast from the joy of Romans 8, and reveals the state of Paul's own heart. He cannot think of his own salvation without thinking of those who lack it and choose death. If it would save them, he would damn his own soul for theirs, but it wouldn't help. God has blessed them mightily but, he explains, it isn't Abraham's line according to blood that determines Abraham's offspring, but those who follow Abraham in faith. Paul is not teaching that Christian's replace Jews (recollect Romans 3:1-8), but is explaining that this grand concept of perseverance is not inherited by blood. Before the dawn of time, God knew who would answer the call of faith (v 12) and works never entered the picture. Paul asks two rhetorical questions I will paraphrase, combine and expound upon for clarity (understand this is biased by my understanding of the Scriptures, as all commentaries are):
Is God then unjust, because he allows children to be born he knows will disobey Him? The reply is obvious: who are you to question God? How do you know how vastly things would be different if they hadn't existed, or that it would be fair to deprive them of their choice? After Pharaoh had denied the nation of Israel's departure after the water was turned to blood, the frogs covered the land, the gnats and flies plagued them, the Egyptian cattle died, boils popped up on man and beast and hail rained from heaven, the Lord hardened his heart for the last three plagues, so the glory of the Lord might be shown. Pharaoh had made his choice seven times before God said "Very well, then I will use you this way" and hardened his heart. As verse 20 explains, some pots may be modified to be good for common use, even if they will not be glorified. God knew they would not turn from their ways and chooses to use them as demonstrations so more can be saved - but it is still their choice. Just as Israel chose to try to earn their own way to Heaven by works. That was never what God taught. It is by faith alone.
We will return to Israel for the next two days, but do not find it irrelevant. There are many Jews today who are not placing their faith in the Lord of hosts, but in their own goodness. Indeed, there are many Gentiles who answer the question of their salvation with "Yeah, I think I'll go to Heaven. I'm a pretty good person." They need to know that their works will never save them because even a few flies will spoil the entire ointment (Ecclesiastes 10:1). The attitude of Israel in Paul's day - since Israel was chosen for salvation as all people are (2 Peter 3:9, 1 Timothy 2:4) - is still painfully prevalent today.

Pray for the lost and share the gospel without shame.

(1) Do you mourn the lost? Moreso, do you actively seek their salvation?
(2) Do you really have faith in God or only faith in your ability to execute the precepts of Christianity? The latter will never save anyone.
(3) The end of the chapter quotes Isaiah 28:16. Do you live your life with the assurance that your faith in Him will not come up empty?

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