This section of scripture looks at the issue of choices. It considers the choices God made and the choices that people made in biblical times, which carry through to today.
God chose Israel to be His chosen people and in other places He calls Israel the “Apple of my eye”. It was God's love for Abraham Isaac and Jacob that led to his selection of Israel as His chosen people.
The people rebelled. Constantly. They grew proud and arrogant in their selection as God's people and believed they were invincible, better than all others and so they lost the favor of God for a time. Not for all time, but long enough that a new way could be established and the promise of salvation become available to all people, not just the physical descendants of Abraham.
In these verses of Romans 9 we see Paul express his anguish at the plight and the folly of his people, the children of Israel. His anguish is quite plain and he more than many others understood the depth of this issue for the Israelites.
The children of Israel went astray in their hearts time and time again over the centuries. This is well summed up in this quote from Hebrews which references the words of the Lord.
7 Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, “Today, if you hear his voice, 8 do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness, 9 where your fathers put me to the test and saw my works for forty years. 10 Therefore I was provoked with that generation, and said, 'They always go astray in their heart; they have not known my ways.' (Hebrews 3:7-10)
Not only was Paul suffering anguish but in these words we see the anguish of God for His chosen people. The frustration of God is clearly evident in the last verse here because, “They always go astray in their heart; they have not known my ways.”
And that is the problem. The people of Israel walked away from God and rejected His ways. Not just once but many, many times.
And what was the root cause of their rejection? Again in the verse above from Hebrews 3:7-10 we see that God describes them as being “hard of heart”. We see God also describe them in the following way.
And the LORD said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people. (Exodus 32:9)
Hard of heart and stiff necked! These words describe a people full of pride and arrogance for they believed that they were above others. They believed that because God chose them they were better than all others, and so they became proud. And even when they were punished they did not remain on the path of God but continued to turn away from God.
In the end God rejected His people. He warned them many, many times and yet they continued to reject Him. He sent them judges, prophets and righteous people to teach them and to bring them back to the right path, but they did not stay with God.
Eventually we saw God send His son in the form of Jesus Christ and the ultimate indignation occurred when the Jews put Him to death. This was the final nail in the coffin for the children of Israel, and the Jews in particular, for the result of the death of Jesus Christ was a change in God's approach to the people of the world.
When Israel and the Jews rejected God, God rejected them and chose instead to seek those people from ALL races who want to live lives of righteousness and who choose to follow His ways.
God is seeking people who want to do what is right. He wants to have people who choose His ways and want to live lives of righteousness. And so God established the way for them to come to Him and receive His grace and His salvation.
This is the basis of the New Covenant. In Hebrews 8:7-9 we see God again warning the people of Israel and the Jews of Judah and telling them the reasons why they have been rejected.
7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second.8 For he finds fault with them when he says: “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, 9 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt. For they did not continue in my covenant, and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord. (Hebrews 8:7-9)
The people were rejected as it says here because they rejected God. They rejected the first covenant, which was the old covenant of law as given through Moses, and so God establishes a New Covenant.
And the important word in this section of Hebrews 8 is the first words of verse 9. The new covenant is NOT LIKE the old covenant. It is very, very different for under the new covenant the way of grace was established rather than the rule of law. And the new covenant was opened to all peoples including the Gentile nations so that everyone was made equal.
The favoritism that was shown to Israel and Judah was now open to all who came to God in Jesus Christ.
God still kept His promise to Abraham for although all peoples could now come and be part of the family and under the favour of God, they became Abraham's children through faith. Abraham is stated to be the father of both physical Israel through bodily descent, but also the father of spiritual Israel who are those people who hold the same faith in God as Abraham had.
A New Hope
And this grace in the new covenant becomes the new hope for mankind.
The first covenant brought law and showed sin for what it is, and through sin brought condemnation and death. The new covenant brings freedom, life and peace for it is based upon the favour, kindness and grace of God the Father who has given ALL mankind a new chance and a better way.
In this world there is no hope. No person can be or find righteousness through following the ways of the world.
Under the law there was hope, but it was difficult and it did nothing to remove the sin that stands between man and God. Sin remained and condemnation remained because the law caused it to be so. It is not the law that is at fault, but the fact that man cannot keep the law.
But in the new hope that comes through grace and faith in Jesus Christ, condemnation is removed, sin is removed and peace is established between man and God.
Provided you believe. Provided you have faith in the work that God accomplished in Jesus Christ and choose to be obedient to His ways and walk in accordance with the will of God.
And that is why we must choose Christ. There is no other alternative for as Peter said when Jesus asked him if he wanted to leave,
66 After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. 67 So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, 69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:66-69)
And we too make the same answer for apart from Jesus there is no other way to salvation and there is no other pathway to life. Jesus is the Son of God and the Holy One of God and as we learn and grow in Him we see this more and more clearly.
Choose Jesus for in reality there is no other choice worth making.
(Photo sourced from free images.com provided by Paul de Bruin)
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