Romans 9, Part 9
Dec 06, 2010
The unification of Israel and Judah comes only through the headship of Jesus Christ. Not only is He "the repairer of the breach" (Isaiah 58:12) between Israel and Judah, but He also repairs the breach between Israel and the rest of the world. When Israel and Judah are united under one Head, others are also gathered with them (Isaiah 56:6-8) in order that His Temple might be "a house of prayer for all the peoples" (Is. 56:7). This is to fulfill Solomon's prayer (1 Kings 8:41-43, 60; 2 Chron. 6:32-33).
So we see that God divorced the house of Israel, abolishing the marriage covenant between them, and casting them out among the nations. Israel became just one of the "gentiles" insofar as her legal status with God was concerned. God leveled the playing field, so that in making a New Covenant, the call would be issued in a more public manner. The evangelization of those ex-Israelites of the dispersion was a call to all nations.
The call has always been to all nations, of course, since Abraham was to be a blessing to all other nations. Many Egyptians came out of Egypt with Israel, and others were converted throughout history. However, God had focused primarily on making Israel the pattern or template for the Kingdom of God. The smaller model was the pattern for the full-scale structure that was yet to come.
Hence, when Paul quotes Hosea in Romans 9:25 and 26, he uses Hosea's words about Israel in the greater context of the New Covenant. Israel was specifically said to be "not My people" in Hosea 1:9. Israel had to be cast out and the covenant annulled in order to reach that legal status of not being His people. The rest of the nations were already in that position. So in leveling the playing field, God "gentilized" Israel, giving her equal "not-My-people" status.
Hosea's promise, however, was to make those who were "not My people" into "My people" (Hos. 2:23) and turn them into the sons of the living God. In doing so, He took the entire class of "not My people," including all nations.
Paul continues in Romans 9:27, 28, quoting from the Septuagint:
(27) And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel, "Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea, it is the remnant that will be saved; (28) for the Lord will execute His word upon the earth thoroughly and quickly."
Here Paul begins to introduce "the remnant," showing the distinction between "all Israel" and the few who respond to God's call in this life time. This is one of the major themes of Isaiah, whose son Shear-jashub means "the remnant will return." Like Hosea, Isaiah's children were named prophetically (Is. 8:18). Shear-jashub is mentioned in Isaiah 7:3, and the significance of his name is found in Isaiah 10:21, 22, which Paul quotes in Romans 9:27, 28 (above).
This term "remnant" is used as an equivalent of "the elect" in Paul's writings. Isaiah thus prophesied that only a small remnant of Israelites would actually "return" to the Lord and "be saved." So in Romans 9: 29 Paul gives us a second witness from Isaiah to prove the point.
(29) And just as Isaiah foretold, "Except the Lord of Sabaoth had left to us a posterity, we would have become as Sodom, and would have resembled Gomorrah."
This is a quotation from Isaiah 1:9. Paul obviously equated the "remnant" to the "posterity" that was the smaller group. Even as God saved Lot in the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, so also God saved a remnant of Israel, those who "returned" to the Lord as "the elect."
This reveals a very important principle. First, just because Israel as a nation was "chosen" God and was therefore an "elect" nation, it does not mean that they all were individually God's elect. Far from it. The nation itself became as Sodom and Gomorrah, and God destroyed the nation for rejecting Him and breaking the covenant.
So who are the remnant-elect who returned to God? They are the ones who follow Jesus Christ, the King and the God of the whole earth, not only of the seed of Israel, but also of every nation. This is the basis of Paul's entire discussion in Romans 9-11, and if we understand this up front, we will be able to follow Paul's line of reasoning throughout these chapters.
(30) What shall we say then? That the ethnos, who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith; (31) but Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law.
Israel as a nation was given the Law and a covenant mandating obedience as a precondition of attaining righteousness (right standing before God). They failed miserably, as Paul explained to us earlier. So God cast out the whole house of Israel--as a nation. Yet in the midst of such judgment, a remnant continued to follow God, even though that remnant went into captivity along with their fellow Israelites.
Centuries later, Jesus Christ came to earth, and the remnant living in that generation followed Him, along with the rest of the ethnos who were gathered with them. Hence, the ethnos, who had not pursued right standing with God in earlier times, attained righteousness. They achieved under the New Covenant what the nation of Israel could not achieve under the Old Covenant.
(32) Why? Because they [all the tribes of Israel under the Old Covenant] did not pursue it by faith, but as it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone, (33) just as it is written, "Behold, I lay in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense, and he who believes in Him will not be disappointed."
This was the condition of both Israel and Judah--all the tribes who were under the Old Covenant. The "stumbling stone" is Jesus Christ Himself, for Paul tells us in 1 Cor. 1:23,
(23) but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block, and to the ethnosfoolishness.
This stumbling block was present from the beginning, for Jesus Christ was the Yahweh of the Old Testament. We read in Isaiah 12:2, 3,
(2) Behold God is my Yeshua, I will trust and not be afraid; for Yah Yahweh is my strength and song, and He has become my Yeshua. (3) Therefore you will joyously draw water from the springs of Yeshua.
Yeshua (Jesus) quoted verse 3 in John 7:38 when telling people to come to Him for the true water of life. Those who did so would find that this water would become a spring within them.
So when Paul speaks of Israel as a nation rejecting Jesus Christ, He was not referring merely to the Jewish rejection of Christ in the first century. Christ had already been rejected by Israel while He was yet in the form of Yahweh. Judah rejected Him directly in the first century, completing the failure of the Old Covenant in both nations.
Paul's quotation in Rom. 9:33 is from Isaiah 28:16, which is Isaiah's great "Pentecostal" chapter. In fact, Paul quotes Isaiah 28:11 in his discussion on the gift of tongues in 1 Cor. 14:21. Isaiah prophesies many things in chapter 28, including the heart attitude of the religious leaders in Jerusalem as they plotted to crucify Jesus.
Paul links the Old Covenant with the people's rejection of Jesus Christ. The people refused to hear of the New Covenant and rejected its Mediator, preferring to remain under the Old Covenant and its works requirement. Christ, then, became the great stumbling block that offended them as long as they adhered to the Old Covenant. This was prophesied by Isaiah, who also gave us the solution: "He who believes [has faith] in Him will not be disappointed."
This is the final part of a series titled "Romans 9." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones