Romans 9, Part 8
Dec 04, 2010
God has always found it useful to create vessels of dishonor to help train the vessels of honor. He used Saul to train David, for instance, and He used Esau to train Jacob. The overcomers must experience adversity in order to have something to overcome. In order to learn forgiveness, we must have something to forgive. In order for the sons of God to exercise dominion over the earth, there must be something to change or correct.
We do not like going through such adversity, of course, and we often complain of our predicament instead of learning to exercise our dominion over it. But Paul tells us God's purpose for creating "vessels of wrath" in Romans 9:22, 23,
(22) What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? (23) And He did so in order that He might make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory. . .
The "destruction" here is from the Greek word apoleia, whose root is apollumi. The destruction is not its final end, but the means to the end. When Jesus referred to the "lost sheep of the house of Israel" in Matt. 10:6 and 15:24, the word translated "lost" is apollumi. Just because they were "lost" (or "destroyed" as a nation), does not mean that this condition would last forever. In fact, the Good Shepherd left the 99 "safe" sheep and went out to find the one "lost" sheep (Luke 15:4-7).
In the case of the "lost" coin, Jesus said in Luke 15:9, "Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin which I had lost." Thus, the term "lost" or "destroyed" does not carry with it any inherent sense of permanency unless one adds that concept by using another word, such as "perpetual loss" or "unending loss," neither of which are found in Scripture.
In Romans 9:24, Paul turns his attention to the scope of the vessels of mercy. It was common among the Jews of his day to think of themselves as the vessels of mercy on account of their genealogical connection to Abraham. Vessels of wrath were the non-Jews, or so-called "gentiles."
This idea breaks down when we see that the Israelites of the northern kingdom had been conquered, deported, and dispersed. They were the "lost sheep of the house of Israel," as described in Ezekiel 34. The term does not refer to unbelieving Jews in the first century, but to the house of Israel that had been "lost" 700 years earlier.
The Jewish nation itself was to experience destruction at the hands of Rome in 70 A.D. Thus, they too were "vessels of wrath prepared for destruction." So one cannot claim genealogy as the basis of being a chosen "vessel of mercy." It is based fully upon a relationship with Jesus Christ, whether this is viewed on a personal level or on a national level. So Paul comments on the scope of these vessels of mercy, beginning in Romans 9:24,
(24) even us, whom He also called, not from among the Jews only, but also from among theethnos ["nations"], (25) as He says also in Hosea, "I will call those who were not My people, 'My people,' and her who was not beloved, 'Beloved'." (26) And it shall be that in the place where it was said to them, 'You are not My people,' there they shall be called sons of the living God."
To understand Paul, we must go back to his source, which, in this case, is the prophet Hosea. Hosea was a prophet to the northern house of Israel. As an intercessor, he married a prostitute named Gomer, who represented the house of Israel. She ran away and became enslaved to other men, even as Israel had followed after other gods and become enslaved by them. Hosea then later found her and redeemed her.
Before she ran away, however, Gomer bore three children, each of whom was named prophetically.Jezreel means "God scatters or sows." Lo-ruhamah means "not pitied, or no mercy, no compassion."Lo-ami means "not my people."
These children prophesied the divine judgment upon the house of Israel. God would "scatter" them in the world. Israel would no longer be God's people, because God would no longer have mercy upon them. This is how they became "lost sheep," as Ezekiel describes them. Hosea 2:1 refers to God's divorce, telling Israel, "for she is not My wife, and I am not her husband." This is consistent with Jer. 3:8, where we find God giving Israel a bill of divorce.
So the situation with Israel was grim and appeared to be irreversible. But when Hosea redeemed Gomer, it prophesied of the ultimate redemption of the house of Israel--the so-called "ten lost tribes."
It is important to understand that when God divorced Israel, she became as one of the other nations. The marriage covenant was broken, and Israel was sent out of God's house according to the law in Deut. 24:1. Israel as a nation could no longer claim any legal standing before God insofar as the covenant with Moses was concerned. In that sense she was no different from any other nation.
It would take a New Covenant to bring Israel back to God. The terms of the New Covenant were different from the first covenant. The New Covenant was to be made with both the house of Israel and the house of Judah (Jer. 31:31; Heb. 8:8), but others could also join with them and receive the same benefits (Isaiah 56:6-8).
Thus, in the regathering of the house of Israel, a great unification would take place that would result in Christ being recognized as King of the whole earth (Is. 54:5). First, this plan would repair the breach between Israel and Judah, and secondly, it would bring all nations into the Kingdom of God as they unite under the same New Covenant.
So Paul quotes Hosea 1:10, 11 to prove his case. Though Israel was "scattered" as Jezreel, the underlying divine purpose was to "sow" them in the field. ("The field is the world," Matt. 13:38.) God's judgments are only temporarily destructive, but in the end they are corrective and reconstructive. After "sowing" Israel in the world, God obtains a great harvest, for Hos. 1:10 says,
(10) Yet the number of the sons of Israel will be like the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered...
What sort of harvest will this produce?
(10) ... And it will come about that in the place where it is said to them, "You are not My people," it will be said to them, "You are the sons of the living God."
The divine plan has always been to bring forth the sons of God. This was precisely what Paul had been discussing in earlier chapters, showing how this requires death and resurrection. When a seed is planted, the seed dies and is put into the ground. This is necessary in bringing forth a great resurrection harvest. So God scattered the seed of Israel into the "field," in order to raise them up again in a great harvest of sons.
Individually speaking, we must all go through the same death-and-resurrection process in order to become sons of God. God is working both nationally and individually in the same way, but we cannot simply claim a national connection as grounds for Sonship. Even as the nation had to die, so also do we as individuals have to die in the manner that Paul discussed earlier.
Furthermore, in Hosea 1:11 we read,
(11) And the sons of Judah and the sons of Israel will be gathered together, and they will appoint for themselves one Leader, and they will go up from the land, for great will be the day of Jezreel.
It is only under the leadership of Jesus Christ that the two sticks of Israel and Judah can be reunified as per Ezekiel 37:17.
This is the eighth part of a series titled "Romans 9." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones