The Pain of Separation
Read Job 42:1–3 and spend some time in silence before God.
Read Romans 9:1–18
I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it through the Holy Spirit— 2 I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people, those of my own race, 4 the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption to sonship; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. 5 Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of the Messiah, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen.
God’s Sovereign Choice
6 It is not as though God’s word had failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. 7 Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children. On the contrary, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” 8 In other words, it is not the children by physical descent who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring. 9 For this was how the promise was stated: “At the appointed time I will return, and Sarah will have a son.”
10 Not only that, but Rebekah’s children were conceived at the same time by our father Isaac. 11 Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: 12 not by works but by him who calls—she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”
14 What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! 15 For he says to Moses,
“I will have mercy on whom I have mercy,
and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”
16 It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. 17 For Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.
New International Version (NIV)
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ReflectWhom do you know who is far from God?
Chapter 8 ended with a resounding declaration: “[Nothing] will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus” (8:39). But that is not how it seems to Paul as he looks at his nation with all of their spiritual heritage (4,5). The Jewish people are not responding to the Gospel as he has hoped. They do seem separated from God’s love in Christ. This so pains him that he would prefer that he himself were separated from God’s love in Christ (3).
In Romans 9–11 Paul is wrestling with a pastoral issue in the church at Rome. Initially, like most of the churches of the time, it would have contained a mix of Jews and Gentiles. Jews may even have formed the majority. However, during the reign of the Emperor Claudius (A.D. 41–54) the Jews were expelled from Rome. This included Jewish Christians like Aquila and Priscilla (see Acts 18:2), so then the church consisted entirely of Gentiles.
When the Jewish Christians returned to Rome they found a very different church. What was their place now? Had God moved on from the Jewish nation? Paul insists that God’s Word has not failed, but it had never been the case that all descendants of Abraham were numbered among his people (6).
What can you do to encourage someone toward Christ today?
You might share Paul’s anguish for family members who seem separated from the love of God in Jesus. Pray for them today.