Who Exactly Is “Israel”?
Great and Mighty God, may I have an unhindered view of Your majesty and an assurance of Your power within me.
Read Romans 9:1-13
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. All rights reserved throughout the world. Used by permission of International Bible Society.
“Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain” (Psa. 127:1). That’s good advice for “life-builders,” too.
Granted Israel’s priority, the critical question for Paul is not whether God’s Word has failed but who constitutes Israel, for “not all who are descended from Israel are Israel” (6). Only from this perspective, Paul argues, will we truly perceive the glory God intended to reveal.
The line through whom Abraham’s promised blessing would come—and that is the point at issue, not salvation per se—was never based on mere descent or prior actions, good or bad. Without attempting to justify God’s choice of either Sarah–Isaac, or Rebekah–Jacob, Paul simply notes the basis of that very priority which both he and his discussion partners assume, and in which Israel boasted: no one earned this privilege. The point is made with particular poignancy with the “love-hate” citation from Malachi 1:2,3. Although Israel had consistently failed to honor him (that is, to be Israel), God still “loved” them—even to punishing their betrayers.
In our globalized and technological world it’s easy to assume that all critical actions begin with us, but we are in a profound sense only ever responding. Everything begins with God’s prior action. In terms of eternal life, if God’s choice of the human forebears of the promise was independent of bloodline and works, then we ought not to be surprised that the same applies to the recipients of that blessing when it finally comes. In joining Abraham’s family, neither nationality nor deeds, good or bad, matter. We must remember, too, that our only boast is in the Lord. We readily assume that things revolve around us, but they do not. Everything begins with God and his prior action. The Christian life begins and ends on this sure foundation.
Prayerfully reflect on a difficult personal situation and consider how an emphasis on God’s prior action and constant care brings a different perspective.
God, You are the One who was, and is, and is to come. You are the God who makes things happen. You’ll have the last word. I kneel before You.
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