The last blog ended Romans 8, one of the most incredible affirmations in scripture. As we move to Romans 9, Paul resets his emotional dial. Even though their is assurance in the Christ life, there is still struggle in our daily life.
Chapter 9 begins with the sorrow of those who have not found the Christ life. He mourns for those who have not receive the gift that God has given in Jesus Christ. I have felt this way often – it is painful to want those you love to realize just how much God loves them and the incredible life they could enjoy in the Divine Presence.
9 1-5 At the same time, you need to know that I carry with me at all times a huge sorrow. It’s an enormous pain deep within me, and I’m never free of it. I’m not exaggerating—Christ and the Holy Spirit are my witnesses. It’s the Israelites . . . If there were any way I could be cursed by the Messiah so they could be blessed by him, I’d do it in a minute. They’re my family. I grew up with them. They had everything going for them—family, glory, covenants, revelation, worship, promises, to say nothing of being the race that produced the Messiah, the Christ, who is God over everything, always. Oh, yes!
The majority of these verses are an explanation of how God’s gift is not dependent on our behavior, but is a power the burst through all the bounds of human existence.
6-9 Don’t suppose for a moment, though, that God’s Word has malfunctioned in some way or other. The problem goes back a long way. From the outset, not all Israelites of the flesh were Israelites of the spirit. It wasn’t Abraham’s sperm that gave identity here, but God’s promise. Remember how it was put: “Your family will be defined by Isaac”? That means that Israelite identity was never racially determined by sexual transmission, but it was God-determined by promise. Remember that promise, “When I come back next year at this time, Sarah will have a son”?
10-13 And that’s not the only time. To Rebecca, also, a promise was made that took priority over genetics. When she became pregnant by our one-of-a-kind ancestor, Isaac, and her babies were still innocent in the womb—incapable of good or bad—she received a special assurance from God. What God did in this case made it perfectly plain that his purpose is not a hit-or-miss thing dependent on what we do or don’t do, but a sure thing determined by his decision, flowing steadily from his initiative. God told Rebecca, “The firstborn of your twins will take second place.” Later that was turned into a stark epigram: “I loved Jacob; I hated Esau.”
Any reading of the scripture will find God lifting up those the world thought unimportant and those who believe themselves important never finding the strength of God. It truly is one long David and Goliath story.
14-18 Is that grounds for complaining that God is unfair? Not so fast, please. God told Moses, “I’m in charge of mercy. I’m in charge of compassion.” Compassion doesn’t originate in our bleeding hearts or moral sweat, but in God’s mercy. The same point was made when God said to Pharaoh, “I picked you as a bit player in this drama of my salvation power.” All we’re saying is that God has the first word, initiating the action in which we play our part for good or ill.
God is the first word – it is God’s world – we are the people God has created for God’s pleasure. I wonder when that will start to get straight in our heads. We are not to use the Divine Presence for our pleasure, but rather the other way around.
I believe that in each moment of our lives God’s Presence is there. If I can ask, “what will honor and bring glory to God in this moment,” then my life is full, being given the meaning through the source of my life – God. Alpha and Omega – beginning and end.