The NASB entitles this section, God’s sovereign choice.
Romans 9:1-2 NASB I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit, (2) that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart.
What a peculiar thing to say, “I have great sorrow and unceasing grief, especially for a man who understood that we are to count it all joy when we fall into tests and trials.
Why does he feel this way?
Romans 9:3-5 NASB “For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, (4) who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons, and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises, (5) whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen”
Paul is deeply concerned for the lost sheep of Israel, his kinsmen in the flesh.
Romans 9:3 NLT “for my people, my Jewish brothers, and sisters. I would be willing to be forever cursed—cut off from Christ!—if that would save them.”
I do not believe that would help bring them to the Lord.
Paul goes to explain more about his “kinsmen.” Keep in mind that Paul is talking to a primarily Jewish audience.
Romans 9:4-5 CJB, the people of Isra’el! They were made God’s children, and the Sh’khinah has been with them, the covenants are theirs, likewise the giving of the Torah, the Temple service and the promises; (5) the Patriarchs are theirs; and from them, as far as his physical descent is concerned, came the Messiah, who is over all. Praised be Adonai forever! Amen.
Most non-Jewish translations merely say something like what we see in the NET reading, “the glory, the covenants.” Contrast this with the Complete Jewish Bible translation, which says, “ the Sh’khinah has been with them, the covenants are theirs.” The difference is like looking at the same scene in black and white and then looking at the same view in color. There is a world of difference.
That simplistic word glory, which the CJB translated as “Sh’khinah,” is the Greek word doxa and conveys splendor, brightness, magnificence, excellence, preeminence, dignity, grace, and majesty. All these things, though difficult to see, emanated within all these ways set before God’s people.
Romans 9:4-5 Williams For they are Israelites; to them belong the privileges of son-ship, God’s glorious presence, the special covenants, the giving of the law, the temple service, the promises, (5) the patriarchs, and from them by natural descent the Christ has come, who is exalted over all, God blessed forever. Amen!
Israel, in general, could not and will not see clear to find this salvation.
Romans 9:6 CJB, But the present condition of Isra’el does not mean that the Word of God has failed. For not everyone from Isra’el is truly part of Isra’el;
Romans 9:6 NASB But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel;
Where did Paul get the idea that the Word of God had failed?
Perhaps this is one of Paul’s stylized writing moments. We should by now know that Paul said nothing without purpose. Since he was writing to a majority Jewish community, then it is safe to assume that he is speaking in terms they understand, so let’s pursue that idea for a moment.
The underlying theme of Paul’s conversation is tied to Abram.
Genesis 12:1-3 NASB Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go forth from your country, and from your relatives, and from your father’s house to the land which I will show you; (2) And I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you, And make your name great; And so you shall be a blessing; (3) And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you, all the families of the earth will be blessed.”
What are the goals and purposes here?
- Abraham and his descendants will go to a land that God will show them.
- They will become a great nation
- They will be blessed
- Have a great name.
- Be a blessing.
- And, through Abram, all the families of the earth will be blessed.
What else speaks to the future of Israel?
Genesis 49:10 NIrV The right to rule will not leave Judah. The ruler’s rod will not be taken from between his feet. It will be his until the king it belongs to comes. It will be his until the nations obey him.
In many ways, and for a long time, Judah did not rule. Is that the case today? Perhaps, if we only focus on the physical evidence. The obvious factor is that Israel did become that prophesied nation in 1946. But Genesis 49:10 is not merely speaking about some prime minister; it is talking about Jesus when it says, “until the king it belongs to come.” That King/Messiah was Yashua, and He rode into Jerusalem, just as the prophecies about Him declared.
Zechariah 9:9 NIrV “City of Zion, be full of joy! People of Jerusalem, shout! See, your king comes to you. He always does what is right. He has the power to save. He is gentle and riding on a donkey. He is sitting on a donkey’s colt.
So the promise and guarantee were made. It had to come to pass, for God had sworn it, and Abraham carried out his end of the agreement by NOT withholding his only son as a sacrifice. And, we know that God does not and cannot lie.
Numbers 23:19 NIrV God isn’t a mere man. He can’t lie. He isn’t a human being. He doesn’t change his mind. He speaks, and then he acts. He makes a promise, and then he keeps it.
If Israel has become so blind that it cannot see that Jesus is the awaited Messiah, it is certainly NOT God’s fault.
Look at what the NLT says about this.
Romans 9:6 NLT Well then, has God failed to fulfill his promise to Israel? No, for not all who are born into the nation of Israel are truly members of God’s people!
Paul had already made this crystal clear early on in the fourth chapter of his letter to the church in Rome by stating, our relationship with Christ is based on faith.
Romans 4:13 NLT Clearly, God’s promise to give the whole earth to Abraham and his descendants was based not on his obedience to God’s law, but on a right relationship with God that comes by faith.
Therefore, Paul can say, in response to his question,
Romans 9:7-8 NLT Being descendants of Abraham doesn’t make them truly Abraham’s children. For the Scriptures say, “Isaac is the son through whom your descendants will be counted,” though Abraham had other children, too. (8) This means that Abraham’s physical descendants are not necessarily children of God. Only the children of the promise are considered to be Abraham’s children.
Romans 4:11 NLT Circumcision was a sign that Abraham already had faith and that God had already accepted him and declared him to be righteous—even before he was circumcised. So Abraham is the spiritual father of those who have faith but have not been circumcised. They are counted as righteous because of their faith.
We, who have faith in Jesus Christ, are also counted as righteous through our faith, as this faith-filled theme of hope and adoption runs throughout the NT.
Galatians 4:5-7 NLT God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law so that he could adopt us as his very own children. (6) And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.” (7) Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are his child, God has made you his heir.
How did all this begin?
Romans 9:8-13 Moffatt NT (8) meaning that instead of God’s children being the children born to him by natural descent, it is the children of the Promise who are reckoned as his true offspring. (9) For when God said, I will come about this time and Sara shall have a son, that was a word of promise. (10) And further, when Rebecca became pregnant by our father Isaac, though one man was the father of both children, (11) and though the children were still unborn and had done nothing either good or bad (to confirm the divine purpose in election which depends upon the call of God, not on anything man does), (12) she was told that the elder will serve the younger. (13) As it is written, Jacob I loved but Esau I hated.
Don’t get all worked up over this idea of God hating one over the other. The Greek word miseō can also mean merely to love less. This entire theme comes from Malachi.
Malachi 1:2-3 NASB “I have loved you,” says the LORD. But you say, “How have You loved us?” “Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” declares the LORD. “Yet I have loved Jacob; (3) but I have hated Esau, and I have made his mountains a desolation and appointed his inheritance for the jackals of the wilderness.”
The Hebrew word for hated is śânê‘ and also means to be an enemy or foe. The name Esau takes its origins back to a Hebrew word asah, which also means to hinder or fight with.
Genesis 27:39-40 NASB Then Isaac his father answered and said to him, “Behold, away from the fertility of the earth shall be your dwelling, And away from the dew of heaven from above. (40) “By your sword you shall live, And your brother you shall serve; But it shall come about when you become restless, That you will break his yoke from your neck.”
The trouble began quickly,
Genesis 27:41 NASB So Esau bore a grudge against Jacob because of the blessing with which his father had blessed him; and Esau said to himself, “The days of mourning for my father are near; then I will kill my brother Jacob.”
Esau’s descendants became the enemies of Israel.
Obadiah 1:8-9 NASB “Will I not on that day,” declares the LORD, “Destroy wise men from Edom And understanding from the mountain of Esau? (9) “Then your mighty men will be dismayed, O Teman, So that everyone may be cut off from the mountain of Esau by slaughter.
Still focused on Esau and another rhetorical question.
Romans 9:14 Williams What are we then to conclude? It is not that there is injustice in God, is it? Of course not!