Romans 9:25-33 The God of third & fourth chances
25 As indeed he says in Hosea, “Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’ and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved. ’” 26 “And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they will be called ‘sons of the living God. ’” 27 And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved, 28 for the Lord will carry out his sentence upon the earth fully and without delay.” 29 And as Isaiah predicted, “If the Lord of hosts had not left us offspring, we would have been like Sodom and become like Gomorrah.” 30 What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; 31 but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. 32 Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, 33 as it is written, “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame. Romans 9:25-33
Paul reminds the Jews of God’s unfailing mercies and patience over them and their forefathers; He is waiting and desiring that they may repent and turn back to Him. Even though God calls them as His own and gave them the Law and the covenant of salvation, they did not repent from their evil ways to worship Him. Whereas the Gentiles who did not possess the heritage that the Jews had, responded to God in repentance and trust. Hence, they stumbled upon salvation without intentionally looking for it. We some times hear Christians asking why God is blessing the non-Christians more. The church today is likened to the Jews, although having the revelation of Christ and the gifts of the Spirit remain self-centered and fleshly in their lifestyle; they live off the goodness of God without surrendering their lives to Him. Hence, many could not prosper but remain in poverty. Nevertheless, our God is a God of third and fourth chances and He will prosper those who turn to Him.
25 As indeed he says in Hosea, “Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’ and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved. ’” 26 “And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they will be called ‘sons of the living God. ’” 27 And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved, 28 for the Lord will carry out his sentence upon the earth fully and without delay.” 29 And as Isaiah predicted, “If the Lord of hosts had not left us offspring, we would have been like Sodom and become like Gomorrah.”
Hosea is a prophet of the 8th century B.C. where he ministered to the northern kingdom of Israel. Hosea’s family life reflected the adulterous relationship that Israel had when they worshiped many other gods. Hosea married a prostitute named Gomer, and even though she runs away and sleeps with another man, Hosea loves her and forgives her. Hosea’s life manifested the persistent love of God for Israel. Israel abandoned God and adulterated themselves to the dark passions of the flesh, and God had to grieve in order to them let go; He expressed His grieve by naming Hosea’s children: “Not my people” and “Not beloved”. Nevertheless, God continued to pursue Israel and calls them “sons of the living God” and waiting for their return even though they have divorced God and no longer considered themselves as God’s people.
Isaiah is another prophet in the 8th century B.C. who ministered to Israel during her time of rebellion. Israel was so evil that she was beyond redemption and was later conquered by Assyria. Even though the judgment on Israel was just and righteous, God’s mercy was greater than Israel’s rebellion. God is like a farmer who tries to salvage as much as He could from a cart of rotting apples. Only a small number of Israelites could survive Assyria’s captivity: only a remnant of them will be saved. If God had not extended His hand of mercy, Israel’s destruction would have been complete: we would have been like Sodom and become like Gomorrah.
30 What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; 31 but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. 32 Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works.
The Gentiles who had no knowledge of the living God nor His Law, who were slaves in the kingdom of darkness actually found God and entered His Kingdom. Paul certainly did not mean that the Gentiles were evil when he says, “That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness…” But rather they did not know the Law or did the things stipulated in God’s commandments like the giving the tithes and Sabbath Day worship etc. The point here is that the Gentiles were accepted by God because of their faith, which is an attitude of repentance and honor towards God: have attained it by faith. Drawing a contrast with the Jews who although knew God’s Law, which is the road map towards righteousness, but did not have an intention to obey them. In other words, the Jews appear to practice the Law on the surface, but their hearts remained evil. They give a false impression to the public as having conformed to the commandments of the Law but are hypocrites: but as if it were based on works. “Works” here carries a connotation of deception, of conforming to the works of the Law on the surface but devoid of truth and love. The Gentiles on the other hand, although having no knowledge of the Law or God’s commandments responded with repentance and honor towards God when the gospel is preached; and that is counted as faith.
They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, 33 as it is written, “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.
Jesus came to preach the truth as the prophets of old had preached, which is the gospel of repentance. The stone in Zion has a two fold effect: to those who honor God and trust in His protection, He will be a sanctuary: whoever believes in him will not be put to shame. But to those who do not fear God and who did not place their trust in Him, He will be a snare and destruction to them. Paul describes Jesus as a cornerstone, a sanctuary for the believing Gentiles and a stumbling stone to the unbelieving Jews.
1. God allows certain trials to come into our lives so that we could understand the depth of God’s sorrows and the deprivation of humanity. Hosea was instructed to marry Gomer who was a prostitute and to name his children as wayward and forgotten. This experience brought great suffering to Hosea as well as growth and maturity to him. Hosea began to understand what it felt like when Israel prostituted themselves to other gods. He understood God’s grief when His children rejected Him and left Him. God desires believers to empathize with Him so that we may grow into His heart and passion for the world. Hence, we should try to see our daily struggles in the light of God’s ministry to the world. Through our own suffering, we could understand God’s sorrows and the deprivation of humanity. In the process, we become better and more effective parents and ministers to our children and flock.
2. God is the God of third and fourth chances. He is faithful and merciful to those who repeatedly choose the way of destruction; His door remains open and inviting. For those who have made costly mistakes, God will restore them if they do not give up. The Jews have repeatedly rejected God for 3400 years now. There are currently less than 10,000 Jewish Christians in Israel. Nevertheless, God is continually reaching out to them. Knowing that God’s door is always open, we who have left Him must take every opportunity to return to the open arms of God. At the same time, we must never give up on those whom we deemed as hopeless. It is our responsibility to continue to reach out to them to show them that God’s door is always open. And it is their responsibility to walk through that door.
3. It is not what is in your head or what you have done (works) that counts, but what is in your heart (faith). The Jews understood the ways of righteousness, they have experienced God’s miracles and they have observed God’s sacrificial love through the sacrifices. Despite their godly heritage, they did not obtain salvation, but the people of other nations did. As Christians we some times have that Jewish mentality. We supposed our understanding of salvation, our experiences of God’s love and miracles and our participation in worship have sealed us for salvation. They seem to be religious in their practices of prayer and study of the word, but lack freedom and abundant life. All things religious jazz don’t matter if we don’t have a right relationship with God.
Our salvation is not based on works, but on faith: the genuine conversion of our heart to honor God as Lord and Master. For such, there is love overflowing from his life; there is hope and diligence in his work; there is freedom from the bondage of sin. A person is counted to have faith when he acknowledges God’s authority over his lifestyle and life direction, and when he puts his trust in God concerning the challenges of life.
1. Consider your current challenges in your family, work place or church ministry. What does God want you to learn concerning the human nature and what would He have done in your situation?
2. Do you think that you have in some ways failed God repeatedly? Have you made certain mistakes that have cost you greatly? Consider God as One who is always loving and faithful, who is waiting for us to repent. Hence, we persevere with God who is willing to restore to us what we have lost.
Dear Lord, help me to see every difficulty as an opportunity to be strengthened and be faithful to the tasks at hand. And as an opportunity to empathize your passions and sorrows for the world. Help me transform some of my attitudes that have hindered my progress all these years. Help me to love in spite of being rejected, not to cause them to love me, but to do what is right despite conveniences. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.