Love and compassion

I’m telling the truth in Christ – I’m not lying and my conscience confirms it through the Holy Spirit – I’m carrying great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. It’s because of my own folk, the people of Israel. I would do anything for them – be accursed or cut off from Christ for their sake –  because they’re missing so much. Theirs is the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the worship in the temple and the promises. Theirs are the ancestors from whom is traced the human descent of Christ, who is God over all, for ever praised! Amen.

Please don’t think that God’s promise has failed. The fact is that not everyone who’s physically descended from Israel is a member of the true Israel. Neither are all Abraham’s physical descendants his true children. On the contrary, it was stated: ‘It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.’ In other words, it’s not the children by physical descent who are his children, but it’s the children of the promise who are his, because this was the promise that was given: ‘At the appointed time I will return, and Sarah will have a son.’

And not only that, but when Rebekah’s children were conceived at the same time by our father Isaac, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad – in order that God’s purpose in election be demonstrated: that it’s not by works but by him who calls – she was told, ‘The older will serve the younger.’ And it’s also written: ‘In love, I chose Jacob. But I didn’t choose Esau.’

What then does this tell us? Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’

What it tells us is that God’s choice doesn’t depend on human desire or effort, but on his mercy. In the same way, 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.’ So God has mercy on whom he wishes to have mercy, and he hardens the hearts of those whom he wishes to harden.

Someone might say, however: ‘Why does God still blame us? Who can resist his will?’ But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? It’s written: ‘Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, “Why did you make me like this?”’ Doesn’t the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?

What if God, though choosing to demonstrate his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of that wrath – those prepared for destruction? What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, those he prepared in advance for glory – that is us, whom he called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles? Because he says in the Book of Hosea: ‘I will call them “my people” who are not my people; and I will call her “my beloved one” who is not my beloved.’

And, ‘In the very place where it was said to them, “You are not my people,” there they will be called “the children of the living God.”’

Isaiah also cries out concerning Israel: ‘Though the number of the Israelites be like the sand by the sea, only the remnant will be saved. For the Lord will carry out his sentence on earth with speed and finality.’

It’s just as Isaiah had said previously: ‘Unless the Lord Almighty had left us descendants, we would have become like Sodom, we would have been like Gomorrah.’

What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who didn’t pursue righteousness, have obtained it – a righteousness that comes by faith. But the people of Israel, who pursued the law as the way to righteousness, haven’t succeeded. And why haven’t they succeeded? Because they pursued by works, not faith. They tripped over the stumbling block. As it’s been written: ‘See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who believes in him will never be put to shame.’

Paul

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