Romans 9

This devotional is written by Ruth Slatter.

Romans 9

Paul’s anguish over Israel
9 I speak the truth in Christ – I am not lying, my conscience confirms it through the Holy Spirit – 2 I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people, those of my own race, 4 the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption to sonship; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. 5 Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of the Messiah, who is God over all, for ever praised! Amen.

God’s sovereign choice
6 It is not as though God’s word had failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. 7 Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children. On the contrary, ‘It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.’ 8 In other words, it is not the children by physical descent who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring. 9 For this was how the promise was stated: ‘At the appointed time I will return, and Sarah will have a son.’

10 Not only that, but Rebekah’s children were conceived at the same time by our father Isaac. 11 Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad – in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: 12 not by works but by him who calls – she was told, ‘The older will serve the younger.’ 13 Just as it is written: ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.’

14 What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! 15 For he says to Moses,

‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy,
and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’

16 It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. 17 For 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.’ 18 Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.

19 One of you will say to me: ‘Then why does God still blame us? For who is able to resist his will?’ 20 But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? ‘Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, “Why did you make me like this?”’ 21 Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?

22 What if God, although choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath – prepared for destruction? 23 What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory – 24 even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles? 25 As he says in Hosea:

‘I will call them “my people” who are not my people;
and I will call her “my loved one” who is not my loved one,’

26 and,

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

27 Isaiah cries out concerning Israel:

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

29 It is just as Isaiah said previously:

‘Unless the Lord Almighty
had left us descendants,
we would have become like Sodom,
we would have been like Gomorrah.’

Israel’s unbelief
30 What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; 31 but the people of Israel, who pursued the law as the way of righteousness, have not attained their goal. 32 Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the ‘stumbling stone.’ 33 As it is 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 has just elatedly assured his readers that NOTHING could separate them from the love of God (Romans 8). But now his attention turns to the people of Israel – i.e. the Jews descended from the Old Testament figure Jacob who was later renamed Israel.  Throughout the Old Testament, the Jews had been promised God’s love and protection. But the Gospels at the beginning of the New Testament, tell us that they did not accept Jesus as the Son of God, or receive the grace that Paul has been explaining and celebrating in the earlier part of this letter.

This poses a theological problem: how can anybody be SURE that God’s love and salvation will last forever when the Jews had been promised this by God for so long, but were now without it? In this chapter Paul uses his extensive knowledge of the Old Testament and God’s promises to answer this question.

But more than this, he shows incredible compassion for the Jewish community he had grown up in. Like Jesus took on our sins as his when he was crucified, Paul says he wishes that he could be cut off from God so that the Jews could be in relationship with God again (v.3-4).

While we are not called to sacrifice ourselves for others, there are many occasions in the Bible where the followers of Jesus are asked and encouraged to have compassion for those in need (e.g. Colossians 3:12, Philippians 2:1-3). As shown by Paul in this passage, compassion is a deep, spiritual love for those who suffer - in all sorts of ways – and a desire for them to experience the healing power of God’s love.

Spend time today asking God who he wants you to have compassion for and praying for them.

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