Romans 9:1-16: The Apostle Paul has spent the first 8 chapters of his letter explaining how God has made it possible for the Gentiles – that is, everyone who isn’t of Israelite descent – to be included among God’s people, not through their own goodness or their own effort, but through faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus
Christ. At the end of Chapter 8, he reassures us that even though at times we may feel hopeless and unable even to keep believing, there is nothing “in all creation that can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord”.
That thought reminds Paul of the Israelites, his own race – how is it that most of them,
who were the first to know about God’s mercy and love, haven’t welcomed the news
of God’s promised King? Has God’s promise to them failed? Has he let them down?
If he has then it would make sense that we can’t trust his promises either.
But Paul says, God’s promises have not failed. There have always been people who
were part of the physical group of ‘God’s people’, who didn’t receive God’s promises
of blessing – like Ishmael, son of Abraham and half brother of Isaac, but not chosen
by God. Esau was the twin brother of Jacob who later became Israel, the father of all
the tribes of Israel; but Esau was not chosen by God.
So is God mean not to choose all of Abraham’s descendents to be his own special
people? Is he mean, not give his promise to everyone? It’s the other way around;
God is generous to bless any of Abraham’s descendents, merciful and kind to bless
any of us.
Later in Chapter 9 Paul will point out that the reason some people of Israel missed out
on God’s blessing was because they treated it as something they could work for, that
would glorify them; they forgot it was a gift, given by a generous and loving God.
We too can get caught up trying to earn God’s love, and miss out on the blessing of
knowing that he already loves us.