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  • Writer's pictureRob

The Hundred-Eighty-Eighth (Romans Part 17)

We’re moving on to chapter 9 in Romans this week.  Once again, Paul gets into some deep stuff in this chapter, and once again he goes back to scripture to explain it.  If there’s one thing we’ve learned through all of our studies, it’s that you can’t have the scriptures of Yeshua’s time and later without all the scriptures previous to them.  And you most certainly cannot fully understand the new without looking at the old.  


Throughout this chapter, Paul presents the dichotomies of various things: Jews and non-Jews, YHWH’s will and man’s works, YHWH’s rejection and His compassion, and faith versus works.  His use of scripture here, as well as in the other chapters of Romans and his other writings, gives us the ability to understand why things happened the way they did historically speaking, and more than that, it gives us a glimpse into the heart of our Father, YHWH.  One big thing to keep in the back of your mind while we go through this chapter is to remember that YHWH is omniscient, meaning He knows all.  This not only means He knows everything currently, like things that are happening in the present time, but also that He knows everything throughout all of time, at all times.    


To put it another way, and a little more personally, YHWH knows what we will do years from now, and He knew that we were going to do those things before we were even conceived by our parents, even before He created the universe! (Jeremiah 1:5, Psalm 139:13-18) This is where some people get into an existential question of whether we are free to do what we will or we are under the control of YHWH.  However, one way to put this question to bed is to look at all the events in history where man has chosen to turn his back to YHWH.  If we were under His control, those events never would have happened.  YHWH would have just made those people continue to worship and serve Him.


When someone creates something for a purpose, what happens if, when that person finishes building it, that thing doesn’t actually do what he or she designed it for?  They destroy it and try again, right?  YHWH designed us to tend the earth and everything in it, and to have a relationship with Him (Genesis 1:26-28, 2:8).  However, did He destroy Adam and Eve, once they sinned, and start over?  No.  They turned their back on Him and went against His commandment, betraying the relationship they had with Him, and He let them live and procreate, albeit outside of the paradise He created for them.  Similarly, throughout history, people have chosen to not have a relationship with YHWH and He has not destroyed them when they made that choice.


You’ll see why this is important to remember as we get further into this chapter, but first, speaking of turning away from YHWH, it begins with Paul opening his heart about how he feels for his flesh and blood people, those of Israel.  He goes so far as to say he almost wishes he was cut off from Yeshua for their sake, since they do not have the inheritance in Yeshua that he does (Romans 9:1-4).  Despite the fact that they are the line of people chosen by YHWH to receive and maintain not only His laws, promises, and how to worship Him but also His bloodline of the covenant of Abraham to the Savior of all mankind, because of their blindness they are not the heirs to the inheritance all those things produced (Romans 9:4-5).


If you’ve ever known truth so clearly and spoken to those blind to it, trying to open their eyes, you know what Paul was feeling when he wrote this.  And this is where we start getting a little bit into the existential question.  We know that no one can understand or accept truths from YHWH if they do not have His Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:14), and Paul, going on in chapter 9, points out that those who think that YHWH went back on His word need to think twice (Romans 9:6).  There are descendants of Israel, of the tribe of Judah specifically, as well as others not descended from Israel, that Paul is writing to and that have YHWH’s Spirit.  While the non-Jews may not have the background in understanding various parts of scripture, the Jews absolutely knew through all of their studies of Torah and listening to the readings in synagogue that they were the chosen ones.  It even led to a feeling of superiority over non-Jews, as we saw early on when we started this study of Paul’s letter to the Romans.  


Paul reminds them that the promise from YHWH to Abraham was through Isaac, Israel’s father, not through Israel specifically (Romans 9:7-9).  He then goes on to remind them that Isaac didn’t just have Israel (whose name was Jacob at the time), he also had Esau.  Esau was even the older brother, which means he should have received the inheritance of the promise instead of Israel (Romans 9:10-13).  And the rub is that YHWH said Israel would be favored before he or Esau was even born.


Did YHWH decide this and control these brothers to make this come true?  Of course not, but we’ll get more into that later.  Paul’s point is that YHWH’s will is something not dependent on what you or I do.  He quotes Exodus, the words YHWH said to Moses, to show that YHWH decides whatever He wants to do and our works or even our desires have nothing to do with it (Romans 9:14-16).  He knows people’s hearts and knows how they will act, using that to bring about His will, and Paul uses the example of Pharaoh and the exodus of the Israelites to emphasize that (Romans 9:17-18).


This is where it’s almost as if Paul can read the minds of the believers, and even of the readers of this letter today, as he asks a question that many ask when this type of thing comes up: why do we get punished when YHWH’s will is outside our control? (Romans 9:19)  In other words, and in more modern terms, if we’re all just robots doing whatever YHWH wants, why do we have consequences and judgments for what we do?  Paul goes through a bunch of scriptures specific to the topic of election of YHWH’s children, which he’s focusing on here, to basically say we, as the created beings, don’t have the authority to question YHWH’s methods, but he’s also saying we have no way of truly knowing what YHWH’s ultimate, overall plan for anything is (Romans 9:20-29).

 

Paul shows that through all of the things we know from history, all of the seemingly bad things and the obviously good things, you can see that ultimately YHWH’s plan resulted in a salvation for everyone, not just the Jews.  People that had turned their back on YHWH, like Pharaoh, ended up being involved in this plan to preserve Yeshua’s blood line and YHWH’s promise to Abraham, which is proof that in all things YHWH is sovereign.  Yes, there is a consequence of turning your back on YHWH: you die forever (Revelation 20:14).  However, regardless of this choice, to turn your back, you are not immune to the plans of the Creator of everything, YHWH, and He will have an impact in your life until you die whether you believe in Him and follow Him or not.


As we identified earlier, YHWH knows every one of us and our hearts.  If there was ever a chance for us to turn to Him and follow Him, He knows it.  If someone, no matter all the signs, wonders, scriptures, and interactions, will never come to follow Him, He knows that, too.  He knew that Pharaoh would never give up the Israelites and would never truly and completely follow Him, despite the various times during the plagues that it seemed like Pharaoh had given in.  So in the end, Pharaoh was used as a tool to bring glory to YHWH.  

Back in Romans 9 though, through all these scriptures, Paul also shows that what ultimately came to pass was right there before their eyes the whole time.  I’m sure the Jews were confused, and even felt a bit betrayed, to see that non-Jews were included as children of YHWH.  However, they can’t argue with the scripture they grew up with, and certainly can’t argue against YHWH’s word as given through the prophets.  Non-Jews being included as YHWH’s people was written of by Hosea (Hosea 2:23, 1:10, Romans 9:25-26), and the fact that there were only a small few of Israel saved was written of by Isaiah (Isaiah 10:22-23, 1:9, Romans 9:27-29).


This chapter is closed out by Paul connecting another couple verses of scripture to answer the question of why ultimately Israel did not achieve the righteousness they were pursuing.  Again, something that the believing Jews were probably very confused about.  How could these non-Jewish people, who never spent a moment of their lives trying to follow YHWH’s commandments, just be given the righteousness the Israelites were always striving for?   Paul re-iterates here that they never received righteousness because it became about what they were doing vice being about faith in YHWH (Romans 9:30-32).  This was the stumbling stone Isaiah talked about, Paul says (Romans 9:33, Isaiah 8:14), because the commandments became a checklist for the Israelites to get something rather than them following the commandments due to faith that YHWH gave them the commandments for a reason and that ultimately He wanted a relationship with them of love and obedience (Matthew 22:34-40, Mark 12:28-34).

 

By including the verse in Isaiah 28, Paul is saying that it wasn’t the commandments themselves that were the stumbling stone, but that Yeshua is the stumbling stone because the Israelites were so focused on the works of the commandments that they wouldn’t be able to get past the fact that faith in Yeshua would be the method of salvation (Isaiah 28:16).  Just think about it.  Why do we trip, or stumble, over things?  Well, obviously it’s because we don’t see them, right?  Otherwise, you would have avoided the thing in the first place!  But, why didn’t we see that thing so that we tripped over it?  Because we were looking at, we were focused on, something else.

 

What are we so focused on, and what are we so confident and sure about, that we’re missing things in scripture or YHWH’s leading like the Israelites did?  It wasn’t just the words in Isaiah and Hosea they missed, YHWH did things like disperse the majority of the Israelites and destroy the temple to try to lead them to the right answer.  There were multiple non-Israelites that were blessed by YHWH as recorded in the scriptures they studied, showing that it was always about faith rather than works, and they still missed it.  Try to identify those things you are focused on that are keeping you from seeing the Stone of Truth that you will stumble upon, and make those things less of a focus in your life.


Shabbat shalom and YHWH bless you!


-Rob and Sara Gene

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