So sorry for the lateness of this post! Almost nothing about my week went according to plan and this was no exception. It also didn't help that I didn't really know what to write about. Not that there's nothing to say about today's passages, obviously, just that I had trouble FOCUSING!
It's interesting again though, how the Old and New Testament passages are sort of linked together. Isaiah's passages hold many promises to Israel and Paul's letter to the Romans defends the character of God to Jews who won't believe because they feel He hasn't kept those promises. I think this is probably also one of the favourite passages for those who argue there is no longer any special promise for the nation Israel as God's chose people because they broke their covenant relationship with Him.
"Now is it important for Paul to deal with this here? Of course it is. He's been presenting justification by grace through faith. He's been presenting the means of salvation and having presented that he stops and he answers the question about where does the Jew fit in because he knows that any reader who's reading and knows about the history of Israel is going to say, "Well, you keep telling me to come to God through Christ, you tell me that Christ will save me and Christ will take away my sin and Christ will give me His Holy Spirit and Christ will give me eternal life and Christ will take me all the way to glory and He'll never let go of me and He'll love me forever and so forth. You tell me all of that but I'm going to ask you a question. If I can trust Jesus Christ with my life how come He didn't keep His Word to the Jews?" You understand? That's the question that could come up. And so he wants to answer that and in chapter 9, 10 and 11 he develops this whole theology of how the Jew fits in to God's redemptive plan."
The first issue, John MacArthur states, is that the unbelief of Israel is not inconsistent with God's promises. Again, we are reminded of the possibility that God plans for things that, in and of themselves, do not necessarily bring Himself great happiness, but will work together with the rest of history to bring Him greater glory. Most Jews believe ~ have always believed ~ that all Israel is saved by birth; all are born into the covenant because of their Jewish-ness. Abraham's physical "seed" is automatically a part of the Kingdom. So a full-scale, national rejection of the gospel made no sense to these Jews and disqualified the gospel from being true in their minds. So Paul wants here to help them (and us) understand how the gospel can be true and at the same time be rejected by His covenant people.
In verses 1-5, Paul sort of sets up the chapter by telling us how much he cares for Israel. And he reminds them they have received the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service, that is the liturgical liturgy, the ceremonial sacrificial service, the promises, the fathers and even Christ came through them and to them. With all that privilege, he says, how sad that they have not believed, that they are lost. And Paul says it by implication rather than directly that Israel is no longer a blessed nation, they're no longer the one on whom God pours out the benedictions of His great mercy and grace. And Paul is grieved about that.
"And because of this the question comes: has God's plan changed? I mean, does God say He's going to do something, then change His mind in mid stream? But, you see, if you thought that then you'd reject the gospel because you'd have the same fear that He would reject you sooner or later and change His mind and that leaves you in a very insecure position. So Paul must answer the issue.
So, the question that we see then as we look at chapter 9 verses 6 and following is what about Israel, and how could they reject God and God's promises still be valid? And so he says from 6 to 13, the unbelief of Israel is not inconsistent with God's promise. Look at verse 6. "Not as though the Word of God has taken no effect."
To paraphrase that, "I say nothing which implies that the Word of God is failed, or literally has fallen. When I say Israel has been set aside and Israel is no longer blessed and that nation to whom God gave the covenants and the promises and all the law and the ceremonies and everything, that nation has been set aside, when I say that that is not to say that the Word of God has failed...that is not to say that God's promises have been violated or broken or cancelled." The Old Testament affirms that God can't do that, Jeremiah 32:42, "Thus says the Lord, Just as I brought all this great disaster on this people, so I am going to bring on them all the good that I'm promising them."
In other words, God said, "Because I bring disaster doesn't mean I ultimately won't bring good." ...Now the Word of God, notice it there, verse 6, the Word of God, that refers not so much to the Old Testament as a whole but to the covenants and promises of verse 4. When God gave covenants and promises to His people Israel to save them, to give them a Kingdom, to give them glory, to bless them, to give them a King, and so forth, He meant what He said. These have not been cancelled. They haven't been cancelled. Beloved, you must understand that. That's why the nation Israel still exists. That's why it's still there. Of all of the people of that part of the world who existed when Israel existed, there are none left but the Israelites. And God has preserved them because He has yet to fulfill those promises and yet to fulfill those covenants. And their unbelief in no way violates those.
Well how do you explain it then? The end of verse 6, "For they are not all Israel who are of Israel." That's a very important statement. He means that God never promises unconditionally to each offspring of Abraham covenant blessing just because he is an offspring of Abraham. You see, the Jew believes that because he is fleshly descending from Abraham he therefore is included in the covenant...because he is a Jew by birth he is therefore a child of promise. He is therefore redeemed, saved... going to go to heaven. But God never intended that all Israel would be redeemed Israel... for they are not all the true Israel who are of the fleshly Israel.
Though the nation... was chosen as a nation to be a vehicle to transmit the Scriptures, to be a vehicle to propagate the message of monotheism, one God, the choosing of the nation as an entity does not mean that every individual within that nation was also chosen to salvation. So the fact that Israel does not believe, that many individuals don't believe doesn't cancel the promises because God never intended in His sovereignty that every Jew would believe but that within the physical Israel there would be a believing remnant.
The real Israel is the Israel of faith and throughout all of the history of Israel there have been faithless Jews." (all emphasis added)
Yeah, that's what I meant. He just explains it so much better than I do! ;)
Tomorrow's passages: Isaiah 50-52; Romans 9:16-33