March 9, 2003
DID GOD'S WORD FAIL?
"It is not as though God's word had failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel " (Romans 9:6 NIV). After expressing his heartfelt sorrow over Israel 's fall, Paul heads off the complaints of some that God's word had failed. In Romans 9-11 the objectors being answered are not Gentiles, but Jews. From their own scriptures, he shows that not all of the seed of Abraham could be counted as "children," for God had said, "In Isaac shall thy seed be called." God had also said, "Cast out this bondwoman and her son, for this son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, even with Isaac" (Gen 21:10). And of the sons of Keturah, "Abraham gave [them] gifts and sent them away from Isaac his son" (Gen. 25:6). Paul concludes that" they which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted [reckoned] for the seed. For this is the word of promise, 'At this time will I come, and Sarah shall have a son'" ( Rom. 9:8-9).
One might reply that the rejected sons were not all from the same honored mother, so he adds the case of Isaac and Rebekah to show "that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of Him that calleth, it was said to her (when pregnant with the twins) 'the elder shall serve the younger'" (Gen. 25:23), as it is written, "Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated" (Malachi 1:2-3). This last will be totally offensive to all who fail to understand that the names here refer not to the men, but to the nations they fathered!
Realizing the problem such a statement engenders, Paul immediately asked, "What shall we say then, Is there unrighteousness with God?" For how could God be righteous and yet hate one and love the other of two unborn babies who, He readily admits, had done nothing good or evil? Remember, it is "that the purpose of God according to election might stand," unaffected by outside factors or influence.
Israel 's national failure does not prevent there being a "remnant" through whom the promises and prophecies of God would not fail! Isaiah wrote, "Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved ..." and "except the Lord of hosts had left us a seed , we had been as Sodom ..." ( Rom. 9:27-29).
Ivan L. Burgener