Romans Chapter nine

VERSES 1-4 I speak the truth in Christ–I am not lying, my conscience confirms it in 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 brothers, those of my own race, 4 the people of Israel.

Are we, (or could we possibly ever be), quite indifferent towards those, especially of our own families, who are headed for eternal condemnation unless they repent of their unbelief and their rebellion against Jesus Christ?

To what extent are we prepared to go – and what sacrifices are we prepared to make, in our effort to persuade people to repent and believe the gospel?

To be faithful ambassadors of Christ, we should pray that the LORD will give us an urgent and genuine anguish and deep concern for those who still stumble in darkness, enslaved by the sinful nature.

After Moses had found the people worshipping the golden calf, although most indignant and grieved, his attitude was not that they deserve to be eternally condemned, on the contrary, the Scriptures say:

…he went back to the LORD and said, “Oh, what a great sin these people have committed! They have made themselves gods of gold. 32 But now, please forgive their sin–but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written.” 33 The LORD replied to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against me I will blot out of my book. 34 Now go, lead the people to the place I spoke of, and my angel will go before you. However, when the time comes for me to punish, I will punish them for their sin” (Exodus 32:31-34).

I believe that for Paul to say: “…I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers” – was intended as an expression of the extent of his anguish and concern, and his genuinely serious regard of the eternal destiny which awaits people depending upon whether they put their trust in Jesus Christ or not.

However, the fact of the gospel – whereby Jesus died for people’s sins and that he alone was the only holy and acceptable sacrifice, also means that none of us could really trade our eternal destiny for the sake of the salvation of others who stubbornly refuse to believe the truth.

I also believe that Paul was aware of the foolish pride and self-righteousness of many of his fellow-Jews – which was a most frustrating barrier that kept them in spiritual darkness and from gladly accepting the good news of the truth of the only way of salvation which is through faith in Jesus Christ.

God’s judgment of people’s sins becomes evident through the preaching of the gospel. For those who remain in darkness and unbelief – and, therefore, still under the wrath of God, are those who are proud and who harden their hearts…

…they first do not believe – and so eventually they cannot believe the message.

Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him (and as it says in verse 39 it was for that very reason that they then could not believe). 38 This was to fulfil the word of Isaiah the prophet: “Lord, who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” 39 For this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere: 40 “He has blinded their eyes and deadened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn–and I would heal them” (John 12:37-40).

They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. 11 For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie 12 and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness (2 Thessalonians 2:10-12).

Paul’s great sorrow and unceasing anguish caused him to always go firstly to the synagogue, to his fellow-Jews, to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ, and he was so frequently disappointed by their stubbornness and refusal to believe the truth:

On the next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. 45 When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and talked abusively against what Paul was saying. 46 Then Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly: “We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles” (Acts 13:44-46).

The word of the Lord spread through the whole region. 50 But the Jews incited the God-fearing women of high standing and the leading men of the city. They stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region. 51 So they shook the dust from their feet in protest against them and went to Iconium. 52 And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit (Acts 13:49-52).

God has demonstrated, through his patient dealing with Israel, that it is not essentially according to the amount of information about the LORD that people will humbly repent and confess their sins, but rather through a humble attitude of the heart which responds to the revelation of God’s love and mercy demonstrated in Jesus – through which the truth mysteriously remains hidden from the wise and conceited.

From a human perspective, we may judge some persons as, in our opinion, perhaps being more deserving of God’s mercy because they indeed tried by every means to resist evil and to live morally good lives.

The word “sin” means to “miss the mark” of God’s righteousness. Paul taught that by the standard of the old covenant Law, all men were destined to miss the mark and to fall short of God’s glory – because they were / are sinful by nature and need the Lord to circumcise their hearts and create in them a new spirit.

God judges the hearts of men and not necessarily their apparently good (or bad) deeds – and he reveals himself to the humble who confess their sin but he resists the proud and the self-righteous.

…clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time (1 Peter 5:5-6).

Remember in our study of justification, we noted how: To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men–robbers, evildoers, adulterers–or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ 13 But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ 14 I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18:9-14).

Is God being unfair if he shows mercy and forgives one person’s obvious and grievous sins because they put their trust completely in Jesus and his atoning sacrifice, – and yet may hold some other, seemingly, “minor” sins against another self-righteous person because they have been confident in their own righteousness and have not perceived their need of salvation?

Does God always reward a person for their good deeds? Or does God completely ignore our own good deeds? Or is it simply a case that it is essentially the attitude of the heart through which a man’s deed will be judged and the revelation of God’s glory made known to the humble?

Man shall never be able to exalt himself to the height of God’s glory, but man will only find God – when in his humility he is really found by God who comes to our lowly level in the person of Jesus the saviour and shepherd seeking the lost.

Only when people acknowledge the lowliness of their standing from the perspective of God’s glory (blessed are the poor in spirit) – and only when they acknowledge the shame of their sin, will the father speak to their hearts and lead them to Christ the Saviour.

For this is what the high and lofty One says–he who lives forever, whose name is holy: “I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite” (Isaiah 57:15).

Jesus said: “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away” (John 6:37). “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day. 45 It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me” (John 6:44-45). Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

The truth and the revelation of the very character and nature of God, – of his love and mercy, is either revealed in Christ to the humble or hidden in Christ from the proud and wise (in their own understanding) – and this is all according to God’s predestined providence and purpose by which all men were destined to fall, but then to be redeemed through the revelation of Christ and to be re-created, as a new creation – in the image of His Son.

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death– even death on a cross! 9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:5-11).

Some people who are confident in their own righteousness, like the Pharisee described in Jesus’ parable, are inclined to think that God ought to notice them and show them mercy based upon what they do and also because they are not like other sinners, they fast twice a week and religiously tithe a tenth of all they get, they seem eager to know God and even have a zeal for the Law – and yet they remain ignorant of God’s mercy revealed in Jesus Christ.

As Isaiah prophesied: “…day after day they seek me out; they seem eager to know my ways, as if they were a nation that does what is right and has not forsaken the commands of its God. They ask me for just decisions and seem eager for God to come near them. 3 ‘Why have we fasted,’ they say, ‘and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?’” (Isaiah 58:2-3).

There is, however, a false humility demonstrated through religious zeal which is based upon the observance of human commands and which tries to make a good impression in the sight of other people.

People may appear very pious, even while secretly imagining that their religious observance somehow makes them all the more worthy in God’s sight – and yet his mercy still remains hidden from them because only God judges the sincerity and true humility of people’s hearts.

Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: 21 “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? 22 These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. 23 Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence (Colossians 2:20-23).

For example, and to gain some understanding of God’s assessment of character, Job was blameless and upright, he indeed feared God and showed kindness to the poor, he restrained the lust of his eyes (Job 31:1) and he indeed lived a godly life, however, he took no pride in his own righteousness – but was genuinely humble and deeply aware of his spiritual nakedness and unworthiness in the light of the glory of God – and his faith and hope was in the future coming of the Redeemer.

Even Job’s friends and advisors thought that people deserved blessing or curses based upon their good deeds and upon strict external principles of what is thought to be right and wrong and that men prosper as the consequences of their actions – but trouble came upon Job and godly character and genuine faith and humility were revealed and refined in him by God’s providence and judgment. Yet his friends though that all the trouble which came upon Job, (as a testing of his faith), was surely because he had done something wrong.

Job demonstrated his faith in that he knew that it was only through Christ the Redeemer that he – and all men would ever be able to stand in the glorious presence of the LORD.

Such a quality of humility and faith is not automatically created by God, for all men are created equal to some extent, but it is an attitude formed and revealed in us – which is according to God’s foreknowledge and his providence, which culminates in his eternal, predestined purpose, which is the revelation of Jesus Christ into whose image man is to be made (that image was marred through sin and so we must be born again to become a new creation in Christ).

Job confessed his faith in the coming Saviour – by saying, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. 26 And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God [surely a reference to the resurrection from the dead]; 27 I myself will see him with my own eyes–I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” (Job 19:25-27).

Job did not judge his deeds by the standards of the world and nor did he compare himself with other people, he humbly acknowledged God’s glory and his complete unworthiness and he confessed: “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. 6 Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:5-6).

Jesus said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters–yes, even his own life–he cannot be my disciple. 27 And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26-27).

Consider how the Pharisee compared himself with other worse sinners than himself. But it is not by the extent of good or bad deeds that people may do, but by perceiving how we have fallen short of God’s glory.

We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise (2 Corinthians 10:12).

Evidently, some people give the impression of being zealous and righteous and seekers after the LORD, but they compare themselves with other “worse sinners” and their hearts are filled with pride and self-righteousness, and they are overly confident that the LORD should notice them and vindicate them.

However, the meek acknowledge their sin and unworthiness and they seek the LORD in brokenness and humility.

…without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him (Hebrews 11:6).

Jesus did indeed say, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened” (Matthew 7:7-8).

Yet, as we will note the apparent dichotomy, by briefly jumping ahead to the next chapter of Romans (chapter 10), God evidently judges the attitudes of people’s hearts with which they may seek after the truth.

No one could ever become deserving of God’s mercy – and yet, ironically, it is when they humbly acknowledge the extent of their own sin and unworthiness, that God reveals the extent of his love and mercy to them.

Many who may seem zealous for God and eager to enquire after him and to perhaps try to impress God with their good deeds, often do not find the truth because it remains hidden from the proud, whereas others, who seemed far from God, not seeking his approval by their own good deeds because they were all too aware of their sin and nakedness, yet are found by the Lord – because the Lord was pleased to reveal himself to the humble.

So when we continue to read what Paul wrote in chapter 9 –  quoting God’s word to Moses, when God revealed his glory to Moses, we learn that man cannot find God by his own effort and good deeds – man cannot come to know God- or ever become deserving of God’s mercy by his own deeds, effort or desire, – but man can, nevertheless, humbly recognize his desperate need of God’s mercy and humbly seek the truth, which he will only ever find when God judges the thoughts and attitudes of people’s hearts  – and perceives genuine humility to which he then chooses to reveal himself.

And Isaiah boldly says, “I was found by those who did not seek me; I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me.” 21 But concerning Israel he says, “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people” (Romans 10:20-21).

Remember how Paul said there was much advantage in being a Jew – in that they were entrusted with God’s word – but there is also great disadvantage in becoming proud, self-righteous and too self-assured, through which people do not pay careful attention to the word of God and they trust in their own understanding and their own good deeds.

When one is self-righteous and too self-assured – so as to imagine that one is perhaps favoured by God on the basis of religious merit, then one will remain spiritually blind because God resists the proud who do not really perceive of their need for salvation .

By every other factor, and through even expecting the coming of the Messiah, the Jews ought to have recognized him and gladly believed in him, but religious pride and self-righteousness, blinded many from the truth and the glory of God which was veiled behind Jesus’ humility and even hidden from them through his shameful death on the cross.

VERSE 4 CONTINUED: Theirs is the adoption as sons; 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 Christ, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen.

God made his gracious promises to Abraham – and then God gave the Law as a temporary measure until faithfulness to his promises was to be further revealed in the coming of Jesus the Redeemer. This turn of events – and the scattering again of the Jews may have looked, from man’s perspective as if God’s word had failed.

But, God’s purpose was hidden in Christ, – and so Paul went on to explain:

VERSES 6-8 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 natural children who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring.

Many Jews traced their pedigree from Isaac, but failed to learn the lesson of Isaacs miraculous conception – when Sarah who had been barren her whole life and was then even passed the age of child-bearing, became pregnant with Isaac, it was foreshadowing the miraculous birth and conception of God’s only Son in – and through whom, – all of God’s promises were destined to be fulfilled.

VERSE 9 For this was how the promise was stated: “At the appointed time I will return, and Sarah will have a son.”

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14).

Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. 29 At that time the son born in the ordinary way persecuted the son born by the power of the Spirit (Galatians 4:28-29).

It is only by being born of the Holy Spirit – that we receive the Spirit of Christ through which we call God “our Father”.

But, in order to illustrate even further that it is not through the strict pedigree, that it is not simply because Isaac was born to Sarah, the lesson is taken further, to that of the twins, Jacob and Esau, who both had the same mother and father and were both natural descendants of Isaac:

VERSES 10-13 Not only that, but Rebekahs children had one and the same father, 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.”

An oracle: The word of the LORD to Israel through Malachi. 2 “I have loved you,” says the LORD.  “But you ask, ‘How have you loved us?’ Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” the LORD says. “Yet I have loved Jacob, 3 but Esau I have hated, and I have turned his mountains into a wasteland and left his inheritance to the desert jackals.” 4 Edom may say, “Though we have been crushed, we will rebuild the ruins.” But this is what the LORD Almighty says: “They may build, but I will demolish. They will be called the Wicked Land, a people always under the wrath of the LORD. 5 You will see it with your own eyes and say, ‘Great is the LORD–even beyond the borders of Israel!’” (Malachi 1:1-5).

Jesus said: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:16-17).

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).

God is love and he so loved the world – that he sent Jesus to be our Saviour, so how can we reconcile this with the Scripture which says that God hated Esau and that he chose Jacob over Esau even before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad?

See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. 17 Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. He could bring about no change of mind, though he sought the blessing with tears (Hebrews 12:16-17).

I firmly believe that the LORD knew that in spite of Jacob’s sins and Esau’s sins, Esau would be more concerned about his own immediate appetite than his about his eternal inheritance, whereas, Jacob would cling to the LORD tenaciously and faithfully until he received the blessing.

Jesus exposes and reveals the thoughts and attitudes of people’s hearts.

Knowing God is only through God “knowing” us – i.e., being pleased to reveal himself in and to us by the Holy Spirit – as we repent and believe in Jesus.

By God’s foreknowledge he already knew who would respond to the gospel with faith – and who would harden their hearts in stubborn pride and defiant rebellion.

Those who harden their hearts and refuse to believe – also avoid the light and do not open their hearts to the LORD – and the LORD too, resists the proud.

Jesus said: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” (Matthew 7:21-23).

Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. 9 But now that you know God–or rather are known by God–how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? (Galatians 4:8-9).

When people do not know God – and are not known by God in that he has put his Spirit in them, they remain under the control of the sinful nature, hostile towards God – and under the condemnation of the Law.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified (Romans 8:28-30).

“Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. 23 This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 24 But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him” (Acts 2:22-24).

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To God’s elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, 2 who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood:…(1 Peter 1:1-2).

Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. 65 He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him.” 66 From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him (John 6:64-66).

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” 6 He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. 7 He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son” (Revelation 21:5-7).

Where is says in John that Jesus had known from the beginning – it is surely from the beginning of time and not just the beginning of his earthly ministry as the son of man.

That is why it was prophesied that Judas would betray him and for the amount and also what Judas would subsequently do with the money paid to him.

But because the Lord already knows how we will respond, does not mean that our free-will or our accountability has been taken away or that it did not exist.

Many Jews may have through that if they had been there in the time of Jeremiah, they would not have rebelled against the word of God spoken through him, like the ancestors did. However, when Jesus, who is the word of God come in the flesh, spoke to them, they rejected his word.

God knows how we will respond in any and every situation – and he knows even better than we know ourselves.

For example, Peter was at first very confident that he would remain faithful even if all the other disciples betrayed Jesus, yet Jesus knew that in the heat of the moment, through fear and intimidation, Peter would deny three times even having known Jesus – which is precisely what happened – and yet, it is not as if Peter had been programmed and predestined to deny Jesus, it happened according to Peter’s own actions for which he was fully accountable – but which were also foreknown by God.

God reveals his mercy to those whom he knew in advance (from the beginning) would repent and respond to his love and mercy demonstrated and revealed in Jesus Christ.

We all sinned, we may all failed the Lord, many may even deny the Lord in a moment of fear and weakness, and yet we are judged not only by our actions, but by our love and faith in response to God’s love and mercy – and he will work all things for the good of those who love him.

Love is the response of our hearts – and is God’s predestined purpose in Christ – those who hate God without reason, remain hostile to him – and they may even protest that he is unfair in forgiving some for far greater sins, than the sins of many other self-righteous people, but he shows mercy to whom he chooses – and according to his love – which is according to his foreknowledge.

VERSES 14-15 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.”

VERSES 16-18 It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. 17 For the 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.

Some people suppose that if it does not depend upon our desire or effort – and if God chooses to show mercy to whomever he decides, – that it is perhaps a random and arbitrary matter. But God judges the heart and it is a matter of character and faithfulness – by which people realize their helplessness and gladly respond to his love, mercy and grace manifested in Christ.

VERSES 19-21 One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to him 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 noble purposes and some for common use?

As Paul taught in chapter 7 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me….and: Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

We are born in sin – and are sinful by nature – and are incapable of obeying the Law, so, as some may then ask, how then could we be blamed for our actions, for this is how we have been created as descendants of Adam and prisoners of sin?

However, as Paul also taught, having been made aware of our circumstance, we are obligated to call upon the name of the Lord to save us and to create in us a new spirit and to set us free from our bondage to sin.

This is the plan determined for the whole world; this is the hand stretched out over all nations.27 For the LORD Almighty has purposed, and who can thwart him? His hand is stretched out, and who can turn it back? (Isaiah 14:26-27

In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble. 21 If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work (2 Timothy 2:20-21).

We are indeed only like clay in the hand of the Potter, but clay that is hard and dry, full of stones and brittle, cannot be moulded in a worthwhile vessel, the way in which we respond as clay ion the hand of the Potter certainly determines whether we are formed into a worthwhile or useless vessel.

We must respond to God in faithfulness – allowing his word to work within us. We are not simply – and completely passive – in his hand – and yet we are being formed according to his will or we are resisting his will,

…and that is why it is foolish to be fatalistic supposing that our response itself has been predestined by God – it is God’s purpose in Christ which has been predestined from before the creation of the world – and it is by his foreknowledge that he knows who will believe and who will rebel, but we are fully accountable.

VERSES 22-29 What if God, 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, “It will happen that in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ they will be called ‘sons 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.”

To begin with, through the preaching of the gospel, many Jews were surprised to see that uncircumcised Gentiles were receiving the promised Holy Spirit simply through believing the message.

A People who were considered “not the chosen people of God” were being accepted and blessed by the LORD God of Israel through believing the gospel of Jesus Christ.

VERSES 30-33 What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; 31 but Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it. 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 men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”

Many people of Israel thought that they would be justified through their having been entrusted with the Law, which set them apart from the other nations, only to find that they too needed to be reconciled to God through faith in Jesus Christ.

The prophecy of Hosea, referring to a people as “not my people” was first applied to people of Israel who, through their unfaithfulness to the LORD, were cut off and exiled as if they had not been the chosen people – and they needed to be restored through God’s mercy – his mercy which was eventually revealed in Christ and his atoning death through which all the former barriers between Jew and gentile were broken down.