Romans 9:1-18 – God’s Election of Israel
I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience confirms it by the Holy Spirit— I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own people, my kindred according to the flesh. They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, comes the Messiah, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.
It is not as though the word of God had failed. For not all Israelites truly belong to Israel, and not all of Abraham’s children are his true descendants; but “It is through Isaac that descendants shall be named for you.” This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as descendants. For this is what the promise said, “About this time I will return and Sarah shall have a son.” Nor is that all; something similar happened to Rebecca when she had conceived children by one husband, our ancestor Isaac. Even before they had been born or had done anything good or bad (so that God’s purpose of election might continue, not by works but by his call) she was told, “The elder shall serve the younger.”
As it is written,
“I have loved Jacob,
but I have hated Esau.”
What then are we to say? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means!
For he says to Moses,
“I will have mercy on whom I have mercy,
and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”
So it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God who shows mercy. For the scripture says to Pharaoh, “I have raised you up for the very purpose of showing my power in you, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.” So then he has mercy on whomever he chooses, and he hardens the heart of whomever he chooses
I have grown to love using candles in the last few years. I don’t know why, but for a long time, I really didn’t care for them, but I have begun to see the power that even a simple tea light can bring. Our Catholic friends, I think, are on to something with the candles that are available to light in the sanctuary whenever someone comes in. Candles to remember, to meditate, to pray for someone in need. I often will light tea lights in my prayer times in my office as a physical act of lifting up someone or something in my life. The picture here is from our All Saints Sunday worship service where we lit candles in remembrance of those who have passed away in the last year.
I find with this that there is a sense of longing for a light to continue to shine even when it seems it has gone out. I hear longing in Paul’s words here at the beginning of chapter 9 – longing for his people, his heritage to experience what he has, for promise to be fulfilled, for covenants to be kept. Paul is not condemning his people, but longing for them out of his love for them and God’s love for them.