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God's Plans, God's Mercy

The Gospel in Romans  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  41:33
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God’s Plans, God’s Mercy

One of the most important themes of Paul in Romans is the doctrine of the salvation of all Israel. Chapters 9-11 are involved in this discussion and development of God’s Plans for the Salvation of Israel.
I have, in that last few weeks, talked about God’s selection, God’s Grace, and God’s Sovereign Rights to choose upon whom he grants His Mercy. The conclusion of the matter is, regardless of the ins and outs or ups and downs of the discussion, that Christ Jesus is the answer for salvation, both for Jews and for Gentiles.
But Paul, who has such deep personal roots in the Jewish theology of the selection of Abraham by call, and the Israelites by giving his law to them alone on the earth through Moses, a descendant of Jacob’s son Levi, on Mt. Sinai after the Israelites were brought out of Egypt by God’s mighty hand.

God’s Plan: A Chosen People

This theology as God’s Chosen People was at the core of their conquest of Canaan, as the Promised Land granted to Abraham when he heard the voice of Yahweh God, and left his home and family toward a land that was not empty, but filled with peoples who were idol-worshippers just like Abram’s own family was. So the wandering Aramean from Ur of the Chaldees, in the Tigris River Valley of modern day Iraq, a bit north of Babylon, heard the voice of God and trusted God for his future.
The “Chosen People” began as just a “chosen man”, but later his descendents, as God’s peculiar people were given his instructions on how to be true to the Almighty Creator God of the Universe. Moses had to continually remind them to trust in this God whom they couldn’t see and whom very few heard. They weren’t very good at it, and so spent 40 years hanging out in Arabia instead of charging right into Canaan after they left Egypt. Let me share a bit of the history of God’s Chosen People, of whom Paul was a part, and from whom Jesus was descended by the flesh.
In the book of Deuteronomy Moses details his struggles as the leader, under God, with this chosen people, who didn’t seem much like they even wanted to be chosen, and didn’t seem like they wanted to be guided by a God who had their best interests in mind. Those 420 years in the land of Goshen on Egypt’s Eastern border had made them into a much different people than the 72 members of the family of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that came into the land as guests of the Pharaoh, when Joseph was his Prime Minister in the times of plenty and of drought.
It’s interesting to note that while Joseph was in control, he made Pharaoh the sole land-owner in Egypt, as family farms were turned into sharecropper’s fields when the money ran out to buy grain from the storehouses that Joseph built in the times of plenty, filled by the heavy taxation of the people’s crops. The Israelites had it pretty good, and were allowed to increase in number and influence in one of the best livestock regions in all of Egypt.
This was even true during the long years of slavery because their management of crops and herds helped to provide for the King’s Table. The Israelites were conscripted for labor by the Pharoah, and how many of those 420 years they were actually slaves we aren’t sure of; but it was the memory of this slavery that was burned into the minds of Israel for all the generations since.
According to Exodus, it was only when it seemed the clans, or tribes, of Israel’s descendents might gain enough strength to rebel that Pharoah put into place enforced birth control. And so, by God’s grace, during that time Moses was saved as an infant when he was put into a water-proofed basket and floated down the Nile among the bulrushes at the shore where the childless daughter of Pharoah rescued him and adopted him as his own.
This Moses when he later found out he was really by birth an Israelite, killed a cruel Egyptian slave-master and then had to run to Midian for exile—by the way, it the the Midianites who first purchased Joseph as a slave from the other sons of Jacob and sold him to and Egyptian official. But that’s where Moses ran, and that’s where God called him through his presence in the fire at a burning bush.
He told Moses to go back to Egypt where there was a warrant for his arrest for murder, and face down the Pharoah with the power of the Almighty God behind him as he confronted the false gods of Egypt and Pharoah the prince of these gods. The Israelites left Egypt as victors, but they were not freed from the idolatry they had become accustomed to in Egypt. In fact, before Moses got down off Mt Sinai with the tablets of the Law, they had already made a new golden idol to bow down to.
After the 40 years in Arabia after their failure to trust God, they started the march to the promised land again. In fits and starts, over a few hundred years, they were sometimes faithful and often unfaithful to Yahweh God, who called them as a people out of Egypt. After rejected the direct rule of God, God gave them a king, Saul, who didn’t do that well as a leader, but then there was David, the apple of God’s eye, who led the people into a fuller conquest of the promised land, with his own fits and starts.
When Solomon, David’s son (that’s another story), started building a political empire, he brought in wives and idols and the worship of false gods again. And then, his son was a real jerk of a king, and rebellion split the nation. Finally the northern kingdom was conquered by Assyria, and their purity diluted; then the southern kingdom, the land of Judea, or the Jews, was conquered by Babylon and the leaders taken into Babylonian exile. All because they just could not manage to keep Yahweh God as their center of faith and devotion, still falling back into the idolatry of the gods of Canaan.
When finally they came back to the promised land, and rebuilt the Temple, it was a different culture again than the one that was taken to Babylon. But they still struggled with devotion to Yahweh God, and were conquered by the Greeks, and enticed by the worldly wisdom of that land of philosophers. But finally, the remnant that held out for God managed a successful rebellion and rededicated the Temple. But the dynasty that ruled them became corrupt, and they were glad to have the order of Rome imposed upon them less than 100 years before the days of Jesus’ teaching years.
Such is the history of the Chosen People, the Jews, whom God had formed as his own from among all the people of the earth. With such a history, and still under the control of a foreign empire, they had begun to look for a Messiah that would be God’s choice for leading the nation. And for the most part, they completely missed that Jesus came as the answer to God’s promises for their freedom. And it is these Jews that Paul’s heart ached for, when he considered how many more Gentiles where turning to Christ than Jews in his day.

God’s Plan Out of Balance

Romans 10:1–4 ESV
1 Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. 2 For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. 3 For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
Paul’s heart was for his own people, as it should be. Not just his heart, but also his prayers. He doesn’t want them to miss the Mercy of God in Jesus Christ, and so miss their salvation from the guilt of their sins, the salvation from the propensity to sin, and the salvation from the clutches of this sin-stained world that is the 3-fold result of salvation in Jesus’ name.
He speaks of their zeal, lacking knowledge of God’s heart. God’s heart of love is so vast that he truly never intended that we meet all the measures of righteousness by our behaviors, but by his grace through Jesus Christ. Our call, according to Jesus, is not to do the law but to love the God of the law with all we have in our being. And to live out that law by loving and serving our fellow man, not for our own good, but for theirs.
And so the prophet Micah had stated it plainly in his book,
Micah 6:8 ESV
8 He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
Do justice, because every single other human being is entitled to just treatment, by our behaviors as well as our laws and our law-keepers. Serve others with justice instead of bigotry and oppression.
To love kindness, because kindness is what we receive from the Lord all the time; it is our duty to serve others with kindness rather than contempt and with love that seeks their very best outcome; with compassion and not control.
And a humble walk with God, a recognition that we don’t manage God, but that he is above our designs to define him and demand from him. Humility recognized the worth that God has poured into us, and who he has created us to be, so that we are not lessened by any other; we are the children of God in Christ Jesus, but always his children and not God’s master.
The Jews had missed that Jesus was the promised Messiah, because they had missed that the freedom God was offering their souls in his Christ Jesus was a freedom from sin, and a promise for eternal life in heaven, not a freedom from outside oppressors.
What Paul knows now is that it’s no wonder they missed it, because they had replaced the righteousness of God as Micah stated, and focused on a works-righteousness of perfect behavior that was in fact an effort to control God. They missed that Christ is what the law pointed to, and their only hope of God’s Mercy.
Now Paul steps back enough from his aching heart to invite us to see what he sees:

God’s Great Purpose at Work

Remember, it is mostly the non-Jews who this Letter to Rome was written. Some Jews were there, but the balance was in favor of the Gentiles. And Paul had already seen what happens when people get smug about their privilege and priority before God: Bigotry and exclusivism can be the result. So Paul writes this to them:
Romans 11:25 ESV
25 Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.
Paul warns anyone who reads his letter to be very careful about self-pride. “Lest you be wise in your own sight” is a phrase I wish some of our Politicians would take to heart. When we need no one else, we often and easily slip into the realm of not even needing God to give us any guidance. What Paul says here is that we need to remember that much of life and all of the future, for us, is a mystery. We just don’t have it all figured out. And we sure don’t have the end result figured out, because we don’t live at the end of time (nor even the end of tomorrow).
Now, Paul isn’t being a prophet here, but an interpreter of the purposes of God. For Paul has discovered that the mystery of the Messiah is that he brings into focus the deep purpose of God that all of humanity in in view when God provides a way of salvation. After all, if it were for Jews only that Christ died, then the work of God for the world would be woefully incomplete.
Yes, God has a chosen people, the children of Abraham, the Israelites, through whom the words and laws of God are given to the world. The Israelites, through whom all the peoples of the earth are to be blessed. The Israelites, who have been given the deposit of God’s mercy in the Law and the Prophets and the writings. The Israelites, who have become ingrown and self-serving and protective of their place in the world and in history in Paul’s day. The Israelites who are left after all the disasters they have endured by their own hand and by the discipline of God; the Israelites, now called the Jews, from whom and to whom came Jesus.
But they were more interested in keeping their focus on the deposit of mercy they had in the written law of God than in the living Word of God represented in Jesus. And so their hearts were hardened, partially and for a time, which opened the floodgates of God’s mercy to the rest of humanity, the Gentiles, so that the whole world would have an opportunity for salvation. And so as the Gentiles pour into the family of God by faith in the Son of God, the Jews are becoming more anxious for their own salvation.
So Paul says, “until” and “fulness”, pointing to the future time when the people of the world will have all had an opportunity for salvation. A time when the Jews will experience a softening, melting those hearts hardened by sin and pride. When they are finally softened again to the love of God, the mercy of God, the rest of the world, even we, will be reminded that...

The Chosen Are Not Left Out

Romans 11:26–27 ESV
26 And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written, “The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob”; 27 “and this will be my covenant with them when I take away their sins.”
The Jews need salvation just like the rest of us. Paul cites Isaiah 59:20 and a phrase from Isaiah 59:21 and mixes it with a phrase from Isaiah 27:9 as he presents the scriptural foundation of his hope for all Israel. God’s chosen people have always been in God’s heart. Isaiah looks past the times of exile that God is inflicting upon sinful Israel into the hope of the heart of God’s love. That hope is given to all of us, and the Jews who have at first missed their Messiah will come around.
“In this way all Israel will be saved,” writes Paul in his hope for salvation of his brothers the Jews, which will come in a time that Paul does not yet know. But just as Isaiah was sure of it 600 years before Jesus, Paul was sure of it now, some 55 years or so after the birth of the Messiah in Nazareth. But for now, the Jews and Gentiles and Christ-followers are engaged in a kind of ...

A Circular Tug-of-War

Romans 11:28–29 ESV
28 As regards the gospel, they are enemies for your sake. But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers. 29 For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.
The Jews who are now the enemies of the church are still beloved because of their heritage. And that heritage of some hearts faithful to the hope of God’s salvation is still seeking the legacy of salvation, based on what Paul says are “gifts and the calling of God” which he gathers from
Deuteronomy 7:8 ESV
8 but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.
and
Deuteronomy 10:15 ESV
15 Yet the Lord set his heart in love on your fathers and chose their offspring after them, you above all peoples, as you are this day.
So for now, there is this tug-of-war between the believers in Jesus Christ and the disbelievers in Jesus and the promises and calling of God; it’s happening as if on a huge rope that is more of a circle than a line. When any of these three fall because of weakness, the continued pull of the love of God and the believers of God and the people of God will lift the others up again.
That’s because, in the end,

Mercy Defeats Disobedience

Romans 11:30–32 ESV
30 For just as you were at one time disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience, 31 so they too have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may now receive mercy. 32 For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all.
God glories in pouring out Mercy on those he loves. And he loves the whole world. Even though the whole world is disobedient, God’s grace draws them in, showing mercy where none is deserved. Even though the chosen people of God are disobedient, God’s grace will continue to draw them in. The amazing thing that Paul sees and shows us is that the disobedience of Jews led to the mercy and grace of God for the Gentiles, and that mercy on the Gentiles will result in the mercy of God for the salvation of the Jews.
If we don’t understand our need for God’s mercy because of our disobedience to his laws of behavior and love, we will never understand that grace under which we live.
Our challenge is that...

God’s Ways Are Beyond Us

Paul breaks into praise and in effect
Romans 11:33–34 ESV
33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! 34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?”
We just can’t outline God’s ways because we know his purposes. for...
Deuteronomy 29:29 ESV
29 “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.
His purposes are for the salvation of all; his ways, from our point of view, are incredibly flexible in the face of humanity’s disobedience and God’s holiness.
That’s why, even though it tempts us so,

Legalism Can’t Demand Mercy

Romans 11:35–36 ESV
35 “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” 36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.
It’s not enough for us to end this thinking just of rebellion and grace. Because we need to know that

God Has a Better Plan for All

Romans 12:1 ESV
1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
Romans 12:2 ESV
2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
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