The “Israel” beyond Israel, Romans 9:19-29

Therefore God has mercy on whom He wants to have mercy, and He hardens whom He wants to harden.” – Romans 9:1, NIV

This passage—like last week’s—is difficult to understand.

After Paul attributes God’s dealings of mercy and judgment by using Moses and Pharaoh as examples, he continues his defense as if he is sparring with an imaginary opponent.

Paul writes (of his imaginary opponent): “Then why does God still blame us? For who resists His will?” (vs. 19).

Paul answers: But who are you, O man, to talk back to God?

“Then I went to the potter’s house, and there he was, making something on the wheel. But the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the hand of the potter; so he remade it into another vessel, as it pleased the potter to make. Then the word of the Lord came to me saying, ‘Can I not, O house of Israel, deal with you as this potter does?’ declares the Lord. ‘Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.” – Jeremiah 18:3-6, NASB

“Then I went to the potter’s house, and there he was, making something on the wheel. But the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the hand of the potter; so he remade it into another vessel, as it pleased the potter to make. Then the word of the Lord came to me saying, ‘Can I not, O house of Israel, deal with you as this potter does?’ declares the Lord. ‘Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.” – Jeremiah 18:3-6, NASB

“Shall what is formed say to Him who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’” 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? (vs. 20-21).

In this context Paul asks the hypothetical question in verses 22-24: What if God makes His power known to those He bestows mercy through His judgment on those destined for His wrath?

Paul refers to Old Testament passages in verses 25-29 to show: 1) God will redeem some Gentiles (Hosea 2:23; 1:10), and 2) only a remnant of believing Jews will be saved (Isaiah 10:22-23; 1:9).

So What?
  • Paul isn’t implying that some people are more valuable than others. But his tone does suggest: “God is God. Who is eligible to measure His actions and decisions?” Like the sculpted pottery, our very existence and function depend upon God.
  • God chose Israel to serve His sovereign purposes. Everything in God’s redemptive history can be attributed to His faithfulness to the promise He gave Abraham and his descendants.
  • God has graciously extended an invitation to all people, (Jews and Gentiles), to become part of His family through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ.

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