Tuesday, 3 September 2013
For He will finish the work and cut it short in righteousness, Because the Lord will make a short work upon the earth. Romans 9:28
Romans 9:28 is a quote from Isaiah 10:23. However, Paul cites the Greek translation of the verse. The Hebrew reads a bit differently, but the general sense of the passage comes through either way.
It needs to be remembered that this verse is speaking of Israel, just as the previous one is. The distinction between Israel and the church is consistently clear. There is not an overlapping of the two, nor does Paul ever attempt to demonstrate that Israel transitions to the church; one replacing the other.
The previous verse, speaking of Israel who were “as the sand of the sea,” will be so depleted in number that only “the remnant will be saved.” The way this will occur is spoken of now. It will be accomplished by the Lord who “will finish the work.” This means that the Lord will bring the deed to a completion. What He has spoken will surely come to pass and it will be executed exactly as He spoke – “only a remnant will be saved.”
Not only will He finish the work, but he will “cut it short in righteousness.” This will surely come to pass, and it will come to pass speedily. Cutting something short means that what one might originally perceive as a lengthy process will suddenly and exactingly come about. The reason for this swift action is because it is done “in righteousness.” What God does is always perfectly just, including the execution of His judgment. And as an explanation of why this is so, we are given the second half of the verse – “Because the Lord will make a short work upon the earth.”
From Isaiah’s perspective, the “Lord” in this verse is referring to “Jehovah.” He is the covenant keeping God who bestows the blessings and executes the curses upon the covenant people. The list of blessings and curses is detailed in both Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28. When the people adhered to the covenant’s precepts, the blessings were lavished upon them. However, when disobedient, the curses would come. And yet, as a continued grace even in times of disobedience, the promise of a protected remnant remained –
“Yet for all that, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not cast them away, nor shall I abhor them, to utterly destroy them and break My covenant with them; for I am the Lord their God.” Leviticus 26:44
Outside of this remnant though, there would be only judgment by the hand of the Lord. He promised to “make a short work upon the earth.” This “short work” is the execution of the decree, thus showing His adherence to the covenant they rejected. Finally, “upon the earth” is not speaking of the entire earth, but rather the land of Israel. The term in Hebrew is ha’eretz. This term is commonly used throughout the Old Testament when speaking of Canaan alone. Even in the New Testament this sentiment is found. An example of this was Jesus speaking to the people of Israel in Matthew 5:5 –
“Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth.”
Life application: God has been faithful to His covenant people Israel. Even in their judgment His faithfulness is seen. If He failed to meet the promises of His covenant, including those detailing judgment, He would not be a proper Steward of that covenant. The very act of judgment demonstrates His grace. Left to themselves and without His covenant care, they would have been completely consumed by the surrounding nations or by their own hand. His judgment, though strict, has actually preserved them. If this is so with Israel, it is also true with you. Understand that when you receive God’s chastisement, it is because you belong to Him. See Hebrews 12;7, 8.
O Lord, I don’t look forward to the times of discipline, but I know that through them, You are refining me and molding me to become more like You. Help me to learn from each correction and to refrain from repeating the same mistakes. Help me to be a competent, trustworthy child in Your household and an example to others of Your handiwork. To Your glory I pray. Amen.