Romans 9:31


Friday, 6 September 2013

…but Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness. Romans 9:31

“But” is set as a contrast to 9:30 – “That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness of faith.”

Israel actively pursued the “law of righteousness.” The same word used for “pursue” when speaking of the Gentiles in the preceding verse is used again in this one. What the Gentiles didn’t pursue, they attained; the same thing was pursued by Israel and yet not attained. However, this is speaking on a national level, not on an individual one. Peter, Paul, and the other apostles, plus many early believers were all Jews. Throughout the ages, Jews have likewise come to Christ. But Israel as a whole, who had been given the law, did not attain to what they actively strived for.

The “law of righteousness” Paul speaks of here is the law given to govern them as a people. It had several components to it. The first is that it demanded perfection from its people, something unattainable. The second is that when perfection couldn’t be attained, grace was found within its rituals – sacrifices and offerings, which included the Day of Atonement. But these required something more than their mere observance. The thing they required in order to be effective will be seen in the following verse, Romans 9:32.

Before evaluating that, we can contemplate an example of what was lacking directly from Jesus’ words –

“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 18:10-14

Life application: As individuals pursuing righteousness, we need to constantly evaluate what it means for us to be “righteous.” If we misunderstand or ignore what God expects, we may become like the Pharisees of Jesus’ time and God will not favor our life and conduct, no matter how scrupulous we are in our external observances. Pay heed to what the Bible teaches concerning God’s favor and live your life in faith.

Lord, Micah asked what was the required offering to be brought to You – burnt offering? Oil? His firstborn? What would please You? He then answers his own question – To do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly before You. Lord, You have given Your best in the granting of Jesus. Help me to give my best in response – in  justice, love, mercy, and humility. May my walk be pleasing to You, O God. Amen.

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