Sunday, 8 September 2013
As it is written:
“Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense, And whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” Romans 9:33
To close out chapter 9 of this precious book, Paul returns one last time to Scripture – “As it is written.” Time and again, Paul reaches into the very words which his people relied on for their establishment and continuance as a group. He does this in an attempt to open their eyes to the truth of who Jesus is. As a second purpose, it is to show the gentile people why Israel would be cast off. If he didn’t do this, then it might seem as if God was being arbitrary and unreliable. But by doing so, he will also be able to demonstrate (coming in chapter 11) that He is capable and just in both re-favoring Israel and removing gentiles for disbelief.
Paul’s method of arguing directly from Scripture to make his case is seen in his travels documented in Acts also. For example, in Acts 18:27, 28 we read this account –
“And when he desired to cross to Achaia, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him; and when he arrived, he greatly helped those who had believed through grace; for he vigorously refuted the Jews publicly, showing from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Christ.”
The reason why he could do this, and the reason that he followed through with it, is that Jesus Christ is the center of focus and the basis for all of Scripture. Everything points to Him – His coming, His work, and His lordship. By failing to note this one great truth, people miss the mark of what God is doing in the course of redemptive history.
And so, for the closing of this chapter, we are directed to two separate quotes from Isaiah – 8:14, and 28:16. These have been combined by Paul to make his point. Verse 8:14 is speaking of the One mentioned in 8:13 – “The Lord of Hosts” or “Jehovah Sabaoth.” Refer to the comments on Romans 8:29 to understand this term. What Paul is doing is showing that “Jehovah” of the Old Testament is, in fact, Jesus Christ. He is the foundation stone of Zion.
The foundation stone is the most important stone in the building because upon it everything else is supported and aligned. The Lord, through Isaiah, is saying that Jesus is the foundation of the faith and He is the establishment of God’s work. Jesus, the foundation stone, will be “a stone of stumbling.” One stumbles over what they don’t see. The nation of Israel failed to open their eyes and evaluate God’s word impartially. Because of this, they stumbled right over the very thing God was trying to show them. Jesus demonstrated this to them in John 5:39, 40 –
“You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.”
Instead of believing, Jesus became a “rock of offense.” This means that what should have been to them life, faith, and practice instead became a source of scorn and derision. They were offended at His words and claims because they couldn’t open their eyes to who He is. But for those who do believe, they will “not be put to shame.” And so there is a contrast. Failure to accept Jesus (meaning disbelief) causes one to trip and be offended; they will be put to shame. Understanding who He is and accepting Him (meaning the exercising of faith) will lead to God’s favor.
And this explains what Paul stated in the preceding verse (9:32) which said, “… they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law.”
As is consistent throughout the Bible, faith is what reconciles man to God. But misdirected faith is wasted faith. The Jews Paul speaks of had faith in themselves and in their deeds of the law, not in God’s provision.
Life application: The book of Romans is a step by step instruction concerning God’s working in redemptive history. Each step logically builds upon the preceding one in order to show us the marvelous plan He has laid out for the people of the world. When you see that God rejected Israel, it’s important to understand why. With this knowledge, we can be assured that it wasn’t done arbitrarily. Further, when God restores them, we can see that it is solely an act of grace. Through this select group of people, and how God has dealt with them, we can better understand how He deals with us. He is full of grace, completely fair, and will never cast out those who properly exercise their faith in what He has done.
Lord God, it’s all right there… right in Your word. You’ve given us Your plan for the ages, You’ve shown us what You expect, You’ve shown us Your wisdom, grace, love, and mercy – all this and so much more. And yet, we find it more convenient to spend our time pursuing frivolous things. Help me Lord to direct my eyes to You and to seek You out now. May my life be spent rightly from this day forward. Amen.