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God’s Choice

not based on actions

But it is not that the word of God has taken no effect. For they are not all Israel who are of Israel, nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham; but, “In Isaac your seed shall be called.” That is, those who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted as the seed. For this is the word of promise: “At this time I will come and Sarah shall have a son.”

Romans 9:6-9

God chose the nation of Israel to be His people by the word of a covenant (Genesis 17:7-8). He brought them out of Egypt and abundantly blessed them (Romans 9:4-5). He made them the people of God. So why were they outside of the blessings in Christ? Did God’s word of covenant fail (Romans 9:6)?

No, it did not. Abraham’s descendants as a whole were called the people of God, but that did not mean they were all the children of God. A child of God is someone who trusts the Lord implicitly. Abraham became a child of God when he believed in the Lord, which means he believed God could and would fulfill His promise (Genesis 5:5-6). But not all his descendants (the Israelites) were children of God (Romans 9:6).

Consider Isaac, who was both the child of promise and a physical descendant of Abraham. Isaac stands in contrast to Ishmael who, although he was a physical descendant, was not a child of promise (Romans 9:7-9). Isaac shows that not every physical descendant of Abraham was a child of promise. 

Apply the truth of Isaac to the nation of Israel. The Israelites were all physical descendants of Abraham. But there are many examples of Israelites, such as Dathan and Abiram, king Ahab, the many idolators, among others, who were very ungodly. So we see that many in Israel were not the children of God – they did not believe in God with respect to His promises.

This raises an important question. If the Israelites were not all the children of God, then how is it they were the people of God? In answer, Paul gives us a second illustration.

And not only this, but when Rebecca also had conceived by one man, even by our father Isaac (for the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls), it was said to her, “The older shall serve the younger.”
As it is written, “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.”

Romans 9:10-13

Consider these two men, Jacob and Esau. They were each physical descendants of both Abraham and Isaac (the son of promise). Also, unlike Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau had the same mother. In addition to this, they were twins. Yet God deliberately gave the blessing of Abraham to the one and not the other.

The timing of God’s choice showed that He did not base it on the boys’ actions, for they had not yet been born. It is important to recognize that God based His choice solely on His purposes – it had nothing to do with the boys’ character or conduct. Thus, even though Jacob was often a scoundrel, God promised the blessing to him – Jacob’s actions were not a factor in God’s choice.

God’s choice of Jacob included his descendants. Throughout their entire history even to the end of Old Testament, God showed them greater favor than other nations, such as Esau’s descendants.  Although they often were very wicked, they remained the people of God because their actions were not a factor in God’s choice.

Thus, Israel’s failure to enter the blessings of Christ does not mean God’s word of covenant failed because, although the Israelites were the people of God, they were not all the children of God. Their status as the people of God was not based on their righteousness but based solely on God’s purposes. Because belief in God’s promises is essential to entering into the blessings of Christ, those who were not the children of God remained on the outside even though they were the people of God.

This raises another big question. Is it wrong for God to arbitrarily show greater favor to one nation over others?

Please let me know if something is not clear using the comments below.

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