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Romans 9:20-33 by Robert Dean
Insistent questions swirl around God "hardening Pharaoh's heart." Could it mean God made Pharaoh do the evil things he did to the Jews? Paul tackles this question by going to Old Testament scriptures. Learn four ways Old Testament scriptures are used in the New Testament. Review the three Hebrew words for "hardened". See how God's sovereignty is expressed in the destiny of nations but that everyone has the free will to choose or reject God's plan of salvation through His Son, Jesus Christ.
Series:Romans (2010)
Duration:59 mins 44 secs

Hardening, the Potter, and the Stumbling Stone
Romans 9:20-33

We're in Romans 9 where God is dealing with His plan for Israel. The most important thing to understand here, as I explained last time, is context. Context, context, context. The context so far is God dealing with a nation, with a corporate entity of Israel, God's plan for Israel. The reason I stress that is because just today as I've been reading through some additional commentaries, I'm reading through one by a Dallas Seminary professor who's younger than me. He's a guy who has a reputation as being a free grace guy but I've had some problems with some things he's written in his commentary on Romans and I disagree here.

He quotes several commentators, Cranfield, Leon Morris, and two or three others who are reform but recognize that Romans 9:12 is not dealing with individuals at all. It's dealing with corporate entities. Then he disagrees with them, as many scholars do, by saying, "Well when you start getting down into chapter 9, how can you talk about God's grace and mercy to a corporate entity because they're made up of individuals so it's got to apply to both?" The fuzzy thinking that goes with that is that God deals with Israel as a corporate entity, even though there are many individuals within that corporate entity that go a different way. And he always does that so there's an individual plan of salvation and justification for individuals within Israel and then there is God's plan for the national entity, the ethnic Israel. That's the important distinction.

The only time we're dealing with individual, personal salvation in Romans is when Paul uses the term "justification". When the Paul uses the term "salvation" in Romans 9:11 he's not talking about individual personal salvation or personal justification. He's talking about the deliverance of Israel corporately because they came under divine judgment in A.D. 70 and in terms of God's future plan, there has to be a restoration to the land when the kingdom is set up. That's what we're talking about here. That God has not forgone, forgotten his promises to Israel: that He is still going to fulfill the promises He made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, David, Daniel, Jeremiah, all the way through. So what's he's illustrating here is not personal. It's not personal salvation or decision making. Its national entities and God's sovereignty over the direction of history.

So as we went through this we saw from Moses that was exactly what was happening and the quote we looked at there in verse 15 which came from Exodus 33:19. The conclusion was that God said to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy…" The context had nothing to do with justification. It has to do with how God is choosing to demonstrate His mercy upon nations in terms of God's plan. And that He has chosen to show additional mercy to Moses which He did not show to all of the Israelites.

On the other hand He's going to also show a measure of what is called "hardening". This is not a good translation but it refers to God's judgment on Pharaoh. It's really upon the nation of Egypt and God's plan for Egypt. It's not this choice of who God will bless as a nation in terms of His choice of Israel versus His not choosing for special blessings other nations. It's a matter of God's will, not human will or human ideas as in verse 16, "It's not of him who wills…"

Moses had a different plan. He argued, "God You need to do this with the Israelites. You need to walk with them and be close to them as in the original plan." God said, "No, we're going to Plan B. You don't understand all the issues and My justice and righteousness." So, "It's not of him who wills or him who runs but of God who shows mercy." God is God and as the Sovereign creator has the right to oversee human history. In doing so God has also determined that man will have his own volition.

Now there's a great illustration of this that is difficult for people to understand. It's not an illustration of this that's easy. It's not one you and I can fully comprehend but you and I can understand it. Every time we talk about inspiration we are thinking about this. How does God inspire the Scripture? God so superintends the writers of scripture that without violating their individual personality, writing styles, background, or culture, God guarantees that they write what He wants them to write but it's written from their personality. It's not dictation. See, if it was just God's sovereignty saying what He wanted written then God would dictate it to them. But it's not.

Peter and Paul and John all write very, very differently. The writer of Hebrews uses a very high form of Greek whereas Peter's is a little more rudimentary. John's is very simple. Paul's is much more complex but this shows that their individual volition and personality style, all those different factors are not overridden by God. He is using that so that is God, as a sovereign, causing things to happen in history. I tried to explain this at the end last time, that's cause and effect. We think of cause and effect only in terms of our frame of reference within creation. But this is God outside of creation causing things in such a way that it doesn't violate individual volition and responsibility. We can't comprehend that. We don't have a frame of reference for Creator causation. We only have a frame of reference for creaturely causation and so we have to understand that God's ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts. There's an analogy. That's why our knowledge of God is referred to as analogical. It is not univocal. Univocal means one and the same. It's not identical so we always have to understand that.

Now the next illustration that God used from Exodus had to do with Moses. In Exodus 7:3, it says, "I will harden Pharaoh's heart." Everyone goes, "Oh no, God violated Pharaoh's volition." Well if we think about it logically, if God violated his volition, then how can Pharaoh be held accountable for the decisions he makes? And as I pointed out last time, even within the text God is pointing out that Pharaoh made those decisions on his own, apart from God.

The problem that we have is this word that English translators have chosen to use, "hardening". It makes it sound as if God just reaches down and says, "There. I'm pushing you on negative volition and I'm going to make you stay there and be hostile and you don't have anything to say about it." But this word, especially the primary word that's used to translate it is chzq. It's not translated that way anywhere else in the Old Testament and that's significant. I'll show you some other examples for that.

And another way in which one of the other words is translated is stubborn. It's this idea of strengthening the will. So the first thing we have to understand is that there's this dynamic. We went to Romans 1, which is where you have to start. It says that at the point of God-consciousness every Egyptian including the Pharaoh understood that God existed. They understood from general revelation that God existed and they went, "No, I'd rather worship Ra, Eptah, and all the other deities in our pantheon and I'm going to substitute these creaturely inventions for God rather than try to find out about the true Creator God." So they start on negative volition and they've made that decision. They continued down that track for 20, 30, 40, 60, 70, 80 years and then along comes Moses and God is working out His purposes in history.

So God, instead of tweaking their volition, it's already there. God is strengthening it. Some people say, "Well I don't understand how that works." Well, I don't think there's one of us who hasn't said, "Lord, I really need to be stronger. I need to make this decision and I want you to just strengthen my will. Enable me to do this." The Holy Spirit enables us and He influences us but He never overrides our volition. He strengthens us and there are scriptures that use similar terminology but it's in a positive direction so everybody says that's okay. See when you're positive you just want God to help you maintain that positive volition and to strengthen you through the Holy Spirit.

Pharaoh's the flip side. He's negative and God is just helping him to stay negative to carry it out to the end result. This doesn't have to do with his salvation. It has to do with the full demonstration of the might and the power of the throne of heaven over Egypt and Egyptian religion so that it will be clear to the Israelites and clear to the Egyptians and clear to the whole world that God is the one who has miraculously delivered the Israelites from slavery in Egypt.

What happens in Romans 1 is we get this foundational understanding about religion. Romans 1:21 says, "Although they knew God they did not glorify Him as God nor were they thankful but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened." I want you to notice that their foolish heart "was darkened" is a passive voice. It doesn't mean that God darkened their heart. It means that as a result of their negative volition to God their souls, their minds, their mentality became dark. They shut out the light of revelation so when we have these passive forms like "Pharaoh's heart was hardened" where God's not even in the passage, it doesn't mean that God is the one performing the action of hardening. That's expressing the result of Pharaoh's own negative volition already.

What they did is standard in paganism. They exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man." So God does what? He gives them over which is, He sort of takes them, using a small engine metaphor, He takes the governor off so that if you want to go in that direction, He takes the restraints off and you're going to be able to go that way fast and furiously so that My purposes will be taken care of. You've made the decision, not God. So in Romans 9:17 we read, "For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, 'For this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate My power in you, and that My name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth.' " This is God's purpose in taking and pushing Pharaoh to the limits of his own volition. It's a quote from Exodus 9:16 as I pointed out last week. Now God had announced this to Moses long before it ever says anything about God hardening Pharaoh's heart. In Exodus 3:19,"But I know that the king of Egypt will not permit you to go, except under compulsion." This is the role of God's omniscience. It's not just His will. The problem with Calvinism and the deterministic, fatalistic flaw in Calvinism is that they look at this and say, "See it's all God's will." They exclude His omniscience but 1 Peter 1:2 says that we are predestined according to foreknowledge. Foreknowledge precedes God's choice of destiny there. All that's review.

Get your mind back into that hard grind where we were last time. Of the three words that are used in the Hebrew that are translated "hardened" or express that concept, the most important is chzq and is usually translated to be strong or to strengthen, to prevail, or to harden only in these contexts in Exodus. Now the conclusion, as we saw last time, is that God has mercy on whom He wills. This is not a blanket statement that every act of God's mercy is based on His sovereign will in terms of justification or in terms of sanctification. This has to do with the context of what God is doing with the destiny of Egypt and the destiny of Israel as a nation. Now the New Testament word that is translated here is skleruno which means to harden or to make stubborn. It's only used a couple of times and it has basically that idea of just intensifying something in its current state.

Now we're going to get into some new material. I want you to look at this word chzq where it's not used as hardened. I think if we think about how it's used in these other passages, it gives us an understanding that this is not a word about overriding someone's volition. In Isaiah 35:3 and 4, God says, "Encourage the exhausted, and strengthen the feeble. Say to those with anxious heart, 'Take courage, fear not. Behold your God will come with vengeance. The recompense of God will come but He will save you.' "  Encourage in this verse is parallel to strengthen, which is chzq.

So what does chzq mean in this passage? It is a synonym for encourage. The "anxious heart" in the verse is someone who's given over to worry. That describes the person who's exhausted and feeble. The idea in this verse of strengthening those who are exhausted is to "take courage". It doesn't mean that their will or volition is being overridden. Isaiah 41:7 is talking about an analogy here with a craftsman. It says, "So the craftsman encourages the smelter." That's chzq. The craftsman isn't taking over the will and volition of the one who's doing the smelting. There's a parallel in the next line. "And he who smooths metal with the hammer encourages him who beats the anvil." The verb is not there a second time. It's assumed from the first line. It's probably in italics in your translation. So the craftsman encourages the smelter and he who smooths metal with the hammer encourages him who beats the anvil. So again you don't see this idea of God or one person overriding the volition of another. It's strengthening them.

Ezekiel 13:22 is a condemnation of apostate Israel in a time of going out under the 5th cycle of discipline in 586 B.C. It says, "Because you disheartened the righteous with falsehood when I did not cause him grief but have encouraged the wicked to turn from his wicked way and preserve his life." This is what God was doing, encouraging the wicked to turn from their wicked way and preserve life. It's not a sense of overriding their volition and forcing them to go in another direction.

Ezekiel 22:14, "Can your heart endure or can you be strong in the days that I will deal with you? I, the Lord, have spoken and will scatter you…" There's that idea of being strong. Ezekiel 30: 24, 25 is about the idea of strengthening. Here's this big battle between Nebuchadnezzar and Pharaoh Necho at Carchemish in 605. God says, "I will strengthen the arms of the king of Babylon and put My sword in his hand, and I will break the arms of Pharaoh so that he will groan before him with the groanings of a wounded man." God's going to intervene in the battle so that Pharaoh Necho loses and Nebuchadnezzar wins. Anyone have a problem with that? God has the right to do that. He's not violating their volition. He's directing the course of history. Haggai 2:4, "But now, take courage Zerubbabel, declares the Lord, take courage also Joshua, the son of Jehozadak, the high priest and all you people of the land take courage, declares the Lord and work for I am with you." Again, it's that idea of strengthening their will to complete the task.

Now I saved the best for last. This is four verses from Daniel 10 and this has the closest parallel. Daniel is getting a vision. He is being visited by an angel and he says in verse16, "And behold, one who resembled a human being was touching my lips; then I opened my mouth and spoke and said to him who was standing before me, 'O my lord, as a result of the vision anguish has come upon me and I have retained no strength. For how can such a servant of my Lord talk with such as my Lord? As for me there remains just now no strength in me nor has any breath been left in me.'"

Daniel is saying, "I'm just speechless. I'm overcome and overwhelmed. I cannot deal with what I've just been shown." Verse 18, "Then this one with human appearance touched me again and strengthened me." It's the same verb in the same piel stem. It doesn't mean he touched me and hardened me! That wouldn't even make sense. This isn't about overriding someone's will. It's about strengthening someone and encouraging them in the same way we pray that God would strengthen us so we do the right thing at the right time. It's sort of like being on performance enhancing drugs. It gives you a little more ability. You've already made a choice to go in one direction. That may not be the best illustration but it's one that came to mind.

Job 4:3, "Behold you have admonished many, and you have strengthened weak hands." We are weak and God strengthens us. This isn't a violation of volition. All right. I hope that brings you a little more clarity to what that word group means and how it's translated. It's not talking about overriding someone's volition but simply enhancing it to accomplish what they want to do already so God can use that for a greater and higher purpose. Now it's going to become clearer as we continue that the whole context here is still dealing with nations and not individuals.

Let's go back to Romans 9. This is where we're going to get into that wonderful little illustration related to the potters' wheel. Those of you going to take the Bible Study Methods class, this is one of those great examples of people who can read something and not see what they're reading. We read into things we read what we've been told are there. We don't even take the time and see that it's not there. We've just heard so many say that's what it's talking about for so long that we just look at it that way. That's one of the tough things with Bible study methods.

I've talked to other guys who come out of strong teaching churches and went through Dallas Seminary. We had Bible Study Methods our first year and we had to take our blinders off and think what does this text really say, not what have I been told is there? We had to ask, what am I reading here? What do I see? It's a great lesson for anyone who likes Sherlock Holmes. What is the Bible actually saying? Not what I've been told is there but what's there and what's not there?

The second question that the objector comes up with in Romans 9:19 is where Paul puts these words in the mouth of the objector and says, "You will say to me then, 'Why does He still find fault?'" How can God find fault if He's running history? So even though He is running history, He doesn't override individual volition but Paul's going to take the answer to another level. In one sense he's answering the objector like God answered Job. "I'm not going to answer it because number one, I can't understand it. Number two, if I were capable of explaining it, you're not capable of understanding it." That's just about what God said to Job when Job asked why he had to suffer like he did. God told him that he'd just have to trust him because he couldn't understand it if God told him. It's beyond our comprehension.

 So the answer in verse 20 is a very strong answer, "On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God?" Who are you to reply against God in your limited, finite brain to ask God to justify how he's ruling the universe because you don't even have a clue in relation to the vast amount of knowledge that goes into God's omniscience that leads to all the decisions that He makes in His providential care of creation. Paul uses an illustration from the potter that he gets out of Jeremiah. It's really important to look at the context of these quotes. Paul says, "The thing molded will not say to the molder, 'Why did you make me like this, will it?''

Now this quote comes out of Jeremiah 18. There are numerous passages in the scripture that uses this potter metaphor when talking about the creature and the creator. Now here's the question. If you just had Romans 9:20 in front of you, would you say that he's talking about an individual or a national entity? It's real easy if you're preset this way to think he's talking about individuals. A vast number of people read it that way. Paul then says, "Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use?" He's asking if the Sovereign Creator has the right to make things the way He wants to. That's his whole point.

God makes one for honor and one for dishonor. Now that's not talking about heaven or hell. Don't read that into it. God can raise up Israel for blessing and He can bring judgment upon Egypt but that doesn't mean that no Egyptian can be saved or only Jews can be saved and none of them will go to the Lake of Fire. It doesn't say that. It's still talking about nations. "What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience [longsuffering] vessels of wrath prepared for destruction?" Wrath refers to God's right to judge within history. God allows the wicked to continue their wickedness for a purpose.

What we want to know is, what are the vessels? What are the vessels for honor and for dishonor? What is the vessel for wrath? Are those people or national entities? Let's go to Jeremiah 18:3, "Then I went down to the potter's house, and there he was making something on the wheel. And the vessel that 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." So that's our analogy. The potter has the right to make the clay, to mold the clay for the purposes that he has in mind. "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." He's not talking to Jeremiah as an individual. He's talking to Israel as a national entity. Can I not do with you as this potter?

"Behold like the clay in the potter's hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel." It's just like we were talking about the first illustration dealing with Jacob and Esau and they were nations going back to Israel, going back to the womb of their mother. He never deals with them as personal individuals but in terms of the nations that came from them. The same thing we're dealing with them here, the nation. "At one moment I might speak concerning a nation or concerning a kingdom to uproot, to pull down, or to destroy it, if that nation against which I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent concerning the calamity I planned to bring on it." It's talking about nations and kingdoms. How many people can see individual salvation here, so far? It's not there. God is talking about His choice of nations or kingdoms in history.

But wait a minute. Right in the middle of this, that nation has the right to say, "Wait a minute. I'm going to turn to God." Volition is right in the center of the passage. Just because God says He's going to do one thing to a nation, it doesn't mean their volition is null and void. Right in the middle of the analogy of the potter, the nation can choose to turn to God. Incidentally this is one of the best verses to use for a nation turning to God and God relenting of judgment. Not the passage over in 2 Chronicles 7:14 which everybody quotes because they don't know hermeneutics. That's from Solomon's dedicatory prayer and God's answer to it. "If my people who are called by My name turn back to Me, repent and humble themselves, then I will restore them to their land." You can't make that apply to anyone else. You know why? Because it's for Israel. You don't understand the word "application' if you think it can apply to anyone else.

That verse, actually, is an application of this principle in Jeremiah. That verse in 2 Chronicles is an application to Israel. The principle here is that if any nation, against whom God has spoken, turns from its evil…" Nineveh is an example when Jonah went there. The principle is here in Jeremiah. 2nd Chronicle 7:14 is an application of that divine principle to Israel and God's answer is within covenant terms so you can't apply it to anybody else. But you can apply this verse in Jeremiah to any nation. This is a key verse for that.

Verse 9 continues, "Or at another moment I might speak concerning a nation or concerning a kingdom to build up or to plant it; if it does evil in my sight, then I will think better of the good with which I had promised to bless it." This is the picture. What is the potter analogy a picture of? God's sovereignty over national destinies, not individual destinies in terms of the Lake of Fire or heaven. You can substitute nations for vessels in these verses.

So we go back to Romans 9:23 and it goes on to say, "And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, even us whom He also called, not from among Jews only but also from among Gentiles." Does it say anything about making one individual for honor and another for dishonor? Does it say anything about an individual here? It means one nation for honor and another for dishonor. It's a choice that one nation is preferred over another.

It doesn't really mean that God despises the second one as we saw from Genesis. I used the quote dealing with Jacob, that Jacob loved Rachel and hated Leah. It doesn't mean he really hated Leah. He just preferred Rachel over Leah. He liked Leah and had a bunch of children by Leah. Now Paul's going to make application why God has the sovereign right to do this. Romans 9:24, "As He says also in Hosea…" So it's sword drill time. We were just in Jeremiah 18 so now let's go to Hosea 2:23.

Hosea is the first of the Minor Prophets. They're not minor because they're in a different key. They're not minor because they're not as significant. They're minor because they're smaller. Actually all twelve minor prophets are included as one book in the Hebrew canon, just simply referred to as The Twelve. In Romans 9:25 Paul quotes just the last part of Hosea 2:23. Now it's a little different from your English because Paul is quoting from the Septuagint translation, "I will call them My people who are not My people and her beloved who is not My beloved."

Now he's just talked about the Gentiles so in the context of Romans 9, Paul is applying this to now calling and including Gentiles as part of His people but that wasn't what Hosea was talking about. Hosea 2:23 says, "I will sow her for Myself in the land. I will also have compassion on her who had not obtained compassion. And I will say to those who were not My people. You are My people. And they will say, You are my God."

So let's talk about Hosea 2 a little bit. This second chapter of Hosea reiterates the charges, indictments against Israel at the time of their destruction in 586 B.C. going out under the fifth stage of divine discipline. The charges are listed and reiterated from verses 2 down through 13 on why God is removing them from the land. If you read through that they are indicted for their unfaithfulness to God, for their spiritual adultery with the idols of the land, specifically the Baalim and following all of the different rituals related to the Baalim. In verse 13 it concludes, "I will punish her for the days of the Baals, when she used to offer sacrifices to them and adorn herself with her earrings and jewelry and follow her lovers, so she forget Me, declares the Lord." She was having a hot dating life going out after all these other lovers.

Verse 14, "Therefore, behold, I will allure her, Bring her into the wilderness, and speak kindly to her." This is God winning Israel back to Himself. "I will give her vineyards from there and the valley of Achor as a door of hope. She shall sing there as in the days of her youth, As in the day when she came up from the land of Egypt." God is talking about this future time when He will restore Israel to the land.

 So Hosea jumps from the destruction of 586 to the future restoration which occurs in the future Messianic Age. Verse 16, "In that day I will also make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field, the birds of the sky, and the creeping things of the ground." When you read "that day" in scripture it's usually talking about that future day of Israel's redemption. "In that day" which is a future time, the Second Advent, the beginning of the Millennium Kingdom, God is going to make a covenant with them. What is that covenant? It's the New Covenant that is put into effect with the house of Judah, the house of David when Jesus returns at the Second Coming.

Verse 19, "I will betroth you to Me forever. Yes I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and in justice, in loving-kindness and in compassion, And I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness. Then you will know the Lord. It will come to pass in that day that I will respond, declares the Lord. I will respond to the heavens, and they will respond to the earth, And the earth will respond to the grain, to the new wine, and to the oil, and they will respond to Jezreel." That's the Valley of Jezreel. Now this is God saying that there will finally be the consummation of this marriage between Yahweh in the Millennial Kingdom.

Then he says in verse 23 which is the context, "I will sow her for Myself in the land. I will also have compassion on her who had not obtained compassion, and I will say to those who were not the people." Who is God talking about here? Who was the one who had not had mercy? That was Israel in disobedience. It wasn't another country. It was Israel during the time they were out during the 5th Cycle of discipline and had not obtained mercy. "And I will say to those who were not my people," Who are the ones who were not His people? Those rebellious, obstinate Jews who had rejected Jesus and who are out under the 5th cycle of discipline. "I will say to those who are not My people, You are My people, and they will say, You are my God." They have repented and they are God's people at a future date.

 So remember many times I've mentioned but some of you are new and haven't heard this, there are four ways in which the Old Testament is quoted and applied in the New Testament. Number one was literal prophecy and literal fulfillment. An example of this is Micah 5:2 which says that the Messiah will be born in Bethlehem. It's a prophecy which has been literally fulfilled. Then there is a second use which is more of a type, such as "Out of Egypt I called my people." It's quoted as an historical event and at times it's a picture of Israel coming out of Egypt which is fulfilled in Christ.

Then you have a third use of Old Testament prophecy when is by way of application. It's not a typology. It's just something similar happened and they're drawing a connection by way of a pattern. We studied this when we went through Acts 2 when Peter said that this is what the prophet Joel spoke of. He didn't mean this was the fulfillment of what Joel said because everything that was prophesied in Joel 2 was not fulfilled in Acts 2 but what did happen in Acts 2 which was speaking in tongues. Although it wasn't what is prophesied in Joel 2, it's similar, though. It showed a parallel. So this is the third use and says "this is like that". It's simply drawing an analogy which is parallel to something in the Old Testament and that's what's going on in this verse is that Paul is going back here and taking this verse and saying, that those who weren't God's people were now His people. In the same way, even those he's talking about Gentiles, those who were not God's people are being brought into the family of God. So all he's doing is making that kind of analogy with that third use.

Romans 9:26, "And it shall come to pass that in the place where it was said to them, 'You are not My people's, then they shall be called sons of the living God." That's a quote from Hosea 1:10 so just turn back one page. The first part of Hosea is the condemnation stated against Israel and because of their apostasy the wife of Hosea, Gomer, was supposed to have two children. One was called Lo-ruhamah mentioned in verse 6, which means "no mercy" and the second Loammi meaning "not my people". Verse 9 says, "Call his name Loammi because you are not My people and I am not your God." This is an announcement of divine judgment. Then verse 10, "Yet the number of the sons of Israel will be like the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured and it shall come to pass." What does that sound like? The Abrahamic covenant. So what God is doing here is reiterating the promise to Abraham that he will have descendants that will be as numerous as the sands of the seashore and God will not forsake them. Nevertheless the people are going to go out under divine judgment.

He then says in the second half of verse 10, "And in that place where it is said to them, 'You are not my people. Then they shall be called sons of the living God." That's the part that's being quoted in Romans 9. Israel will be restored to a position of blessing but first they're going to go through a time of divine discipline and divine judgment so Romans 9: 25 and 26 include quotes from Hosea 2:23 and Hosea 1:10 and these quotes are dealing with God's plan for Israel as a nation, the judgment that came upon the nation, and the future blessing of restoration that will come upon the nation. So we're continuing to see that Paul is dealing with Israel as a national entity, not in terms of individual justification.

Then we come to verse 27 where we go to Isaiah10: 22 and 23. Hosea and Isaiah lived about the same time and their names almost sound the same. Isaiah 10:22, "For though your people, O Israel, may be like the sand of the sea…" What's that terminology from? That's from the Abrahamic Covenant. Just a reminder that God's promise is solid bedrock. Israel's not going to be saved from discipline. "Only a remnant within them will return."

Remember earlier in Romans 9, Paul said that not all Israel is of Israel. He's focusing on many who are apostate but there's a subset that are true Israel. That's the remnant. Isaiah 10 23: "For though Your people, O Israel, may be like the sand of the sea, Only a remnant within them will return." Promised blessing. God has a future for Israel. That's Paul's theme in Romans 9-11. God has not permanently forsaken His people, Israel.

Isaiah 10:23 is quoted in Romans 9:28, "For a complete destruction, one that is decreed, the Lord God of hosts will execute in the midst of the whole land. This judgment will come during the tribulation period. So what's the point here? Again Paul is dealing with Israel as a nation in terms of their future destiny, showing from these quotations that God did promise a period of judgment when the nation will be out of the land. He also promised He would fulfill His promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and to David and He would restore the nation to the land and they would have great blessing.

In Romans 9:29 we again have a quote from Isaiah. This is from Isaiah 1 which is a chapter which is an indictment against Israel for their apostasy. In Romans 9:29 Paul says, "And just as Isaiah foretold, Unless the Lord of Sabaoth [Lord of Armies] had left to us a posterity [a seed] we would have become like Sodom and would have resembled Gomorrah." What Paul is saying is that God left a remnant and that remnant will be restored to a place of blessing and that remnant will be the ones who receive the blessings of the Abrahamic covenant.

This is a quote from Isaiah 1:9 where there is a description of all of the judgments which will come upon Judah because of their apostasy. Verse 7, "Your country's desolate and your cities burned with fire. Your fields-strangers are devouring them in your presence. It is desolation, as overthrown by strangers. The daughter of Zion is left like a shelter in a vineyard. Like a watchman's hut in a cucumber field, like a besieged city. Unless the Lord of hosts had left us a few survivors, we would be like Sodom, we would be like Gomorrah." Again, national destiny is the issue.

That ends this section for Paul. He's going to segue into another section starting in verse 30. So let me summarize the argument to this point. By referring back to ideas he's already talked about in Romans 9:6-7 and talking as well in relation to language that goes back to "Jacob I loved and Esau I hated" it's clear that Paul is dealing with God's plan for Israel, that He's not going to go back on it and that He has chosen Israel for a specific destiny and He has not chosen other nations for that kind of a destiny. Even though Israel is currently apostate, they will eventually accept Jesus as the Messiah.

Now as a result of having established this from the Old Testament, from the Hebrew Scriptures, it's clear that God has predicted judgment and restoration. What are we then going to say about what's going on now with the inclusion of Gentiles into the Church? Verse 30, "What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith." See Gentiles were pagans. They weren't concerned about righteousness. But now they responded to the gospel and they have become righteous because when they trusted in Christ as their Savior, they received the imputation of Christ's righteousness. So they've attained to righteousness, that is the righteousness from faith, the righteousness that comes from faith. Justification is by faith alone. Abraham was the pattern in Genesis 15:6. In Romans 9:31, "But Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness [the Mosaic Law and specifically the Pharisaical interpretation of that Law] did not arrive at that law." They can't meet that righteousness. No one has ever perfectly obeyed the Mosaic Law outside of Jesus Christ.

Verse 32, "Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works." They weren't trying to gain righteousness as a result of faith which was the pattern from the Old Testament but they were trying to gain righteousness by the works of the Law. They thought that by obeying the Law that would make them righteousness. Now he ties it to Christ, "For they stumbled at the stumbling stone, just as it is written, "Behold I lay in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense. And He who believes in Him will not be disappointed [put to shame]." [Quote from Isaiah 28:16] If you believe on Him He will fulfill all of His promises.

So the point that Paul has made so far in Romans 9 is that God has a future plan for Israel. Right now they have rejected Christ and they are being "hardened" just like Pharaoh was hardened. God's not making them reject Christ. They've already chosen to reject Him. He's just encouraging them in that for a time. He doesn't lock them into negative volition. They can respond. There are an incredible number of Jews down through the centuries who have trusted in Jesus Christ as their Messiah. There are many who do today. And there will be hundreds of thousands who will during the Tribulation.

So God has a plan. That plan is His plan because He's the one who knows all the variables. He knows all the information in perfect omniscience. So He knows the best plan and is working it out in history We can't determine or influence that plan by our behavior one way or the other because it's not based on who or what we are but on what God is and His plan and His understanding of history. So far we're not talking about individual eternal destiny. We're talking about historical destinies for nations, for the Gentiles and the Jews and God's plan within history.

So that, I hope, helps us understand the "hardening" of Pharaoh's heart as we talk about this passage and the potter and the potter's wheel that this has nothing at all to do with individual justification and eternal destiny. Okay? I hope it's a little clearer now. It's clearer for me now. This is the first time I've taught through the "hardening of Pharaoh's heart." There's always something to learn, something you avoid as a pastor saying to yourself, "Lord, I just hope I don't get there or when I do get there I hope I'll figure something out and it's close to being right."