“As He says in Hosea: ‘I will call them “my people” who are not my people; and I will call her “my loved one” who is not my loved one,’ and “in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they will be called “children of the living God.”
“Isaiah cried out concerning Israel: ‘Though the number of the Israelites be like the sand by the sea, only a remnant will be saved. For the Lord will carry out His sentence on earth with speed and finality.’
“It is just as Isaiah said previously, ‘Unless the Lord Almighty had left us descendants, we would become like Sodom, we would have been like Gomorrah.'” Romans 9:25-29.
Paul was concerned that his own people had got it back-to-front. They considered themselves God’s privileged people; therefore they were high on the agenda of God’s priorities while the Gentiles, who were scum in their eyes, and naturally, in God’s eyes as well, according to them, were the rejected ones.
But God had other ideas. Through Hosea’s own tragic experience, He had shown Israel that, because of their unbelief, they had become the rejected ones. Like the loose woman whom Hosea married and who bore children that were not his, God’s people were living like spiritual prostitutes and reproducing themselves in their offspring, and not children who loved and obeyed God. Hosea reflected, in the naming of Gomer’s children, God’s attitude towards His people. ‘Not my people! Not loved!” was His cry against them.
However, it is not in God’s nature to go back on His word. He had called Israel to be His own people and, despite their disobedience, He promised that there would always be a remnant who would remain true to Him. From them He would rebuild the nation – a people who would be true to Him and who would fulfil His desire to call the Gentiles into faith as well.
Through God’s mercy, there were many Jews who embraced Jesus as their Messiah and the restoration of God’s rule on earth, and went forth in obedience to Him to take the good news to the world. The rest of the Jews, in their mistaken racial pride, persecuted the remnant for daring to include Gentiles in a relationship with God which they believed belonged exclusively to them.
Paul and his fellow apostles tasted the viciousness of their opposition in every city and town they visited. So relentless was their campaign against them that Paul cried out to God for relief.
“In order to keep me from becoming conceited, there was given to me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly in my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties for, when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:7b-10.
What was Paul saying? Just as God had warned Israel in the early days of their nationhood, that they would be persecuted by those who rejected His ways (Numbers 33:55; Judges 2; 3), so now the Jews who rejected Jesus were thorns in the flesh of believers. They disqualified themselves from receiving God’s mercy, opening the door for the Gentiles to become part of the people of God.
The unbelieving Jews had themselves to thank, in the sovereign plan of God, for giving the opportunity to the despised Gentiles to hear the gospel from the very men who had preached to them and offered them the first choice to receive their Messiah. Paul had decided that he would no longer waste his efforts on them. To the Gentiles he would go – and they received the message gladly!
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