Romans 9-11: A Paraphrase

Romans 9-11: A Paraphrase March 19, 2021

Okay, here is my effort at a paraphrase of Romans 9-11, part of a wider project on Romans, bit quirky, thick interpretive layer, either illuminating insights or excruciating to read:

Rom 9:1-5

1 I say, as a true Messiah follower, that I am honest to God not lying or massaging the truth. My conscience is clean as the Holy Spirit tells me. I am not a self-hating Jew, not an ex-Jew, not even anti-Jewish. 2 I could fill a well with my tears for my fellow Jews and my heart is broken for them. 3 I wish myself to be cursed and cast out like a scapegoat, separated from the Messiah, if it would somehow bring my own family to accept Jesus as God’s Messiah. 4 How can I abandon them? They are descended from the Israelites of ages gone. Their heritage is being adopted as God’s children in the exodus, they received the glory of God’s presence, they are God’s partners in various covenants, they received the Law from Moses, they worship in the temple with the sacrifices and songs of praise, and all of God’s promises belong to them. 5 The forefathers and foremothers of our holy history are their ancestors. The Messiah is descended from their very flesh. The Messiah, who is the blessed God, reigns over everything from everlasting to everlasting. A to the men!

Rom 9:6-29

6 It is not the case that God’s word has failed and face-planted. If you want to know why not everyone in Israel believes in Jesus, then remember that not all Israelites always belong to Israel, 7 just as not all of Abraham’s children are his children in the big scheme of things. We find this in Scripture when it says that Abraham’s descendants are traced back only through Isaac and not through Ishmael: “It is through Isaac that later generations shall trace their lineage back to you.” 8 This means that it is not hereditary children who are the children of God, but the children of the promise like Isaac who are counted as God’s children. 9 Keep in mind how the promise was spoken to Abraham, “About this time I will return and Sarah shall have a son” who was named Isaac.

10 In addition, something similar happened in the next generation when Rebecca conceived twins after one night with her husband Isaac. 11 Yet, even before the twins had been born or had done anything good or bad, so that God’s grand purposes might come to fruition, 12 and in order that salvation would not be by works but by God’s call, Rebecca was told, “The older son (i.e. Esau) shall serve the younger son (i.e., Jacob).” 13 As it is written, “I have set my love on Jacob, but I have passed over Esau.”

14 What shall we conclude from all this? Was God grossly unfair in his choice of one brother (Isaac and Jacob) over the other brother (Ishmael and Esau)? No flipping way!  15 Remember what God said to Moses, “I will have mercy on those whom I have set my mercy, and I will have compassion on those whom I have set my compassion.” 16 Thus, salvation depends not on a person’s will or work, but on God’s mysterious mercy. 17 Notice too what the scripture says to the Egyptian Pharaoh, “I have raised you up to great heights for the very purpose of bringing you down and showing my power in your defeat by fleeing slaves, so that my great name may be proclaimed all over the earth.”  18 From this we learn that God has mercy on whomever he has chosen to be merciful to, and God hardens the heart of whomever he has chosen to harden.

19 You might be thinking to yourself, “How can God blame anyone then for things he has basically destined them to do? Who can resist God’s purposes for mercy or hardening?” 20 But you, humble human, need a reality check before talking back to God? Will the thing made talk sass back to the Maker, “Why have you made me like this and for this?” 21 Consider this analogy: Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump of clay a beautiful vase to decorate the house and a chamber pot to relieve oneself in? Of course he does! 22 Think of it this way, what if God, desiring to show his righteous anger and to make his saving power known to all, had given the chamber pot every chance to graduate into a living room vase, but the chamber pot chose to remain a chamber pot; is God still right to smash the chamber pot when it gets too smelly? 23 and what if God has done so in order to make known the manifold riches of his glory for the objects intended for mercy, which he has prepared in eternity past for glory — 24 including chamber pots like us, those whom he has called into his multi-ethnic forgiven family, not only from the Jews only but also from nations of the world? 25 This is precisely what Hosea said, “I will take the rejected people as my people and I will take the unloved wife as my beloved bride.'” 26 “And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You people do not belong to me,’ there they shall be called ‘God’s living and loved children’.” 27 And Isaiah calls out concerning Israel, “Although the children of Israel were as numerous as the sand around the seas, only a few of them will be saved” which is us Jews and Gentiles; 28 “for the Lord will implement his judgments on the earth quickly and thoroughly.”  29 Similarly, Isaiah predicted, “If the Lord of the angelic company had not left survivors to succeed us, we would have been annihilated like Sodom and been so wretched even the people of Gomorrah would feel sorry for us.”

Rom 9:30-10:21

30 What shall we conclude from all this? That the Gentiles, who would not know righteousness if it bit them on the nose, have received righteousness, and received righteousness by believing in Jesus; 31 while, Israel, who yearned to find in the Jewish Law the basis and boundaries of righteousness, discovered that the Jewish Law could not actually bring them to that point. 32 Why not? Because they pursued righteousness, not on the basis of believing in God’s promises about the Messiah, but on the basis of trusting in their own privileges and performance of the Jewish way of life. In so doing, they have stumbled over the stone engraved with the words “Get your Messiah here!” 33 As it is written, “Look, I am laying in the holy city of Zion a stone that will make them trip, a rock that will make them totter, and whoever trusts in the Messiah will have a rock-solid guarantee that they’ll never be cast aside.”

1 Brothers and sisters, I burn God’s ears with my prayers for my fellow Jews, hoping that someway or somehow they might know salvation too. 2 I can offer a speech in their defense that the Jewish people are truly zealous for God, but it is sadly a zeal without knowledge of God’s wider plan. 3 For they are unaware of God’s right-making power and seek instead to establish their righteousness, by Jews, for Jews, and only Jews, and fail to see what God offers or won’t submit to what God expects of his special people. 4 For the Messiah is the climax of the Jewish Law so that anyone and everyone could be righteousness before God on the basis of their faith.

5 Moses wrote concerning the righteousness that comes from the Jewish Law, that “the person who lives  a law-obeying life will have the life that the law promises its doers.” 6 But, on the flip side, if righteousness by faith were a person, then it would add to Moses’ words that another way of salvation is possible: “Do not whine in despair, ‘Oh, who can we launch into heaven to bring salvation down to us’” (that is pointless because Christ is already in heaven interceding for us, so why bring him back down again), 7 “nor say to yourself ‘Oh, who will descend to the depths of death and win salvation for us?’” (that too is pointless because Christ has already risen from the dead). 8 But what does Scripture actually say? Well, this: “The message promising salvation is near you, on the tip of your lips and in the chambers of your heart.” Here’s my point, it is not the Jewish Law that saves, but Christ, and our message is that salvation is not locked up in the heavens nor dormant down in death, rather, it is found in the message of Christ that we are telling everyone! Israel needs to know that salvation is already here, it’s ready, it’s for them, its soaked in our hearts and dripping from our lips! 9 The message of salvation is this, if you profess allegiance to Jesus as Lord and if sincerely believe that God raised him from the dead, then, you will be saved. 10 For one believes from the heart and so is declared righteous, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. 11 As the scripture says, “No one who trusts in him will be cast aside.” 12 For there is no distinction or exclusion between Jews and Greeks; the same Lord is Lord of all and is Lord for all, and is kind to everyone who calls to him. 13 For, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

14 But how can they call upon the Lord for salvation if they do not yet believe in him? And how can they possibly believe if they have never heard the message about him? And how are they to hear the message about him without someone first proclaiming the message to them. 15 And how is anyone going to proclaim the message to them unless they are first sent out to them? As it is written, “How drop dead gorgeous are the runners or heals of those who bring good news!”

 16 But not everyone has accepted the summons that the good news demands; for Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?” 17 So believing comes by hearing and believing and hearing both come from the message of the Messiah. 18 But, we must ask, have many of the Jews not already heard this message? Indeed they have, for the message of the Messiah has gone viral, so I feel like one the Psalmist wrote about, “Their voice has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world.” It’s like we invited the Jews to a Messiah-party but no-one bothered to RSVP. 19 I must also ask, did Israel understand what was at stake?  Probably not, which is why God’s response is precisely what Moses once said, “I make you jealous to the point of anger by consorting with a foolish nation.” 20 Then Isaiah is so bold as to say what God thinks of this foolish nation (i.e. Christians!), “I have been found by those who did not seek me; I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me.” 21 But concerning Israel in her ignorance and recalcitrance, Isaiah is on the money, “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people.” This breaks my heart, but quickens my resolve to continue the mission.

Rom 11:1-36

1 One might naturally ask here: Does Israel’s unbelief mean that God has cast his people aside like an unwanted child? No flipping way! I’m living proof he has hasn’t! In Jew-o-meter I score 15 out of 10: I am an Israelite, one of Abraham’s descendants, a bonafide Benjaminite. 2 I testify that God has not deserted his people Israel whom he knew and loved since Abraham was knee high to the Nephilim! Or are you ignorant of how Scripture describes Elijah pleading with God against Israel only to learn that God had hidden a secret batch of faithful Israelites? 3 He complained: “Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have obliterated your places of worship; I am the last of the prophets alive and they are hunting me down to take my life.” 4 But notice God’s answer to Elijah? “No, you are not alone, I have preserved seven thousand faithful people who have not joined the rest in taking a knee to the false god Baal and his entourage of evil.” 5 As then, so now, when the majority failed, God still preserves a faithful batch who are chosen by God’s unmerited kindness. I consider myself one of that batch. 6 And if being chosen is by God’s unmerited kindness, then it is no longer based on ancestry or accomplishment, otherwise God’s unmerited kindness would be nullified as something won by merit. 7 What does this mean? Well, the salvation that Israel failed to find in the Jewish Law the elect successfully found without looking for it in the Law. The others, it seems, were given over to the resolve of their recalcitrance, 8 as it is written, “God gave them a disposition for dumbness, so that they would not be able to see or hear the good things put in front of them.” 9 Or, as David says, “May they trip on their table and stumble over their own feet as the punishment they deserve; 10 let their eyes be blinded by their own stupidity, and break their resolve to resist.” That’s where they ended up!

11 Next we ask, did Israel fall off the cliff so to speak with no prospect of climbing back up? No flipping way! On the contrary, because of their failure, salvation has come to the Gentiles, not to jettison the Jews, but to make them jealous. So unbelieving Jews might look at Christian Gentiles and say to themselves, “I’ll have what she’s having!” 12 Remember that if Israel’s failure means the world gets to bask in God’s rich salvation and if their loss means riches of blessings for the Gentiles, then how better will it be when Israel herself receives the full package of her own promises?  13 This is what you Gentiles in Rome need to hear from me, God’s special envoy to the Gentiles, so you don’t puff yourselves up and look down on your Jewish neighbours. Note that I make much of God by bringing Gentiles to obedience in God, so that, 14 some way or somehow, I will rouse my own flesh and blood fellow-Jews to jealousy and see them saved by their own Messiah. 15 If Israel’s time on the naughty chair results in God being reconciled to the nations of the world, then, when Israel returns to her senses, will the result be anything less a miracle on par with resurrection from the dead?

16 Here are some analogies. If the first batch of dough is holy (i.e., Israel and the Jewish people), then the batch it came from must be holy (i.e., patriarchs and Jesus); and if the root of a tree is holy (patriarchs and Jesus), then so too are the branches that grow from it (all of ethnic Israel). 17 Or imagine Israel as an olive tree, some of the branches were (temporarily!) broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, were artificially grafted onto the tree and were nourished by the nutrients of the roots of the olive tree. 18 In this instance, the wild branch cannot brag and boast over the natural branches. But if you do brag, brag on the fact that you do not support the root, but the root supports you both. In other words, don’t disrespect the root (patriarchs and the Messiah) that supports you (Gentiles) and the branches around you (the Jews). 19 Perhaps you will counter by saying, “Excuse me, but the branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in to replace them.” 20 Yes, that’s one way of looking at it, the branches were broken off because of their unbelief, whereas you are steadfast in your faith. But do not get cocky about yourself; keep your fear of God or you’ll suffer the same fate! 21 Remember, if God did not spare the natural branches that naturally belong on the olive tree, then you can bet that he will also not spare the unnatural branches if they get too uppity or look down on the branches that God still cares for. 22 Pay earnest attention to the kindness and harshness of God’s character – harshness towards those who have fallen away, but God’s kindness for you, but on the condition that you continue to rest and abide in his kindness; otherwise you too will end up on the ground with the other green waste. 23 And Israel – if they do not continue in their disbelief in God’s Messiah – will be reattached to the tree that they naturally belong to, because God loves them and knows that the tree is incomplete without them. 24 If you Gentiles do not naturally belong to the olive tree and were artificially grafted into it, then how much more do you think God can and wants to reattach those Jewish natural branches who belong on their own olive tree?

25 I don’t want you to gloss over this amazing mystery about the interlocking destiny of Jews and Gentiles, let it sink in, because it will stop you Gentiles from harboring hate or hubris against the Jewish people. The mystery is that Israel has undergone a temporary and partial hardening of their hearts until the full gamut of Gentiles joins themselves to God’s forgiven family. 26 And this is how Israel according to the flesh (ethnic Jews) will join Israel according to the promise (Messiah-believers like you and me) in salvation, as it is written: “The rescuer will come out of Jerusalem; he will clean up what the children of Jacob have messed up.” 27 And this is my deal with them, as their God I promise to remove their sins as far as the east is from the west.” 28 When it comes to the gospel, you can expect a frosty reception from the Jews, but in regard to God’s plan and promises, they remain deeply loved because they are still sons and daughters of their ancestors whom God made his promises too.  29 For God’s gifts and invitation are not returnable. 30 Just as you Gentiles have received mercy after your habit of disobedience in idolatry, immorality, and impurity because of the Jews’ disobedience, well, vice-versa, 31 the Jews have been disobedient in order that, by the mercy shown to you, they will one day bask in God’s mercy. 32 For God has allowed people to lock themselves up with their own disobedience so that in his mercy he can throw open the prison doors and set the prisoners free.

33 Wow and whoa to the amazing wisdom of God, who would’ve known this was his plan, because God is wiser than us, and his inconceivable saving plan happened just as he conceived it. 34 Does anyone think they can psychoanalyze or second guess God? Or who thinks they are worthy to be his consultant? 35 Or who has put God on retainer that God owes them anything? 36 Everything in creation that was, is, or will be is from him, sustained by him, and for him. Let us give our God the praise he deserves. Amen.

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