Small Group Tools
Contemporary Comments 2010
Scripture: Romans 9
In spite of the fact that there have already been two decades of failed Arab-Israeli negotiations with little to no noticeable progress, September 1 the Obama administration will host another Middle East peace summit in Washington.
Dinner guests at the White House the day before the summit include Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Jordan's King Abdullah II and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
George Mitchell, United States envoy to the Middle East, has shuttled between the two nations trying for many years to build bridges. There have already been two decades of failed negotiations with little to no noticeable progress. Because he has been directly involved over time, Mitchell sees the larger picture of this on-going conflict. His hope is that with direct face-to-face dialogue between Netanyahu and Abbas, more will be accomplished.
On National Public Radio this past weekend Mitchell was quoted as saying “Past efforts at Mideast peace that did not succeed cannot deter us from trying again, because the cause is noble and just and right for all concerned.”1
We continue our study of a Biblical conflict that has frustrated another envoy, Pastor Paul. His letter to the church in Rome pleads with his people to accept the fact that by faith in the Messiah, salvation is offered to both Jew and Gentile.
This week’s Bible Study introduction suggests that Romans 9 may be a bit confusing if we look at the verses out of context. Paul is writing a long letter with arguments, metaphors, examples as well as direct answers to his own arguments and Chapter 9 is just one portion of this long epistle, now put into book form. Unless we look at the bigger picture of what Pastor Paul is saying to people he has been working with for years, we can become confused.
Theologian, Dr. John Brunt, suggests that we look at Romans 1-8 as a cluster of texts and then view Romans 9-11 as a nit-together argument that ends with the bottom line. No matter what God has done in history in calling certain people and appearing to reject others, he has always had (and continues to have) but one goal in mind: To have mercy on all and to save all. Brunt suggests that it is helpful to flip forward to the end of Chapter 11 before digging deeper into Chapter 9.
Brunt directs us to Romans 11:32 and 33 that reads as follows: “God has imprisoned all in disobedience so that he may be merciful to all. O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!” (NRSV) 2
Knowing the rest of the story, we can now better sense the heartache of a pastor whose soul is filled with deep anguish because his own people, Israel, have not accepted the Messiah. After all the blessings that have been poured out on them and the privileges given to them, his pastor’s heart Paul can’t bear to think of them being lost. Instead of trusting God, they have relied on their ability to keep the laws, their own works, and didn’t embrace what God had done for them. Even so, like George Mitchell, Paul holds out hope —even to the point that he would die if he is the one to stand in his own people’s way of Salvation.
While studying our lesson this week we need to keep in mind that God in His mercy has but one goal: to save everyone who has faith in Him.