The Letter to the Romans
COLLEEN MOORE TINKER
35. A Sure Protection
Paul has been expressing his desire that Israel be saved. He has discussed the necessity of believing with one's whole heart-to the point of having the courage to confess with one's mouth-that Jesus is Lord in order to be saved. He now reflects on God's historic warning to Israel that they were lying to themselves and rationalizing their spiritual safety. Paul further reflects on God's promise to offer Israel true security, and he explains how this ancient promise is actually being fulfilled.
In verse 11, Paul quotes Isaiah. In Isaiah 28:14-16, Isaiah is confronting Israel with their arrogance. Referring apparently to their worship of idols and their involvement in divination of the dead, the prophet points out that they have "entered into a covenant with death, with the grave [they] have made an agreement." They believe they have warded off evil by making deals with evil, and by so doing they believe they have protected themselves against the pagan nations of Assyria and Babylon. Isaiah is countering their self-deception by reminding them that the Lord offers them true protection.
"See, I lay a stone in Zion," God says, "as tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who trusts will never be dismayed" (Is. 28:16).
To the Israelites, the meaning of this promise was clear (to those who waned to hear): God would send someone in whom the nation could truly trust. Their trust in the coming defender would protect them from destruction.
Paul now explains that God is fulfilling this promise to ALL who call on Him. "There is no difference between Jew and Gentile," he says in verse 12; "the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him."
In Romans 9:33 Paul also referred to this same text in Isaiah as part of his explanation as to why the Jews had lost their favored standing. They had stumbled over the promised stumbling stone. Now Paul is extending this promise in Isaiah to all who believe. He is revealing that the true fulfillment of Isaiah's promise has occurred in the person of Jesus-and that fulfillment is available to everyone (not just Jews) who accepts Him as his or her divine Redeemer and Lord.
Paul's declaration of the universal availability of entering the security of Jesus is part of his larger explanation that this gospel, the fulfillment of the Old Testament promises of rescue and safety, is being spread throughout the world. Unlike the prophecies which were limited to Israel and contained the hope for future realization, the fulfillment of the prophecies is for all people.
"Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved," Paul declares. He quotes here from Joel 2:32-the culmination of the prophecy that begins by saying God would pour out His Spirit "on all people"(Joel 2:28). Once again Paul is demonstrating that God's prophecies to Israel have found their fulfillment in Jesus, and the effects of those promises are for all who receive Him.
In Acts 2:16 Peter clarified that the prophecy in Joel 2:28 was fulfilled at Pentecost when God sent His Spirit to indwell all who received Jesus as the Messiah and their personal Savior and Lord. From that day on, all who surrender to Jesus receive the indwelling Holy Spirit. Acts 2:39 records Peter's clarification that this gift is for the Jews who were hearing him and for their children-as well as for those who were "far off" (Gentiles) whom the Lord would call.
Now, in Romans 10, Paul confirms this fact. He explains that there is no difference between Jews and Gentiles in Christ; the promises of salvation through Jesus are for everyone. In chapter 11:11-24 he will expand this reality even further. The Jews, he says, are branches which have been broken off the tree for the sake of allowing the wild Gentile branches to be grafted in. Make no mistake, however; if they could be broken off, they, too, can be grafted back in-and they will be, if they do not persist in unbelief.
In Christ, Paul asserts in Galatians 3:26-29, there is no Jew, Greek, slave, free, male, female-all are one in Christ Jesus. If a person belong to Christ, he says, that person IS Abrahams' seed and an heir according to God's promises.
God's promises for Israel have never been cancelled. They are still for Israel. Through Jesus, however, who removed the division between Jew and Gentile, "Israel" has been expanded to include all Jews and all Gentiles who accept Jesus. Through the indwelling Holy Spirit, all who are in Christ are the true descendants of Abraham and the heirs of God's promises.
Meat and Manna
The miracle of Pentecost and the new birth for those who trust Christ not only fulfilled Joel 2:28-32 but also Moses' ancient wish during the desert wanderings of Israel.
The story appears in Numbers 11:4-35. Israel had been receiving manna for an extended period of time. It fell fresh every evening with the dew, and after the people gathered it in the morning, the leftovers disappeared. A double portion fell on the sixth day of the week, and none fell on Sabbath. It tasted as if it were made with honey and olive oil-in other words, it tasted good. Moreover, it clearly was a miracle of God. The Israelites, however, grew tired of it and began to clamor for the food of Egypt-especially the meat. A large delegation of family leaders gathered in front of Moses' tent and complained. They were upset, and Moses whined to God, demanding to know why God had left him to manage the ungrateful multitude. He was so upset, in fact, that he said he could not continue to carry the burden of all those people by himself. He asked God to put him to death, if he had found favor in His eyes, rather than go on as he had been doing.
God answered Moses by telling him to select 70 elders of Israel and to have them come to the tent of meeting. There God would speak to Moses and would "take of the Spirit that is on [Moses] and put the Spirit on them" (v. 17). These 70 would help govern Israel. Further, God promised He would send the Israelites meat, since that's what they wanted-so much meat, in fact, that they would become sick. God responded to Moses' desperation by providing him administrative help, and he responded to the people's grumbling and bad attitudes by giving them what they wanted-so much, in fact, that they suffered.
Moses assembled the 70 men, and when God put His Spirit on them, they prophesied, "but they did not do so again" (verse 25). Apparently the prophesying was a result of the intense religious experience of receiving the Holy Spirit and served the function of authenticating their roles as spiritual leaders to the people. Interestingly, two of the 70 did not come to the tent of meeting as requested. When the Spirit of God came upon the men, however, the two who did not come also received Him and prophesied when the others did.
Joshua was outraged that they should receive this gift when they hadn't complied with the request to assemble, and he told Moses to stop them. Moses response revealed much about him-and it also had a prophetic quality: "Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all the Lord's people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!"(verse 29)
Moses' understanding that he, like everyone who honors God, was simply His servant and not "special" in his own right nor deserving of God's blessing because of his obedience or position reveals that he understood the timeless reality of God's sovereign mercy and grace.
Moreover, God's bestowing His Spirit on the two who failed to respond to the summons to assemble reveals-again-God's sovereign choice. God trusted Moses with the responsibility of selecting the 70 elders, and God anointed them with His Spirit for the work they were to do. His decision to set them apart did not depend upon their response to Moses at that particular time; God's gifts are the results of His decisions. In addition, this sovereign act of God occasioned Moses' unselfish response which helps illustrate the unfounded, malicious nature of Miriam and Aaron's complaints in chapter 12 against Moses. Finally, Moses' response expressing his desire that all God's people would have God's Spirit foreshadows the fulfillment of this idea at Pentecost when God poured out His Spirit on all who trust Christ. As usual, however, the reality was even more profound than the prophetic shadow; God did not simply place His Spirit on His people, but He placed Him within each believer. His outpouring for those who believe is not temporary or external; it is internal and results in a new birth-a new identity that makes a person completely different.
God's sovereign anointing of the two who did not convene at the meeting place has an echo in Philippians 1:15-18. Paul is in prison, and teachers arose who were preaching Christ "out of envy and rivalry," "out of selfish ambition, not sincerely" while actually thinking they can stir up trouble for Paul. Paul did not rebuke these self-motivated preachers but said, "The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice." God will glorify Himself through whomever He chooses. Those He chooses do not necessarily show any worth or characteristics deserving of God's graces. His gifting is His sovereign right.
Meanwhile, God sent quail to Israel. They glutted themselves on the meat, but as they were gorging, God sent a plague among them. "While the meat was still between their teeth and before it could be consumed, the anger of the Lord burned against the people, and he struck them with a severe plague" (verse 33). Israel's sin was not that they wanted or ate meat. Rather, their sin was in rejecting the manna-the bread of life God had given them. It was the evidence of His mercy, and they spurned it, desiring instead the food of Egypt. They rejected God's provision of life and the shadow of Jesus and turned back to he food of the evil and death from which God had rescued them. Their real sin was ingratitude and rejection of God and His mercy. They embraced the symbols of bondage and sin and scorned their redemption and sustenance.
Hearing the Gospel
From his reference to Joel 2:32 where he quotes the words, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved," Paul segues into a discussion of how people hear the gospel so they can call on the Lord. In this passage he addresses the possible argument that the Jews rejected Jesus because they had not had ample opportunity to hear the truth about Him. In response to this anticipated argument Paul builds a defense of the process of delivering the gospel and shows that the Jews had, indeed, received ample evidence of Jesus' identity.
Paul begins dissecting the process of receiving the gospel by working backwards to the origin of the delivery of the good news. How can people call on the Lord, he asks, if they haven't believed in Him? (They can't, of course.) And how, Paul persists, can people believe in someone of whom they haven't heard? (Again, the answer is they can't.) If people haven't heard of the Lord, how can they be responsible for not calling on Him? In such a case, no one has preached to them. Finally, no one can preach to someone unless he is sent to preach. In other words, ultimately no one will be able to call on the Lord unless God sends someone to preach the good news to him.
Again Paul quotes the Old Testament and honors the obedience of those who respond to God's call to preach the gospel: "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!"
This quote echoes Isaiah 52:7, but the metaphor of beautiful feet bringing good news did not originate with Isaiah. This figure of speech stemmed from the early days of Israel's monarchy. In context, this phrase originally referred to the foot messengers who brought the king good news from battle.
2 Samuel 18:19-26 explains the significance of beautiful feet carrying good tidings. When Absalom rebelled against his father, King David, and led a rebellion against he father's army, David waited for word from the battle. Absalom was killed, thus ending the threat against David's life. Ahimaaz, son of Zadok, wanted to be the runner to bear the news to David, Joab, the leader of David's forces, however, told him he was not the right person to run because the king's son was dead. David should not hear bad news from one of his own men. So saying, Joab appointed a Cushite to run with the news, but Ahimaaz insisted he be allowed to run also.
The men ran alone, and Ahimaaz overtook the Cushite and arrived first. When David saw him approaching in the distance he said, "If he is alone, he must be bringing good news." He soon saw the Cushite approaching and surmised he also bore good news since he ran alone. When David finally identified Ahimaaz, he sais, "He's a good man; He comes with good news."
When David heard that Absalom was dead, however, he began to mourn. Although the news was good politically and David had been delivered from his enemy, David considered the death of his son to be tragic news, and he didn't receive the news of the victory well.
Traditionally, ancient kings killed the bearers of bad news, while the bearers of good news received honor. The imagery of the words "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!" originates with this ancient custom of chosen runners bearing good news from battle to the waiting king.
When Isaiah wrote "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news" in 52:7, he was foreshadowing Israel's return from Babylonian captivity. "Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices; together they shout for joy. When the Lord returns to Zion, they will see it with their own eyes. Burst into songs of joy together, you ruins of Jerusalem, for the Lord has comforted his people he has redeemed Jerusalem" (Is. 52:8-9). Israel understood this prophecy to mean they would be redeemed and restored by God's sovereign act.
Verse 12 continues the imagery of the return of captives: "But you will not leave in haste or go in flight; for the Lord will go before you, the God of Israel will be your rear guard.
God Himself would clearly bring Israel home; they would not sneak or flee their captors. God would both lead them and protect them from behind, and no one would be able to stop their return to Jerusalem from Babylon.
Isaiah 49:9-11 also promises that God would bring His people back to Judah. Verse 11 contains the tender passage picturing Him as a shepherd: "He tends his flock like a shepherd; He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young."
Through Isaiah God promises that Israel will not have to effect her own rescue. God Himself will orchestrate, lead, and nurture His people's release from captivity and their finding safety in their own land which He provided for them.
Paul now expands our understanding of these timeless prophecies. He shows that Jesus is the means of the fulfillment of these ancient prophecies. Through His defeat of the power of sin and death, Jesus has opened the way for God's people of all races to return to the Father and to find safety in their eternal home in His heart. No longer do they have to live as strangers in enemy territory; they have been redeemed and have been restored to God.
How beautiful are the feet of those who bear this astonishing news! Those who bear the good news are all those who know Jesus and receive the Holy Spirit. Jesus' last words to his disciples were a command to make disciples, to bear witness of Him to the uttermost parts of the earth, and to baptize believers in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16). They would be His witnesses, Jesus said, after the Holy Spirit would come on them with power. Then they would carry the news of Him to the whole world (Luke 24:26-29; Acts 1:8).
Isaiah foretold the universal salvation of Jesus. In Isaiah 44:5-6 the prophet delivers a multi-layered prophecy. He acknowledges God's call of him from before his birth to deliver the message of Israel's rescue from Babylonian captivity. In the same prophecy he foretells the Messiah's rescue of not only Israel but all the Gentiles as well from their bondage to sin. Now, after Jesus' death, resurrection, and ascension, all those who accept Jesus and are born again by the Spirit carry the good news. Paul and Barnabas, who did not follow Jesus while He was on earth, nonetheless accepted Him and became giants of faith and obedience. (See Acts 14:21 for a record of the success of their preaching.)
All we who embrace Jesus become equipped by the Spirit to be messengers of the gospel of peace. It is our feet that are beautiful because of the good news we bear.
Old Testament Fulfilled
One of the remarkable things Paul has done in the first 15 verses of chapter 10 is to use seven direct references or quotations from the Torah and the prophets in the Old Testament. Through Paul, God is showing the world how the shadows and prophecies which the Jews knew well have found an over-arching fulfillment in Jesus. When these promises and prophecies were first made, the Israelites knew God was both desiring their obedience and promising His ultimate rescue of them from bondage and danger. What they did not understand was that these promises would be fulfilled not simply physically but spiritually as well through the sacrifice of Jesus, the Messiah.
God called and equipped Paul to explain the mystery and administration of the New Covenant (Ephesians 3:8-9). Paul, who intimately knew the Old Testament Scriptures, understood exactly how Jesus was the focus of all of them. He understood through Jesus' teaching and revelation, that the promises of salvation were for all people, not only the Jews. He understood that the promises to Israel were for all those who would be grafted into the tree which is Christ.
We can thank God for giving the world the apostle Paul, for revealing and explaining the miraculous fulfillment of God's promises through Jesus. The New Testament is not an addition to the Old. It is the explanation of the fulfillment of the Old. Without the New Testament we lack the full and final revelation of God to this sinful world. Jesus is what the world has waited for, and until He returns in person to establish His kingdom, He is God's Word to us. In Jesus is the hope and the completion of every law and promise made to mankind.
The New Testament reveals Jesus to the world. It is the revelation through which the shadows of the Old Testament can be understood.
As a child of God, you are called to bear the gospel of the Lord Jesus. Just as God used people in your life to awaken you to Him, so He will use you to awaken others. God is calling you to surrender the resistance you carry in your heart to allowing Him to glorify Himself through you. Even if you hide from yourself, you cannot hid from God. He already knows where you mixed motives and a divided heart. He knows what you want to control in your life. He knows what you don't want to face; He knows the events that have shaped your life and created fear and self-obsession in you.
God wants to heal those fears and obsessions. He cannot heal those things, however, if you refuse to acknowledge them or surrender them to Him. As long as you rationalize or try to "figure out" what God wants, or as long as you continue focusing on your "problems" and how to "fix" them, you will never break into the victory Jesus is longing to give you.
Jesus asks you to rejoice in Him, and only then will you be able to extend yourself in gentleness and without anxiety. Only after you begin rejoicing in Jesus will you be able to make your requests known to God with thanksgiving. When you lead in your life with rejoicing in the Lord, however, when you cast your anxieties onto Him in complete surrender of your right to manage them, then His peace will guard your heart in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:4-7).
God is longing to glorify Himself through you. He is calling you to take up your cross-your relationship with Him and the surrender that requires-and to embrace Him before all your comfortable habits. He is asking you to allow Him to be of the highest value in your life, surpassing even your desire to control your own destiny and to pursue the dreams you think you want.
God will bring into your life the very work he prepared in advance for you to do (Ephesians 2:10) when you surrender your fear of the unknown and your fear of losing control to Him. Surrendering to Jesus is the only risk that is completely guaranteed to satisfy your longing.
When you can act on your trust in Him and do what you know He is asking you to do, your heart will begin to overflow with joy and gratitude. Your feet will become those beautiful feet shod in the gospel of peace, bearing good news. When you finally act in obedience to the call for Jesus, not only your life will be transformed; the lives of everyone you touch will also experience the touch of God.
Praise God for calling you to be His child. Honor Jesus by surrendering
your stubborn refusal to admit the truth about your life, and submit to
His call to receive forgiveness for your fear and willfulness. Glorify God
by allowing the Spirit to make your life new with His power and discernment
and integrity. Praise Father, Son, and Holy Spirit for redeeming you and
for giving you a completely new life.
Copyright (c) 2006 Graphics Studio, Redlands,
CA USA. All rights reserved. Posted June 21, 2006.