What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory, even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?
As He says also in Hosea:
“I will call them My people, who were not My people, and her beloved, who was not beloved.”
“And it shall come to pass in the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not My people,’ There they shall be called the sons of the living God.”
Isaiah also cries out concerning Israel:
“Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, the remnant will be saved.
For He will finish the work and cut it short in righteousness, because the Lord will make a short work upon the earth.”
And as Isaiah said before:
“Unless the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, we would have become like Sodom, and would have been made like Gomorrah.”
Father, Your word is living and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword, and it certainly does cut deep; it divides between soul and spirit, and joint and marrow. It’s a discerner of the thoughts and the intents of our hearts, which we recognize, as the prophet Jeremiah declared, are deceitful, they’re desperately wicked. We don’t even know, many times, the depths of the wickedness of our own hearts. And yet You search our heart, and what You find in our heart, Lord, it doesn’t surprise You. You know what we are; You know who we are, that we are just dust. And yet, Lord, You became a man, You made Yourself a little lower than the angels, crowned with glory and honor, that You might be the perfect High Priest to save us. And You save us to the uttermost, as we come to You. So we come to You tonight rejoicing in the salvation that You have given to us, because, as we just sang, You are risen from the dead, You have conquered death. So Lord, conquer sin and death in our lives, we ask. We pray this in Jesus’ name. And all God’s people agreed, saying, “Amen.”
You can be seated.
Have you ever been asked or told to do something that is difficult, difficult maybe even to the point of the impossible? In the 8th Century B.C., a prophet of God among the northern tribes of the nation of Israel – a little history may help, if you haven’t studied things about the nation of Israel. After the reign of the great King David, and after his son Solomon saw the nation come to its heights, and the great palace and temple were built there in Jerusalem. Then came the son of Solomon, who was not a very wise guy. Unfortunately the apple fell very far from the tree; his father being one of the wisest men who ever lived, and yet his son was quite daft. And he wouldn’t heed the wisdom, the instruction of those counselors that were over him or with him, and so he was very hard upon the people, and it caused there to be something of a civil unrest. And the nation was divided into two kingdoms, two nations – the nation of Israel became the northern kingdom, and southern kingdom. And the northern kingdom – ten tribes made up the northern kingdom – they drifted far away from God, to the point that God was ready to judge them for their sin. And in the 8th Century B.C., God sent a prophet to them, a man by the name of Hosea. And Hosea was asked by God to do something that was exceedingly difficult, and truly it may have been even to the point of impossibility. It’s told to us there in the opening words of the book of Hosea. You can turn there if you’d like. We’re going to spend a few minutes in the book of Hosea. It’s right after the book of Daniel. So if you open to the Psalms and turn right, you’ll eventually find Hosea.
Hosea is told by God, in Hosea chapter 1, verse 2, to go and take and make a prostitute your wife, and you are going to have children with her. Go and marry this woman who is a prostitute. Now, of course any of us, if we were ever asked by God to do something akin to that, on the same level as that, we’d probably want to know why. Why, God, are You asking me to do something that, quite literally, was against God’s commandment there in Deuteronomy? And God says, “I want you to do this.”
“Why would You call me to do something, surely only heartache and pain can be the outcome of what it is that You are calling me to do.” Nevertheless, Hosea did what God commanded him. Hosea did what the Lord had directed him to do. And he, with this harlot, her name was Gomer (great name), they had three children. And in and through the experience of this prophet Hosea, with this wife who was a prostitute, and with their three children, God reveals, through this experience – all of these things are written as an illustration – He reveals the depths of His heart, God does, for His people, the children of Israel, who had gone astray, who had walked away from Him, who had turned their backs on Him, and who had lived idolatrously, adulteressly in harlotry.
Ultimately the children who were born to Hosea and Gomer would be named by God. In the first chapter of the book of Hosea, we’re given all three of these children’s names. The first one God instructed Hosea, in verse 4 of chapter 1, this was a son; He says, “You’re to call his name Jezreel.” Now, the name Jezreel, or the word jezreel, it describes the action of someone taking something and tossing it away. And the illustration that God was speaking through this name, Jezreel, was that you, My people, the nation of Israel, you are going to be tossed away because of your sin. Because of the things that you’ve done, even though you’ve been in My hand, now I’m going to cast you away. It’s the same sort of picture that’s used, it’s the same word in the Hebrew language that’s used of a sower, a farmer going and casting seeds, sowing seed. And so God is saying, “Because of your sin, you are going to be jezreel to Me. I’m going to cast you away. I’m going to toss you away.”
Then the name of the second child, a daughter, was given in verse 6, and God says to Hosea, “You’re to call her name Lo-Ruhamah,” which means unpitied. For Israel, as a result of their sin, God says, “I’m not only going to cast you away, but all that you go through, I’m not going to pity you, because you’ve brought it upon yourself. Everything that you’re experiencing, this judgment that you’re going to go through, it’s something that you’ve brought upon yourself. And so I won’t pity you in the midst of this devastation that comes upon you.”
And then we’re told in verse 9 that Gomer conceived and brought forth another child, and God said, “I want you to name this child Lo-Ammi, this son, name him Lo-Ammi,” which means not My people. God’s final proclamation upon the sinful people of the northern ten tribes of Israel, because they had walked away from Him, because they had served false gods in idolatry, God says, “You are not My people.” Hosea chapter 1, verse 9: “You are not My people, and I will not be your God.” Now that sounds harsh!! Doesn’t it? I mean that seems a pretty big thing to do there, God; these are Your people, You called them to be Your people. They’re descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and yet now You’re going to say, “You’re not My people. I’m going to toss you away. I’m not going to pity you.” That seems pretty heavy. Why would You do that?
Well, you know, this is actually in accordance exactly with God’s law in Deuteronomy. Deuteronomy had commanded His people, “I want you to be My people, and I will be your God. And you will walk in My statutes, and I will bless you.” “You will be My people, and I will your God. But if you walk away, if you depart, if you turn to false gods,” God said, “You will not longer be My people, and I will no longer be your God.” And so in fulfillment of those words, given through Moses, nearly a thousand years before this would take place, we see the patience, the longsuffering of God through the nation of Israel. They continued to walk away, and now, at this point, after He had constantly called out to them, through the prophets. He had sent prophets to them saying, “Return and repent and follow the Lord, and He will bless you.”
And yet now they’d walked so far away that God says, “I’m going to cast you away, and I’m not going to pity you, and you are not going to be My people.” Because of their sinful unrighteousness, there in the 8th Century, through the prophet Hosea, God would say, “You are not My people, and I will not be your God.” Why?
Well look at Hosea chapter 4. Hosea chapter 4, verse 17. We’re given an indication as to why God would do this. Hosea 4:17, it’s a small verse, a short verse, but it’s very clear; there’s a little exposition that needs to be done. Hosea 4:17: “Ephraim,” that’s the name of the northern ten tribes, “Ephraim is joined to idols, let him alone.” Now that word joined means married; Ephraim is married to idols, let him alone. What a heavy pronouncement. And in letting them alone, God would turn them over to vanity, and ultimately to judgment.
Hosea, inspired by the Holy Spirit, he would continue in the 8th chapter; turn to Hosea chapter 8. Hosea chapter 8, look at verse 8; there we read: “Israel,” the northern ten tribes, “Israel is swallowed up; they are among the Gentiles now like a vessel in which is no pleasure.” Verse 14, the beginning of the verse, why did this happen? “For Israel has forgotten his Maker.” “Israel has forgotten his Maker.” Therefore they are swallowed up; now they are among the Gentiles, the nations, the heathen; like a vessel in which is no pleasure. Now we saw in our survey of Romans chapter 9, last time, that God, from the same lump of clay, which is fallen humanity, from the same lump of clay He is able to fashion and to form one to be a vessel that brings honor to Him – a vessel for honor – and a vessel for no honor, that brings no honor to Him. And so here in Hosea chapter 8 the northern ten tribes of Israel had become a dishonorable vessel, even though they were the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; even though they were living in the Promised Land; even though they were accounted as God’s chosen people. Now, at this point, God says, “You have become a vessel in which is no pleasure; you are dishonorable.” And upon them God would declare, look at this, Hosea chapter 9; look at verse 15, near the end of the verse. Hosea 9:15: “Because of the evil of their deeds I will drive them from My house, and I will love them no more.”
Then in verse 17 we see Hosea’s application. He’s been prophesying the word of God, the Holy Spirit of God speaking through this man, this prophet, and now he makes an applicable word after he’s said all these things. This is his statement, his commentary; verse 17 of Hosea chapter 9: “My God will cast them away,” jezreel, He’s going to cast them away. Why? “Because they did not obey Him; and they shall be wanderers among the nations.” That word nations there is the Hebrew word gowy; it’s also translated the Gentiles. They are going to be just like other nations now, even though they are descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; even though they are God’s people. Now He says, “Because of their disobedience and their sin, I’m casting them away, and they will be accounted like the Gentiles, the nations.”
And all this would come upon Israel, God’s called-out ones, because why? Well, Hosea chapter 11. Hosea 11, look at the last five words of verse 5; Hosea 11:5 – “Because they refused to” what? “Repent.” They refused to repent. That word repent means turn back. They didn’t just backslide, they determined in their hearts that they would no longer follow God, and they followed after idols, they followed after the ways of their own hearts, they did what was right in their own eyes. And as a result they did evil in the eyes of the King, in the eyes of God. And so God says, “Because they would not repent.”
Now you may say, “Well did they ever have an opportunity to repent?”
Yes, for hundreds of years God would send prophets to them saying, “Come, turn back to the Lord. Come experience His blessing; be His people, and He will be your God.” And yet they refused. They didn’t just neglect; they refused to repent!!
Now the question is: What does all this have to do with Romans chapter 9? Paul knew that some of his readers would object to the teaching that he has given here in this book, in Romans. Especially what Paul says at the end of Romans chapter 8, where in those last verses of Romans chapter 8, he says, “Nothing shall be able to separate us from the love of God.” Now, anyone understanding the history of the Bible, before the time that Paul said those things to the Romans, would know that the children of Israel were God’s loved people. He said to them through the prophet Jeremiah, “I have loved you with an everlasting love.” And so now here in Romans chapter 8 he says, “Nothing shall separate us from the love of God.” And someone who was astute, or keen, or aware of what the Scriptures had said before that, they would say, “What a minute!! I object!! What about Israel? How is it that those people, to whom God said, ‘I’ve loved you with an everlasting love;’ to those He said, ‘I have given you everlasting promises and covenants;’ how is it that they are not under the blessing of God in Christ Jesus, if nothing shall separate us from God’s love?” It seems like something separated them. And so that would be objection number one.
Furthermore, Paul recognized that some, especially the Jewish readers of this letter to the church at Rome, would object to Gentiles, that is non-Jews, they would object to Gentiles being the recipients of God’s salvation, God’s grace, and God’s mercy. They would look at that and they would say, “What a minute, we are God’s chosen people. We are descendants of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. We have the priesthood. We have the oracles of God – that’s the Scriptures. We have the covenants; we have the promises. We have all these things that Paul speaks of in Romans chapter 9, in the early verses. We have all of this accounted to us, and you’re telling us that we’re not the recipients of God’s grace; and yet Gentiles who don’t have those things are! I object!! Oy vey!!” They’d look at that, and they’d say, “That just doesn’t seem to fit.”
And so, in response to both of these objections, Paul has given clear proof that these things are so. And as we’ve gone through Romans chapter 9 we’ve seen how Paul used first the illustration of the actual descendants of Abraham. He spoke about Ishmael and Isaac; he spoke about Jacob and Esau. And then he moved from there and he saw how God’s mercy was placed upon Moses and not Pharaoh. And so he’s been using the history of Israel to show how these things are true – that God would save Gentiles; that God would extend mercy to those who were not His people. And that those who were His people, those who were descendants of Abraham would, because of their hardness, be tossed away and unpitied and not His people.
And now as we come to the closing words of Romans chapter 9, Paul not only uses the history of Israel, but now he uses the Scriptures of Israel to support this claim. He uses the Old Testament prophets to prove that this is true, that yes, there would be those who were descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, many in fact, who would not receive grace and mercy and salvation because of the hardness of their hearts. And yet there would also be people among the Gentiles, the nations – in fact how many here today are non-Jewish, how many of you are Gentiles? Lift your hand up high. Most of us!! Look around, we’re Gentiles!! That God would save Gentiles. Is this really something that is seen throughout the Scriptures – Old Testament as well as applied in the New? Yes!!
You see Paul rightly recognized that the Old Testament, and all the happenings upon the nation of Israel that are given there in the Old Testament, they are given for our instruction and our admonition. In 1 Corinthians chapter 10, verse 11, there Paul says this: “Now all these things happened to them,” the Old Testament, it happened to Israel, “as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the age have come.” Now with this truth given to us in 1 Corinthians chapter 10, I just have to confess that it is a sad reality that so many in the modern church spent very little time in the Old Testament of the Bible. They just don’t know what’s there; have no idea what happened from Genesis to Malachi. And yet all of those things, those first 39 books of our Bibles, the bulk of our Bibles, that so many people don’t ever even look at, it’s all written for our instruction, for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the age have come. You look around today and there’s a lot of people who say, “We’re living in the last days.” And if that’s true, then you better be reading the Old Testament and figuring out: What is it that God would want to speak to us there in His word? I’ll suggest to you that at least one thing is true that we find from the Old Testament: The Lord was coming in Old Testament times; they were announcing that He was going to come, and they needed to be ready. And the reality was, when He came the first time, they were not ready; they just weren’t ready. They’d hardened their heart, they’d turned from the Lord.
And so Paul, here in Romans chapter 9, in detailing his answer to Israel’s lostness – the lostness of the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – in light of Gentile salvation, he goes back to the old covenant, he goes back to the happenings of the Old Testament. And he refers us back to two prophets, two prophets who lived at the exact same time in Israel’s history. The prophet Hosea, who lived and ministered among the northern ten tribes of Israel, and the prophet Isaiah, who lived at the exact same time among the southern tribes of Judah and Benjamin. And God would speak through these two prophets very similar words, although they were slightly different because they were spoken to two different groups of people. And so in Hosea, as we’ve already looked through the entire book of Hosea, just a quick overview of that book, we see that God called this man, Hosea, to do something difficult, something that you and I would look at and say, “That’s almost impossible.”
“I want you to go and marry someone who’s going to turn her back on you. You’re going to reach out to her and call her to be yours, and yet you know, from day one, that she’s going to turn her back and heart from you as soon as she can.” And that was the experience of Hosea. As you read through the sad story of Hosea, you find that on several occasions he would have to go and find his wife continuing to play the harlot, and he would have to bring her back to himself. At one time God said, “I want you to go and find her” because she had sunk so low, she had become a slave. And He says, “Go and buy her back to be yours again.” And then through that story God says, “This is My story. This is what has happened with Me, Hosea, and My people Israel. They have repeatedly turned their backs and their hearts from Me and wandered away, even to the point that I’d have to buy them back out of slavery. And so, I’m going to cast them off in judgment. I’m not going to pity them, and they’re no longer going to be My people, and I will not be their God any longer.”
And yet in Hosea chapter 2, which Paul quotes here in Romans chapter 9, God says this, Hosea chapter 2, verse 23; this is reading from Romans chapter 9, verse 25: God says, “I will call them My people, who were not My people, and her beloved, who was not beloved. And it shall come to pass in the place where it is said of them, ‘You are not My people,’ there they shall be called the sons of the living God.” You see this is an awesome thing that God is able to do, that God actually does. Even though He had pronounced a judgment upon the northern ten tribes of Israel in Hosea chapter 1, and said, “You, because of your sin, are no longer going to be My people,” then just a few verses later in Hosea chapter 2, verse 23, He says, “But you know what, I love them so much that I am going to reach out to them once again, to the remnant, and I’m going to call them back. And whosoever will that comes, I will call those who are not My people to be My people again.” An awesome picture of God’s grace and His mercy; that even though the majority of the northern ten tribes of Israel would go into captivity, even though they would be tossed away and unpitied by God, God would call out to them again in the depths, and He would say, “You, any of you who hear My voice and heed My call, if you will respond and come back to Me, I will declare once again, ‘You are My people.’”
Now in the context of Hosea chapter 2, in about 720 B.C., those words were spoken to the nation of Israel. The context was for the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob during the day of Hosea, but it had application that reached into the future, into even our day, because Paul, in Romans chapter 9, he uses those words, inspired of the Holy Spirit, Paul says not only did those words apply to the children of Israel all those years ago, but now they apply to Gentiles today. Because those people, who were not God’s people, God has called out to those, us – Gentiles – and says, “If you will come, you will be My people.” Now don’t we all want to be someone’s people. We have that saying: I got my people; I’ll have my people talk to your people. We want to be God’s people!! So I don’t know about you, but I want to be His people. And so here we have this prophetic announcement through the prophet Hosea, that had application to the nation of Israel that had departed from God in the 8th Century B.C., but it has application now in our day, and for the last 2,000 years as well. Because there are many people on the face of this earth that are fallen away from God; man is born into the fall. And yet God gives the call to them to come – “And whosoever will, come,” they become the people of God.
The question is: How can those who were not His people become His people? I mean, that’s what we want to know. How do we become His people? Would you turn to the New Testament book of 1 Peter? 1 Peter chapter 2; it’s ironically just before 2 Peter. [laughter] Right after the book of James. 1 Peter chapter 2 – Hebrews, James, 1 Peter. Look at verse 9; 1 Peter 2, verse 9. Now the context of 1 Peter – Peter is writing to Gentiles and Jews alike, who had become Christians through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. And he says this, 1 Peter chapter 2, verse 9: “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people.” Now some translations say “His own peculiar people;” we fit that don’t we? “His own special people,” why? Why has He called us? “That you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness and into His marvelous light.” Verse 10: You “who were once not a people but now you are the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now you have obtained mercy.” How do we become the people? How do we become God’s people, who were once not a people? Any and all who become the people of God, they do so by responding to His merciful call. You see that there in the text, in 1 Peter chapter 2, verse 9, he says that He has called you out of darkness and into His marvelous light, so that you who were not His people would be His people, that you would obtain mercy who had not obtained mercy. So by His merciful calling, and our response to that calling, we become His people. How did Abraham, thousands of years ago, become a person who is called the people of God? Because he responded to the call of God, that was a merciful call; Abraham was just another sinner. We have plenty of evidence in the Scripture to support that he was a polytheistic worshipper of idols. And yet God called out to this Babylonian man, and says, “I want you to come follow Me.” And he did. He responded to the call of God. And those who respond to the merciful call of God, they become, by God’s grace, His people. They can’t manufacture it themselves; they can’t make themselves His people, but they, by His grace, become His people.
Would you turn in your Bibles to the Gospel of John? Matthew, Mark, Luke, John – chapter 1. John chapter 1 – we read about Jesus, the Light, the Word of God, the Son of God. In John chapter 1, verse 10, look at this, John 1:10 – “He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. And He came to His own, but His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become the” what? “The children of God.” How did they do it? “To those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, …but of the will of God.” It’s by His grace, by His mercy. They heed and respond to the call of God, they put their trust in Him, and they become His people – “My people.”
Now notice here in this text that we’re in, Romans chapter 9, if you’d jump back there again. The call of God is central to what is taking place here in this passage. The call of God is the focal point. Any time we see words repeated, they’re repeated for a reason. Romans chapter 9, verse 23: “that He,” God, “might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory, even us whom He” what? Say it a little louder – “called.” “Even us whom He called, not of Jews only, but of Gentiles?
As He says in Hosea:
‘I will call them My people, who were not My people, and her beloved, who was not beloved.’ And it shall come to pass in the place where it is said of them, ‘You are not My people,’ there they shall be called the sons of the living God.”
We become the vessels of mercy prepared for glory by God’s calling and our response to His merciful calling. As we considered last week in the parables of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew – Matthew chapter 20, Matthew chapter 22 – there we see: many are called, but few are… Elect. Chosen, yes, but the word in Greek is eklektos, and it means elect. There are many who are called; the call goes out to all who would respond, and any who respond, they are the elect of God.
How do they become the elect of God? The only case that you can make from those parables is that they responded, where others did not. So both Jews and Gentiles that respond to God’s merciful call will become the recipients of God’s grace and salvation in Jesus Christ. Grace and salvation are only found in Jesus Christ; Ephesians chapter 1 makes this very, very clear. What we see there is that there is no grace and there is no salvation outside of Him. He is the only way. And Jesus Himself said this in John chapter 14, verse 6: “I am the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father but through Me.” Now, today we are told by many in our culture that that’s arrogant and narrow, for us to claim that we know the way and there’s only one way. But let me put it to you this way: If there was only one cure for cancer, and we told people that “Hey, you have cancer, but there’s only one cure for cancer,” do you think they’d argue with you and say, “That’s very narrow and arrogant that you’d say there’s only one?” No, it seems gracious, and honest!! Sure, go try all those other things, but there’s only one cure. That’s not narrow or arrogant, it’s gracious and just.
And so both Jews and Gentiles, by responding to God’s gracious and merciful call, receive the grace and salvation of Christ. But why, why are not all the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; why is not all Israel accounted as those who would receive that salvation by the mere fact that they’re the descendants of the one who received the call initially – Abraham? Well Paul answers that question by pointing back, not to Hosea, but Isaiah. Verse 27, Romans chapter 9, Romans 9:27 – “Isaiah also cries out concerning Israel:
‘Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, the remnant shall return. For He,’” God, “’will finish,’” or execute, “’the work and cut it short in’” justice, “’righteousness.’” The work that God does is just.
“As Isaiah said before:
‘Unless the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, we would have become like Sodom, and we would have been made like Gomorrah.’”
You see some see unfairness with God; some see injustice with God, because many of those descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are not granted entrance into heaven, and yet many Gentiles are. They look at that and they say it seems unjust, it seems unfair because they were the one who descended from the promised line. And yet there’s Gentiles who are not a part of that group that are given salvation, and yet there are Jews who are descendants of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob who are not.
During the day in which Paul the apostle lived and wrote this letter that we’re studying through, the book of Romans, there were many Jewish people that counted themselves the recipients of God’s promise whether or not they were faithful to Him. They figured “just because we have Abraham as our father, just because we have the priesthood, the temple, the oracles of God (the Scriptures), just because we have the covenants and promises, that means, by the very fact that we possess those things, we are the possession of God. Whether or not we follow Him, serve Him, love Him, or honor Him; we are His.” But the Scriptures, the whole of the Scriptures, do not bear that expectation, they just don’t hold it up. For God prophesied through the prophet Isaiah, a contemporary with Hosea, in the very same time, that 8th Century B.C.; He prophesied through Isaiah to this group of people who lived in the southern part of the nation of Israel, and He said to them in Isaiah chapter 10, verse 22 and 23: “For though your people, O Israel, be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall return, and the destruction decreed shall overflow with righteousness. For the Lord God of hosts will make a determined end in the midst of all the land.” Exactly what Paul quotes here in Romans chapter 9, verses 25 and on.
God did promise Abraham and Isaac and Jacob – four times in the book of Genesis before chapter 32 – four times God says to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, “Your descendants will be as the stars of the sky. Your descendants will be as the sand of the sea.” God, reaffirming His covenant and His commitment to them that they would have many descendants, and yet Isaiah, thousands of years later, speaks to the same group of people and says, “Although the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are many, only a remnant shall return, shall be saved.” Now the context of the passage is really important there in Isaiah chapter 10, there in the 8th Century B.C. You see the northern ten tribes of Israel, they had departed from God, and because of their departure, they were about to be judged by God. And God was going to use, as the instrument of His judgment, Isaiah chapter 10 tells us, He was going to use the nation of Assyria. If any of you have studied ancient Middle-Eastern history, you know that Assyria was a major player during the time before Christ. Assyria, led by several different kings – Tiglath-Pileser, Sargon, Sennacherib – you go down the list, these names, in antiquity, these names in history, outside the church people know these guys had power. These guys conquered the world. The Assyrian Empire, for more than a century, had the entire known world under its hand, and people say, “Wow!! Look at the power. Look at the ingenuity.” People still look back at these kings, you watch the History Channel, you’ll see segments about the Assyrian kings and the things that they invented for torture and for war. They say, “Phenomenal!!”
And you know what God tells us through the prophet Isaiah? In Isaiah chapter 10 He says, “Listen king of Assyria, don’t think you’re mighty, don’t think you’re great, don’t think you’re amazing; the reason you’re able to do this is because I’ve given you power to do it.”
Secular history looks back and goes, “Look at the phenomenal ingenuity of the kings of Assyria.” What was it that gave them that? God.
Why? Because He says, “I’m going to use you as the tool in My hand to execute judgment upon My people. And when I’m done with you, I’ll destroy you.” And He did!!
And the historians look back and say, “How is it that this great, huge empire was gone in an instant?!”
Because God said, “Okay, I’m done.” Phenomenal. See what you learn when you look through the lens of the Scripture. You can answer the questions that all the historians are going, “We just don’t know what happened. They just lost all their ingenuity like that [finger snap].”
Why? God said, “See ya. We’re done.”
How did that happen? Well, if you look forward in Isaiah, Isaiah 36 through 39, you find that Sennacherib, the king of Assyria, brought his army to Jerusalem to destroy the city of Jerusalem, and in one night, God sent one angel and killed 185,000 of them. You know what Sennacherib did? He said, “I’m goin’ home.” Smart!! Because God told him, through the prophet Isaiah, “I know where you sleep.” Literally!! That’s what the text says.
But in Isaiah chapter 10, God says, through the prophet Isaiah, to the people of Judah, the southern tribes of Israel; He says, “Listen, the Assyrians are going to come, they’re going to destroy the northern ten tribes because of their sin, but they’re also going to almost destroy you, because of your sin. But because of My grace, I’m going to allow a remnant to return.” The entire nation of Judah, the southern tribes of Judah and Benjamin, were annihilated except for one city – the city of Jerusalem. And the only reason the city of Jerusalem was saved was not because King Hezekiah’s ingenuity, it’s because God killed 185,000 Assyrians in one night. That’s how they survived. It was God’s grace that a remnant would return.
And so He prophesies that there in Isaiah chapter 10. Let me read to you the whole context. Verse 20 of Isaiah 10 says this: “And it shall come to pass in that day.” What day? When the Assyrian army is turned around. “That the remnant of Israel, and such as have escaped from the house of Jacob, will never again depend upon him that defeated them, but they will depend on the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, in sincerity.” What does He say there? He says, “Listen, what make the remnant the remnant? They trust in God.” That makes them the remnant. They trust in Him; they do not trust in man, they trust in God, in sincerity.
Verse 21: “The remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob.” Who will they return to? “To the Mighty God. For though your people, O Israel, be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall return.” And so Paul, to highlight the fact that not all Israel, not all descendants of Abraham are accounted as righteous, that only a remnant will be, he cites the words of Isaiah from the 8th Century, in Isaiah chapter 10.
But not only that, he cites the words of Isaiah, from Isaiah chapter 1: “Unless the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed,” a remnant, “we would have” been utterly annihilated like those of Sodom and Gomorrah. The prophet Isaiah recognized that if it had not been for God’s mercy and grace, the nation of Israel, because of their sin, they would have been justly destroyed, all of them, like Sodom and Gomorrah.
Well again, how then is the remnant, both of Israel and all humanity, how is the remnant saved? Look at Romans chapter 9, verse 30: “What shall we say then?” In light of all of this; in light of the story of Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and Esau and Moses and Pharaoh, in light of the words of Hosea and Isaiah; how should we respond to all of this? Paul says, “That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have attained,” or the word could also be appropriated, “they have appropriated righteousness, even the righteousness of” what, church? Say it loud. “Even the righteousness of faith; but Israel,” the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, “pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained,” or appropriated, “to the law of righteousness.” Why? “Because they did not seek it by” what? “They did not seek it by faith, but as it was written, by the works of the law. For they stumbled at the stumbling stone. As it is written: ‘Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone, a rock of offense, and whosoever believes on Him should not be put to shame.’” Those, whether descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – Jews – or Gentiles that will become God’s people receive mercy, and ultimately salvation, they receive that by grace through faith. Jews and Gentiles alike, from the Old Testament, from Genesis to Revelation, men and women who are fallen under sin, whether they’re descendants of Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob, or not, they’re saved by grace through faith. Man has always been saved by grace through faith. Genesis 15, verse 6: “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted unto him as righteousness.” It’s not of works, lest anyone should boast. “The people who were not a people” – Gentiles, most of us – “have become a people, the people of God by God’s mercy and grace,” says Peter in 1 Peter chapter 2. But the people that were a people – the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – they are not the same, they are not the people of God, unless they receive His grace for salvation, because “by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified in His sight.” They tried to save themselves by their own works. Paul the apostle, before he was a follower of Jesus Christ, was Saul of Tarsus, a Pharisee, and he counted himself to be blameless and righteous according to his works of the law, but on the road to Damascus, in Acts chapter 9, he learned something – he was not righteous!! And he needed grace for salvation. And when he received the grace of Christ, he was saved.
You see God is not asking you or I to do something difficult or impossible. If He had asked us to keep the law, that would be both difficult and impossible. If He had said, “You must do these 613 commandments written in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, or else you will not receive righteousness,” then every single one of us would say, “I guess we’re toast!” He’s not asking us to do something difficult or impossible. He’s not asking humanity to scale some mountain or build some monument to make their way up to God. No. God says, “You, turn from your sin, believe in Me, and you shall be saved.” God’s asking us to do something that, in reality, is amazingly simple, were it not for our proud flesh that wants to do something. He’s asking us to put our faith in His Son for salvation, to no longer trust in our own works, to no longer trust in ourselves, but to whole-heartedly trust in Him.
It’s my prayer that every single one in this room has done that, but I recognize that that may not be the case. So we want to give you an opportunity to do that today.
Would you stand with us, as we close in prayer today, and bow your hearts and your heads with me. See, it may be that as we stand here before the King of kings and Lord of lords, because He’s here in this place – He promised that wherever two or more are gathered, there He is in the midst of them. There may be some standing here today who, you have not yet received His grace for salvation, or, like Israel, perhaps you’ve turned away, and God is calling you today to turn back, to repent. How do you do that? Well the Scriptures are clear – confess your sins, believe that Jesus died and rose from the dead for you, accept His payment for your sin, repent, turn from your sins to follow Him, putting your faith in Him.
Father, we thank You for Your great grace. We thank You that You extend righteousness to us by faith and not by our works. And Lord we pray that You would help us to be able to articulate that, to share that with those we come in contact with in our neighborhoods, among our family members who don’t know You, in our workplace, wherever we’ll go. Lord, we thank You that, as we’re going to see when we get into Romans chapter 10, that whosoever calls upon You shall be saved; whoever believes in You will not be put to shame, whether Jew or Gentile. For You are the same Lord that is rich to all who call upon You. Lord, we pray that if there’s any here today who have not called upon You for salvation, that they would confess their sins to You today, believe and trust in what You did for us on the cross, accept that as a payment, Jesus, and turn from their sins to follow You. Work that in our lives, we pray; draw those who have not done so yet, we ask, in Jesus name. Amen.