Introduction:This evening we have come to the end of chapter nine, though it is not the end of Paul's witness regarding his own desire in the face of Israel's failure. The chapter begins with his declaration that he loves his kinsmen according to the flesh without reservation and the next chapter begins with a description of his "heart's desire and prayer to God" for them. We must conclude, therefore, that there is nothing of a doctrinal nature in these chapters that is contradictory to a genuine, selfless love. The problem for most of us is that a significant amount of the doctrinal content of chapter nine seems to be "hateful". In fact, "Esau I hated" is a part of the doctrinal content. And, in addition, the chapter closes with a declaration that God deliberately put a stumbling stone in the path of all who walked in Zion. Does this sound like "love"?
This evening we are going to consider the claim that God put a stumbling stone in Zion and that Paul's kinsmen according to the flesh stumbled over it.
I. The Background.
A. The Gentiles got a "no effort" status of perfect righteousness before the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
B. Israel, on the other hand, was denied such a status even though he "sought" it.
II. The Explanation.
A. Paul's explanation is given at multiple levels.
1. Israel did not obtain his goal because he sought it by an ineffectual method.
a. There is a method identified as "faith".
1) In this context, "faith" is revealed to have its "locus" in Another, but its resultsupon the one believing.
2) In this context, "faith" is not only what allows one to obtain righteousness from God (9:30), but also what prevents one from being subjected to the very "monster" of which the devil and his seed among men are so fearful (9:33).
b. There is a method identified as "works".
1) This is not a "faithless" method; it is simply a "shifted locus" method.
2) In this context, "works", as a method, has a fundamental attribute: the intent of imposing one's will upon God by the forceful use of His own attributes against Him.
2. Israel's method was ineffectual because he stumbled in the pursuit.
a. The first element in Paul's imagery is Israel's "pursuit" (a verb that often indicates a high speed foot race).
b. The second element in Paul's imagery is Israel's "ignorant" (see 10:2) collision with the "stone of stumbling".
3. Israel stumbled because a stumbling stone had been placed in his path (Isaiah 8:14 put together with 28:16).
4. Israel's stumble was caused by God because He was unwilling for Israel to "catch" his real "objective".
a. God is never deceived by the superficial cloaks and smoke by which men deceive one another.
b. When God sees an unworthy objective, He sets himself against its final fulfillment (though He may well permit a host of its intermediate objectives to be fulfilled).
c. This unworthy objective has already been revealed above: the intent to impose one's will upon God in disregard for Love.
B. Paul's explanation gives an alternative to what is going to happen to Israel by way of a "promise".
1. The weight of the promise is significant.
a. In 3:27 Paul made a rather "big deal" out of how "boasting" was eliminated, and in 4:2 he re-made the issue an issue.
b. In this text (9:33) he makes at least a part of the "boasting" issue the foundation for the significance of the "promise".
1) Part of the reason for "boasting" is related to "being shamed" in that those who boast have already made "shame" their greatest fear and adversary.
2) Any "promise" of the absence of "shame" is, by everyone's measure, a desirable objective.
2. There is a "problem" with the "promise".
a. The fact is "shamelessness" cannot come without being "ashamed".
b. Jesus put this truth before His audience in this form: "Whosoever shall fall upon that stone shall be broken; but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder" (Luke 20:18).
c. The distinction, however, is significant.
1) Being "shamed" by the facts of our sin and need is temporary.
2) Being "shamed" by our rejection of those facts is eternal.