1 Samuel 11
Then Nahash the Ammonite went up and besieged Jabesh-gilead, and all the men of Jabesh said to Nahash, “Make a treaty with us, and we will serve you.” But Nahash the Ammonite said to them, “On this condition I will make a treaty with you, that I gouge out all your right eyes, and thus bring disgrace on all Israel.” The elders of Jabesh said to him, “Give us seven days' respite that we may send messengers through all the territory of Israel. Then, if there is no one to save us, we will give ourselves up to you.” When the messengers came to Gibeah of Saul, they reported the matter in the ears of the people, and all the people wept aloud.
Now, behold, Saul was coming from the field behind the oxen. And Saul said, “What is wrong with the people, that they are weeping?” So they told him the news of the men of Jabesh. And the Spirit of God rushed upon Saul when he heard these words, and his anger was greatly kindled. He took a yoke of oxen and cut them in pieces and sent them throughout all the territory of Israel by the hand of the messengers, saying, “Whoever does not come out after Saul and Samuel, so shall it be done to his oxen!” Then the dread of the LORD fell upon the people, and they came out as one man. When he mustered them at Bezek, the people of Israel were three hundred thousand, and the men of Judah thirty thousand. And they said to the messengers who had come, “Thus shall you say to the men of Jabesh-gilead: ‘Tomorrow, by the time the sun is hot, you shall have salvation.’” When the messengers came and told the men of Jabesh, they were glad. Therefore the men of Jabesh said, “Tomorrow we will give ourselves up to you, and you may do to us whatever seems good to you.” And the next day Saul put the people in three companies. And they came into the midst of the camp in the morning watch and struck down the Ammonites until the heat of the day. And those who survived were scattered, so that no two of them were left together.
Then the people said to Samuel, “Who is it that said, ‘Shall Saul reign over us?’ Bring the men, that we may put them to death.” But Saul said, “Not a man shall be put to death this day, for today the LORD has worked salvation in Israel.” Then Samuel said to the people, “Come, let us go to Gilgal and there renew the kingdom.” So all the people went to Gilgal, and there they made Saul king before the LORD in Gilgal. There they sacrificed peace offerings before the LORD, and there Saul and all the men of Israel rejoiced greatly.
(1 Samuel 11 ESV)
I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit—that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh. They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.
But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.” And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God's purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls—she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”
What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God's part? By no means! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.
You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? As indeed he says in Hosea,
“Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’
and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’”
“And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’
there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’”
And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved, for the Lord will carry out his sentence upon the earth fully and without delay.” And as Isaiah predicted,
“If the Lord of hosts had not left us offspring,
we would have been like Sodom
and become like Gomorrah.”
What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, as it is written,
“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense;
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”
(Romans 9 ESV)
Something to Consider
Romans 9: Beginning in chapter nine, the apostle Paul begins to address a potential objection from his audience based on his declaration that the Christian can have great confidence in the eternal faithfulness of God to bring to completion what He has begun in the life of those He has justified. The objection can be put in this way:
“If God guarantees to finish what He has started then what about Israel? If the Christian’s final glorification is certain because it is God’s purpose (Romans 8) then how do you explain the reason that a vast majority of Israel are not now Christians? Has God’s purpose for Israel changed, and if it has, how can the Christian have any confidence in God’s purpose for him?”
The apostle begins his answer to this objection by first expressing his great concern for his fellow Israelites. He desperately wants them to come to understand and know what the Holy Spirit has made plain to him. He desires their salvation to the point of almost wishing he could sacrifice his own salvation for theirs. And not only does Israel’s rejection of Christ cause Paul “great sorrow and unceasing anguish”, but he is nearly perplexed at the tragic nature of their unbelief. How could a people with all these privileges concerning God's plan and purpose completely overlook and miss that plan being executed through Christ? They are Israelites! How did this happen?
And now he begins to deal with the objection: “So what went wrong? Has God’s purpose for Israel changed? Has God changed His mind concerning Israel?”
No, because not everyone who descends from Israel belongs to Israel. Being a physical descendant of Abraham doesn't mean you belong to ‘Israel’ - God's chosen people.
This is a point that the apostle has already made before (Romans 2), and one he explains again here by using the examples of Abraham’s immediate children and grandchildren. Isaac was chosen as the recipient of God’s promise and not Ishmael. Jacob was chosen by God and not his twin brother Esau. (And this was a choice made before they were born and had done anything good or bad.) No one can presume to be a recipient of God’s grace. God’s chosen people are just that - those whom He has chosen. Nothing has changed. God’s purpose in election continues to work as it has from the beginning.
This naturally leads to further objections concerning the fairness of this doctrine. “Is it fair for God to chose some over others?”
Of course. It’s fair because no one deserves to be saved in the first place. Grace is God’s to give as He pleases, and the salvation of anyone at all is due to God’s grace alone. “So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy”
Well then, “is it fair for God to hold us responsible for our eternal destiny when He is the one making the decision?”
If there was ever a point in Paul’s argument to make a case concerning man’s free will then this would have been the time to mention it. However, the apostle does not. He affirms that we are guilty of our sin and then offers us no philosophical resolution as to how this lines up with God’s sovereign election. Instead, Paul says that to ask such a question means we're failing to understand who God is in comparison to us.
We ought to be careful of speaking too quickly concerning matters we can’t quite comprehend. Are we so sure of ourselves that we feel comfortable questioning the way in which God does what He does? Are we in any position to call a foul on God? God has created a world in which His wrath and His mercy will be displayed for His glory. And God’s mercy shines much brighter against the dark backdrop of His wrath.