Text: Romans 10:17-21 11/26/2017
Main Point: Israel refuses God. Don’t be like Israel.
I think one of the more difficult stories in the bible is the story of Jesus and the Syrophoenician woman in Mark 7 and Matt 15. You just read it, so I’ll recap the high points. A Gentile woman comes to Jesus because her daughter is demon possessed. She cries out to Jesus for help but he ignores her because she is not a Jew. Jesus’ mission is devoted to the Jewish people and to them he must go. Jesus gives her a hard word, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” Her response is full of humility and faith, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” Jesus then celebrates her faith and heals her daughter. She understands Jesus to be Lord and master. She clearly sees Jesus for who he is, and Jesus answers her faith with healing.
Is she a dog? Is she an outsider who cares nothing for the master? Is she consider only with fighting her fellow dogs for the crumbs? Or, is she an outsider who has become an insider? Is she a dog who has become a child? Insiders are those children at the table by faith. Outsiders are those dogs under the table by unbelief.
You see, in God’s economy his children become dogs through unbelief and dogs become his children through belief. Faith secures your place at the table while unbelief drives you far away. The moral of the story, read alongside Romans 10:17-21, is be on guard against unbelief. We are warned not to be unbelieving outsiders. God wants us to look at the example of Israel and understand the dangers of unbelief while celebrating the generosity of God. We, who were outsiders, have been invited to be children by faith. Once we were dogs. Now we are children.
Let’s read our text together, Romans 10:17-21
I. Salvation requires hearing and understanding
Last week, we saw how evangelism starts with the sending God. God sends the herald who proclaims the good news of Jesus’ righteous life, atoning death, and victorious resurrection. This message must be heard and believed such that the person cries out to Jesus for salvation. I’ll say it another way. Believing the gospel message makes us feel our separation from God and long for reconciliation with God through Jesus Christ. God sends the preacher, the preacher goes with beautiful feet to preach the gospel, the gospel is heard, this understanding leads to believing, and believing leads to trusting the Lord for salvation. That’s fairly straight forward. But something confusing has happened. The powerful gospel has gone out on beautiful feet but the Jews have rejected it. Remember, in Romans 9-11, we are constantly dealing with the question of why so many Jews refuse to believe in Jesus for righteousness. Since faith comes by hearing, and hearing, through the word of Christ, why do the Jews not have faith?
Maybe the problem is the Jews have not heard the gospel. Look at verse 18, “have they not heard?” Look at the response, “Indeed they have.”
- Israel has heard the gospel (18)
Here in Romans 10:18 Paul is quoting Psalm 19. Psalm 19 and Romans 1 are very similar. God has filled all of creation with signs that point to him. Natural or general revelation points to God. The stars in the sky, the sun running its course, and the created order all reveal that there is a God and he is powerful.
Now, if you’re tracking with the argument of Romans 10 and Psalm 19 you will notice a question. General revelation through creation proclaims that there is a God. The message that there is a God is not the same as special revelation through the gospel. Special revelation proclaims that there is a righteous Son, atoning Lamb, and victorious resurrected King.
We can rule out the idea that the gospel can be preached by the stars and sun. That idea contradicts all of Romans 10. For the gospel to be heard there must be a preacher who uses words. So, instead of saying general revelation preaches the gospel, the argument is that the path of special revelation is now like that of general revelation. The gospel is preached throughout the world by preachers using words. The existence of God is preached through all of creation and the word of Christ is being preached to all the nations. And obviously, Paul is not talking about every individual hearing the gospel, the point of Romans is to develop missionary support so he can go to Spain, where the gospel hasn’t been preached! Better still is the understanding that the gospel has been preached to Jew and Gentile. The Jews cannot claim they do not have access to the gospel. The Jews cannot use “I haven’t heard about Jesus” as an excuse. They have heard. To say that the Jews don’t believe in Jesus because they haven’t heard of Jesus is simply not true. The gospel is out there.
Wait, wait, wait, you’ll say. I remember last week you said sound waves in the ear canal are not enough. A person must hear so that she understands. Maybe the Jews have heard the gospel but don’t understand the gospel therefore they don’t believe the gospel. Is the problem understanding?
Verse 19, “But I ask, did Israel not understand?” Paul will now martial the words of Moses and Isaiah to demonstrate that the Jews understand exactly what is going on, or should understand what is going on, and yet they still refuse to repent and believe. Israel has heard and
- Israel should understand how God works (19, 20)
Paul quotes from the song of Moses here in Romans 10:19. It was Moses’s last song as Joshua takes over and Moses prepares to die. It is a song celebrating the Exodus but also warning the people about their unbelief. There, in Moses’s song, God promises that when his people turn away from him and reject him he will make them jealous with other nations.
There is a play on words there in Moses’s song. When the people make God jealous by serving a not-a-god then God will make them jealous by giving his people’s blessings to those who are not-a-people. God will take the dogs and turn them into children. The children who were at the table of blessing will be sent far away to fight and beg for crumbs.
It is significant that the song of Moses follows the Exodus from Egypt and Paul now quotes the same warning following the second Exodus from sin and death. Moses led the people out and warns them. Jesus leads his people out and warns them.
Romans 10:19 is a wakeup call to the Jews. You understand how God works. God has always worked like this. If you refuse God and reject God and turn away from God then you don’t get to remain in the presence of God. You get kicked out of the Garden of Eden. You lose the ark of the covenant. The temple is destroyed and you are sent out of the Promised Land.
God’s plan has always included restoring his wayward children by taking their blessing and giving it to outsiders. That which is not a nation becomes a holy nation. That which was foolish becomes wise. And the Jews can’t believe it.
Here are the Jews singing, “We’ll have fun, fun, fun til Daddy takes the t-bird away.” They think Daddy will calm down and give it back. We can sin, God will get angry, he’ll calm down, and things will go back to normal. Instead, look at the history of Israel. Understand the history of Israel. Because of unbelief, Daddy takes the t-bird and the credit card and the house keys and all that goes with being a child and gives them to another.
Listen now to Isaiah, Romans 10:20, “Isaiah is so bold as to say, ‘I have been found by those who did not seek me; I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me.” This is a reiteration of Romans 9:30, “Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, this is, a righteousness that is by faith.” The Gentiles are welcomed in and loved as sons and daughters while the Jews are cast out.
Moses is speaking after the Exodus and Isaiah is speaking during the Exile. God is working and has always worked among the nations. During the days of Elijah, during the famine, God sent Elijah to provide for an outsider, the widow of Zarephath. During the days of Elisha, when lepers where plentiful among God’s people, God used Elisha to heal Naaman the outsider (Luke 4:25-26). When God’s people were exiled, sent out into the nations, then those people, those dogs, those outsiders, will find God. They didn’t seek God; he sought them. Then didn’t ask for God; he proved himself to them.
Israel should understand that God has always been working to save the nations through the unbelief of his people. Friend, you are a member of this church, reconciled to God, because God found you and made himself known to you. Not many of us were Jews, most of us were outsiders living life without God. But in God’s mercy, in light of Jewish unbelief, God has made us his own. God is a generous God! You, an outsider have become a daughter of God. God is a generous God! You, a dog fighting under the table for the scraps, have been transformed into a beloved son. God is a generous God but
- Israel refuses her merciful God (21)
Look with me at Romans 10:21, “But of Israel he says, ‘All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people.’” God is calling them, those fighting for crumbs on the floor, to come, get cleaned up, and take their place at the table. But they will have none of it. They would rather work hard for the dog’s portion then receive the son’s portion through Christ. God offers them the righteousness of Christ and they refuse to submit.
All day long the Father is looking for the prodigal’s return. He has the robe, the ring, and the shoes ready. Come home! No thank you they say. They are disobedient. They will not obey the gospel. Instead they have better things to do. I have to tend to my wife. I have to tend to my land. I have to tend to my animals and my business. I have better things to do then come to your feast.
This is why Jesus says, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” (Matt 23:37). Israel has heard. Israel understands. Israel is unwilling.
II. Don’t be like Israel. Pay attention and believe.
- Pay attention to the word of God (2 Pet 1:19; Heb 2:1-4)
The condemnation on Israel in Paul’s day is they had neglected their Bibles. They have the Old Testament, but they rejected it. They refused to pay attention to God and his word. They should have known. They should have seen it coming. Peter tells us, the church, the Israel of God, “You will do well to pay attention to the prophetic word as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.”
The word of Christ has gone out to the nations. Pay attention! Who is God? How does he work? What is wrong with this world and what is the solution? Pay attention to the word! Read, study, memorize, meditate, and obey.
Christians, we must pay attention to what we have heard so that we don’t drift from it. Since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?
You see, we don’t give you a Bible reading plan because we think you’re watching too much TV. We give you a Bible reading plan because this is the fruitful living word of God. Pay attention to the word and
- Pay attention to Israel’s example (1 Cor 10:6)
Church, 1 Corinthians 10:6, makes it clear that these things that happened to Israel are recorded for us. Don’t desire evil like they did. What God did in the Garden, he will do in Granbury. Do not presume upon grace. Hear the gospel and understand how God works. Look over a page to Romans 11:22, “Note then the kindness and severity of God: severity towards those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off.” The Father who does not want to kick you out is the Father who is willing to kick you out. Learn from Israel and
- Pay attention to Jesus (Heb 12:1-2)
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of God.”
You are supposed to be focused on Jesus and run hard after him. We are supposed to pay attention to Jesus so that we work like him and love like him and pray like him and rest like him. We depend on Jesus to make us like Jesus. But we’re doing all this other stuff. All this fine upstanding stuff is like weight tied around our feet so we can’t run after Jesus. We’re too busy to be disciples or make disciples. And then there is the sin which clings so closely; the sin that we love that no one knows about. That sin is like a boa constrictor slowly squeezing us so that we cannot breathe and run. Some of us are so trapped by our sin we can’t remember what it feels like to take a deep breath. That weight and that sin is holding us back. Repent, put it off, be discipled, learn to obey. Learn to look to Jesus and run after him.
This path you and Jesus are on is a hard path that leads to joy. There will be days of shame and days that require endurance but the end of it all is a place at the table with Jesus.
By faith in Jesus you are no longer an outsider. You are in. By faith in Jesus you are no longer a dog. You are a beloved son, a beloved daughter of God. Let’s give him thanks.
Pray- Jesus thank you…