I Am Not Ashamed: Isaac, not Ishmael— Jacob, not Esau

I Am Not Ashamed  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Israel is God’s chosen people and most of them are perishing, cut off from the Savior, Jesus Christ. And the reason it is a crisis for you, and not just for Jews, is that, if God’s promises to Israel do not hold true, then there is no reason to think his promises to you will hold true.

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I Am Not Ashamed: Isaac, not Ishmael— Jacob, not Esau
Text: Romans 9:6-18
Theme: Israel is God’s chosen people and most of them are perishing, cut off from the Savior, Jesus Christ. And the reason it is a crisis for you, and not just for Jews, is that, if God’s promises to Israel do not hold true, then there is no reason to think his promises to you will hold true.
Date: 10/16/2016 File name: Romans_2016_28.wpd ID Number:
The forth century theologian Augustine once said, “The Bible is shallow enough for a child to wade in, yet deep enough for an elephant to swim in.” This morning we arrive at one of those texts deep enough for the elephant to swim in.
The Apostle is dealing with an acute crisis. Israel— Paul’s kinsmen in the flesh— have, by and large, rejected the Gospel, meaning they’ve rejected Jesus. It weighs heavy upon his conscience. But it also weighs heavy on the conscience of a segment of the congregation in the Church at Rome. Remember this is a mixed congregation. It’s a congregation comprised of religious Jews who have accepted that Messiah has come, and have received him by faith. It is also a congregation comprised of pagan Gentiles who have heard the Gospel of Christ, and have come to faith in the Savior of the world who happens to be the Jewish Messiah!
Paul has spent the first half of his letter to this church explaining the matter of their sin, the nature of their salvation, and when we get to chapter twelve the importance of their sanctification. But for now, the Apostle is dealing with the acute crisis I introduced you to last week— the people of Israel have rejected their Messiah. Of all the people in the world who should have recognized the Savior when he arrived it should have been them: “the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. 5 Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen.” (Romans 9:4–5, NIV84). Everything in their history, and their heritage was pointing to this moment, and they missed it. Israel are God's chosen people, but most of them are perishing, cut off from the Savior, Jesus Christ.
It’s easy for us to just kinda shrug and think, “That’s their problem, so how does it affect me?” Well it does affect you! And the reason it is a crisis for you, and not just for Jews, is this: If God's promises to Israel do not hold true, then there is no reason to think his promises to you will hold true. Our faith is worthless if God proves unfaithful to His covenant people. If God’s word can be defeated by Israel’s rejection, then what assurance do we have that God’s redemptive word, spoken in Christ, may not also finally fail for us? So YES, this passage does affect you.
After all he has said leading up to this chapter, the Jews in the congregation at Rome are scratching their heads and asking the question, “Have God’s promises in our Scriptures failed to come true? Has God reneged on His assurances to us?”


“It is not as though God’s word had failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel.” (Romans 9:6, NIV84)
1. it is here that the Apostle picks up his argument with an astounding statement— not all Jews are Jews ...
a. they may be Jews according to the flesh, but they are not Jews according to the Torah— the Jewish Scriptures
b. they may be Jews by genetic heritage, but they are not Jews by faith
1) that is tough stuff, and must have been difficult for Paul to write
2) it is difficult for the church to preach because it immediately opens us to charges of anti-Semitism
2. this statement had to land like a bombshell upon the hearts of Paul’s Jewish readers
ILLUS. Imagine that you are a young Jewish Christian in A.D. 57— the year Paul wrote Romans— and that you’ve just read the first eight chapters of this letter. Your question is going to be, “But what about Israel? I understand the Gospel. I understand what it means to be justified by faith in God’ Anointed One, that it is Christ’s atoning work that is the ground of our salvation. I understand that I am one with Christ and filled with his Spirit. BUT, what about Israel? Was God’s purpose in choosing Israel just a temporary covenant? Have His promises gone unfulfilled?”
a. if you’re a Jew in the Church at Rome reading the Apostle’s letter your mind immediately goes to a passage in the Book of Numbers ...
“God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?” (Numbers 23:19, NIV84)
1) God does not lie, and ...
2) God does not renege on His promises, so ...
3) why has Israel not embraced her Messiah?
b. the Apostle is equally concerned about this
1) Paul undoubtedly has family and friends who have rejected the Gospel, and he grieves for them with great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart (9:2)
2) every time he preaches Christ crucified in a Synagogue, and is thrown out, he grieves for them
3) and, if it were possible, he would strike a deal with God, giving up his own salvation if it would mean the redemption of the nation
“For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race,” (Romans 9:3, NIV84)
3. the lostness of Israel is a great burden on Paul’s heart that sends him deep into the Scriptures to find an answer to the question: “Has the word of God failed?”
a. the Apostle’s immediate answer is, “It is not as though God’s word had failed ... “
1) yes it is true that most Israelites are accursed and cut off from Christ, and yes it is true that God chose Israel, and made a covenant with her, but No, God’s word has not failed
b. why has the word of God not failed?
1) because the accusation is based upon a false premise
2) just because a person is a physical descendant of Israel does not mean that person is truly an Israelite
c. everything in the next three chapters is an argument in support of his assertion
4. so what is the Apostle’s rational for make such a bold claim seemingly in contradiction to the outward facts?— “... not all who are descended from Israel are Israel.”
a. the Apostle is going to say the same thing several more times and will provide Old Testament proof


“and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 8 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. 9 For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.” 10 And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11 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— 12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” 14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” (Romans 9:7–15, ESV)
1. as we move into this passage, let me warn you up front that this section of Scripture may be hard
a. keep in mind what God said to the Prophet Isaiah: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. 9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8–9, NIV84)
2. the Apostle’s examples are from Old Testament history with which the Jewish Christians at Rome would have been well acquainted


1. in vs. 6-9 the Apostle tells the story of God’s choice of Isaac over Ishmael
a. vs. 7 Paul is blunt— not all the children of Abraham are of Israel
1) he’s dealing with the story that comes to us from Genesis 21— let me give you the “Reader’s Digest” version
ILLUS. Abraham has come into the Promised Land. In Genesis 12:2 God tells Abram, “I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great,” even though in Genesis 11:30 we’re told that his wife, Sarai is barren. For 25 years Abram and Sarai have lived in Canaan, when God speaks again. Once again Yahweh promises Abram a son coming from your own body. Sarai, well into her seventies by this point, assumes she cannot become the mother of such a child, and so encourages Abram to become sexually involved with her young servant girl, named Hagar. In time Hagar conceives and gives birth to a son whom they name Ishmael. For 13 years Abram and Sarai assume Ishmael is the son of promise. That is until God shows up again, and promises to make Abraham a father of many nations, and He will accomplish it through Sarai, and she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her, (Gen. 17:16). Not quite a year later when Abraham is 99 and Sarah is 90, Isaac is born.
2) God’s promise to the aged Patriarch is “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” (Gen 21:12)
3) God’s promise will be fulfilled in the life of Isaac, not Ishmael, nor by the other six sons Abraham fathered with Keturah after Sarah’s death
“Abraham took another wife, whose name was Keturah. 2 She bore him Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak and Shuah. ... 5 Abraham left everything he owned to Isaac.” (Genesis 25:1-2, 5, NIV84)
2. in the story of Abraham God distinguishes between two kinds of children— natural children, and children of the promise
a. Paul reminds his Jewish readers that Ishmael, Isaac and Keturah’s sons are all Abraham’s children, and their children are all descendants of Abraham, but only Isaac’s is the “son of the promise,” and only his descendent are Israelites
1) it was by God’s good pleasure that the race of Israel would come through Isaac
b. and so it is through the child of promise that God will fulfill all of His promises to Abraham, and Israel
“In other words, it is not the natural children who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring.” (Romans 9:8, NIV84)
3. why are so many of Paul’s kinsmen in the flesh accursed and cut off from Christ?
a. because they are not children of the promise, but only children of natural descent
b. children of the promise are children born according to God’s word by a supernatural event
1) only God’s sovereign, supernatural intervention can explain the birth of Isaac
ILLUS. Even with all of the technological advancements at our disposal in the early 21st century it would be a virtually impossible task for a 100 year old man to father a child by a 90 year old woman. It just doesn’t happen.
4. so then, God’s word has not failed because those Israelites who have not turned to Christ are not true Israelites
a. they may be Abraham’s children by the flesh
b. but they are not Abraham’s children by faith


1. the Apostle’s next ancient example is the Old Testament illustration of Esau and Jacob
ILLUS. Their story begins in the twenty-fifth chapter of Genesis. Isaac is forty years old when he marries Rebekah. Like his parents before him, after twenty years of marriage they remain childless. God hears and answers Isaac’s prayers, and Rebekah becomes pregnant with twin boys. We’re told that the babies jostled within her to the point that she thinks something is wrong. God tells her, “ ... “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.” (Genesis 25:23, NIV84). Though they are twins, they grow up as opposites. Esua is portrayed as a man’s man— an outdoors man, a skillful hunter, and he is Isaac’s favorite. Jacob, we’re told, was content to stay at home among the tents. He is Rebekah’s favorite. We don’t have to read much more to know that there are some interesting family dynamics going on here. Technically, since Esau is the oldest he should receive the oldest son’s birthright which would have been all of his father’s property, and Isaac’s blessing which confers on the oldest son leadership of the family, and recipient of the promises of God. Through shrewdness Jacob gets Esau’s promise of the birthright, and through outright deception he gets Isaac’s blessing. When Esau discovers what has happened, he laments to his father, “Haven’t you any blessing for me?” To which Isaac replies, “I have made him [Jacob] lord over you and have made all his relatives his servants.”
2. there is, of course, much more to the story, but that brings us to the theological point that Paul is about to make
“Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad— in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: 12 not by works but by him who calls— she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” (Romans 9:11–12, NIV84)
a. here, more clearly then ever, we see the sovereign election of God at work— God’s free and unconditional choosing of the children of promise
b. the Apostle asserts that God’s choosing is based on his grace, and not either of the son’s merits
1) God’s choice of Jacob was made before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad
3. here is what the Apostle is telling his Jewish readers— Jacob and Esau had an equal claim on God’s choosing, and blessing— namely, no claim
a. God chose Jacob unconditionally, and that is the essential meaning of “Jacob I love.”


1. the Apostle's next ancient example is the Old Testament illustration of Moses verses Pharaoh
a. Moses and Israel received compassion and mercy
b. Pharaoh and Egypt received pitilessness and judgment
2. immediately Paul responds to the Jacob/Esau argument with what he knows his readers are thinking
a. if God is not equally fair to both sons, isn’t God being unjust, yes ... even unfair?
“What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” (Romans 9:14–15, NIV84)
3. God has the sovereign right to extend his mercy to whom He wills, and to withhold it from whom He wills
ILLUS. When does God tell Moses “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”? It follows the idolatrous incident of Israel’s worship of the Golden Calf at the foot of The Mountain of God.” Moses has ascended the mountain, and there receives an extensive revelation from God. He is given the Ten Commandments, detailed instructions about Israel’s civil and religious laws, and directions about their worship. He’s gone 40 days. In Exodus, chapter 32 we are told that, “When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, “Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.”” (Exodus 32:1, NIV84). A golden calf is forged, and many of the people begin to worship it. But Moses is very much alive, and when he returns to camp judgement is meted out and 3,000 men are executed. Immediately after Moses intercedes for Israel, and then asks to see God’s glory. It is here that we pick up their conversation at the end of Exodus 33. “Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.” 19 And the LORD said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” (Exodus 33:18–19, NIV84). That follows with God renewing His covenant with Israel.
a. Israel does not deserve mercy or compassion— they are repeatedly referred to by biblical writers as a stiff-necked people often in open rebellion against God— but God repeatedly mercies them, and compassions them out of His sovereign grace
b. God’s choice of Israel as His people is not because of who they are or what they’ve done, but on who He is, and His eternal purposes
“It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.” (Romans 9:16–18, NIV84)
4. Moses and Israel received God’s mercy, but Pharaoh received God’s hardening, and Egypt His judgment
a. what has always amazed me about the story of Pharaoh is that God uses lost people, and wicked people, and idolatrous people to accomplish His eternal plans
1) God has a plan for Israel and it involves 400 years of slavery in Egypt culminated by a deliverance accompanied by miraculous events
b. to reveal His power and glory to Israel, God says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”
1) how will that happen?
2) Pharaoh will experience the plagues, but repeatedly harden his heart, and then God will harden his heart so that Pharaoh doubles-down in his determination to keep God’s people in slavery
3) in the last plague, God will pout out a devastating judgement upon Pharaoh and Egypt— the death of all the first-born of the land
c. Pharaoh is an example of the utter depravity of the lost man’s heart Paul teachs
“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. 24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another.” (Romans 1:18–24, NIV84)
1) Pharaoh saw the hand of God at work repeatedly and repeatedly rejected God’s claims even though God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature— were clearly seen
2) and so God gives him over, and in effect says, “Pharaoh, you want to harden your heart against me? Let me help!”
ILLUS. C. S. Lewis once said, “There are only two kinds of men in the world. The man who says to God, ‘Thy will be done.” Or, in the end, the man to whom God says, “Thy will be done.” God says to Pharaoh, Thy will be done.” Pharaoh chose to do his own will, and the result was God’s judgment.



1. this is how the Apostle deals with the acute crisis facing Jewish
a. becoming a part of God’s Covenant People has ALWAYS come about by having faith in the promises of God
1) this was something Paul had argued all the way back in chapters three to four
“But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, ... 1 What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather, discovered in this matter? 2 If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God. 3 What does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” (Romans 3:21-22; 4:1–3, NIV84)
b. it means that when true Israel was baptized by the Spirit on the day of Pentecost, true Israel became the New Testament church, and the Gentiles will be grafted in
2. Paul’s point is that in His dealings with Israel, God’s wisdom and sovereignty never intended that all the natural descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob should be counted as children of the promise
a. although the nation of Israel was often involved in idolatry, apostasy, and rebellion, God always kept for Himself a faithful remnant— those who trusted in Him
1) the Old Testament prophets repeatedly refer to the remnant of Israel or the remnant of Jacob who will believe and follow the Holy One of Israel
“In that day the remnant of Israel, the survivors of the house of Jacob, will no longer rely on him who struck them down but will truly rely on the LORD, the Holy One of Israel. 21 A remnant will return, a remnant of Jacob will return to the Mighty God. 22 Though your people, O Israel, be like the sand by the sea, only a remnant will return. Destruction has been decreed, overwhelming and righteous.” (Isaiah 10:20–22, NIV84)
3. God’s promises hold true, God’s word can be trusted, because Paul looks closely at what the Old Testament teaches, and he discovers that true Israel is comprised of those who have come to faith in God’s Messiah
a. the true Israel was never merely the race that shared Abraham's blood group, but the people who shared his faith
ILLUS. Today there are those Jews who refer to themselves as Messianic Jews or Hebrew Christians. They are God’s True Israel in the world, and it is estimate that there are about 350,000 worldwide. That surely qualifies as a remnant out of the total 16 million Jews in the world. Interestingly enough, Jews consider those fellow Jews who come to faith in Christ as no longer Jews because doing so is considered belief in a foreign god— that is idolatry!
4. God’s word can be trusted
a. what does this mean for us who are Gentiles?
b. when the Apostle writes, “That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.” (Romans 10:9–10, NIV84) it means that if you do that ... if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and if you believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead, you can have a rock-solid assurance that God will remain faithful to that promise— you are saved and will remain saved


1. this is the Doctrine of Election
a. this is the main pont of Paul’s message in this passage, and perhaps the most difficult one to receive
1) why is one man raised to eternal life, and another left to eternal destruction?
2) why does God providentially work in one man’s life to bring him to faith in Christ, while simply leaving another to remain spiritually dead in his trespasses and sins?
3) the Scriptures offer an answer that is unsatisfactory for the person committed to radical autonomy, but comforting to the person who has come into God’s grace
b. God mercies and compassions those whom He as chosen from before the foundation of the world
c. He then providentially works in their lives to bring them to faith in Christ
2. why he chooses some for mercy, and allows other— indeed the majority— to remain objects of His wrath and under His condemnation is simply not revealed to us
a. God is under no obligation to explain His ways to me
“Do not deceive yourselves. If any one of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should become a “fool” so that he may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness”; 20 and again, “The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.” 21 So then, no more boasting about men! ... ” (1 Corinthians 3:18–21, NIV84)
3. God is sovereign and does whatever He pleases
a. BUT WHAT HE DOES IS ALWAYS RIGHT, and good even though it seem strange, and even unfair, to our finite minds
b. knowing that God has chosen us when He was not under any obligation to do so ought to gladden our hearts, but ought to also humble our hearts


1. just as only God’s sovereign, supernatural intervention can explain the birth of Isaac, so too our new birth cannot be explained outside of God’s sovereign, supernatural intervention in our lives
a. the good news in this passage is that we are saved by the sheer mercy of God
1) we are not saved by our works, which is good, since they would not get us very far
2) we are not saved by our ancestors, which is good, because they are of mixed lot
3) we are not saved by our riches, which is good, because they are running out
4) we are not saved by our government, which is very good, and that needs no explanation
5) we are not saved by our intelligence, which is good, because we are not as smart as we think
6) we’re not saved on the basis of what we deserve, which is good, because we do not deserve anything but condemnation
b. we are, instead, saved by the sheer mercy of God through the redemptive work of Jesus Christ
2. the amazing miracle is that God saves anyone
a. this humbles us by putting us in our proper place — salvation begins with God, not with us
b. without God choosing us we would never choose him
“It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.” (Romans 9:16, NIV84)
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