In Romans 9, after the prophetic message from the book of Hosea, we see God’s patience illustrated again through messages from another prophet, Isaiah.
Isaiah cries out concerning Israel:
“Though the number of the Israelites be like the sand by the sea,
only the remnant will be saved.
For the Lord will carry out
his sentence on earth with speed and finality.”
It is just as Isaiah said previously:
“Unless the Lord Almighty
had left us descendants,
we would have become like Sodom,
we would have been like Gomorrah.”
Romans 9:27-29 NIV
Paul’s references from Isaiah point out how important and how undeserved God’s patience, mercy and grace are.
In the first passage, God will deliver justice. We can’t ignore God’s holiness, even as we glorify Him for His other attributes. Discipline and punishment are sometimes necessary. However, God preserves a remnant. As suggested in verse 23, God’s preservation of a remnant of Israel allowed Him to keep His promises and send Jesus to redeem His people: not just the Jewish people, but Gentiles, too.
In the second passage, we are reminded of the punishment on Sodom and Gomorrah. Remember how Abraham “negotiated” with God to spare those cities if there were just 10 righteous there (see Genesis 18:16-33)? Since Sodom and Gomorrah – excluding Lot and his family – were indeed destroyed (see Genesis 19:23-29), I think that we can conclude that God was just – that He was fair – in punishing their sin (especially when we consider how even those without the specific Law of Moses know some things about right and wrong – see Romans 2:14-15, for instance).
Compared to the perfect holiness of God, I think that we can all appreciate how we also deserve punishment. In comparison to God’s perfection, our sins all stain us and make us unworthy of righteousness before Him. However, despite the condemnation that Judah deserved in the time of Isaiah (and the condemnation that we deserved when we sinned), God was patient. In fact, one commentator [Cottrell] suggests that God was patient in order to achieve His purpose.
So, what do we do with this information?
First, it’s good for us to look inward. Have we taken the time to repent and seek God’s righteousness? Even if you have accepted Jesus, and seek to live according to His example and His teachings, it’s good to take a periodic inventory, to continue the process of sanctification. And, when we have received so much of God’s mercy and grace, can we – like the sinful woman who anointed Jesus’ feet (see Luke 7:36-50) – love Him that much more?
Secondly, let us remember why God isn’t punishing sins right away. That person who makes you angry because of their sinful behavior (even if it is harming both them and others): that person has a chance to repent because of God’s patience. If God is showing them mercy by not sending them to eternal punishment right away, we should show them patience, too. That isn’t just limited to delaying our own vengeance or choosing to not pour out our own anger on them, though. In addition, I think that it also includes the grace to tell them the good news about salvation and righteousness that they can have for themselves.
God’s patience has a purpose. Let us make good use of His patience, and show that same patience to others. Who are we to deny to others what God has shown them in love?
From Sunday School lesson prepared for January 23, 2022
- The Lookout, January 23, 2022, © 2022 Christian Standard Media.
- Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
- The College Press Commentary, Romans, Volume 2, by Jack Cottrell. College Press Publishing Company, © 1998.