(from a manuscript of a sermon preached on 5/16/10 at Sovereign Redeemer Assembly)
Please turn to Romans chapter 9, and I'll be reading verses 22 through 29:
Romans 9: (22) But if God, desiring to demonstrate His wrath, and to make His power known, endured in much long-suffering vessels of wrath having been fitted out for destruction, (23) and that He make known the riches of His glory on vessels of mercy which He before prepared for glory, (24) whom He also called, not only us, of Jews, but also out of nations. (25) As also He says in Hosea, I will call those Not My people, My people! And those not beloved, Beloved! (26) And it shall be, in the place where it was said to them, You are not My people, there they will be called, Sons of the Living God. (27) But Isaiah cries on behalf of Israel, If the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea, the remnant will be saved. (28) For [He is] bringing [the] matter to an end, and having been cut short in righteousness, because [the] Lord will do a thing cut short on the earth. (29) And as Isaiah has said before, Except [the] Lord of hosts left a seed to us, we would have become as Sodom, and we would have become as Gomorrah.
The last time we were here, we saw the truth that the vessels of mercy that God prepared for glory from before the foundation of the world, those whom God chose to save from the foundation of the world, otherwise known as the elect, are called not only out of the Jews but also out of the non-Jewish nations, otherwise known as the Gentiles. Salvation is not for the Jews only but for the whole world - both the Jews and the Gentiles. This is what John the Baptizer proclaimed in John chapter 1 - that Jesus Christ is the Lamb of God, taking away the sin of the WORLD - not just the Jews. This is what Jesus Christ told Nicodemus in John 3 - that God so loved the loved the WORLD - not just the Jews - that He gave His only begotten Son, that EVERYONE believing into Him - not just the Jews - should not perish but have everlasting life. That's what God told Peter in Acts 10 - that God has made even the Gentiles clean, that He is not a respecter of faces, but in EVERY NATION - not just the Jews - the one fearing Him and working righteousness is acceptable to Him. That's what Paul was talking about in Ephesians 2 and 3 - that the Gentiles, who were afar off, came to be near by the blood of Jesus Christ, and that Christ reconciled both Jews and Gentiles in one body to God through the cross, and reconciled them to each other in Christ, breaking down the barrier between them, making them heirs together and sharers together of the promise of the gospel. This is what John was talking about in 1 John 2 - that Jesus Christ is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world, not just of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles. This had been prophesied before by Isaiah and Hosea, who said that the Gentiles would be partakers of God's mercy and that God would call those who were not His people - the Gentiles - Sons of the Living God.
Now we come to verses 27 and 28 of Romans 9:
Romans 9: (27) But Isaiah cries on behalf of Israel, If the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea, the remnant will be saved. (28) For [He is] bringing [the] matter to an end, and having been cut short in righteousness, because [the] Lord will do a thing cut short on the earth.
Paul is quoting from Isaiah chapter 10, so let's turn over there. Let's start with verse 20 and go to verse 23:
Isaiah 10: (20) And it shall be in that day, the remnant of Israel, and the escaped ones from the house of Jacob, shall not any more lean on him who struck him. But they will truly lean on Jehovah, the Holy One of Israel. (21) The remnant shall return, the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God. (22) For though Your people Israel is like the sand of the sea, [only] a remnant of it shall return; a decisive end, overflowing [with] righteousness. (23) For the Lord Jehovah of Hosts is making a full end, even ordained, in the midst of all the land.
We see here that Isaiah uses the word "remnant" three times. What is a "remnant"? It is the REMAINDER - what REMAINS, what is LEFT. It necessarily implies that it is something substantially SMALLER than the original. For example, a carpet remnant or a cloth remnant is something that is LEFT OVER after a person gets what he needs or after a job is done. It's the stuff that he didn't use. So here in this passage, Isaiah talks about the REMNANT of Israel. It is a SMALL NUMBER within the larger nation of Israel. In fact, in verse 22, he compares the LARGE NUMBER of the nation Israel, which he likens to the sand of the sea, to the SMALL NUMBER of the remnant. It's like comparing the millions of grains of sand to just a few grains of sand. Now in the direct context of this, Isaiah is talking about the remnant - the SMALL NUMBER of Israelites - who will return from Babylonian captivity. But there is also a SPIRITUAL meaning to this as well, as you can see when you look at chapter 11. Babylonian captivity is a picture of being in bondage to sin, and coming out of captivity is a picture of being saved. And only a REMNANT - only a SMALL AMOUNT compared to the total amount of people - will be saved. Like Jesus Christ said in Matthew 7:13-14, "For wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and MANY are the ones entering in through it. For narrow is the gate and constricted is the way that leads away into life, and FEW are the ones finding it." There's the MANY versus the FEW. The FEW are the remnant. They are the ones who will be saved.
Isaiah says at the end of verse 22 and into verse 23 that God will make a full, decisive end. The Hebrew word is kaw-LAW, which comes from a root meaning "to be completed," "to be fulfilled," "to be at a close," "to bring to an end," or "to accomplish." So what does Isaiah mean when he says that God is making a full, decisive end? Notice that in verse 22, this decisive end is "overflowing with righteousness." Again, in the temporal sense, it would have to do with the physical remnant's return from captivity, so the end would be the end of captivity. But the spiritual meaning is much more glorious. Let's read Isaiah chapter 11 to see what this decisive end, this complete fulfillment and accomplishment, that is overflowing with righteousness is:
Isaiah 11: (1) And a Shoot goes out from the stump of Jesse, and a Branch will bear fruit out of his roots. (2) And the Spirit of Jehovah shall rest on Him; [He will have] the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and power, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of Jehovah. (3) And He is made to breathe in the fear of Jehovah. But He shall not judge by the sight of His eyes, nor decide by the hearing of His ears. (4) But He shall judge the poor in righteousness, and shall decide rightly for the meek of the earth. And He shall strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, and He shall cause the wicked to die with the breath of His lip. (5) And righteousness shall be the encircler of His loins, and faithfulness the encircler of His reins. (6) And the wolf shall live with the lamb; and the leopard shall lie with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little boy shall lead them. (7) The cow and the bear shall feed, their young shall lie together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. (8) And the infant shall play on the hole of the asp; yea, the weaned child shall put his hand on the viper's den. (9) They shall not do evil, nor destroy in all My holy mountain. For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of Jehovah, as the waters cover the sea. (10) And it shall be in that day, the Root of Jesse stands as a banner of peoples; nations shall seek to Him; and His resting place shall be glory. (11) And it shall be in that day, the Lord shall again set His hand, the second time, to recover the remnant of His people that remains, from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Ethiopia, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the coasts of the sea. (12) And He shall lift up a banner for the nations, and shall gather the outcasts of Israel, and gather those dispersed from Judah, from the four wings of the earth. (13) And the envy of Ephraim shall turn off; and Judah's foes shall be cut off. Ephraim shall not envy Judah, and Judah shall not trouble Ephraim. (14) But they shall fly onto the shoulder of the Philistines to the west; together they shall plunder the sons of the east, the stretching of the hand on Edom and Moab and the sons of Ammon; [they will] obey them. (15) And Jehovah shall utterly destroy the tongue of the sea of Egypt; and with His scorching wind He shall wave His hand over the River, and shall strike it into seven torrents, and make one tread [it] with shoes. (16) And there shall be a highway for the remnant of His people, those left from Assyria, as it was to Israel in the day when he came up out of the land of Egypt.
Now we can see what this end, this complete fulfillment and accomplishment, that is overflowing with righteousness is. It has to do with the Shoot, the Branch, the Root, who will come in righteousness. It's talking about the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ, who will make an end of sins, who will make atonement for iniquity, and who will bring in everlasting righteousness, as Daniel 9:24 says.
So let's go back to Romans 9:27-28 and see this in the context of what Paul is saying. We really have to go back to the beginning of Romans 9 in order to get the full context. Paul first says, with grief in his heart, that his brothers according to the flesh, the Jews, are lost. He then says that this does not mean that God's promise has failed, because the promise is not to natural Israel but to spiritual Israel. The promise was to Jacob and not to Esau, not based on anything good or bad that they had done, but based purely on God's sovereign will. The vessels of wrath fitted for destruction are NOT children of the promise, and the vessels of mercy prepared for glory ARE the children of the promise. And the children of the promise are not just out of natural, national Israel but are also from the non-Jewish nations. God calls the Gentiles His people, Sons of the living God. Does this mean that NONE of the national Israelites would be saved? No - a small number, a remnant, from national Israel will be saved. And the matter of salvation has been brought to an end, the work has been finished, by the promised Messiah, who brought in an everlasting righteousness. The verb "to cut short" means "to completely end," which corresponds to the full and decisive end In Isaiah 10:22 and 23.
Paul goes on to quote from Isaiah 1:9 in verse 29:
Romans 9: (29) And as Isaiah has said before, Except [the] Lord of hosts left a seed to us, we would have become as Sodom, and we would have become as Gomorrah.
Isaiah said, and Paul repeated, that unless God had a small remnant of true believers, of the true seed of Abraham, among the millions in the nation of Israel, then Israel would have been destroyed like Sodom and Gomorrah. Remember in Genesis 18 when Abraham asked God if He would spare Sodom if there were 50 righteous people within the city, and God said He would, and then Abraham asked if He would spare Sodom if there were 30 or 20 or 10 righteous people within the city, and God said He would? That's like what Isaiah was saying. Because there were a few people in the nation of Israel who were righteous, God did not destroy Israel like He destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. Those few righteous people were the preservers of the nation.
So we see in verses 24 through 26 that the vessels of mercy include the Gentiles, and we see in verses 27 through 29 that the vessels of mercy include the Jews. The believing Gentiles came out of heathenism and paganism, while the believing Jews came out of self-righteous religion. Now, of course, since the time the Gentiles were brought into the covenant in a large way, many of those with Gentile backgrounds are also in self-righteous religion, while many of those with a Jewish background are irreligious and unconcerned, but the principle remains the same. God calls out His people from Jews and Gentiles, from self-righteous religion and irreligion. And all come the same way. There is not a different way for Jews. There is not a different way for heathens. Jesus Christ said in John 14:16, "I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." It matters not what your background is, what color your skin is, whether you are a man or a woman, slave or free - the only way of acceptance with God is through the work of Jesus Christ alone. And all of the vessels of mercy that God before prepared for glory, no matter what their background is, what color their skin is, whether they are men or women, slaves or free, will be called, justified, and glorified. They will all believe the true gospel of salvation conditioned on the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ alone. And we see in Revelation 7, verses 9 and 10, the glorious fulfillment of the truth that God is not a respecter of faces but is the PROPITIATION FOR and TAKES AWAY the sins of the whole world. We see people from all backgrounds clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ praising God that salvation is in Him alone. Let's turn there to close:
Revelation 7: (9) After these things I saw, and behold, a great crowd which no one was able to number them, out of every nation, even tribes and peoples and tongues, standing in front of the throne, and before the Lamb, having been clothed with white robes, and in their hands palm branches. (10) And they cry with a great voice, saying, Salvation to our God sitting on the throne, and to the Lamb.