Lectionary Year A
August 18, 2002
Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32
Step IV: Context
A. Primitive Christianity
(JFC) II Corinthians 11:22 reiterates Paul's Jewish-ness and kinship to Abraham as
does Philippians 3:5, as well. In Galatians 3:22 Paul writes very much what Romans 11:32 and I Timothy 2:4 which says, "God wants everyone to be saved. . .", much as the final verse of this week's lection indicates.
B. Old Testament and Judaism
(JFC) The Old Testament people had reason to wonder if God had really turned a
divine face in their direction at all, since they believed "no one has ever seen God and lived". Psalm 94:14 believes that God "will never turn your back on your chosen nation". In opposition to the worship of useless idols, Isaiah 41:6-9 declares that God chooses Israel to be "my servant, I choose you to be the family of my friend Abraham. From far across the earth I brought you here and said, 'You are my chosen servant. I haven't forgotten you'." And, Jeremiah (31:37) hears God say,
"Can you measure the heavens?
Can you explore the depths of the earth?
That's how hard it would be
for me to reject Israel forever,
even though they have sinned.
I, the Lord, have spoken."
C. Hellenistic World
(JFC) These mostly cosmopolitan thinkers of their times would appreciate the chance
to discuss the question and answer(s) Paul writes in these verses. They could get hung up a little, though, on the differences between accepting and rejecting the salvation Christ brings to the whole of the people. They might prefer emphasizing the deserts of such a generous and broadly available gift. To them and their way of reasoning, disobeying God would have to be evil unqualified and obeying God/believing in Jesus as the Savior could be pure good. What of that duality would constitute good for them? Good would always be sought over evil by these philosophers. The idea that God imprisons sinners so they might receive mercy could occupy dialogue time almost endlessly for these theoreticians. Could they get to the point of realizing that what God does, e.g., bestow mercy on all, the obedient and the rejecters of Christ, is good? If they think "mercy" is too emotional a gift, would they value it? Could they ever agree with 4 Ezra 13:29's saying God, "will deliver (all) those who are on the earth"? Paul does, does he not, in this very lection?
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