Romans chapter 9 is one of the most perplexing chapters in the Bible to me. This is one of those chapters that those who make much out of election and predestination use to prove their point. And they make a strong case... I'm just not convinced. I think the truth here is something else, and I hope to make my point.
Paul begins chapter nine with a list of Jewish advantages (1-5). "To them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law" etc. The deck was stacked in their favor!
But in spite of these advantages, many Jews were not following Jesus. Why? What went wrong? The answer is: Nothing went wrong. This was the way God set it set up from the beginning (6-13). The issue was never about being born "in the family;" that is: being one of the elect. It was something else--something Paul gets to in a moment. He concludes this section with the quote from Malachi 1:2-3: "Jacob I loved, but Esau I have hated."
That is a very strong, very difficult statement. How could a God of love choose to hate someone? The answer is that God did not hate Esau, or Pharaoh, or Judas. He loved them, but He definitely hated what they represented. Yes, they represented something... something supremely bad. What? Unbelief. They did not believe God or trust His promises. God knew this about them before they were even born. God therefore chose to display His power in them--He set them up as examples of His wrath. He hardened their hearts. Those who will choose not to believe will be confirmed in that unbelief. We still see this today in those who call themselves "Christian" but then they "fall away." They never had faith in Jesus, and this becomes apparent in their turning from Christ and His church. The reason for God's rejection of Israel--the elect--was not their wickedness, but their unbelief (which, of course, is the greatest wickedness!). Then in time, to everyone's amazement, God chose to display His mercy on those who descended from outside the Abrahamic line (verse 24-26).
The climax of Paul's argument comes in verses 30-33. There he declares that the Gentiles (even those who descended from Esau) who did not pursue righteousness, have nevertheless obtained it--but not through good efforts. They have received it through faith. What is that faith? It is trusting in Jesus Christ ("the stumbling stone"), and Him alone, to save us (verse 30-33).
The bottom line is this: God honors faith because faith honors God! Faith in Jesus is the whole issue in Romans 9. Our faith in Him is what gives Him glory. Ultimately, that is what we will see in heaven... when we get there and see that no one present deserves to be there... least of all me! Those who are there are those who have put their trust in Jesus alone as their Savior.
Is this what you have done?