Monday, September 6, 2010

To call or not to call

This is it, this will be my last of this particular commentary on Romans 10(for now).
Looking at my notes and my explanations on this passage can be read in only a couple of minutes; kind of funny I suppose. My guess is that it might not have been this difficult for the ones it was written to to understand, but only to follow in application.
V.14-17 " How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written,"How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news! But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says,"Lord who has believed what he has heard from us?"So faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ.".
There are three questions here in v.14, and the fourth comes in v.15. The first two questions laid out by Paul are really predicated off the third question;"...and how shall they hear without a preacher?". We have to tackle the identification of who "they' are. First off it's as it says in v.13 "whoever", which is the all inclusive calling. Second, it seems as though the "they" is directed back towards his concern and passion for Israel, in which he began this exhortation at the outset of chp.10. Although it is specific to Israel, I believe also the questions here can apply to the whoever as well.
Let's look at the first question posed;"How then shall they call in Him in whom they have not believed?". Paul is asking a very important question here, and it's the thought of how can Israel as a whole can "call" or attach themselves to their G-d or His messenger? Paul sees Jesus as not only the Messiah but as the voice of a prophet. So he asks, how is it that you call upon G-d when He's already answered and you did not respond, repent at the message or the messenger?
The second question deals with the idea of hearing and believing;" and how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard?". Is this question directed to the Jews that actually witnessed the life of Jesus and earthly existence? If so, that would make complete sense in light of what not only Jesus said in his words concerning the hearing of the prophets, but what the prophets said about hearing. (Without going into quotation overload, read Isaiah and Jeremiah to get a sense of this text and the disobedience).
How can someone in all honesty call upon one in whom they would not listen to or attach their names to? How could someone believe in someone that they did not hear?
The Hebrew word for hear is "Shamah", and it means to hear, listen, pay attention, perceive and obey. Isaiah 6:9-10 gives a negative example of this usage of the word;"He said(G-d) go and say to this people, surely you hear, but you do not understand, and surely you see, but you fail to know. This people is fattening its heart, hardening its ears, and sealing its eyes, lest they see with its eyes, hear with its ears and understand with its heart, so that it will repent and be healed.".
The people of Isaiahs day heard the words of the prophet, but refused to listen and adamantly refused to heed.
Jesus uses this same passage in Matthew 13 where he teaches in parables. These parables were clear to those who sere willing to hear, but to those who chose to not be responsive to G-ds call were left in judgment for their lack of hearing and not obeying. They seemed content in their ways and and self proclaimed religion and hypocrisies. Basically it is the lack of desire to want to change and being content in social standards that cause them(and us) to be inanimate towards this message; thus they did not hear and respond. So I think the:"they did not hear", means that although they may have witnessed Jesus life and calling they did not hear, or respond and thus not believe in whom they have heard.
The next question of "how shall they hear without a preacher?". So who's the preacher? The preacher or pro claimer is the one announcing a divine message. The importance of a pro claimer is the giving of guidance through special revelation. This revelation goes beyond natural revelation, such as creation, or even conscience, but reveals special attention to action that must be heeded. The preacher is the one announcing something that G-d has spoken and then reiterates the message. We can see from the beginning of creation, revelation comes in the form of both positive and negative commands(look at Genesis 1:28 for this example). From my observation of the scriptures is that there are varied specifics in regulations, G-d calls Jew and Gentile with varied forms of positives and negatives to adhere to. Some of these things are good and holy and somethings to have and some to abstain from. Some regulations from the divine decrees keep us from hurting each other and also to prevent damage to self.
Paul in his stated questions points out how important it is for even the Jew, who has been given the revelations of G-d, that they must also "hear" and "obey" the message by way of the messenger.
V.15 "And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written;"How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news of peace, who bring good news of good things.".
This is Pauls way of elevating the necessity of preaching truth, justice, G-ds light, and walking out G-ds ways. It's important for the message of repentance and proper walking to never cease. This is done by never negating the message or messengers of the proclamation to be sent out. The phrase, sent out comes from the Gk word, apostelo; meaning, one who was sent out, a person of merit sent as an envoy on behalf of a master in an administrative role. Paul relates this imperative of apostolic proclamation through the words of Isaiah 52:7. When Isaiah originally gave this oracle, he spoke of the beauty of the footsteps left behind when heralding G-ds promises. Even in the lovely prophecies given here by the prophet, the same mouth had called out to Israel to repent and to return.
If there was any worry on any ones mind if G-d would still send preachers, it seems clear that G-d has always sent his preachers and always will. The message was spoken, is spoken and will always be spoken, and how beautiful the feet that carry it.
V.16 "But they have not all obeyed the message. For Isaiah says, "Lord, who has believed our report?".
I think this is where I'm going to end this post for now, otherwise I will be here until 2011!
Just in the way of thinking back as to why I decided to post this commentary in the first place, I am coming to the conclusion that this passage gets kind of overused in the sense of missionary and evangelism to a lost world. The point Paul was making was for his concern for his people, heritage and religious background. That he was struggling with this reality as well. For any questions out there for those wondering about Israel and if G-d was still doing something through them and in them Paul went onto explain his theology and defense on behalf of the gospel and how they responded or remained despondent. He pointed out for those that wondered how they would here?, he commented on special revelation and how it had already been given. Paul spoke of natural revelation and how that also gave witness and testimony to them being without excuse.
Do I think that despite my reading of this passage and it not fitting in with the overuse of evangelism, that the world still needs missionaries and preachers? Yes of course I do, and before this was Jesus' commission to go out and reach, teach, baptize and make ready a world adorned as a bride for her husband.
With the truth of G-d in my/our hands and our lack of not doing, I fear more for G-ds messiah showing up and me/us being judged by not living up to the standard of truth that we were given.
G-d give us strength to carry this message of hope with validity. Amen.

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