The Jewish people are different from other nations because they exist only as the result of Godís promise to Abraham. The Jewish people are the people who come from the family of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Abraham was the father of Isaac and the grandfather of Jacob - in Romans 9:6-13, Paul explains the history of this family. Here, Paul refers to the promise in Genesis 18:10 and to the birth of Isaac.
Paul has already discussed this part of Abrahamís life (4:16-22). In chapter 4, his subject was Abrahamís belief (or faith) in Godís promises; here, the subject is the promise itself. Our reaction to Godís promises can either be faith, or the opposite, which is unbelief (11:20). Faith comes from God (10:17), but unbelief comes from our own wrong attitudes (Hebrews 3:12-19; 1 Corinthians 10:1-10). Unbelief is when we refuse to believe Godís promises; with such wrong attitudes, we must not expect to receive anything from God (James 1:6-8).
Godís people should learn from this history that they must live by faith in the promises of God. God gives those promises so that they will not depend on themselves - on their feelings, their efforts or their successes. Instead, they must depend on God himself. It is only God who can carry out his promises to them.
Verse 8 calls Godís people: Ďthe children of the promiseí. In other words, their relationship with God exists because of Godís promise (John 1:12-13). In the life of Abraham, both Ishmael and Isaac were his sons - but only Isaac was born as a result of Godís promise. Therefore the Jewish people, Godís special people, came from the family of Isaac and not Ishmael.
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© 2017, Keith Simons.